Samantha Arthurs

author, reviewer, here for a good time

Author: Samantha Page 3 of 7

The Life List Item 25: Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

This has been on my Life List since the park was first announced 9 years ago. I knew that this was a place I had to eventually see, something I needed to experience, and this year I finally made that happen. Before I delve into the experience itself though, we have to first explore a bit of backstory so hang with me! It’ll be worth it, I promise!

I discovered Harry Potter in high school, after the publication of book two but before book three came along. I fell in love with those books and everything about them, from the settings to the characters. It just all spoke to something inside of me as a fantasy lover, and I found myself absolutely engrossed in Harry Potter and his world. Some of my other high school friends were into it too, so we’d talk about them, go to book release parties, and collect HP related goodies. It was a time in my life too when I needed a crutch thanks to my grandfather passing away, and JK Rowling provided that for me without even knowing it.

Flash forward a bit to college, where my love of Harry Potter reached new heights. I started to roleplay and write fanfiction about the HP-verse, and I met a lot of great people. Eventually, as time went on, I would meet two of my now closest friends, Mandi and Shell, who also loved Harry Potter and were likewise writers in the same universe. This was how we met and bonded, over a strong love of Harry Potter, and that is how we became so close. Without Harry and JK Rowling I wouldn’t have gotten so close to them, we wouldn’t have had such a huge thing in common, and we may not have stayed friends.

Harry Potter has given me so, so much. Which may sound strange to some, but it’s nonetheless true. Without Harry Potter, who knows where I would be?

So when the time came to figure out our vacation plans this year, the idea of going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was brought up and it just sort of took off on its own. We wanted to see Hogwarts, experience Diagon Alley, put ourselves right into this world we loved so much. So we booked tickets for Universal Studios and Disney World, and then had to wait about eight months. Then, suddenly, it was September and we were really going!

I’ll save you all the details of the drive down and whatnot, and get right to the good stuff. We had made matching Hogwarts Alumni t-shirts with our house names on the back, the four of us (my sister came along too) each representing a different Hogwarts house. I’m a Gryffindor for those keeping track at home! We decided to start at Islands of Adventure and then take the Hogwarts Express over to Universal Studios, since we were also doing HHN and this logistically just made the most sense. So the very first thing we saw as we got deep into the park from a distance was Hogwarts, and I think my heart stopped from joy at just seeing it!

The tears didn’t begin until we actually stepped into Hogsmeade and there was Hogwarts, looming large and looking so real right in front of us. That was the moment we all teared up, because we were actually there! After 20 years of books, friendship, storytelling, and memories we were finally at a place that represented who we were as friends and people, and it was breathtaking. I know it’s just an amusement park, but it felt like so much more than that! It felt like fate finally being justified, and finally acknowledging that this was something that had brought us, and kept us, together.

Needless to say after that we hit the ground running! I picked the end of September to visit the parks because supposedly it’s the off season, and I picked well! The ride wait times lingered at about 20 minutes, so we were able to get on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey right away. We were even more in awe as we walked through the line that snakes through Hogwarts, admiring classrooms, talking portraits, and “snow” falling from the ceiling. The ride itself was so good, and it felt like we were really inside one of the books or movies! We then got on the Buckbeak coaster, which is small but still a lot of fun!

We drank butter beer and peered into shops before we caught the Hogwarts Express, which is also fantastically done! I mean it was just so nice, and it felt like really being on the train to Hogwarts. From there we made our way into Diagon Alley where we enjoyed good food at The Leaky Cauldron. We did a little more shopping and more riding, deciding to buy our souvenirs during our return trip the next day.

We were highly entertained by Stan outside The Knight Bus, which is also super cool looking, and I had a major fangirl moment over 12 Grimmauld Place because Sirius Black is my #1 favorite character in the series. Seeing Kreacher in the window was so cool! I ate pumpkin pasties, drank a tongue tying lemon squash, and bought myself something nice to sit on my bookshelf with my ever glowing collection of Harry Potter books. I just let myself be a kid again, enjoying this thing that I loved so much, and let me tell you that it was totally worth it.

