January Books of the Month

Here goes the first of my new series, books of the month! Once a month, I will review all the books I’ve read over the course of the month. Not only is it a fabulous way to keep my mind reading in my downtime but also a GREAT way to support up and coming authors as well as the Indies I’ve come to love.

I’m always looking for recommendations so feel free to drop a comment on any of these posts or send me a message with any books you think I should read and review next. I’m not picky, in fact, I find all sorts of genres interesting – from a good mystery to a sappy love story. I write fantasy and urban fiction so those are great too!

My January read goals were Sarah Sutton’s Christmas as We Know It and Falling for Grace by JL Reed. I’ve read all of Sutton’s books thus far and I technically started the Christmas one in December but due to all the holiday craziness I didn’t get a chance to get very far which is alarming because Sutton’s books are typically a one, two day read at max!

J.L. Reed is a new author to me and one of things I really enjoy about Kindle Unlimited is the exposure to all the books and authors you wouldn’t normally see browsing the book store, and believe me, I love a trip to Barnes and Noble as much as the next person.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into it.

First up, Christmas as We Know it by Sarah Sutton.

I actually came across Sarah on Instagram shortly after she released her debut novel, What are Friends For?. She writes clean romance with characters in high school but it’s not at all childish. Out of My League is probably my favorite by her so far. Maybe I’m a cliche but young love is a great read when my own love life is not so great…HA!

This Christmas story follows Mimi, a senior who has waited her entire high school career to be able to volunteer and be a part of the Winter Festival that she attends every year with her friends. Among them is her best friend, Jason, who acts as her real life Grinch. Their friendship is quirky and fun and I think we all need a Jason in our life to keep things real.

In true romance fashion, enter in Bentley and Claire. Mimi’s longtime crush and Jason’s ex and the four of them are grouped in the same volunteer group for the Festival. Because, what can possibly go wrong? It’s the perfect chance for Mimi to spend time with Bentley, right? Except someone isn’t too keen on exes hanging out to give Mimi the opportunity she was hoping for.

Overall, the plot is well written. There is enough of a slow burn to keep you wanting more but at the same time, not overly drawn out. Tension is relatable for high school age kids and as I mentioned before, Sarah writes clean romance so appropriate given the age of the characters. Romances tend to be predictable, I think it’s just one of those things because they follow the same basic plots; second chances, friends to lovers, and so on. What makes each one unique is how the author makes it their own. There were some pleasant surprises with the secondary plots and character backgrounds in Sutton’s as she does in each of her novels. I like how she takes a light hearted story but gives it the depth that leaves you craving more. Everything seemed to flow, the story wasn’t choppy and at the end there wasn’t any lingering questions that I needed answered.

I love Sutton’s characters. Mainly, this story naturally centers around Mimi, Jason and their close circle of friends, lovingly referred to throughout the book as the Crew. They include Matteo, Taylor and honorary member, Claire, who was a member by association when she dated Jason. Bentley is Mimi’s longtime crush and Lexie is her sister who also happens to be best friends with Claire. The way that Sutton is able to weave these characters together but not have it feel forced or chopped is a gift that I don’t find in many books with similar layouts.

One thing I wish had been fleshed out a little more was the dynamic between Mimi and her sister. While the tension that is evident at the beginning is rectified by the end, I feel it could have been dived into a little more. I also would’ve enjoyed a little more into Jason’s relationship with his father which is clearly not your typical relationship though it clearly centers around grief and I think it could have been valuable to explaining some of Jason’s quirks.

Overall, Sarah Sutton has found a niche with her writing and it shows. If you enjoy this one, I throughly recommend checking out her Fenton County series. They are each standalone novels all based within the same county and I haven’t found one I didn’t like yet and like I’ve said earlier, they are quick reads!

Next up, let’s dive into Falling for Grace.

J.L. Reed is a new author for me and was in my recommended on Kindle Unlimited so I decided, why not? And boy, I was NOT disappointed!

