Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Do Something that Scares You

No, I'm not talking about walking down in a dark alley in the middle of the night when you have other, safer choices. Or doing something reckless or stupid.

I'm talking about doing something that challenges yourself.

I'll be the first to admit that I like to stay in my little comfort bubble and not step outside of it. The only problem is, not much exciting happens inside my little comfort bubble. There's not a whole lot of room for growth, either.

The comfort bubble also doesn't like to expand when life needs to change--such as when you're a college senior and you have to interview for "big girl jobs".

Thus, I found myself in a professional conference that seemed more terrifying than it ever had before. I had attended the previous two years, but it was comfortable then. I was primarily there to collect pens, sit in on a few lectures that I thought I could understand (and try not to doze off in the ones I couldn't), and enjoy a couple fancy luncheons with friends.

This year was different. I had resumes printed off in a brand-new portfolio, cover letters I had painstakingly constructed and re-read until my eyeballs were about to fall out, and I was also trying to not compulsively chew on my fingernails out of nervousness. It was job search time, but there weren't any scheduled interviews that interested me.

That left me with walking up to company representatives cold-turkey and asking if they had any openings.

That's definitely not an activity that falls within my comfort zone. The thought of walking up to people I don't know makes my hands sweat.

The first day of the conference, I successfully managed to drop a resume off to a friendly lady at a booth when she asked what brought me to her kiosk.

The next day was more difficult. I had resolved to visit the interview area, as interviewers were welcome to "conduct impromptu interviews with individuals they met on site". That involved me walking to the next building over (offering plenty of time to chicken out) and walking into an unfamiliar setting.

After visiting one "open interview" booth that didn't work for me, I found myself sitting in a stiff chair along the wall with the students who had scheduled interviews, eyeing the other open interview booth and trying to decide if it might be smarter to just turn around and walk back to the main conference center, rather than waiting for them to finish up their current interview.

The student next to me (who I had met in passing a few times before) struck up a conversation with me and I told him that I was thinking about turning around. He encouraged me to wait and take the opportunity. I don't remember exactly what he said, but it was something along the lines of, "You'll never get anywhere if you don't try something new once in a while."

Long story short (or at least less long), I went over to the booth and asked to interview. I found out the company places students/professionals into jobs and have since received a few opportunities to interview for their clients. I wouldn't have had those opportunities if I had never had the courage to walk up to the booth and ask if they were hiring.

So, email that agent. Go to that writer's conference. Contact a few beta readers. Attempt NaNoWriMo. Self-publish when it's thought out. Walk up to that author and ask for an interview.

Do something that scares you.

Because, who knows? You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

I still have a couple guest-posting opportunities available for March. Shoot me your idea via the contact form!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Fiction Fix: "Double Identity"

I will likely have a few opportunities for guest posters in the near future. Shoot me an email using the contact form in the left-hand column if you're interested!
The Short:

Double Identity

By: Margaret Peterson Haddix

4/5 Stars

What: A girl finds that her parents have hidden many secrets. Their biggest one? Her.

Recommended to those who like: Middle grade/teen, suspense, clean, coming of age

The Long:

Days before her thirteenth birthday, Bethany is dropped off at a relative’s house by hear tearful parents. She’s never met this relative—she hasn’t even spent a night away from home without her parents before.

But things start to get even stranger. A mysterious man follows her, people in this odd town seem to recognize her, and she’s given several thousand dollars in cash with only a sketchy explanation. Will she be able to get to the bottom of the mystery before time runs out?

This was a fun and somewhat suspenseful read. I likely would have really loved it as a middle grade reader; as an adult, I saw many of the plot twists coming down the road. Nevertheless, this clean read was a fun ride. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes middle grade coming-of-age stories with a speculative twist.

The Bottom Line: Although older readers may not be surprised by the plot’s twists and turns, younger readers will likely enjoy this suspenseful story. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Reality, Meet Fiction: Time

Free stock photo of wristwatch, time, watch, clockReality:

Have you ever considered how you view time? When someone says you have a meeting at 9 AM, do you view it as an obligation to be there at that time? Five minutes before? Within ten minutes? Would you say time is money? Would you say that you spent, saved, invested, or wasted time? Is the present the most important? What are your opinions of the past or the future?