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, or are just interested in seeing something cool, I highly recommend you go if you haven’t before. You won’t regret it, not for a second. My sister has seen all the movies but she isn’t a real fan of HP and even she had a really good time there. Just make sure to go at a time of year when the crowds aren’t super excessive, or you’ll find yourself spending the whole day waiting around in lines. Other than that though, there is no downside whatsoever!

Life List Item: Complete

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National Novel Writing Month 2019

It’s late October, which means we are just a little over a week away from November 1st and the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2019. I know that NaNo is a bit of a controversial topic at times among writers, so I’ll just make my stance perfectly clear right now: I love NaNo, and nothing and no one will change my mind about that fact. I mean I do understand why some people don’t like it and don’t participate, to a point anyway, but I’m definitely pro novel writing month and I think that people who want to participate should do so with gusto.

I started participating in NaNo in 2005, and the only year I’ve skipped out of fourteen was 2008. Some projects have been really good and I’ve polished them up after the fact, while others were total failures that I never even finished. My attempts have been more prolific in recent years, as my two currently published books and one that is in editing to be published this winter were all written during the month of November. The deadline is a big motivating factor for me, as is working with groups of writers toward a common goal. I see nothing at all wrong with strong motivation if it leads to a good finished product.

I wrote the first draft of Endless Numbered Days during NaNoWriMo 2009. The book didn’t get published for several years, and I spent that in between time writing other works and editing the novel. A Crooked Mile was written for NaNoWriMo 2017 and its sequel, A Different Shade of Blue, was written last year in 2018. I consider A Crooked Mile and Blue to be two of the best things I’ve written, a lofty comment coming from a very self-deprecating author. There are even novels I started during NaNo that I have just recently completed or have on reserve to complete in the coming months. I just recently finished Bookish, which started as a full length NaNo novel in 2012, and I just redid the outline and research for The House At the End of the Lane, which I started in November of 2014.

There is just something inspiring about writing an entire novel in the month of November, and knowing that people all across the globe are doing the same thing. A lot of folks who turn up for the event only write in November, setting aside that particular month to make their writing dreams come true. Others, like myself, write all year round but use November for an additional push to get something together even if it is just a very rough first draft. It’s more than just putting words down too, it’s an entire community of like minded people who can share their thoughts, frustrations, words of wisdom, triumphs, and failures. That, I think, is what makes it such an extraordinary thing. It lets you know that you aren’t alone, and that there are so many others out there just like you who are going through the same thing.

I’ve already started researching my novel for this November, and I have the layout all ready and waiting for me to dive in. I’m excited for write-ins and word sprints with my friends, and meeting new people on the NaNo message boards. I can’t wait to see how my novel this year takes shape, and if I’ll struggle more than in recent years. It’s a novel based in both the past and the present, so I think the history chapters will slow me down a bit more than I’m used to. I’m excited for the challenge though, and I’m just excited to get to do it again this year.

No matter how you feel about NaNoWriMo, for a lot of us it’s an exercise in how far we can push ourselves as writers. For all of you participating this year, I wish you the best of luck! Don’t get down if you find yourself falling behind, and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t finish in 30 days. The important thing is to get your ideas in motion, to start working on the story you want to write. If any of you wish to friend me on nanowrimo.org my username is Sammah, and I’d love to be buddies with you to help cheer you on!

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The Life List Item 80: Attend Halloween Horror Nights

As a horror fan, going to Halloween Horror Nights is something I have always wanted to do. I grew up with scary movies and television shows, staying up late on weekends to watch Tales from the Crypt and Monsters on the SciFi Channel. I was reading Stephen Kings from far too young of an age, and thought there was nothing better in the world than a good scare. I also love a good haunted house, and so the massive event that is HHN had always appealed to me, I had just never really gotten around to going.

That all changed this year.

We went down to Florida for vacation, primarily to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I know a good opportunity when I see one. After a lot of waffling we finally bought tickets for Horror Nights while there was a deal going on where you bought one night and got a second night free. Perfect! From the minute we bought the tickets I dug into my research for the event, watching videos of past houses and waiting eagerly for Universal to announce all the houses (mazes) and scare zones for the year. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed!