First of all, I started this one night and the following night I couldn’t stop reading. I ended up jumping from 10% to 74% and finished on my lunch hour at work the third day. Emotional damage. That is what I have to say about this book.

This story follows Grace and her childhood neighbors (and brothers), Danny and Brandon. Three amigos who grew up together and became inseparable. Grace and Danny are best friends and Brandon is the man she can’t forget, no matter how hard she tries. After a brief relationship, Brandon leaves the UK for LA to make it big in the acting business and leaves Grace in shambles. But after deciding enough is enough, she says goodbye with the intention of not repeating old patterns and finally being able to move on with her life.

But one mistake leads to a life of secrets and regret for Grace and she ultimately runs away to the states, making a life for herself working for NASA. But her past comes rushing back in when she receives a call saying Danny committed suicide. Suddenly she is forced to face Brandon and she’ll need to tell him the number one secret she’s never shared.

Old feelings come rushing back, no doubt, and the tension and story just make the pages fly by. The plot is well conceived and executed. Reed tackles the the hard triggers within the pages (including suicide) delicately and yet, realistically. I loved the family dynamic that pulled through between Grace and Brandon’s family. You can tell it’s that secondary family kind of feel and it’s not at all forced. I do think the ending was fairly rushed and could’ve been explored more once she came clean with the secrets and Brandon was ready to listen but I was still impressed.

The characters are deeply rooted and felt genuine and relatable. Everyone has secrets and some of them harbor regret which is normal. The weight that Grace carried carries through in her behaviors and refusing to let anyone too close to her and while I did feel some of it was a little over the top, I can understand her reasoning. Even though she is talked about and is in a few scenes, I wish we could’ve had more of a mum/Grace backstory and relationship. It seems like the two of them are close but that was one thing that didn’t carry through very well for me because she almost seemed absent.

I’m excited for the books I read in February. My goal is a minimum of two a month but my hopes is to read about thirty books this year in total. As I get a schedule down with my blog relaunches and book stuff I’m hoping I will have more commitment to the reading fun!

As always, with love,

Am

Outlines: The Cookbook of Writing.

Hey all!

Are you an author who religiously outlines before a project? Maybe you dabble in it but then go to writing or maybe you just wing it. I believe we all outline to a degree, but the idea of what an outline is is fluid. Personally, my outlines are generic. I generally write my plot points in a list format and leave the rest up to my imagination. I feel the way I outline helps get the creative juices going without restriction.

But I have tried extensive outlining. And to be honest, I think it’s great. To have a clear trajectory for your project that will ideally keep one on task, that’s the dream, right? The problem I seem to have, though, is that as I dive into a more detailed outline I end up getting distracted because of all the ideas that whir through this chaotic brain of mine! So please, drop your tips on outlining? What works for you?

I met someone at a writer’s conference who actually did no outline at all, basically would just wing it. Remember how I said I believe the term ‘outline’ to be fluid? Well, this is where it comes into play and am curious on your opinions. When we receive that creative spark, the idea for a new project, we tend to have an idea of how we want it go. So whether we write it down or keep it in our head as we jot it down, that’s still considered an outline.

For example, I had a dream about a year ago. Simple dream really but when I woke up I needed to jot it down so I did and left it as it sat for several months until I was cleaning out my files and came across it again. I remembered the dream and was able to look at what I had written and even though I didn’t jot a traditional outline down, I knew how I wanted to turn a simple 500 page note into a short story. Beginning, the guts, the end.

And now that I’ve fleshed out the short story, I am trying to work out whether I have enough to actually create a full length novel. If not, I plan on submitting it as a short story in a contest later this year but time will tell I suppose.

But do you see what I am saying about outlines? In reality, they really are the cookbooks of writing. When I think of outlines, I think a piece of paper with notes on how a story progresses but there is no written rule that says it has to be that way and I suppose the same goes for writing. We are the chefs and our projects the finished product. So whatever you use for your own cookbook, you do you because only YOU can make the product at the end.