We all view time a little bit differently--not only how it passes, but how it affects us. We place different values on how long we should spend on activities, consider time more or less urgent, have different opinions on timeliness and meetings...the list goes on. Some of us wear watches and have wall-clocks, while others can leave their watch set at completely the wrong time and not notice. 

Different societies have different perceptions of time. For some, time is linear. For others, time moves in never-ending cycles. Some societies depend on clocks, while others move with the natural rhythms of the day and the year. 


The possibilities for the use of time in your book are nearly endless. How can you bring your characters into conflict using their differing perceptions of time? Does one character value time differently and is late to every meeting? Does someone think decisions should be approached more slowly while the other character views every moment as precious?

How do your characters keep track of time? Do they have calendars? Are they solar or lunar based? Do they rely on cycles of the moon to determine months? When does the day start--7AM each day, or at the break of dawn? Do they meet at 0200, the second watch of the night, or when a certain star meets the horizon? Do they measure seconds? Minutes? Or degrees of the sun? 

When does the year begin or end? Does it correspond with something?

Do your characters think they can speed things up? (The American who wants to rush through traffic.) Or is time inevitable and will move at its own pace? (The farmer who cannot change how his crops grow). 

Does your world have time zones? Daylight savings time? If you're dealing with different planets, do they have different lengths of days and years? How do your characters reconcile that? Do your characters have weeks--that odd unit of measurement? 

Do characters keep the same schedule each day--are you expected to sleep for a certain period every day, or is there a different schedule? Does everyone start the day at the same time across the globe? Or is it dependent on sunrise? Do factories have a second or third shift that is less desirable? Are certain activities expected at certain times--bathing morning or evening, but not in the middle of the day; eating beginning, middle, or end of the day?

What about night owls and early birds? Is one valued in your culture? Is one looked down upon? Is there a time of night when fewer people are out? Are there times it's acceptable to contact people (no phone calls after 9 PM)? Is there a time of day when everyone is expected to be up?

What parts of the culture influence these things? Is it an agrarian society in tune with the seasons and nature? An industrial society? A multi-planetary society? How do they adapt when interacting with others from different cultures?

Further Reading on Cultural Differences Regarding Time


What's one thing you consider odd about time? 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Fiction Fix: "The Tournament at Gorlan"

The Short:

The Tournament at Gorlan
Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years—Book 1

By: John Flanagan

5/5 Stars

What: A baron seeks to overthrow the king, but he won’t succeed if the king’s elite special ops forces have anything to say about it.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, archery, middle-grade/teen, clean

The Long:

So, John Flanagan may be almost single-handedly responsible for the sore state of my bank account. 

He’s gotten far too good at writing spin-off series. Let’s face it, the books would have to be terrible before I refused to pick any more up. However, this new series was especially intriguing to me, as I love origin stories.

He didn’t disappoint! Unlike The Royal Ranger (Book 12 of Ranger’s Apprentice, which I would almost say I regret reading), this book made me very happy. It hearkens back to the feel of the original quartet and promises some interesting tidbits of backstory.

Furthermore, we spend quite a bit of time with Halt’s sarcastic, sharp-edged wit, which makes everybody’s day. We follow him and some banished Rangers as they attempt to overthrow Morgarath and restore King Oswald to power. There’s archery, coffee-drinking, sharp wit, and everything I love about Ranger’s Apprentice. (There’s also John Flanagan’s signature head-hopping, but I can deal with that because Halt makes up for any writing flaws).

Unlike so many spin-offs, this series seems to be holding its own weight fairly well. If I had picked up this series prior to the original series, I feel that I would like it just as much. I look forward to reading the next book.

The Bottom Line: If you like fantasy adventure and don’t mind a bit of head-hopping, I’d recommend this book, even if you haven’t read the original Ranger’s Apprentice series.

Have you read The Ranger's Apprentice or any of the spin off series?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Carving Out Time

Because what's better than a fun quote?
From Quotefancy
Well, somehow it's the middle of January. 

And I haven't finished much of the writing that I would have liked to complete. My WIP document stares at me, begging to be edited, while a new journal full of editing notes threatens to overwhelm me with the amount of work that needs to be done. 

My written out writing goals seem foolish now. A hundred other things clamor my attention. 

