It’s Nanowrimo this month, which if you’re not familiar with the event means many authors, including myself, are challenging themselves to do the near impossible.
For most authors, this means writing the first draft for an entire book in just 30 days.
For me this year, this means writing the draft for an entire series in just 30 days.
Thankfully, I have a little bit of a head start. I have an outline, which helps me know where the story is going, even if I don’t yet know exactly which words will take us there.
I’m also fully stocked on snacks, caffeine, and time. Because you know, time is the main ingredient needed to do near impossible writing marathons like this!
I’ve made some good progress on my full book draft so far.
I’m a little behind at being only halfway through book one so far, but I’m still trucking along at drafting about 3 whole chapters per day. I’m pretty happy with my writing speed on this, and I think with a few concentrated marathon days to make up for any chapters I’ve fallen behind on I will be able to finish the challenge on time even with the occasional demands of things like a social life and business obligations and all that sort of stuff.
I think I’ll actually make it.
It will be the fastest I’ve ever written a series before. And, I’ve found that writing it all at once like this, has also made it better writing because it never has a chance to fade out of my head or for the plot to get confused or forgotten from leaving it a little too long between writing sessions.
But we still need to keep in mind that writing a book is a challenge that takes many authors an entire year, or many, to accomplish. I’m trying to write 3 books in a month.
I love Halloween, and books, so you know I love it when those two things come together!
My Favorite YA Characters as Costumes
There are some iconic YA characters out there in the world that everyone knows. Even better, YA characters tend to have super simple outfits you can easily copy for a costume!
Some of My Favorite Teen Characters
The Handmaid’s Tale
Gregor the Overlander
How Easy Would Those be to Make a Costume Out Of?
For Katniss, you’d need a leather jacket and a hair braid. Then there’s characters like Tamora Pierce’s Alanna (If you don’t know who that author or character is, you need to get on it stat. Tamora practically started YA Fantasy as we know it.) who you’d need a full gold suit of armor for.
Okay, I’ll admit these aren’t necessarily easy costumes. But they would all be super cool!
Who are your favorite teen characters? What costume are you wearing this year?
Books about dragons make me happy. I read them almost exclusively as a teen, and I still read them more than I probably should as an adult with other things I am supposed to devote my time to, like doing the laundry and getting work done. But I don’t think I could go a week without a little magic in my life, and I definitely don’t think you should either.
The Best Teen Books About Dragons
Here There Be Dragons
James A. Owen wrote and illustrated this first book (and all the later books) in the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica. It has just about everything I could ask from a book, from cool pictures to dragons to unlikely heroes and adventures. The cool thing about this book is that it is the first book in a series, but it really works as a stand alone book all by itself as well. It’s also always fun to have books that play around with mythology and history, and this is also a cool hybrid between a steampunk and a gaslight and more traditionally fantasy. I actually just went through and reread the entire series last month, and I just find new interesting layers to the stories every time I read through it. Plus, the series has 8 books, so you won’t have to leave the characters behind for a good long while.
Dealing With Dragons
This book is a teensy bit older, but it’s still awesome. The story starts with Cimorene, a princess who does things princesses aren’t supposed to do like learn fencing and baking and other common things that just simply aren’t done by princesses. It all comes to a head when her parents get fed up with her antics and secretly betroth her to a proper prince Cimorene just doesn’t want to marry, so instead she takes some advice from a talking frog and runs away only to discover she’s run into a life full of dragons. I have honestly reread the Enchanted Forest Chronicles series about once a year, and it’s wonderful. It’s funny, it’s adventurous, and it has the right mix of magical creatures and fun personalities to be the perfect read for me.
Cornelia Funke, that same author of the Inkworld books, also wrote one of my favorite books, “Dragon Rider“. An ordinary kid saving the dragons in danger of extinction from an evil force is always a pretty awesome story. Different libraries can’t make up their mind if this counts as a YA or a kid’s book to them, so I know it could potentially feel very embarrassing to check this out, but if it makes you feel better there are full grown adults who check out Winnie the Pooh books so reading this at your age won’t be very strange at all in the grand scheme of “weird things book worms do”!
