Posted in Random, Reading, Writing

December Reading

So 2016 has been a year, huh?! I totally failed at NaNo after the election (and our vacation to NYC for Hamilton) and pretty much didn’t do much reading either. But now that the weather has turned (finally!) chillier, I’m looking toward the end of 2016 and what awaits in 2017.

Much of this year has been upheaval for me (selling/buying a new home this spring and settling in) and I have been fighting a reading funk for most of the year. I reread the Sookie Stackhouse books early in the year, and that was so refreshing. So much so, that I decided to spend the last month of the year rereading!

I usually read one fiction and one non-fiction book simultaneously, and given the stack of non-fiction books I own but haven’t read (because the library hold button is an evil thing😉 ), I’m going to read what I own for non-fiction.

So, December is all about getting lost in the comfort of favorite fictional worlds and making headway on the non-fiction I already own! I’m really looking forward to ending a somewhat tumultuous year with comfort while clearing off my shelf.

Here are my first two reads for the month:

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I hope to post more this month, but if not, Happy Holidays!

Posted in The First Drop, Writing, Young Adult

I Am Not Throwing Away My Shot!

Alternate title #1: I could puke on my feet right now. Alternate title #2: I need your help!

I’m in a lot of ways a Burr in life, especially in creative ventures. I watched the HamilDoc on PBS last week and decided to take some of the inspiration I felt and be more like Hamilton.

So…Have you heard of Swoon Reads? If not, here’s the scoop (from the Swoon Reads website):

  • What is Swoon Reads?

    Swoon Reads publishes young adult and new adult novels. Writers can submit their original, unpublished manuscript to the Swoon Reads website, and readers who sign up can rate and comment on manuscripts to help us choose which titles we want to publish. Swoon Reads is an imprint of Macmillan publishing under Feiwel & Friends and was founded by Jean Feiwel. For more information, please see our About page.

  • How does the site work?

    Writers can upload their unpublished, original young adult or new adult manuscript and community members are able to read, rate, and comment on those submissions. The Swoon Reads Staff uses community reviews and ratings to help us choose which books to publish. Chosen manuscripts will be published in both print and e-book formats.

 

I’ve uploaded my YA manuscript THE FIRST DROP on Swoon Reads!! Here’s a little bit about Olive and this story:

the-first-drop-coverOne by one, all of Olive’s perfectly cemented plans fall apart. Her BFF leaves town with her new boyfriend. Olive’s mom says she’s pregnant with twins. Her parent-free trip to Spain is cancelled.

There’s still Milo, who says corny pick-up lines but lays on the swoons too. His appetite for adventure is anything but predictable—he takes her urban exploring, traipsing through an abandoned home at night.

With each date, their escapades get riskier. With each shot of adrenaline, Olive embraces a new side of herself. Then Milo’s stunts go a step too far, leaving one of his friends in the hospital, and Olive is forced to face the real danger of their so-called fun.

When Milo asks Olive to do something too wild, she must decide if she’s willing to lose herself to be the girl Milo wants, or risk losing him to stay true to herself.

This is the book that I’ve never let go of. I’ve revised it and reread it over and over, and I love it more each time. I’d love it if you (and your friends, family members, even your enemies!) would read my book and leave me comments, suggestions, and a rating!

Below is the first chapter, and if you’d like to know how Olive’s summer turns out, you can find the rest of the story HERE on Swoon Reads.

 

CHAPTER ONE

The smell of tempera should be considered an illegal substance. After an hour inside this small art supply shop, my head no longer feels attached to my body. I slide my foot in and out of my black flip-flop as Vi has an intense debate over two different collections of paintbrushes. Aside from the colors of the brush handles they both look the same to me, but I understand her dilemma. I agonized for weeks over my most recent photography purchase, and that was only a cushioned neck strap. A paintbrush for Vi is like the camera I shoot with—the tools we use to create our art.

“I think…yes. This one.” Vi grabs the collection with pale wooden handles leaving the other swinging in her wake.

“Are you sure?”

She gives one last look at the rejected brushes and nods. “Positive. Let’s go.”

After she hands over a small fortune in cash, Vi slips her purchase into her slouchy purse. “Okay, now that we’ve accomplished my one goal for the day, what’s next?”

I shrug, slipping on my sunglasses as we step back outside into the June warmth. I gaze down the street toward the camera shop just around the corner. I can’t see it through the other stores, but I know it’s there. My shutter release finger itches, begging me to make a visit.