Because we were visitors already at the park who held a ticket for the event, we got to do something called Stay and Scream. Basically that just means if you’re already in the park and have the ticket for Horror Nights, you never have to leave. This allows you to line up right away, and typically they let you in about 15 minutes early or so before the regular crowd filters in. It was really nice to get to just hang around and not have to go in and out, and it was also cool because we got to see them setting up some of the bigger props (like cars) in the scare zones. Mostly though this allowed us to knock out two of the biggest houses (Stranger Things and Ghostbusters) right out of the gate so we didn’t have to wait in those lines once the general public was allowed in.

I had booked this vacation at a very specific time of year because it’s considered the off-season and the crowds are minimal. This turned out to be true, and it worked in our favor immensely. We were able to ride all the rides we wanted during the day because the wait times were so low, and it even allowed us to get in a couple of rides during HHN while also getting in all the houses that we wanted to see. It was great!

We manage to do seven of the ten houses, and we could have easily have done the remaining three had we wanted to. None of us had a real interested in the three remaining houses though, so we skipped them. Those were US (a movie none of us had seen, but that we knew the premise of and were not into it), Yeti: Terror of the Yukon, and Nightingale’s Blood Pit. We had thought about doing Yeti, but in the end decided pizza fries were more important. Can you blame us?

Allow me now to rank the houses we DID visit, though they were all great and this was an admittedly hard list to do.

  1. Killer Klowns From Outer Space: The night before our first round at HHN I made my friends watch this movie. I love it so much, but I knew the house might make less sense to someone who hadn’t seen this campy classic. Shell had seen it years ago, but Mandi never had and so we watched it in our hotel room. I adore this cheesy 80’s gem, and being a fan just enriched the experience of this house. There were some good jump scares, but mostly we were laughing and having a good time. The boxing clown even broke character when I yelled out that he’s my favorite, and he came bouncing over to me with his gloves up. It was so fun! I also got to have my picture taken with some of the clowns on the second night we were there, and had a custom boxing clown shirt made. This house was my favorite of them all, though it wasn’t the scariest. My sentimental nature knows no boundaries!

2. Universal Monsters: This house was SO cool! It was a re-imagining of all the classic movie monsters we know and love, giving them a more terrifying and modern update to their looks that really enhanced the scare factor. This was one of the only houses that actually got me! I got scared by the Phantom of the Opera at the end when he came out from behind a black curtain that looked like nothing more than a dividing wall. The Wolf Man in this house was also SUPER crazy looking and just very, very well done. The costumes were excellent, and the overall experience was a good one.

3.  Ghostbusters: They did this house in honor of the 35th anniversary of the original film, and it delivered! All the scenes were taken straight from the movie, as were all the lines that the scare actors “spoke” during their scenes. While it wasn’t scary at all it was fun, and a really great house if you’re a fan of the OG movie like me. I think we all liked this one quite a lot, and it was one of the biggest houses of the year. The wait time was always an hour+, but because of stay and scream we got into the line before it really started and were able to get in and out fairly quickly.

4. Graveyard Games: This is a totally original house with a pretty cool premise to it. It’s about two teenager who are desecrating a cemetery, and how the spirits are fighting back. It was a beautiful house with lots of incredible sets, and the overall vibe was really there. The original houses are pretty cool because they can do what they want and get more creative, and I really appreciated that with this house.

5.  Stranger Things: Okay, so…it wasn’t that great. I mean I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped for. I’m putting it at number five because I’m such a huge fan of the show, but in all honesty it should probably be at the back of the pack. Sorry, Stranger Things, but you just weren’t all that great. This year they combined seasons two and three, and while they had a ton of great moments to work with they just sort of dropped the ball and picked the safer, more bland scenes. Which maybe that was for a reason (monetary perhaps?) but there was so much more they could have done.

6.  Depths of Fear: Another original house with a pretty cool concept! In this one a research submarine has been taken over by these weird sea creatures, and it gives the illusion that you’re trapped under water. There were some cool moments in this house, specifically toward the end, and they again did a great job with the costumes and the scenery!

7.  House of 1,000 Corpses: This house was not bad at all, but was rather small. I’m not a fan of Rob Zombie’s movies, but Mandi is and so I went along with her while the others sat it out. The line to get in moved fast though, and it did have a nice visual appeal outside to get you amped up for the interior. I never actually finished watching this movie, I didn’t like it at all, but the house itself was pretty cool looking inside. Visually it gave me enough that I was able to be entertained, and it went scene by scene through the movie (or at least that’s what my friend the fan told me). So while it ranks here at number seven, know that it’s just because I’m not a fan and had no idea what was good and what wasn’t!