It’s your recipe. How are you making it?

As always, with love,

Am

January Check-In

My month is definitely off to a rough start. In my personal life we’ve had two deaths in the family, my grandmother and my ex’s grandfather so it’s been a whirlwind. A third is on the horizon, and by the time this publishes, my uncle will have likely have passed. However, that hasn’t stopped me from carving out time to get some words down on paper, though admittedly I am further behind than I care to be at this point.

For reading, so far I am one book in for the month of January. I have finished Sarah Sutton’s Christmas as We Know It and boy was it cute! I’m finishing up my review on that one and then I will jump into my second choice for the month and hopefully I can squeeze a third in this month but I’m not confident since the 31st is coming up fast and I need to finish my first draft!

My current WIP is something that has been on the shelves for quite some time. I actually had the entire trilogy written but due to some new arcs and storylines I wanted to explore, I’m refreshing it and while it’s not a total rewrite, it’s near close unfortunately for the first two books. The last one will have minor edits and then I’m hoping to get them all formally edited at some point this year. My other project I am hoping to publish this year is a singleton and I plan on drafting that one next month since I have been outlining it in my limited free time. I don’t typically outline but because this one is a bit out of my comfort zone as far as genre goes, I want to make sure I do it justice.

So many authors I’m finding have a niche or genre they prefer to write in so I’m curious. How many of my readers are like that? I don’t like to be tabled to my go to which is Fantasy or Urban Fantasy but I enjoy writing contemporary romance and I do want to try my hand at a true mystery thriller in time. Do you have a go-to genre and why?

As always, with love,

Am

First Draft? More like a Dump Fest.

Did you know most writers starting out have a hard time finishing their work simply because they critique their first draft into oblivion? No, just me? Well damn.

This annoying habit of editing while I write has taken a LONG time to break, and no, I’m not cured. I do catch myself from time to time critiquing the previous session’s words but initially, what I found worked best to break the cycle was to take temptation out of the equation. I would open up a new word document, write the words, chapter, or scene I wanted to get down and simply copy and paste it into my saved version.

Yes, it’s choppy, terrible, and absolutely a disaster.

But guess what? I actually finished piecing that story together and once I sit down to edit it, it’s going to be AMAZING! Once I get through the mud, of course. Or in need of a massive rewrite, but we’ll tackle that bridge when we get there, right?

I’ve learned the hard way that there is no one way to write. There isn’t even a single way to get it wrong, unless you aren’t writing, in which case, I suppose, wouldn’t be accomplishing the goal, now would it? But there are a million ways to get it right and you only have to have the confidence in yourself that you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to. I have six books written (in need of some heavy editing) and it’s taken nearly a decade for me to finally put down the pen, so to speak, and say enough writing and holding it hostage out of fear of rejection or failure.

I only fail if I keep them to myself. And while I may not make millions or even sell 50 copies, to be able to say I have published a book is a lifelong dream of mine and it’s not fair to myself to dismiss that just because I’m afraid what the world may or may not think of it. I’m extremely proud of my ideas, and it’s about time I show that.

So whether your first draft is a mythical unicorn of perfection (please, share your secrets!) or a major dump fest like mine, be proud of it! Because you’ve done what so many others have struggled to do before you. Finish it. The first draft is meant to be awful and make you question every decision you’ve ever made. It’s designed to have you question what on Earth you were thinking when you wrote that scene or invented that plot twist. Honestly, I’ve grown to love and hate my first drafts. The ones I’ve been reading through lately really make me question my mindset but they also offer some humor because there are some arcs that have surfaced that I never had in my outlines and I now know I want to work them more effectively into the story. First drafts are valuable, in their own special way, but we need to finish them! Because at the end of the day, we certainly can’t go any further in our careers with half finished drafts!