“I don’t have plans,” I say as we head to Vi’s car. Away from the cameras and darkroom chemicals.

Vi bumps me with her hip and laughs. “Olive, you honestly expect me to believe that?”

She’s right, of course. I’m a planner, with colorful to-do lists and sticky notes everywhere. “I thought it would take you longer in there.”

Vi grabs my arm and tugs me out of the flow of people walking down the street until we’re heading back the way we just came. As we pass the art supply shop, the guy behind the register smiles.

“All you had to do was say the word,” Vi says. Her outfit makes it hard to look directly at her in the afternoon sunshine. Her liberal use of sequins and neon colors would look like the 80s Take Two on anyone else, on her it looks perfect.

I smile, the excitement and happiness building inside my chest. “I know, but I don’t have the funds to buy anything right now. It’s almost torture, really.”

Vi says, “Sure. Absolute torture.”

As I push open the door, the bells hanging on the inside handle jingle loudly. A dreamy sigh slips from my lips. This is my happy place. Cameras from wall to wall, shelves full of instructional guides, and all the other gear I drool over just about daily. I point out my dream camera, the one I’m going to buy next year. I have a plan. If I scrimp this summer and land some crappy paying job on campus in the fall, I’ll be able to make it happen.

When Jim, the owner, tells us he’s closing for lunch I pay for a magazine on black and white photography that I’ve never seen before. Vi and I leave happy and high on art.

A flurry of activity across the street draws our attention to the beautiful old church, with a copper dome roof over the sanctuary. The parking lot is full of cars and a white stretch limo, people coming in and out of the double-doors in dresses and suits.

“Another wedding,” I say. I’ve always wanted to see the inside, but the people that get married there aren’t in my family’s circle.

“Let’s sneak in,” Vi suggests with a sly smile.

I look down at my summery dress that’s probably too short for a church and then to Vi’s homemade shirt and dyed shorts. “I don’t think so.”

“Come on, what’s the worst that can happen?”

“We could be kicked out? Or arrested?”

I only toss out the idea of police involvement to deter Vi. I don’t actually think you can be arrested for sneaking into a wedding unless it’s private property. Maybe if you throw yourself onto the aisle in an embarrassing display of objecting to the marriage.

When she rolls my concerns off with a toss of her hair, I grow more worried. Vi can’t possibly be serious about this. Can she? Vi’s silent as she hits the walk button and while we wait to cross the street. The timing on this signal is extremely short, like they tested it with Olympic sprinters instead of average people. Our feet have just landed on the sidewalk when a car guns it through the intersection.

I glare at the driver, who is already long past seeing me, and turn back to Vi. She’s not next to me though. This situation is wildly spinning out of my control, having gone from a laughable suggestion to a panic-inducing reality.

A low creaking moan hits my ears, and I whip around to find Vi pushing open the wrought iron gate leading into the front lawn. She looks over her shoulder with a wicked grin and slips through.

I hurry to catch up, completely hating her for making me do this. I don’t trespass, I only skipped school on Senior Skip Day, and I never even ride the ass of the slow-poke tractors running through town. But she has the keys to her car in her purse and I’m not about to hang out on the streets of downtown Kansas City by myself even in mid-afternoon.

The screeching of the gate echoes in my head, but no one even bothers to look my direction. “Vi! We have to go.”

Her hand flies up to her mouth. Her voice is breathless. “Wait, there’s the bride.”

The bride is a gorgeous woman with dark skin in a crisp white dress, with a train as long as a street. A woman and man follow her out the door, both with cameras strapped around their shoulders. When the woman twirls on her feet, taking in the whole yard, I recognize her.

My heart begins to race and I gasp. “That’s Barbie and Mitch!”

“Really?”

“I can’t believe it.” I gush, unable to fully believe that I’m standing here watching their magic in person.

Barbie says something to the bride that makes her laugh, her bare shoulders relaxing. Mitch steps back inside the main doors, hollering to Barbie, who waves him over. As she readies her camera I take in her stance, feet hip-width apart, holding her Canon with both hands. My own legs shift to match, and I would give almost anything to be next to her right now.

Vi and I both suck in a bit of air as we watch the groom, pale skin with red curly hair, come strutting out. We witness the couple’s first look and this experience feels so private it’s almost as if we’re stealing it. But they only have eyes for each other; neither even knows there’s a world out here.