The Fire Within
A good friend of mine originally introduced this series, The Last Dragon Chronicles, to me, which in my opinion is always a good sign it’s going to be a good read. And it was! I enjoyed this series a lot. There’s action, magic, and dragons, and with that combination you can’t really go wrong.
The Reborn King
The Dragon’s Blade is a series that is starting to blow up. This series is based on dragon shifters, which can always be a fun change from more traditional dragon stories. This trilogy is all about kingdoms and dragons facing mortal enemies. Truth be told, it reminds me of a YA version of Game of Thrones.
This is an Indie series, which you know I love to support. The Dragon Kings is fantasy dragon romance series which is really gritty, which I’ve never really experienced before. If you want to read a series that kind of reinvents dragon stories, read this. The series only gets better from the first book. Plus, it’s an Amazon best seller!
Everyone Loves Dragon Books
I am no exception to the rule. I thought it would be fun to share with you some great new reads. And if you ever want to read about dragons and kingdoms and drama and magic, might I recommend you check out my book P.S. The Dragon Bites?
Hello, hello, hello! It’s lovely to speak with you from beautiful Hilton Head Island, South Carolina!
It’s been a lovely trip here. Incidentally, this is the location that inspired the book, “The Water is Wide”. It’s a little spooky to read the account of Pat’s time teaching the descendants of plantation workers abandoned on the island and growing their own community through the decades here because Pat is from my area. I can far too easily put myself into his shoes in the book. You can read a book blogger’s review here.
But though it’s a great book, it doesn’t really reflect the area very much anymore. Few people on the island are locals, as Hilton Head has become quite the Summer beach getaway destination filled with more transplants than Southern accents.
I honestly haven’t written a single thing in my manuscript while on vacation. Instead, I wrote like a madwoman on the long drive South, and once I got here I restrained myself to writing only in my personal notebook with bits of poetry and dialogue and other shiny words I like to collect but never publish.
In the end I probably got more work done that way instead of slogging through work when I want to be on the beach or having fun, but I mainly did it that way to just give myself a break. It’s not a bad thing to take time off, and I haven’t really done that since I started working for myself (surprisingly, I’m actually an awful boss to myself) so it was important to me to actually let myself not do anything remotely related to work.
I even got a chance to push some of my boundaries and conquer my issue with heights in a treetop obstacle course at the local zipline place. It was much more intense than I’d expected from the advertising, but it was very fun (even despite the sore muscles and bruises!)
Thankfully, my retreat here hasn’t led to any direct progress in writing P.S. The Dragon Sleights, but I needed the break to energize and not throw the whole thing out the window after months of working on it.
Now I’m refreshed I’ll be able to get back to work and zip right through it.
I hope you are enjoying your Summer reading and, if you have one, your vacation!
Today is known in the USA as Independence Day. It’s the day we celebrate signing the Declaration of Independence and formally becoming a distinct country and severing ties with England.
Today there’ll be a lot of fireworks, and I’ll go to one of the viewing events with my family. We’ll have a cookout with various meats stacked on potato rolls- sweet and sour vinegary pulled chicken straight out of the smoker, sweet barbeque pulled pork, and burger patties with all the fixings and probably ten different types of mustard knowing my family’s obsession with the condiment. We’ll buy most of these meats from the smoke cooking machine selling his goods at the farmer’s market, except for the burgers which will be put on the grill in the back yard and probably slightly burned in the process.
There will be coleslaw and potato salad, or maybe egg salad instead, and heaps of romaine lettuce with a few cherry tomatoes that will pass for a salad I won’t be eating, and either poundcake heaped with fruits and whipped topping or a trifle of layers of whipped topping and strawberries and blueberries.
We’ll end the day by joining friends at one of the fireworks viewings and buying cotton candy which normally sells for a buck but will cost six or eight times as much today for the convenience of it. We might even drink a soda or too, which my family normally avoids because they are so sweet none of us really want to finish an entire can. Then it’ll be totally dark and we’ll play with glowsticks. Or maybe we’ll skip going out and just hang out with our neighbors, putting up the smaller fireworks that only shoot up a few feet in the air unless someone bought illegal full size fireworks, and enjoy a nice time relaxing and chatting with people we like but don’t end up seeing too often because we are all too busy.