Tell me, writing community, what is one piece of advice you’ve learned that’s helped you finish those dreaded first drafts? Do you edit while you write? How did you break that habit. Drop your comments below, I want to know!

All my love,

Am

New Year Goals

Hey all!

You all know the saying; new year, new me. I used to be one of those people and it’s hard not to get caught up in the idea that by becoming someone new we will inherently be happier. Or more successful. Or simply put, better than before. I’ve always been one of those people who started the years out strong but over time, I lost who I was and I think that’s easy to do when you continue to act like someone you aren’t. I’m breaking that cycle this year. I’m not promising a new me this year.

My main goal for the entire year is to harness and become the best version of myself.

That being said, my January reading and writing goals are going to be a lot harder to keep! Ha.

I’m drafting a novel this month. I gave myself the deadline to drop my first draft within 30 days and I’m freaking out a bit. I’m not sure how it’s going to all work out in the end but be sure to check back with my progress!

I’m also prepping for the redesign and launch of my motherhood blog (in addition to this one of course) and increasing my social media presence to help relaunch my career as an author. I’m looking to others for inspiration and the guidance to help me figure out how to balance this all out. If you have any that could be of help, drop their handles in the comments for me!

My goal for the year is to read a minimum of two books per month. It doesn’t seem like much but with everything else going on getting my two blogs relaunched and trying to publish my first book this year, I am looking to start small and as things balance out, I will add more to the plate. My January books of choice are Christmas as We Know It by Sarah Sutton and Falling for Grace by JL Reed. Check back in February for my reviews on these two beauts!

So if I’m still alive at the end of this month, I know I will make it. This month, although my goals are small, will be the exact push I need. Discipline and the drive to get this done. Wish me luck!

What are some goals you have this year? This month?

Happy Writing!

Am

A Writer’s Life

Back in high school, some ten years ago (yikes!), I had dreamt of an amazing concept for a fantasy saga. To be honest, it TOOK over my brain and these characters were all I could think of until I jotted their stories down.

Quite recently, now that I’m finished with my latest project, I dug out those pages and skimmed through them. As though no time has passed, the plot and characters stretched and came back to life.

But I hated the story! Oh my gosh it was awful and I repeatedly asked myself, “What the heck was I thinking?!”

To those who thought it was good back when I had you read it, shame on you. Haha!

I’ve since scraped the project, keeping the characters and general plot but giving the entire thing a massive makeover. It’s darker, fiercer, and more devious than ever and I can’t wait to share it…after my editor helps me polish the details I miss 😉

I can’t share too much at this time since I’m still only 50k into the first book but I can promise you, it’ll be worth the wait this time!

Until then!

Much love,

Am❤️

Writer’s Block

Writing. 

I swear that word has the power to change the world.

But then there are days when I’d much rather share a space with a spider. And note, I do everything in my power to avoid those like the plague. 

I’ve never truly believed Writer’s block to be what so many people define it as. As though something is standing in the way of their creativity, like a wall or barrier. But, even the best of us come across something that prevents us from writing and that’s why I’ve compiled a list of my antiblockers. If you’ve ever worked in the medical field, you will catch my joke 😉 

  1. Poetry. I LOVE poetry. You can usually tell when I’m in an off tone when I all of a sudden start spouting poetry at you. There are so many variations and to me, it’s the single most effective way to get my creative juices flowing again. 
  2. Music. Ever heard a song that transports you to another time, memory, or dream? Sometimes music is the only way I get any of my daily word counts completed. 
  3. Get out of the house! I’ve written some of my best pieces on the beach, at the park, or even on my front porch! 
  4. Take a break. This one kind of ties into 3, but some days you just need to take a minute…or hour.
  5. Meditation. This one is actually fairly new for me and I do wonder why it’s taken me so long to try it. I have an overactive imagination (hence why I write fiction primarily) and when I need an outlet to just settle the voices in my head, this is a great option. 
  6. Read. I’m always surprised to learn of folks who don’t like to read. Hate to admit but one of my sisters was one of those people (Gasp)! Reading is amazing for the mind and not to mention it sparks new material! 
  7. Push yourself. Those stories or articles aren’t going to write themselves! Everyone goes through rough patches but we can’t feel accomplished without a little challenge, right?
  8. Try something new! Break out of your comfort zone, it may just surprise you! Remember poetry?
  9. Reach out. Stuck on how to start or finish? Get an opinion from someone you trust or brainstorm with a buddy. 
  10. Reflect. What inspired you to start this project? Was there an inciting event or conflict? What purpose did you see in the beginning that you’re having trouble seeing today? 