The scare zones were all great, except for Vanity Ball which just didn’t do it for me. The pizza fries were good, and so was all the merchandise available. It was hard not to spend all my money here, believe me!

Now that I’ve been I know I’ll go back again and again. We’re already talking about next time we go and where we want to stay and everything. That’s how you know it was a good time!

Life List Item: Complete

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Beware the Autumn People…

…and I am definitely an autumn person, through and through. I’m also a very well read person, especially when it comes to horror. This time of year is when I really shine, my personality more or less doesn’t full come to maturation until September, and that is also when people start to ask me about my fall/October/Halloween book recommendations. I also get asked about movies, but for the sake of my sanity and yours, let us stick with books.

I’ve compiled here some of my favorite Halloween/horror/spooky books for anyone who is looking for some recommendations and doesn’t know where to start. Keep in mind these are personal favorites, so any and all opinions are my own and you are not obligated to believe me in at all. I’m just out here trying to help, like a spooky avenger. I’ll break the list down a little for those who have particular tastes, in hopes of making life easier for all. Let’s get this started!

Just out here, living my best Halloween life…

Haunted House Novels

Haunted House stories are by and large some of the most popular of the genre. There is just something creepy about being trapped inside a home, or any sort of secluded home-type place, with something unknown and/or supernatural. It feels like a fitting place to being. My recommendations are:

  • The Shining by Stephen King: A classic, and a book that should not be missed! It’s the best of the best of King for me, and it’s a good jumping off point for horror lovers and those who may want to start reading King.
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson: This is not my favorite Jackson book, but it’s still good! It’s a classic, a staple of the genre, and you’re hurting nobody but yourself by skipping it!
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James: A short story that will have you questioning yourself as much as governess in the story. Is the house haunted? Is she crazy? The only way to reach your own conclusion is by reading it (and don’t just wait for the movie).
  • Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill: Sometimes in a story, the person who lives in the place is responsible for what’s happening inside of it. Thus is the case with this novel, which gave me a few good chills the first time I read it.

Other Paranormal Novels

You can’t really lump all paranormal type novels around the haunted house trope. Some are bigger than that, too different, and rooted out in the wilds of the world. Is there anything creepier than being alone in the woods? Yes. Being alone in the woods at night. I’m just sayin’….

  • The Ritual by Adam Nevill: When I read this book, it gave me the ever loving creeps. I mean I was having some serious chills, it was fantastic! This book won’t be for everybody, but I promise that at least the first half is bound to get you in the mood for all things spook.
  • IT by Stephen King: I couldn’t make a list without this book landing somewhere. It’s another classic by the master, and it takes some serious dedication to get through. It’s over a thousand pages, but it’s worth it, I swear!
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King: I’m a King fangirl, could you tell? This is another oldie but goodie that is guarantee to make you squirm. It isn’t just the premise of the book either, but the way King weaves the story here. Loss, love, family bonds, childhood fears, this book really has all of it and then some.
  • The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty: I’m going to assume that this one doesn’t need an explanation.

Real People Doing Bad Things

Serial killers, unsuspecting victims, real world situations. Is there anything worse than the stuff we see on the news? Some of these books are based on real events, some are entirely fictional. All are creepy because of what they represent (the worst of humanity).

  • The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum: Don’t read this if you’re easily disturbed, and I mean that. This book is based on a real crime, and a lot of the details are true to what happened in reality. It’s incredibly graphic and horrific, and if it doesn’t upset you then something is very wrong.
  • A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay: This book blew me away the first time I read it! You can’t really figure out what is going on, if she’s telling the truth or not, but it’s pretty messed up no matter what side of the coin you land on.

Supernatural Creatures

Creature features don’t scare me, but I do love these novels anyway! They’re fun, kitschy, and sometimes just weird enough to win me over big time.

  • Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice: If you’re going to read a vampire novel, make it this one. It’s the best of the best, the top tier, nothing will ever be better. Forget sparkly teens and just go right for Louis and Lestat and spare yourself.
  • Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry: This book is the first in a series, but I’m a person who doesn’t normally get into zombie novels (I do like graphic novels though) so if I put it on here you know it’s pretty good. Also if you love it, there are more and the series as a whole isA+!
  • Dog Days by Joe McKinney: Is a werewolf? Is he just crazy? I never quite decided by the end, but I do know I loved reading about it!
  • Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie: This one was really great, and I put it here because I don’t know how else to describe it. Kind of like zombies, but not so it was better. Just trust me!

No Spooks Here

If you want to get into the spirit of things, but don’t really like to be scared, these are books that fit the genre but that aren’t scare at all. They’re just good, fun reads with a bit of tension and all the other best stuff.

  • Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon: This man is a brilliant writer, and this book is one of his best. It will fill you up with nostalgia and surprise, and if you’re like me you won’t be able to put it down.
  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman: I think everyone saw this movie on Netflix, but that film does NOT do justice to the book. Not even close.
  • Anything at all by Edgar Allan Poe: The man can do no wrong, and provides the best spooks that aren’t spooky!
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving: You can’t go wrong with this story, ever. If you haven’t read it, shame on you so get to it!

For The Kids (or the adults who like those books as much as I do)

We don’t discriminate here based on age (or anything else). These are books I love as an adult human, that I also loved as a kid. So read them with your kids, or by yourself! It works no matter what!

  • The Halloween Tree & Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury: His books are timeless classics, and I love them just as much now as I did when I was a kid. Trust me, you can’t go wrong.
  • Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark by Alvin Schwartz illustrated by Stephen Gammell volumes 1-3: These. Are. The. Best. These compilations of short stories, poems, and truly horrifying pictures still enthrall me as a grown up human being. Share them with your kids, pronto!
  • In A Dark, Dark Room by Alvin Schwartz: If the Scary Stories books are too much for your littles, start here! They’re for younger kids, and are more tame.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: A really, really great story written for middle school aged kids. I read it as an adult (it…you know…came OUT when I was an adult) and still loved it!

I’m going to stop there, at the risk of overloading you. Let me know if you read any of them, or share your favorite horror novels with me too!

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The Word Count Problem

Does anyone else struggle sometimes with word count? Or do you not consider word count at all on your initial draft of a novel?

For me it can be a bit of a problem, which is the absolute worst. When I’m in the planning stages for a new novel one of the first things I do is consider the type of story I’m trying to tell and then set a preemptive word count. This is usually between 60-70k words depending on the genre, though I’m generally satisfied with where I’m going once I hit 50k. I guess it’s conditioned in me to try and hit the 50 mark because of all my years spent doing NaNoWriMo, and I know that if I get that far I can add between 5k-10k in editing as I fix scenes or add in things that I think are detrimental to the story.

Lately though I seem to be struggling with my word count, and it’s driving me a bit loopy. The novel I’m currently working on the most is in its final chapter of the first draft, and I’m about 4k below 50,000 words at the moment. I’m doing everything I can to make myself drag it to that finish line at minimum, but I’m not sure I’m going to make it. I had set an original word count at about 60k, so I’m falling WAY short of where I wanted to be on the first draft. It’s a sinking sort of feeling, and it’s really making me second guess what I’m doing here. This book is the fourth, and final, in a series and I’m starting to wonder if it was necessary or not. Am I struggling to get there because the story isn’t one that really needed telling? Am I just not feeling this character in this new setting? I have so many questions, and I hate doubting myself on top of everything else.

As the storyteller I thought it was necessary to wrap up her story, to give her and the people who enjoy reading about her real closure. I wanted to show her struggles now that she’s an adult out in the world on her own, and how she’s coming to terms with finding who she is. But perhaps she was best left behind as the teenage girl she was in the first novel. It’s hard for me to come to grips with that, believe me.

I’ve hit the word count wall before though, it isn’t a new thing. I’ve just never been quite unable to reach where I want to be for that first draft. Rag & Bone hasn’t hit the high count I have set for it either, but that’s because I haven’t edited it yet either. I realize that not all novels are going to be the same length either, that some books just have more to say than others, but I want to at least give them enough depth and bulk to make it worth the readers time and money.