It won’t be the stuff of stories, but it will be a nice chill day either way and I am sure I will enjoy it.
Sometimes when writing about dragons and magic and awesomeness like that, you have to research real life facts and stuff. It’s a strange world novelists live in.
For those of you reading the Shadeworld series (P.S. The Dragon Bites, The Dragon Fights, The Dragon Sleights) you’ll know that royalty plays a major part in the plot line. There’s revolution and amnesia and an Earth High School and a bunch of teenagers, but at the center of it all there’s Prince Aeron, Prince Richard, and King Vovin, the royals who rule over the entire Shadeworld, and every creature from harpy to fey to vampire that lives there. But, on account of how I’m an American, I’m not super up to date on royalty and all of that sort of thing.
So while in earlier books I researched fighting and battle tactics, for P.S. The Dragon Sleights I set myself to research up on royalty. And because of a certain famous royal wedding, I decided to do a bit of research on how royalty works in Britain.
So I want to take you along on a bit of the research rabbit hole now and share some of the things I used to learn about the royals.
Research is a Great Excuse to Watch T.V.
It’s true, research is a great excuse to watch t.v. What I like to do since I work at home now is to turn my lunch break into a nice time to enjoy my food while watching an episode of something fun on Netflix. Here’s what I’ve been enjoying:
Grace of Monaco
This film is no longer available on streaming Netflix in the USA and you’d have to either do the dvd rental service or check it out on Prime now if you want to watch it. The story was an interesting telling of a true series of events where a Hollywood starlet became a princess and was really quite miserable in it. Interesting events, and of course as an American I love any sort of underdog story. The ending of it cut things off a little abruptly, but I guess it makes sense you can’t boil someone’s entire life into a single movie, so I wasn’t too upset by that.
I’ve quite enjoyed this series. I knew very little about the queen’s reign (we learned other things in History classes in my American schools, like The Trail of Tears, the Civilization of Mali, Ancient China, World War II, those sorts of things that had a bit more impact on my hemisphere, though I’m sure the queen is perfectly lovely) so every episode has been a surprise to me.
I’m sure it’s not completely accurate, it would be almost impossible to capture the nuances of family life and personal relationships just from years of media coverage those outside of the royal family would have access to, but even keeping in mind to take events with a grain of salt I’ve enjoyed the series purely for its entertainment value.
I can’t help but think though that the casting director made some very odd choices for the characters outside of the main cast. The actress for Jackie Kennedy, in particular, was a very unique choice in both voice and appearance in my mind. But the main characters are very well done, so I probably should be more appreciative to just have that!
Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King
I enjoyed this a great deal. It felt rather documentary-ish, so I’m hoping it’s somewhat historically accurate. Even if it isn’t though I enjoyed it, and that’s what matters.
Final Thoughts on Televised Research
I’m sure none of what I’ve been watching is high quality educational content. But it was fun to watch, and it got me the gist of the ideas, so I figure it works well enough. Learning doesn’t have to be stuffy, I thoroughly believe that is true, so I had fun with my inspiration.
And besides, I’m writing Fantasy, not a research paper. If some of the facts are skewed, it really doesn’t matter at all.
Or, it may be that my “research” is just a poor excuse I’ve made to myself to goof off on occasion. And why not? If you work longer hours, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to have a slightly longer lunch.
What do you do for work that’s really just for fun?
We set out at 4 AM to get to the dock by 7 AM (which is still very early). I live in Virginia, and the dock was in Maryland, so it was a bit of a trip, but not too awful. The dock itself was lovely, because it was pretty far out of the way of D.C. where I’m based.
The fishing boat we went on with a family friend was one of the smallest at this dock, but I know most of the docks at home wouldn’t have been able to fit it just because there’s a lot of people wanting very convenient dock spaces so they are much smaller near the capitol.
