Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Small Things {November Edition}

THANKSGIVING
How can I mention this month's favorite things without giving a shout out to Thanksgiving? I love baking and cooking and fall, so Thanksgiving is high on my list of best holidays. We had a very simple dinner this year with my parents and, aside from my poor little girl who wasn't feeling well, it was perfect (don't worry, she's all better now). I love hosting and all the little details that come with it (when the holidays roll around, I fall in love with our chalkboard wall all over again). It's been an amazing year and it was refreshing to slow down and think about all I have to be thankful for--definitely something that I should do more than once a year.


GIFTS WITH MEANING
Earlier this month, I celebrated my 28th birthday. My husband bought me this Cup the Ante necklace from Modcloth.com. Not only is it adorable (I've gotten so many complements on it) but it's also a tribute to my children's novel, The Fantastical Adventures of Pinkletin Frog, and Pinkletin's own dear teacup and spoon. Just one more show of support and encouragement from the best-ever husband.







CATCHING FIRE
I've been looking forward to Catching Fire for months and the hubby and I got to have a date earlier this week to go see it. I was not disappointed. SO GOOD. They did an excellent job with the novel adaptation, even better I think, than the first film. And great casting all around (Jennifer Lawrence is amazing, as usual). Catching Fire is my favorite book of the trilogy and I would definitely see the film again. If you get a chance to see this one in the theater, take it! And if you haven't read the books, put them on your Christmas list.





Don't forget to come back Monday for an interview with Erin Healy! You can find out all about her new book, Stranger Things, and get a chance to snag yourself a copy to ring in the New Year!



Friday, November 29, 2013

Literary Gifts for Book Lovers

The turkey has been carved and the pumpkin pie vanquished. Now comes the fun of checking off that Christmas shopping list. Maybe this is the year to get the writer/and or bookworm in your life something besides notebooks and bookstore gift cards. Here are some of my favorite suggestions for doing just that...


1. Modcloth.com
Modcloth is one of my favorite online stores. Not only do they have a ton of adorable, vintage inspired clothing, they also have an amazing selection of giftable items. Just search "books" and you'll be treated to a plethora of choices...unique and hilarious coffee table books, notecard sets, literary themed apparel and accessories...seriously, my wishlist is ridiculous.
Pictured: Live Up to the Type Necklace and Mermaid for Each Other Bookends.

2. Vintage Books
Chances are, your literary inclined friend or family member has a favorite classic book, whether it be a current favorite or one from their childhood. Get a list of their most treasured titles and then hit eBay, or your local antique shop, secondhand or thrift store. You'll be surprised at how affordable they can be (unless of course you have your heart set on a signed first edition). I have my own collection of antique and vintage books and I've paid anywhere from about $8-$40 per title. This is a great way to make this Christmas an extra special one.

3. Outofprintclothing.com
Out of Print celebrates the world's great stories through fashion, with products featuring iconic and often out of print book covers. They have everything from phone cases, to tote bags, to t-shirts (for every member of the family). And to make it even better, for each product sold, Out of Print donates one book to the organization Books for Africa.
Pictured: Nancy Drew: The Sign of the Twisted Candles Women's Tee and The Great Gatsby iPhone 5/5S Case

4. Give Back
Speaking of donations, making a charitable contribution in your book lover's name can be a wonderful gift with a lasting impact. Especially if your giftee is already involved with a particular organization--for example, those crazy friends of yours who participate in NaNoWriMo each November. There are lots of great literary charities out there, like First Book, which provides books to kids from low-income families, or United Through Reading, which allows deployed military parents the opportunity to be video-recorded reading storybooks to their children to help ease the stress of separation. 

Do you have any favorite gifts you love to give to the readers/writers in your life? Or do you have your own literary wishlist? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update and Special Announcement!

Hello, all! We've reached the last week of November, and for all you NaNoWriMo participants, that means winning has begun! To all of you who have reached 50,000 words--congratulations! To those still plowing ahead toward the prize, consider this a big ol' rah-rah-you-can-do-it! complete with pom-poms.

This year will be a first for me. The first time I don't reach that magical 50K. HOWEVER, I did reach those two beautiful words: THE END. I completed my first draft at about 37,500 and decided that this year, I was going to call that a win and be happy to cheer everyone else across the finish line. I'm proud of the fact that I pushed through and completed the very rough, messy, and fractured first draft of my next novel. I'm also quite happy to enjoy the rest of my November with a little less stress. (There are Christmas trees to be put up and decorated, after all.) Editing will begin soon--I gave the first chapter to my writers' group last night to make sure of that.

