Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

 It's time for What's Up Wednesday!

What I'm Reading  I spent a lot of this week hiding with a book... It wasn't a bad week, just a long, tedious one.  I read Chasing Hope by Kathryn Cushman and Switched by Cassie Mae (thanks to NetGalley) and I'm gearing up to start Rose Under Fire.  I'm almost scared...  Code Name Verity made me cry but it an amazing book.  I should make sure I have something lighthearted to read as soon as I finish it and maybe some chocolate.

What I'm Writing  I'm revising Slumber.  I noticed I tend to get stuck on the same small portion and beat it to death instead of moving forward.  I'm trying to remember that it won't be perfect after one round of revisions and focus on plot/pacing issues, not all the smaller ones.  Its hard!!!  I'm also working on Mirra, my NaNo book.  I'm not much a plotter but I'm figuring out my characters and their motives.  I'm also attempting an extremely loose plot...  Hopefully it will fair better than the last plot I wrote out.
  If your joining NaNoWriMo this year and want another writing buddy I'm Simply Sarah on the NaNo site.  It seems to be hard to find people on their site though.  I'm @SarahChafin on twitter.  I tend to hang out there a lot when I'm writing...
What inspires Me Right Now  Writing itself is being inspiring this week.  Putting my thoughts into stories is incredibly satisfying. 
What Else I've Been Up To  I've been baking and cooking healthy (mostly!) meals and snacks for us and hiding from the dishes.  I'm still in clean out mode.  I hope that it starts to show soon.  Right now it seems like there are piles of stuff everywhere.  Homeschool group is today so I need to get off of the computor and go make copious amounts of playdough for a building project.
and no, I haven't outgrown playdough yet :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Celebrate the Small Things

Its time for VicLit's Celebrate the Small Things!

This week I'm celebrating:
  • the Writer's Helping Writer's Amazing Race!  I've found it so helpful and they have some awesome prizes. 
  • coffee, cool afternoons (for here anyway!) and lazy afternoons watching the kids play at the park
  • impromptu field trip opportunities.   Yesterday we left our school books behind and watched a sea turtle get released into the wild.  I love living on the coast!
I hope you find simple joys and celebrations of your own and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

What I'm Reading  I just finished a beautifully written book I received from NetGalley called A Bird with the Heart of a Mountain by Barbara Mariconda.  My review is here.  I'm also still reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
What I'm Writing  I'm revising Slumber.  I think I will be for a long while yet. I did make some progress this week though!  I even submitted my first page to the Writers Helping Writers Amazing Race and received some helpful feed back!  If you haven't checked it out yet I would highly recommend it.
What Inspires Me Right Now  This week I am inspired by the gigantic jar of coconut oil that is sitting in my pantry.  I love coconut oil and I've always had a small jar so a big one is full of so many tasty possibilities. 
What Else I've Been Up To  I don't even know.  I feel like I spend my life grocery shopping.  My children eat a ton!!!  When I'm not shopping I'm washing laundry or dishes.  Such is life, I suppose.  I'm still in the process of cleaning out and simplifying our home.  Its sort of like revising.  There is no end in sight...  but making progress is very satisfying. 

What have you been up to?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

This Week's Book Reviews

Here are a few of the books I have been reading lately. I would highly recommend all of them! The first one is Inspirational Romantic/Suspense and the other two are Young Adult. I read The Near Witch as part of the YA Buccaneer Reading Mutiny Challenge. It was an excellent choice! 

Stranded (Alaskan Courage, #3)

Stranded by Dani Pettrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Darcy St. James joins the crew of an Alaskan cruise ship to aid her journalist friend Abby on an undercover investigation she expects to be given information on the case. Instead a person goes overboard and Darcy can't find Abby anywhere. The crew denies that it was her friend that went overboard but if it wasn't Abby, where is she?

Gage McKenna has spent the last few months trying to forget about Darcy. He isn't ready to trust his heart to another woman. The last place he expects to find her is on the cruise ship where he is leading the adventure excursions. It doesn't take long for him to realize that she is on the trail of something dark and dangerous. Now if he can only protect her without loosing his heart...

I love this series and Stranded might very well be my favorite one so far. Gage is rugged and just broody enough to be interesting, Darcy is petite and fearless, and the setting is frigid and exhilarating. I now want to go kayaking in Alaska and see the area myself. I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a clean romance/suspense story.
 If you are interested in my reviews on the previous books in this series go here and here.
I received a free copy of this book to review from Bethany House.