Mitch lies down on the steps, shooting their kisses and hands from the ground. Barbie moves around, always angling her shots so Mitch isn’t in them. Watching this husband-wife duo work is better than I imagined it would be, and I’ve dreamed of working with them for years. One day, when I’ve got a legit photography degree and a business I’m going to take a Barbie and Mitch workshop so I can learn all their tips.

When they all move inside through a side door, Vi turns. Her eyes are wide. “Did you see the detail on that dress? Pearls, I think. I have to see the rest of the wedding party.”

I shake my head, blinking at the now empty space where the group just stood. “I couldn’t take my eyes off Barbie and Mitch. They were phenomenal.”

Vi looks back to the door and the ushers in gray suits. “This is one of those moments, Olive.”

Inside I cringe, but at the same time I find myself nodding. It really is one of those moments, when everything lines up so perfectly it must not be ignored. Kismet, whatever it’s called, this is it.

The chance to see Barbie and Mitch in action, to study how they interact together, to see their hands turn the dials and push the buttons as they adjust the settings on their cameras. It’s basically too big to pass up. Too much of a dream to pass over for real life.

I grab her hand and give it a squeeze. “Together?”

Squeezing back, she whispers, “Forever.”

####

Turns out crashing a wedding is surprisingly easy. We walk through the doors, take the program a middle school kid hands us, and find a seat on the edge three rows from the back.

“I still can’t believe we’re doing this,” I mutter under my breath.

Vi slips her purse strap over her head, settling the large bag onto the floor between our feet. “I can’t believe you are doing this.”

Fighting the urge to stick my tongue out at her, I tug my dress down to cover more of my thighs. I’m not particularly religious, but I still feel way underdressed. Plus, the air conditioning must be on high because I’ve already got goosebumps. Or, maybe they’re from the thrill of being in here.

More people file in while I survey the sanctuary. Pearls seem to the theme of this wedding. There are strands draping the candles behind the minister, small pearls on the programs, and balls of pearls hanging over the ends of the pews. The sun streams through the stained glass windows giving the room an elegant yet colorful glow. There is one window in particular that is so rich in color it calls out to be immortalized in a print. I left my Canon at home, and the regret eats at my stomach.

When I look back at Vi, her eyes are wide with awe. “This is the best decision we’ve ever made.”

“I’m extremely glad that Clay Welch and Jessi Kreoger are getting married today,” I say, reading their names from the program.

Then Clay himself walks to the minister and the processional begins. We stand with the crowd. My eyes travel not to the flower girl but in search of Barbie and Mitch. I get a glimpse of her as the doors open, which means he must be up by the altar to capture the photos of everyone walking down the aisle.

If Vi was in love with the Jessi’s gown, her love for the bridesmaid’s dresses will be off the charts. Each one is daisy yellow, covered in shimmering pearls. Peering through the tiny empty space between two older guests, I spot Mitch squatting and snapping each couple as they walk down the aisle.

My attention flies to Barbie when the audience collectively gasps. I’m sure the Jessi and her dad are beaming, but I can’t take my eyes off Barbie as she sneaks in behind them to stay out of Mitch’s images. She turns to capture a few pictures of the crowd before switching cameras, grabbing the one resting on her left hip. Seeing that cool Canon glass makes me burn with envy.

The ceremony is long and rather boring, except when I see a hint of Barbie moving around in the background. During a particularly long prayer, I notice Vi scribbling furiously in a tiny notebook with a fuchsia gel pen. I lean closer and make out a few words about dress patterns and color schemes.

Grabbing my phone, I snap a quick photo of her deep in thought and a few of Jessi and Clay. A quick glance around shows that I’m not the only guest using their phone for pictures. Flipping over the program, I find their social media wedding hashtag. I’ll be spending hours tomorrow flipping through each image posted.

Vi leans close and whispers, “Look at you, blending in with all the people who actually know these lovebirds.”

Giggles threaten, but I’m able to swallow them down. “What are you talking about, Vi? Jessi and Clay, we’ve known them for years. Remember how they met at that one party?”

Vi covers her mouth and squishes even tighter until our faces are pressed together. “Oh, right. That party. Clay found her puking her guts up and offered to hold back her hair.”

“True love.” I sigh, a little too loudly, but no one is paying us a bit of attention.

As everyone bows their heads for another prayer, I show Vi the photos on my phone. She zooms in and gasps.

“Oh, shit. I know that guy. Well, sort of. He’s Finn’s best friend.”

I look up, finding the guy she pointed out. I can’t see much beyond his thick brown hair. He’s fidgeting in the pew even as he’s supposed to be praying. After the quiet moment is over, a woman wearing a can of hairspray blocks Finn’s friend from view.