Now...Announcement!

Next week, I will have the immense pleasure and privilege of hosting an interview with author Erin Healy. She will be sharing some exciting tidbits about her upcoming book Stranger Things. Plus, you might just get to preview her new novel AND have a chance to win a copy for yourself. Make sure you come by the blog on Monday and check it out!

With that, I'm off to prep for turkey day. This year, I'm thankful for all of you who have visited my blog and read my posts. You've helped make this writing journey even more awesome. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Give}

As we enter Thanksgiving week, let's remember to be thankful for all that has been given to us. But let's also remember the opportunity we have to give a little of ourselves to those around us each day.


Monday, November 18, 2013

The Day I Almost Quit

It's noon and I still haven't put up today's blog post. Why?

Because I almost quit last night.

The last two weeks have been filled with some serious ups and downs. This year's NaNoWriMo project is not going easy on me. Some days the words have flowed well, but most days it's been an uphill struggle to keep moving forward. Not necessarily because the story isn't there, but because I'm not meeting my own expectations. Last year, I averaged 2,300 words a day and I was in love with my story. I knew exactly where I was going next, and the snags were few. This year, I'm lucky to meet the required daily 1,667 by midnight each night, I have no idea what to do in my next scene, and my entire story seems like one gigantic tangled mess.

I was hoping that last year's finished novel would be some sort of magical line in my writing career. Beyond this line, everything would be easier. Every first draft would be gold. Every story and character would be loved and cherished through the entire process.

Or something like that.

Instead: Reality. In all honesty, I knew it would be hard. No dream is ever easy to reach. No passion ever really reaches perfection. There's always more learning and growing and hard work to be done, even after harvest. But I was completely unprepared for how difficult this month would be. It seems my fifth NaNoWriMo is shaping up to be my most difficult. Last night, after ignoring my novel for as long as I could (it's only 36 days 'til Christmas--I HAD to finish crocheting that stocking), I finally sat down at 10:30pm and coughed up 1,000 words before giving up an hour later.

And then I tried to convince myself of all the reasons why it was okay if I gave up completely.

After all, I've chalked up four NaNoWriMo wins--that's not too shabby. We're all allowed to have an unfinished year, right? Why should I waste my time on a story I'm not enjoying? A story that will probably end up in the trash bin anyway.

And there was the truth. Or, should I say, the lies.

The story isn't good enough. 
I'm not good enough.
I'm wasting my time.

I went to bed discouraged and defeated--and while we're being real--with a soggy pillow.

But thankfully, dark nights are often followed by mornings of clarity. I was reading some sample chapters of an upcoming novel from one of my favorite authors (I'll be sharing those pages with you in a couple weeks, so stayed tuned for more info on that!) and I had a thought. It's a thought I've had many times before that has always given me new life when I'm in the writing dumps.

This book is made of words. Simple, everyday words put into sentences, put into paragraphs, put into chapters to make a book. The story is beautiful, well written, intricate. But it all begins with just...words.

I like words. I can handle that. I can do that.

So I sat at my computer and wrote 300 more words this morning. They might not be perfect, they might get thrown to the cutting room floor come December. But if I want to be a writer, I must be willing to risk the imperfect first draft. The messed up timeline. The characters who aren't sure who they are yet. The villains who seem undefeatable.

Because I don't want to be the person who missed out on a great story because she quit in the first draft. I don't want to be the person who misses out on future possibilities because I focused on present difficulties. My story might not make it to 50,000 words (it is a children's book after all, and I'm focused on the 35K-45K range) but I don't want to stop before THE END.


So, as a reminder for myself and anyone else who needs it, here's today's picture quote.




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What's On My Bookshelf

Today's post is part of a link-up happening over at Anne Bogel's blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy. I love Anne's blog. She's one of those bloggers who has the ability to make it seem like you're just having a chat over coffee. Her blog has such a great variety of posts on books, beauty and fashion, and just...LIFE.

This week Anne asked her readers to share their bookshelves. If you know me (or if you've ever taken a gander at my "No Place Like Home" Pinterest board), you know what a perfect prompt for a blog post this is for me. I believe a home without books is no home at all, and someday I pledge to have at least one wall of floor to ceiling shelves. So, without further adieu, a peek into my living room...



These guys get the highest shelf, partly to be out of reach of small, dirty fingers, but mostly because it's my favorite shelf. This one holds all my vintage books, including some of my favorite classics. (Alice in Wonderland has a bookmark in it because it's inspiration for the NaNoWriMo novel I'm working on this month.) The best ones have inscriptions on the first page. You can read the most darling inscription in this Instagram photo.