A Bird with the Heart of a MountainA Bird with the Heart of a Mountain by Barbara Mariconda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Drina doesn't belong anywhere. She is half Spanish, half Gypsy and not fully accepted by either side. The Spanish civil war is raging all around, taking everything that matters away from her. Everything, that is, except her love of dance and the name that her mother called out from her death bed. When she needs help the most she finds it in the form of a family that she never knew she had but being a Gypsy in war torn Spain is complicated. She must decide who she is and what she values most.
I have always loved historical fiction and have long been fascinated by the Gypsy culture. When I saw this book I knew that I had to read it. I was not disappointed. Barbara Mariconda tells the story of Drina in a picturesque, haunting manor that kept my interest until the last page. I felt the characters emotions, saw the brightly colored skirts and felt the pulse of the Spanish music. It reminded me of some of my favorite books from my childhood. One thing to be aware of is that though this book is written for young adults, it deals with some dark parts of life and is quite graphic in places. I would recommend it for older teens.

I received a copy of this book to review from NetGalley.

The Near Witch (The Near Witch, #1)The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Long,long ago, the Near Witch lived in a small house on the farthest edge of the village, and she used to sing the hills to sleep."
Lexi's father used to tell her the story of the Near witch, he used to teach her to listen to wind blowing on the Moore but now he is dead and it is her turn to pass on the old stories to her little sister. One night, after her sister is asleep, Lexi looks out the window and sees someone looking back. In a town that has no strangers the appearance of one raises suspicions. When children begin to disappear the entire town blames this stranger, except for Lexi. Her father told her to listen to her heart and her heart says that he is not evil they seek. Her heart says that there may be some truth in the tales from her childhood.
My first impression of this book was that it was beautifully written. The town of Near and the surrounding woods felt like something from a fairy tale. The songs and ancient stories added depth to the setting and the thread of romance held it all together without taking over the mysterious quality of the book. I loved that it had an eerie atmosphere but was not overdone. It was the perfect choice for a fall read.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 18, 2013

Celebrate the Small Things

It's time for VicLit's Celebrate the Small Things!

This week I am celebrating:
  • a misty, rainy sort of day.  
  • deer running along my back fence
  • freshly baked lemon muffins
  • a clear idea of what needs fixed in the chapter I'm working on
  • a mostly potty trained toddler
  • my mom is coming to visit next month.  I haven't seen her in over a year.
What are you celebrating?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What's Up Wednesday and YA Buccaneer's Truth and Dare Challenge

It's time for What's Up Wednesday!

What I'm Reading  I finally received my copy of The Near Witch from Amazon and I promptly devoured it.  I loved it and will hopefully have a review read for my Saturday book review post.  I also finished reading Stranded by Dani Pettrey.  I'm currently reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and The Great Gatsby. 
What I'm Writing  Very little.  I keep hoping to take off on my revisions but I keep finding myself tired and out of time.  I guess some perseverance is in order.
What Inspires Me Right Now  Friendship and lazy afternoons watching the kids play outside. 
What Else I've Been Up To 
I've been doing the Women Living Well make your home a haven challenge.  It has inspired me to simplify and clean out my home so I've been working on that.  I've also been running whenever I can.  I can run about 2.5 miles now and that's a huge improvement from where I was! 
  I also am taking part in YA Buccaneer's Truth and Dare Challenge.  This month the challenge is:
"This month, I dare you to let go of something--something big, something small, something you barely even noticed was there--to make room for something else.  Whether that something else is a huge, long-cherished dream or simply a little more extra closet space, let it go.  
And then tell us all about it." 

I am letting go of trying to crochet blankets for every special baby to be that I know of.  I love crocheting and I always feel like I should make a baby blanket but crocheting with a two year old around is really hard.  I end up trying to squeeze it in after the kids are in bed but that is also when I squeeze in my writing, exercising, any cleaning I didn't get done and everything else so...  I get frustrated and feel like a failure because I can't fit it all in and sleep too.  I have two partially made blankets that stare at me every night when I climb into bed.  I am not going to finish them right now, instead I'm going to use the yarn to make "bite" sized projects.  Projects that I can easily complete in a few sittings.  I started making a small "lovey" bear blanket yesterday (instead of the full sized ripple pattern I had been doing) and I feel like a weight has lifted.  I think I found a compromise, a way that I can still make the sweet homemade gifts that I love without the stress of trying to fit another huge project into my life. Crochet is supposed to be fun and relaxing, not stress inducing, and there will be time for larger projects some other time when my kids are bigger.