A few minutes go by before cheers erupt, and Clay and Jessi walk down the aisle wearing matching grins.

Vi gives me a look and I scramble to grab my purse before sliding out of the pew. I slip in behind an older couple holding hands and hope we blend in enough to sneak out. A few people smile at me as we shuffle out, but I quickly look away to avoid any questioning about how we know the bride and groom. Just as we’re about to cross through the front gate, someone shouts Vi’s name.

“Shit,” Vi mumbles under her breath.

We both turn, and I feel a cold sweat break out over my skin. It’s Finn’s friend. Most notably, he’s very hot. His hair is even more chaotic when viewed from the front, and his grey suit fits his shoulders and arms very snug.

Vi’s shoulders relax a few notches. “Hi, Milo.”

“Hey,” he says with a smile that makes nerves bubble in my stomach. “I didn’t know you knew Clay and Jessi.”

I look down at my feet, noticing at once the chipping purple polish, leaving Vi to explain. She fumbles at first. “Well. We know them through…um.” She throws up her hands. “We totally crashed the wedding.”

Milo scrunches up his eyebrows. “Why would anyone want to crash a wedding ceremony? A reception I get, the free booze and all, but this?” He points to the church.

Possibly as payback for making her answer, Vi just looks at me. I feel her eyes on me and glance up at Milo. “I wanted to see Barbie and Mitch in action.”

A few blinks and a blank stare on his face reminds me that we’ve never met before. “They’re the photographers, possibly the best in the country. Oh, and I’m Olive.”

A smile spreads across his cheeks. “Hi, Olive. I’m Milo.”

Vi jumps in quickly explaining that Milo is Finn’s best friend. Finn is Vi’s newest boyfriend, and despite his slightly unwashed edge, he seems like a decent guy. Milo, on the other hand, looks squeaky clean and very polished in his suit.

I zone out for a few minutes while the two of them talk, but a wave of tension brings me back. Milo’s posture is rigid, his hands in fists at his side. He reaches up, tugs his tie loose and glares across the grass with a look that could cut someone.

“Is everything okay?” I ask.

Reaching up on tiptoes, I crane my neck around but I can’t see whom he’s glaring at. His stare doesn’t shift but then he relaxes ever so slightly. “Let’s get out of here. Vi, call Finn and tell him to meet us somewhere.” He pauses, and yanks his tie off completely. “And tell him to bring me some real clothes.”