Maybe I’m just overreacting too. That is entirely possible. My anxiety is singing loud and proud lately, and it does often impact what I’m doing and how I’m working.

So let me know what you guys think! Do you struggle with word count? Do you set goals for yourself or do you just write until the draft is finished and then worry about things like word count as you work on your second, third, and fourth drafts? I’m curious to know if anybody else feels this way on the regular or if it’s really just me.

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August Wrap-Up

I can’t believe that August is over! That is so crazy! I wanted to do a wrap up post for the month, just to cover what I consider to be my successes and my failures. I feel it helps me to write those things down, and to understand what adjustments I need to make in my writing schedule.

I always start each and every month with a spreadsheet that lays out what I want to accomplish, as I’ve posted here before. I have word count goals for each novel I’m working on, as well as a bunch of editing goals for things I’ve already finished. As per my usual, however, things eventually went off the rails when I became hyper focused on just one project. That being said this tunnel vision of mine allowed me to complete a very rough first draft of Then She Grew Up (title change to be announced soon), which was really nice. That’s one more thing off the list, so check on that!

I also completed a full read-through of Before That Winter, which I hadn’t done since I wrote the first draft. I want to get it all into one new document to see if my word count changed at all, and then I’ll hopefully start on a second draft which is going to be much more in-depth. Also on the horizon is printing out a copy of A Different Shade of Blue so I can do hardline editing that way. I always do better at catching mistakes if I have a printed copy, that’s for sure. Once I’ve done that I’ll hopefully have the edits in from my great editors, and can start the process of final drafting it!

All in all I consider August to be a success as far as writing and editing go. Did I accomplish everything on my spreadsheet? Absolutely not, but I made a lot of headway and I’m not going to shirk that. Editing is my least favorite part of the writing process, it’s so difficult for me to edit myself and to go through everything with a fine tooth comb, so even a good read-through and picking out small errors in a total document is a win I will gladly accept.

September-October are going to be more difficult months, however. I’m going on vacation at the very end of September, which means I’ll be stagnant for a full week. The following week I’ll have company, but I’ll be back at work where I can hopefully get in some writing. In October then I have a slight break for a couple of weeks and then I have more company coming in. We’ll be hosting a huge Halloween party and getting that ready the week of, but then comes NaNoWriMo which excites me! Last year we did a fun write-in on November first, and we really got in a good count. I’m hoping to do that again this year, especially if I have all my research completed for the project I’m saving for it.

My main goal right now is to get A Different Shade of Blue out before the end of the year. In December it will be nine months since I published A Crooked Mile, and I want to get the second book out while people are still thinking about it. I have no slated release dates yet for the other two books in the series, especially considering I just finished the fourth and last. I have some other books completed too that I would like to release, and one of them requires illustrations so it’s slow going.

I think that about does it for this post though! Did you guys have a successful month of writing? Did you read anything good? Let me know!

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August Check-In!

I realize that I have not done a proper check-in since the first of the month, and that’s really my bad. I’ve just been busy with work and primarily with writing. I’ve hit a good stride with some first drafts, and I’m just enjoying the pace of it. It doesn’t motivate much to update here though, which I need to rectify. So consider this a very belated week two update! Writing is going well, as is the editing process. I actually did a full read through and surface edit of Before That Winter, so that’s something I feel pretty proud of!

I found a list of interesting ask-the-author type questions online, so I thought I’d pad this update by answering a couple of them for fun. It’s intriguing to peek into the writing process, or so I think, and I just wanted to share a bit!

What is your favorite childhood book?

This is such a loaded question! I read a lot as a child, and still read a lot now, and I had a lot of books that I loved very much. I was a really big fan of animal stories, especially dogs, and so there were several of those that I turned to frequently. My childhood copy of Where The Red Fern Grows is so worn out the cover is long gone and the pages are literally just held together by the glue on the spine. I mean I read that book so many times I completely decimated it. I also read The Incredibly Journey a lot, though I didn’t quite wear it out in the same way. The Baby-Sitters Club books were my life though, and I still have all of them and re-read them now and then for a good time. If everything else in life was getting me down, I knew I could always fall back on the BSC. I also harbored a deep love for Judy Blume that still lingers as well, and I especially love Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Just As Long As We’re Together. We also can’t leave Beverly Cleary out! Ramona Quimby is just everything.