Donut Dwellers episode #8

 This was suppose to be the series finale but my imagination got away from me again.  There will be at least one more episode after this one.
Donut Dwellers episode 1
Donut Dwellers episode 2
Donut Dwellers episode 3
Donut Dwellers episode 4
Donut Dwellers episode 5

Donut Dwellers episode 6 
Donut Dwellers episode 7

There you are." said the strange girl.  
August could only stare.  The girl almost looked like a flower.  She was dressed in green and had a wreath of yellow daisies around her head.
"Can you talk?" the girl asked.
"Of course I can talk. I'm just confused.  Who are you?  Were you expecting me?"
"I'm Annabelle.  I'm friends with your sister."
Now August was really confused.
"How can you be friends with her?  This is the first time she's every even been outside."
Annabelle smiled.  
"Sometimes it doesn't take long to become friends."
She whispered something else but it was to quite to hear.
"Where is she?"  August asked, looking around.  
All he could see was grass and rocks.
"I'm right here." said a familiar voice.
August ran towards her but he wasn't used to running outside.  His foot caught on one of the rocks.
"Ahhh." he yelled as he fell right on top of Zandy.
"I'm so sorry." he said.  "I made you mad enough to run away and then I come and fall on top of you."
"It's ok."  Zandy said.
"It is?"  You’re not mad?"
"Of course I'm not mad.  I never should have taken off like that." she said, reaching up to brush some dirt out of her hair.  

"Why did you do it then?" "Well, I started out mad.  Just a little bit and then I got this idea."
August scratched his head. 
What kind of idea would cause his sister to run off in the night like that? 
"It really is a fantastic idea."  Annabelle said.
She had been so quite that August had almost forgotten that she was there.
"What is the idea?" he asked.
Zandy and Annabelle looked at each other just as a chorus of voices burst out from the depths of the grass.
"We are."  the voices said.
The voices belonged to three boys that looked oddly familiar.
The tallest one stuck out his hand. 
“Do I know you?” August asked.
“You should” he said. 
"I'm Sirus”
He pointed to the other boys.
"  We are your cousins."
 to be continued


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Interview With Becca J. Campbell (Author of Empath)

 A few weeks ago I hosted a giveaway for Empath and now I am pleased to be a stop on Becca Campbell's Empath blog tour!  I even got to interview her.  Enjoy! (and don't forget to get a copy of Empath while it's on sale for $0.99!)

1.      When did you fall in love with writing?
When I was writing my first book (which happened to be Empath). For me, the falling-in-love process was two-fold. I had a love-at-first-sight moment when I began writing. In the beginning it was all a big experiment, an attempt to discover if I could write a novel (and, even though I didn't realize it at the time, if I would enjoy it). I came up with some characters and a plot-ish scenario (which wasn't fully developed at that point in time), and just started writing. I spewed out the first handful of chapters in a few days, completely infatuated by this shiny, new writing thing.

But true love doesn't blossom until it's put through the fire, and it was about two thirds of the way through the book that I got stumped and frustrated with my story. Hanging on past the halfway point is often the most difficult part for new writers, and I was no different. There were times I had no idea what was going to happen next, no idea what should happen next. Thankfully, I had a few great mentors who helped guide and encourage me when it came to the rough spots. I might have given up altogether if it hadn't been for those seasoned authors.

I made it past the midway hump; I finished the book, and when I had a complete (albeit unedited) manuscript in my hands, I realized that the whole "writing thing" had made it past crush, beyond infatuation, all the way to genuine, head-over-heels love. I haven't looked back since.

2.      If you could only have five books for the rest of your life, which ones would they be?
Oh man. I hate questions like this. I feel like it's a trick question, or one that has no right answer. I'd get sick of any book if I had to read it over and over! That aside, I'll do my best to pick five. They shouldn't be trendy... Hmm, okay, here it goes. #1 The Bible. #2 These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. #3 Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas. #4 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. #5 The Host by Stephenie Meyer. (Okay, that last one is pretty trendy, but I've already read it twice and I could see reading it again. Such a great love story!)
3.      What influenced you to write a book focused on empathy?
I actually didn't set out to write a book about empathy. I set out to write about people with superhuman flaws, and when I began sketching out the cast of characters, I quickly realized that I had to write this book in Jade's point of view. (Random piece of trivia: the book was untitled until well after the first draft was done, probably a year after I began.) With Jade's empathic ability being a secret, it would be nearly impossible to write about her from another point of view--at least until I had already developed her character. The other books in the Flawed series don't focus on Jade--in fact, she has no point-of-view scenes at all in books two and three.

Outsider (Flawed #2) focuses on Josh, and Protector (Flawed #3) is about Logan. Jade isn't in most of book two except for one scene, though she's a pretty integral part of book three. I also sprinkle new characters into the other books, and I'm excited for readers to get to meet them as well.