 

~~~If you want to read more, click here!~~

Posted in Libraries, Personal Stuff, Random, Reading, Writing, Young Adult

Recommended Reading…

It’s been a while since I posted anything here about the awesome books I’ve been reading. I’ve been sharing my reads on my Instagram and lately, on Litsy. It’s a newer app, like a combo of Instagram and Goodreads. So, basically, book nerd paradise! I’m Jennie748 there, so once you download the app, friend me!

Here are just a few of the wonderful books I’ve been reading lately. I recommend all of these!

Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing

Back to drafting

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Back at it!

After a summer off from writing, I was starting to get that itch to sit down at my MacBook and pound out another story. I went back and forth on what I wanted to write next, and finally settled on the second in my Castaway Cove contemporary romance series. I just wasn’t ready to let go of this small Missouri lake town, and there are a few citizens that haven’t gotten their HEA just yet.🙂

I’ve started drafting now, but plan on participating in NaNoWriMo to (hopefully!) finish it by the end of November or early December. (My ultimate goal is to be done with the first draft before my kids are out of school for winter break.)

Here’s my Pinterest board for the first in the series.

Here’s my Pinterest board for the second in the series.

But prior to actually starting that first sentence, I wanted to create a word count tracker that would motivate me to keep trucking along, especially when I hit that sucky middle. I couldn’t find anything I liked around the web, so I made this bad boy myself. I❤ all the little boxes just waiting for my input!

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NERD ALERT: I love Excel!

Is anyone else doing NaNo this year? If so, find me and friend me on the NaNo site! I’m Jen748.

Happy Drafting, friends!

Posted in Castaway Cove, NaNoWriMo, Personal Stuff, Random, Reading, Writing

Welcome Autumn!

So, um, hello. Remember me?🙂 It’s been a long while since I’ve blogged. I spent the summer settling into our new home, chasing after my kiddos, reading a lot, and having a lot of sunscreen-scented fun. But now it’s autumn, my very favorite.

Here’s a small window into what I’ve been up to recently. I’ll be sharing about what I’m working on now in a few days, and maybe a post about some of the amazing books I read over the last few months!

Hope everyone had a wonderful summer and has already been having a fabulous fall!

 

Posted in Castaway Cove, Goals, Marina Story, Personal Stuff, Random, Reading, Writing

:::summer fun:::

Hiya! I’m just dropping by to say hi (imagine the waving hand emoji right here) and share a little of the summer fun I’ve been having. Other than reading a CP’s MG manuscript and sending my MS out to beta readers, my warm weather writing hiatus is still on-going. It’s been very refreshing! Though, I started getting the itch to sit down and write something last week…not that I have a project to dive into just yet, but it’s nice to know that the want is still there.🙂

For now, I’ll keep enjoying the lower stress level and continue tackling things from my General Life To Do list and also our family’s Summer Fun To Do list.

The summer so far looks a little like this:

 

Posted in Castaway Cove, Goals, Marina Story, Personal Stuff, Random, Reading, Writing

that sweet magic of summer

There’s a lake I know
In a nearby park
You and I can go
Take a break and get away—

Lyrics: Take a Break, from Hamilton (If you didn’t recognized them, let’s talk)

Monday I finished my second round of revisions on RETURNING TO CASTAWAY COVE (still haven’t found a title that I love, ugh) and Tuesday I sent the whole shebang to two CPs.

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JUST HIT SEND
And now, in the wise words of Eliza Hamilton, I’m going to take a break for the summer. There are many layers to this much needed break, and because I love making lists…let me tell you some of them.

*I need to refill my creative well. I’ve been working on one WIP after another, drafting and revising and then beginning again on a new idea. I usually have The Idea that I want to write next before I’ve even finished revising, but not this time. My muse is tired. My fingers are tired. My CPs are probably tired.

*I want to frolic, to splash at the pool, to wade in a creek, to laugh until I cry. My kids are growing so fast, and I don’t want to miss it because I’m stressing about word counts and self-imposed deadlines. And I have been stressing myself…and its reached unhealthy levels. A step back is in order, a few months to breathe and just BE. 

*I’m in a reading rut and I want out of it. It’s gotten worse this year than I can ever remember. My tastes are fickle right now. I get a book I just CAN’T wait to read from the library and then it sits on my shelf…and I’m blah about it. This is all compounded by my focus on writing, giving up reading time to draft and revise.

*My husband’s schedule is straight-up bananas this summer. I’m the SAHM, he’s the paramedic/firefighter. When his department has guys out on injury leave or other leave, that means he has to pick up extra shifts. And right now, it’s a lot of extra shifts. And his those shifts are 24-hours, which means he’s gone 4 or more days out of 7. Four complete rotations of the Earth…he’s not home for dinner or bedtime or any of that. Others might be able to juggle all of that solo time and write, and I’ve done it before, but not this summer.

I am EXHAUSTED after spending 14+ hours with two kids, doing summer fun things and feeding them and wiping faces and hands and breaking up fights over every little toy. It doesn’t leave much left over in my brain for writing in the couple hours I have alone in the evening before I fall asleep. More importantly, it doesn’t leave much left over for ME, the person.

My family helps out a lot, but they have lives and wonky work schedules too. Hiring a baby-sitter for a few hours isn’t exactly feasible. My daughter’s peanut and hazelnut allergy means whomever is in charge must understand and respect the severity of food allergies. They have to recognize the signs of a reaction and be prepared to stab a seven-year-old in the leg with a needle to keep her from dying. That’s not something I’m comfortable putting on just anyone.

*Related, my youngest has regularly started boycotting naps. Naptime was my writing time. In those 2-3 hours I would pound out a few thousand words or revise a few chapters. Oh, and also, that was when I kept my sanity. I’m losing that when he boycotts. (both the writing time AND sanity!)

*I suppose some might see this list as Excuses. They might say, “If you want it, you’ll make it happen.” And, that might be true for some people, even true for me at another time. But I also recognize my mental and emotional health, and that takes priority right up there with my family. 

*I’ll still be doing a little writing-related stuff as it comes up, revising after receiving notes CPs and (hopefully) beta readers later in the summer. I’m not giving up on this marathon, not at all. I’ll still post random thoughts on Twitter and Facebook and pretty photos on Instagram. But mostly, I’ll be reading and splashing in the pool with my kids and enjoying the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. (If you get that reference, we can be BFFs)