As you can see this question is too much, and I have to walk away. Otherwise we’ll be here all day hashing this out.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It honestly just depends on the story, the time of year, and how much I’ve thought about the book beforehand. A Crooked Mile and A Different Shade of Blue were both written for/during NaNoWriMo in November (one in 2017 and one in 2018) and I finished them both pretty quickly. A Crooked Mile’s very first draft was done in about 9 days or so, but it took a bit longer with Blue. I finished it in a couple of weeks after breezing through the first 50k pretty fast. I took a break at that point and then came back to finish it up before the end of the month. I also finished Before That Winter and Rag & Bone in about a month, which included days of writing a lot and then taking small breaks.

Other books, however, take a lot longer. It took me a couple of years to finish Endless Numbered Days. I started it for NaNo and then just let it sit for a long time. I worked on it off and on, and then over the course of a couple of months finally finished it up. Then there are instances of just real writers block with a  story, like with Crimson. I’ve worked on that thing off and on for years, including full re-writers, and it still isn’t finished. So it just really comes down to the story itself and how I’m feeling it. If I’m into the characters, if I connect with them, it can go incredibly fast. If there’s some disconnect there or not a concrete enough storyline, well, it might never get finished.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I am actually friends with a lot of other writers, believe it or not! Two of my very best friends are also writers, and though we’re all different when it comes to what we like to write and our styles we all click and connect well with one another. We’re writing partners, and we frequently get together to write, critique, and help one another. We help each other edit, develop ideas, and encourage one another. During NanoWriMo we do sprints together, and have group discussions about our writing. We share our stories, and we ask each other for help without feeling fearful about sharing our work. It’s a blessing to know them, and to be able to work and write with them. They challenge me to want to do better and to come up with new and original ideas like they always are.

I know others too though, and connect with them frequently. Some are fantasy writers, others are also illustrators. Some write romance, some are poets. It’s incredible to know other authors and writers, to be able to understand them and have them understand you in return. It’s always important, I think, to reach out and connect with others who are part of the same artistic craft as you. Nobody else will ever understand in the same way or be able to reach that part of you so efficiently. They are all wonderful, and they make me want to be my best so I can impress them the way that they impress me.

So that’s about it for this post! I’ll be back in a few days to check-in if anything interesting comes up!

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August Week 1

The first week of August has been a little slower going than I had hoped for. I did mange though to get to 10,000 words in Then She Grew Up (which I have changed the title of, but I’m keeping that to myself for right now), which was my goal for yesterday. I also hit x-amount of words on Lola, which was another milestone! I think that tomorrow I’ll try some editing, though if the writing bug is there I want to indulge it. I can almost always sit down and get a few words out, but there are times when I get into a real zone and can churn out a lot in a short period of time. Those moments come in fits and starts though so I have to latch onto them while they’re there!

It’s time to really settle into a deep edit of Blue. That is the next book slated for release, and I have to convince myself to set some deadlines. Not just for Blue, but for the other completed projects so I quite dawdling on them. The material is there, it’s all ready to go, so I just need to push myself. I don’t want to be one of those people who puts out something new every single month, that will oversaturate the readers who DO want to follow me. I know there are some people who love getting something new every month, but with myself I think it’s overkill. Or maybe I’m wrong, who knows!

I just know that a release every couple of months or so will suit me better, so a schedule is coming soon. Once I have it I’ll try to post it here so people know what they can tentatively expect (as things are always subject to change at a moment’s notice).

We’re in August now, so it’s time to think ahead to NaNoWriMo too. Maybe I’ll select one of my projects that I’m working on/toward now for that, or maybe inspiration will strike and I’ll get a new idea. If I do I’ll likely tuck it away for November so I have something to work on for just that month. I won’t lie…NaNo has been VERY good to me. Endless Numbered Days began as a NaNo project, even though I didn’t complete it during that particular year. A Crooked Mile was written entirely during NaNo, as was A Different Shade of Blue. I’ve written Crimson twice in that time frame, as well as a horror novel and what I originally did with Bookish.

Do you do NaNoWriMo? Have you published your novel written during November? If you don’t do NaNo then how do you feel about it? I’m genuinely curious!