The list could go on but these are my top ten for conquering Writer’s Block. I mentioned earlier that I don’t truly believe in it so why have a list? 

I have a list because I DO believe we all get stuck or lost sometimes. The current project we’re working on may have lost its spark or maybe we just don’t remember why we needed to write it in the first place. Every word we put on a page is important and if we lose sight of that purpose, we may experience what others call Writer’s Block. 

See, the thing is, I view Writer’s Block as a necessity to test our endurance as writers. Without strong minds, we cannot bring to the table the best version of our work. Without the doubt, we cannot revise until we have perfection. We need to be tested to gain knowledge in this craft. Don’t view Writer’s Block as the enemy; see it as a friend. 

Yikes! 

My goodness, what a hiatus it’s been! I cannot believe how fast this year is going and it’s only April. 

I have a busy, busy year ahead of me. I have decided to submit a short story for publication, bless my heart. Truth be told, my experience with short stories is next to nothing but I have been dutifully researching and I’ve conceived the idea so now it’s the plotting and rough drafting. 

As for news with my full length novel, my editor and I aren’t exactly seeing eye to eye so the editing is taking a little longer than expected. Luckily, we get along well…we just both want the story to develop in different ways. So as soon as we get through that I should have a release date in the works 😉 

I will hopefully not be a caged momma now that we have some personal matters cleared up for the most part so keep checking back for more! 

Sneak Peek Sunday!

The past few months I’ve attended some online seminars and one of the tips was to evolve a blog into your author platform. I’ve been using my blog primarily to discuss things near and dear to me and share some poetry from time to time but haven’t really done much as far as inventing my platform. 

So, on a note of one of the leaders, I’ve dedicated Sundays to teasing you, my growing fan base, with news and possible excerpts from projects I’m currently working on! 

Today, however, I will be sharing my goals for 2017 now that I have had a week to really put on paper what I want to accomplish. 

After my Aunt’s passing in March 2016, I “dusted” off my unfinished first draft of my NA novel, Words Left Unspoken, and finished it. 

It’s this very book that is with my editor and will be published this summer. 

So, my main goal is just to survive this rollercoaster until publication. Haha!

My other goal is to fine tune Lost and Found. Due to some comflicts with my publisher, I’ve decided to pull the plug and rerelease the novel with a ton of bonus content. My current editor has agreed to go through it with me to make sure Lost and Found is given the time and love that I’ve wanted for it since the beginning. 

And finally, set up a publication schedule for my long awaited trilogy and plot Lost and Found’s sequel! 

Told you all this year would be exciting! Stay tuned for your weekly updates

Happy 2017!


Happy New Year! 

I’m super excited to announce that I will be publishing a NEW book! 

Currently I don’t have an official release date but it will be in Summer of 2017 and will be available in e-book and paperback. 

I will most certainly keep you updated as I know more but the light for 2017 is certainly burning bright! 

Well folks, a detailed blurb will be released soon but let me give you a hint. It’s a novel I felt inspired to write after my cousin’s untimely death nearly 3 years ago and finally found the nerve to finish the story following the passing of my aunt this past March. So it’s a story near and dear to my heart. 

The story follows a young man and woman brought together by an unfortunate event and soon come to teach each other that sometimes the best things in life aren’t exactly what we’ve always imagined. 

Love always,

AmLynn 😘

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