What it looks like when you have more books than shelves. Confession: There's a book on this shelf that I bought this summer and still haven't read. But this shelf also holds the series I've read and re-read the most times: The O'Malley Chronicles by Dee Henderson. I met my husband, who was a firefighter at the time, right after reading The Protector. Needless to say, it's my favorite of the series.


This shelf holds some of my favorite, most magical children's/YA books, plus (randomly, I know--I'm surprised the cross in genres doesn't drive me crazy...) Blue Like Jazz and Start--two of the books I most often, and most highly, recommend. My Flavia deLuce novels get special attention with their poison bottle companion. And the thing that really makes this shelf awesome? The manilla folder you can just make out in the shadows to the right. That's my children's book manuscript, in all its printed glory.


And lastly, the overflow stacks. My bookshelves have pretty much reached their max capacity, so several books have wandered to the half wall between the living room and kitchen. As you can see, they don't always stay between the bookends. This is where the currently-being-read books (and a few favorites) live along with the novels visiting from the library and the pile of Relevant magazines.


Okay, one more (then I promise I'm done). My kids have their own shelves in their room, filled to overflowing. (Plus there's a basket tucked in next to the bookshelves in the living room that holds another pile of picture books, chapter books, and easy readers borrowed from the library.) One of the biggest goals I have as a mom is to pass on my love of reading. Yesterday my daughter finished one book she'd already started and then went on to read an entire Ivy+Bean novel. Mission accomplished.

Thanks for checking out this little peek into my world! Want to see what other bookworms are reading? Visit the link up post at Modern Mrs. Darcy and browse their shelves!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Valor}

Today I want to take the opportunity to say thank you. Thank you to all the men and women who have served the country and the people of the United States of America. I am blessed to have many friends who have, or are currently serving with the military. Some of my closest friends have watched their husbands go to war and prayed daily for their safe return. I am awed by their strength and humbled by their sacrifice. To all of you: enlisted, past, present, families...thank you for your selflessness, your courage, and your valor.

The medal pictured above belonged to my husband's great(x?)-grandfather.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Hungry Novelist

Hello, all! Sorry for the quietness of the blog this week. But when your graphic design business hits the busiest time of year AND you're attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you've got to make time for basic human needs, like figuring out the bare minimum amount of sleep you can get while still being able to function.

Which brings me to the topic of today's quick post.

Writing a novel in a month would be a lot easier if it weren't for the pesky necessity to eat, sleep, and have clean laundry. (Not to mention taking care of little ones if you have kids.) When you're trying to squeeze every bit of writing time you can out of every day, its nice to have quick and easy meal fixes. Getting up early and putting in a few hundred words before the kids get up has been saving my butt (and my word count) and this year I found a recipe that's saving my breakfast: Refrigerator Oatmeal. It's easy, delicious, and writing friendly. Win, win, WIN. It's one of those recipes I've had pinned to my Pinterest board for forever, but never got around to trying until now. It's perfect for NaNoing, because you can throw the ingredients together the night before and have a magical breakfast waiting for you in the morning. Plus, when inspiration hits mid-bite, you can type to your heart's content and come back to it. No more cold eggs or soggy cereal.

You'll need the following basic ingredients:
A mason jar with lid, at least half-pint in size (Or any other container with a lid. You could use Tupperware or recycle a jar!) 
Rolled Oats (The site where the recipe is from says to use old-fashioned, but I cheated and used quick oats and it turned out just fine.)
Milk
Greek Yogurt
Chia Seeds
Fruit and/or Jam or Jelly

And here's the recipe I've been using:



Refrigerator Oatmeal
1/4 cup uncooked oats
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp. dried chia seeds
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 T. jam or jelly of your choice
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped fruit of your choice
(My combos of choice have been strawberry jam, with peaches or mixed berries. You can use fresh fruit, or thawed frozen fruit.)

Place the oats, milk, yogurt, chia seeds, vanilla extract, and jelly in the jar. Put the lid on and shake until well blended. Stir in fruit. Refrigerate overnight, or up to 2-3 days.

Viola! You can find lots of recipes for different flavor combos, including apple cinnamon, banana peanut butter, and pumpkin pie, at the original post over on The Yummy Life blog.

P.S. I'm right on target with NaNoWriMo, at 8,806 words. The story is slowly building itself and I'm excited to see what comes about in week two as my character enters the woods. How is your noveling going? I'd love to hear your word count in the comments!