Just riding the boat out to the end of Potomac River was quite fun! I always love a good boat ride. I especially loved hanging a little off the side so I could feel the wind whipping at my face and the waves slapping my hands like a high five.
I caught several fish, we all did. We were getting fish almost continuously after we got to our destination on the water. The fun thing was that I personally caught the two biggest fish on the trip, a 26 inch catfish and a 24 inch catfish. Unfortunately we threw them both back out, because I love catfish but the rest of the group dislikes it and I couldn’t finish off that much fish all by myself. After the catfish was on board it started to moo at me, which was oddly scary in a way the other fish weren’t, so in the end I was happy to toss it back out.
No need to worry though, we caught plenty of rockfish and a perch (all of the legally required lengths) as well as many fish that were too small and had to be tossed back. Don’t worry about the rockfish though, we were several hours out from D.C. and all of the fish we caught were healthy normal fish and lacked the sores that are becoming a problem in D.C. caught rockfish.
Then after a long day of really struggling to reel in the strong fish that fought valiantly against reeling, I was happy to spend the return trip by boat just enjoying the view. And the view included a cooler full of many dinners worth of fish as well as the almost endless view of blue, so it was truly wonderful.
The sky was lovely as well at the end of a long day.
The only thing that wasn’t lovely was myself covered in bits of fish scales and fish slime and other unmentionable ickiness.
So we hosed ourselves off at the marina and changed clothes before heading home to enjoy a nice grilled rockfish.
Thankfully just taking a day off like this- I normally skip taking weekends off even because I’m a workaholic- was able to supercharge my mental juices and helped me complete an additional two chapters in P.S. The Dragon Sleights and get some good revising and editing done as well!
Book store staff are always trying to look up books based on the color of their cover. I’m just doing my best to try to help.
Yellow Cover YA Novels
I feel like there would be a major mix of highs and lows about working for a bookstore. The plus would obviously be spending your entire day surrounded by books, which would be a dream to me.
The downside would be that they have to always answer the question, “I’m looking for one book that has a certain colored cover.”
Well, I aim to please, so I’m doing my best to answer the question in this article.
The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Nighttime
interesting book of a guy who sees things differently from the rest of the world- he’s on a different wavelength, as it were.
It Only Happens in The Movies
Audrey starts working at the movie theater, and falls in love with a dude working there. Sounds like a dull book, I know. But actually it’s a rough romance with ups and downs, so it’s kind of fun.
Futuristic dystopia where emotions are forbidden, and love may not be able to conquer all. Fairly serious book that addresses Depression.
The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle
This time, a mystery! This mystery is set in Victorian times. It kind of reminds me of a revamped take on Sherlock Holmes, although the lead character is a much more human connected person than poor Sherlock is really capable of.
A classic teen read about drama, cliques, travel, and the Sunny L.A. life. This isn’t the first book in the series, but it is fairly interesting, and just what I’d want to read when I was exhausted and wanting something light and interesting.
Looking for a book with a yellow cover? No problem!
I tried my best to list the best YA books with yellow covers. Hopefully you either found the book you were looking for, or found a great book to add to your TBR!
Be sure to sign up for the emails if you want to keep track of future book reviews and get a free copy of my book “Magic Moves”.
Cathy Rocks if you love all the fiction and want to get reviews on the best of the best across genres!
I’m always on the lookout for the next book to read, but I have to admit sometimes very genre specific blogs don’t fit me well. I’m not a specific kind of reader, I like many different genres, so it’s an issue for me. Cathy, thankfully, is here to help!
Cathy at Between The Lines
Cathy has a lot in common with me. She loves books, dogs, and the beach, and I just don’t think I need to say more with that kind of recommendation!
Cathy covers different genres of fiction.
What Makes Her Rock
For those like me who want the best of the best from across fiction!
Short Reviews are Great for the Time Crunched
Her reviews are usually just one computer screen long, which is great if you want to figure out if a book is right for your TBR pile fast.