4.      I love the name Jade, how do you come up with your character's names?
The ones I like often come from unused baby names. I've always kept lists of names I like, and I have plenty that didn't get used on my kids, for one reason or another. Jade was one of those names (I think my husband vetoed it). Other names come from characters who inspired me. Logan was from X-Men, Henry was from The Time Traveler's Wife, and Jade's last name, Edwards, was actually inspired by Edward Cullen. For Ethan, I wanted a really trendy, handsome-guy type of name, because though Ethan is pretty horrible, not many people who meet him would suspect his dark intentions. He's attractive, charming, and everything about him--his name included--screams clean, wholesome guy you could take home to Mom and Dad. That tactic works well for him.

I also search baby name sites online when I have a character who's difficult to title, and the same goes for last names. Sometimes I even create my own names.

5.      What scene was the most fun to write?
You may think me creepy and/or demented, but the most fun ones to write were Ethan's scenes. Once I embraced getting into his psychopathic brain (which took a bit of getting over, at first), I really enjoyed writing his points of view. The scene where Ethan unveils his collection to Gabrielle sticks in my memory. I won't spoil it for those who haven't read it yet, but after I wrote what was in those glass jars, I was trembling with exhilaration regarding the evilness of this antagonist.

I added one short Jade scene in revision #11 (I'm not even joking about the number of drafts...) that hadn't been in the story previously, and I really enjoyed writing that, too. It's the one where she's trying to enter the hospital and she can't get past the vibe of the suicidal guy. That was a new angle on her empathy I hadn't played out yet, and I liked exploring that.

By the way, if you didn't know, we writers are evil. We take pleasure in torturing our characters, and writing bad-guy scenes is just plain fun. :)

6.      Are there any songs that spoke to you while you were writing this book, or ones that just seemed to fit the mood or theme of your story?
I love that you asked that. I have a playlist for the story and I actually haven't posted it yet. The song best conveying the theme of the book is "Crowded Head" by Collective Soul. Here's the full playlist:
·         “Better Now” – Collective Soul (Cam)
·         “Middle Man” – Jack Johnson (Jade)
·         “Think About Me” – Sister Hazel (Jade)
·         “Stranger Things Have Happened” – Foo Fighters (Jade’s & Logan)
·         “Fuzzy” – Collective Soul (Cam)
·         “Vent” – Collective Soul (Jade, Ethan)
·         “Crowded Head” – Collective Soul (Jade)
·         “Free Me” – Foo Fighters (Jade)
·         “You Are All That I Have” by Snow Patrol (Jade, Logan)
·         “Everything” by Lifehouse (Jade, Logan)

7.      What is your favorite snack or beverage to keep your energy up while writing?
I write a Starbucks a lot, and my beverage of choice is a Toffee Nut latte, salted, extra hot. If I'm at home, it's whatever I can find, but usually involves chocolate.

8.      Before I let you go, I have just one more question! If an aspiring novelist came up to you and asked you for one piece of advice on the craft, what would you say?  (I may or may not be the aspiring novelist referred to in my question...)
Write, and write a lot. Write because you love it. Write for yourself. Stick with your story(ies) and don't give up until you get to the end--don't you dare leave a book half-written! Beyond that, find a support group--preferably several peers and several who are seasoned authors--and lap up their wisdom. If you want a great place to find other writers, check out I'm the co-creator, and next June will be our third year with this event. A bunch of us all hang out online and write novels in June. It's a great way to make friends and form critique groups.

During the Empath Blog Tour (September 16th - October 20th), the first book in the Flawed series will be on sale for a discounted price of $0.99. Grab it for cheap while you can!
Amazon US | Amazon UK  | Amazon CA  | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

Empath (Flawed Book One)

Supernatural empathy isn’t a gift, it’s a curse. Anywhere she goes, Jade’s emotions are replaced by those of the people around her.
Jade grew up in a suburb of Colorado Springs, protected from other people by her parents. Now she faces college—and the world—with nothing to shield her from unwanted feelings.
When Cam, a classmate with a major crush on her, unintentionally hijacks her emotions, Jade struggles to keep from being carried away in feelings of attraction. When Ethan, a psychopath with a thirst for fear, fixates on her, the emotional impact could be lethal.
Caught in a deadly trap, Jade must untangle the emotions and find a way to use her empathic curse to overcome this killer or be overcome by him.

Author Bio

Becca J. Campbell is the author of the New Adult Romantic Science Fiction novels Foreign Identity and Gateway to Reality, New Adult Romantic Paranormal Thriller Empath (The Flawed Series #1), and  Sub-Normal, a series of Science Fiction short stories.
An avid lover of stories that tiptoe the line between fantasy and reality (even when they plunge off one side or the other), Becca looks for new angles on bridging the gap between the two. She holds a special place in her heart for any story that involves superpowers or time travel. Her passion is defying the limits of her own creativity. You can find her on her Author BlogFacebookTwitterGoodreads, Pinterest, and Amazon.