I think that’s about it for my first week of writing in August. I want to try and get a lot done since I’ll lose a week or so at the end of September for vacation.

Let’s hope week 2 has some better progress!

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July Wrap-Up!

So we’re basically at the end of July! This month went pretty quickly, but I did manage to accomplish quite a bit of writing and organizing. While I wish I had done a lot more, I think it’s important to pace yourself as a writer. I’m never going to be one of those people who can release a book a month, that just isn’t how I am. It takes me too long to edit and make things as good as I can make them, and the whole process tends to slow me way down.

I managed to do outlines for all of my upcoming projects, and have started editing on those that are already finished. I’m taking my time with my read-throughs, but what I really need to do is print off hardcopies. It’s a task to do that when there are hundreds of pages, but I find I do better line editing for myself when I have a print copy. I can kick back outside with a cup of tea, lounge, and read without having to lug my laptop with me. I’ll probably get on that soon, either buying ink for my own printer or heading to the library to turn over some hard earned money in exchange for pages. We’ll see!

I always start out trying to write on various projects at one time. It works to an extent, but then one particular story always jumps out at me and I’ll hyper-focus on it until I finish it. Right now it’s Lola’s story that has me sucked in. I’m really enjoying writing about her and Finn (they’re the two main characters) and I’m just really enjoying myself there.

I’m also very excited to get to join a local writers group! They all seem like awesome people, and I always enjoy getting to meet other authors. They’re trying to arrange a book signing for early September, so I really hope it’s a time and date when I can make it and get to join in on the fun.

I’ve always been working on boosting sales for A Crooked Mile. It’s hard going, I won’t lie, but I’m still trying. It does motivate me though to get A Different Shade of Blue out sooner rather than later, since books in a series tend to sell better than stand alone books do. I also have the third book in the series in editing, and I’m working on book number four too. Four will definitely be the end, it’s just time to let go of those places and those characters. I love them so much, and I’m so proud of what I did with them, but you gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.

Do you guys have characters that you’re hopelessly attached to? Is it hard for you to stop writing about them even when their stories are pretty obviously over? Or is it just me?

Here is what my writing/editing schedule looks like for August:

Pretty on par with what I was hoping to accomplish in July. I may not have stuck rigidly to the schedule, but I did manage to accomplish some goals just the same.

Also for those who are interested, here is a snippet from A Shark In Lola’s Pond:

Alright, well, it’s on to August! Let’s hope this month brings lots of book sales, writing, and more goals met for the year.

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July: Week 2

This week didn’t feel insanely productive, but looking back it really was! I got a couple of chapters edited in each finished project, and even finally read over everything I’d already written for the project that just won’t die. Aside from that I wrote a chapter for every single WIP, though I’ll likely start to focus more on one thing ahead of the others very soon. It just feels nice to have touched base with everything I have going on.

Sometimes I think about the other writers that I know, and it’s sort of amazing how we all have such different styles when it comes to how we approach things. I don’t know any two people who do things the same way, but it’s sort of refreshing. It’s nice that we each have our own path set up for ourselves.

For me the act of actually writing is the easiest part of the whole writing process. One I have the idea and I flesh it out some I can knock out a project fairly quickly. If I’m doing something for NaNo I can typically get it finished in about 9 days or so. My fastest ever for finishing a first draft was six days. I still can’t believe that I actually did that.

Now I’m not saying that writing a first draft in six days is ever a great idea. I have only ever done that, or felt driven to do that, during NaNoWriMo. The last two projects I finished first drafts of took me about a month, which I feel is pretty acceptable.

After that though things just get hairy. My first step is to take a break, to move away from what I just finished and give myself breathing room. This can be a week to a month, sometimes more. I can’t help it, I just need the distance. After that I have to force myself to do a first edit. I hate editing, but I really have to make myself do this.

After that it’s all about getting my editors to look it over and make their suggestions, and then I’m forced into a third edit. I use their critiques, advice, and the errors they caught to polish things up. After that I do one more fourth edit where I read through it totally and catch anything else.

This process took me a year from start to finish with A Crooked Mile. Mostly because I was just so crazy slow about it. I’d like to speed things up this time around, but we’ll see.

For now I’m just glad to be in a good pattern, accomplishing things every week.

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