Not a professional- Which Can Be a Good Thing
I like that Cathy isn’t a professional book reviewer. You know she says good things about the books because she means it, not because it makes her money. (I haven’t reviewed anyone on this site who is willing to leave good reviews for books they don’t like, just so you know.)
Great All Around Book Blogger
Cathy is awesome, and if you like a lot of different books and have very little time I think she’s a great blogger. And her reviews are entertaining, without dragging on so long they become reviews themselves! I’m a fan.
Be sure to let me know in the comments who your favorite book reviewer is!
I thought it would be fun to show all of you how exactly a writer gets their work done. I know many writers like to work at their couches, their desk at work, at a flipped entrée table while they’re commuting in to work each day – but I spend all day, every day working and writing at my desk.
Learning something about my set up might help you, as well. Between my two jobs I work 86 hours a week, and clock 8,000+ words a day. Some of them are in my novel, some are marketing and business strategy, but all of it takes a powered up mind and a maximized workflow. My workspace is one of my big partners in creating my work routine to let me be so prolific.
I’m also sharing a few links to the things I own and use everyday in my workspace. These links are affiliate links, and make me a few cents without costing you extra.
I just want to share some noteworthy things about my desk set up. Because I am self-employed, and because I use my home office as my real office every day, my workspace is set up to help me think and work creatively and efficiently. I don’t want something as silly as a poor workstation set up to slow down my release dates!
One thing to note is that the desk itself is set up at a yellow wall. According to some reports the idea that yellow is good for a cheerful mood may actually be quite credible, and besides that bright sunshine yellow is a great color to stick on the walls in a basements with limited natural light and only a few mini windows at the top of the walls.
The desk itself, though, is even more important to my productivity and mood. I have to do whatever I can to keep myself focused and having a good time during the 86+ hours a week I work, and my workstation is one of my biggest partners in that. (Along with a 15 minute power nap and a short morning walk. And a little stretching for 5 minutes every hour to get my blood pumping and powering up my brain!)
There are a lot of essentials I have set up on my desk. I have to be careful about what I keep on hand, because my “desk” is actually a sofa table, and it’s only about 6 inches deep of workspace. As you can see, there’s barely enough room for my keyboard to fit in front of my monitor. But that’s a bit of a good thing, partially because my “desk” was free, partially because my desk is kind of cute, and partially because it helps me keep down the clutter which is a constant struggle and other areas of my life. (This is why I will probably never show you any other space in my home, because my desk is the only organized area.)
Goals In Sight
As you can see on the wall in the background, I have printed out and hung up my yearly goals list. It’s not really a professional goals list, it’s more of the “my life in general goals” kind of list. It’s an excerpt from my “30 things to do before I turn 30” list, just to help me break down my decade-long goals into smaller action steps I can actually get done. My actual publishing goals, where I write down the books I want to get finished and when I want to finish them, is the first link on my toolbar in my web browser so that I can update that much more often than I update yearly goals. (That, and because I don’t like bothering with printing things too often. So I only save printing for stuff I really need the visual for, even when I’m off screens.)
Above that are my two sticky notes where I keep my rough outline of my daily schedule. my daily schedule is:
And then I like to break down the personal part of my schedule. this is one of the main things I do to make sure I’m building myself not just as a person trying to make an income, but also as a human trying to improve myself as a person.
One of my current month’s goals is to get rid of some things I don’t need any more – I found out I still had some toys left in storage from when I was a kid – and get them into the hands of people who need or want them. Or both. Who am I to judge? But it still the last thing on the list to declutter because the other goals are supporting bigger decade-long goals, so they are the priority.
I also have two other sticky notes, each of them a reminder for a virtual meeting I have coming up next week. Since I don’t have too many meetings like this anymore, it makes sense to put reminders in a very visible place the few times I do have a meeting so I can’t forget them.
Desk Must Haves
I keep my water bottle at my desk so I can drink throughout the day and stay healthfully hydrated. It’s just plain water, but it’s in a reusable bottle so it saves tons of plastic each year, saves money, and gives me much cuter options than buying disposable water bottles.
I also have my notebook and may pen case crammed on my workspace. I like caring a paper notebook around so when I have ideas or little pull ones or pieces of writing in mind for a book I can write it down quickly and easy without the distraction of writing on my phone. I also write much faster on paper than I do on a tiny phone screen, and unlike screens I never have problems with writers block when I write on paper. I still do most of my writing for my novels using that very keyboard and monitor though, because it is much quicker to add it and revise and organize a book that is in a program like scrivener instead of in a bunch of different notebooks. It also doesn’t hurt my wrist tape in a computer, unlike the hand pains you can get after six hours of writing on paper. At least I get hand cramps writing for that long.
Then I have a little bucket that holds my backup drive, which is a total must for anyone who writes books (I can guarantee every author who types their books has lost an entire finished book at least once to a crash computer losing the data, and I am no exception. Actually, I had this happened three times, which is very frustrating so I go overboard in backups now.) I also have my headsets slung on that little bucket, which is a very handy for when I’m dictating like I am doing for this post right now. I find when I switch between typing and dictating I get a new burst of inspiration and ideas, and it helps switch up which thing is sore or hurts from doing hours of work at a time.
The last thing on my desk is my small things organizer. In the top shallow dish I have a USB jump drive (source two of backing up novels in progress), lip balm, and my backup jump drive that is shaped like a bunny. And I have an assortment of pens and pencils behind that that don’t work very well. I should probably change them out for new ones. But instead I’m writing this, and I’m okay with that. in the little swing out drawers I have staples, mini stapler, eraser refills for mechanical pencils, binder clips, pushpins and thumbtacks, and an empty drawer that is supposed to have paperclips but I seem to have run out of those. Again, not going to bother refilling that for now.
Under all of that is where I have some presumably important papers. I know one of them is the service plan guarantee for my backup drive, but I have no clue what the others are, and they’re upside down so I can’t really check them without moving all my stuff. And that’s not going to happen.
And in the middle of all that is my monitor, keyboard, and wireless mouse. They aren’t particularly noteworthy, except for the keyboard hot. I got that with my computer from sky Tech gaming. I think the computer, partially because it’s very pretty, partially because it was within my price range, but mostly because it works for my work. I have lots of storage space, it has enough memory to have 1 million Internet browser tabs open at once which is great for my working style, and it has basically the same specs as a business computer with some extras that make it work even better for graphics and video work. It also looks way prettier than a dumb gray business computer. I know having pretty things doesn’t seem essential, but if you are working a creative job I think if there is a choice between something boring and something that is aesthetically inspiring in some way then the choice is pretty clear. Especially when this was a little cheaper than a similar business model that didn’t have quite as many upgrade for speed and the million browser tabs. Plus I’ve grown tired of some of the bigger brand of computer manufacturers and their complete lack of customer service and longevity in their products, so is time for me personally to move on to a brands like this. After all, it makes since for an India author to support a smaller brand. And so far in my experience with this computer it’s been great!
The only big downside to my workspace is that the workspace itself is so very shallow – sofa tables were not engineered to be ergonomic desks – and it’s a little uncomfy. I have enjoyed my Ikia Snille desk chair for many years, many many many years, but a $20 chair is never going to be ergonomic. A great deal, yes, but not comfy. The back is very short, which is unfortunate because I am particularly tall for a woman, and the height adjustment only goes so high. I think part of the lack of comfort is that the seat is cracked on the right side, but it wasn’t too comfy before that happened either. I have two pillows piled on the seat so it doesn’t dig into my legs as much anymore, but it still is not particularly comfy. Hopefully someday I can save up a bit of money from working as a full-time author and full-time blogger (I’m not including what I do posting on this website in that) and buy myself a good ergonomic chair. I also keep a cardigan on my chair so that when it is cold, which it always is, I can work without freezing off my fingers. I have found not freezing makes a big difference in productivity.
So there you go. That’s my total desktop and workspace tour. I hope it gives you some good insight into my work process for working at home as well as my goal setting and productivity efforts. Hopefully hearing from me can inspire you as well.
If you’d like to get a virtual tour of my digital desktop, be sure to let me know in the comments below