Next to my writing notebook is my school notebook with case reports that need written. Adjacent to my Kindle with my WIP is a textbook that I need to review for my professional licensing exam. The floor underneath my writing desk needs swept, my dog at my side needs to go outside, my stomach demands dinner, a friend wants to hang out, my conscience tells me I should exercise...

And suddenly the thought of writing--of editing--fills me with dread. Why did I decide to write? What good is it going to do me? Where am I going to find the time? I haven't in the past two weeks--I should probably give up now. 

But the thought of writing, of getting the story right, urges me onward. 

I'm not quite sure where this writing adventure is taking me, but it's taking me somewhere. I'm determined to follow it, to write it out. 

I might not be writing every day like I had planned on December 31st. I might not even make progress quickly. But I'm determined that I will make some progress, that I will write, and that I will carve out the time that I need to make that happen. 

Do you struggle to have time for your writing? How do you make writing a priority?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Sequel Review: "The Shattered Vigil"

As always, I've tried to keep this review spoiler-free. This is the second book in the series. You can read my reviews of book 1 and the prequel novella by clicking on the links. I'll be back next week with a new series. 

The Short:

The Shattered Vigil
The Darkwater Saga, Book 2

By: Patrick W. Carr

5/5 Stars

What: A group of international guardians must band together in spite of maneuvering by political and religious figures.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Young Adult/Adult, Darker Stories, Supernatural themes

The Long:

Willet Dura is still learning how to adjust to his new powers and how to live his life with the burdens of so many new responsibilities. To complicate matters, the Vigil is falling apart. Betrayal threatens from within while both the church and various kingdoms seek to manipulate their powers.

Just when they think things can’t get worse, the Darkwater Forest starts to expand its power for the first time in living memory. The sentries are failing and madness seems ready to spread across the land. Will the Vigil be able to hold the evil at bay? Or will the entire continent be covered in darkness?

I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel. It kept me on the edge of the seat and I was really able to start connecting to many of the characters. It’s going to be really difficult to wait an entire year for the next book to come out.

While this is a loosely Christian book, be prepared for some serious grit and grime in both this book and in the first book. Mr. Carr doesn’t hesitate to show or allude to the less golden side of life. For this reason, I would definitely recommend it only to mature teens and up.

The Bottom Line: An excellent sequel, I would recommend this Christian, dark fantasy series to mature teens/young adults and up who like an intense read.  

Looking for Christian fantasy for younger readers (teens) by Patrick W. Carr? Check out The Staff and the Sword Series. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pastors in Fiction: "Cloak of the Light"

You can check out my review of today's book here

Reverend Ray Branson

Book: Cloak of the Light by Chuck Black

Genre: Spiritual Warfare

Role: Minor Character

Personality: Kind, service-oriented, welcoming

What he brings to the table: Reverend Ray hosts a soup kitchen in a poor part of Chicago. He offers Drew, the protagonist, help when he is wounded.

Spiritual role: Reverend Ray serves as a spiritual antagonist to Drew by asking him to come to the faith when Drew is not interested.

Pastorly/Worship notes: We're much more likely to find Reverend Ray serving soup or with his family than leading a worship service (largely because Drew avoids worship like the plague). He tends to emphasize more of a personal relationship with God.

Ninja Status: Yellow belt. For being in a spiritual warfare novel, Reverend Ray doesn't have as big of a role as I would have hoped.

Further Discussion: This is the first pastor I've come across who is cast as a servant first and foremost, which I found interesting. Especially in a novel that centers on spiritual warfare, I would have expected more of a preaching orientation.

I liked that Reverend Ray had a more laid-back approach to evangelism. It could have been easy for him to become obnoxiously preachy (like some other characters in the book). His faith is shown by his actions, but he's not afraid to discuss his faith, either.

What aspect of faith do you least commonly find portrayed in books?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Fiction Fix: "Cloak of the Light"

The Short:

Cloak of the Light
Wars of the Realm, Book 1

By: Chuck Black

4/5 Stars

What: A college student suffers a terrible accident that allows him to see into another dimension.

Recommended to those who like: Spiritual warfare, Christian, Teen

The Long:

I’ve been a fan of Chuck Black for quite a while. His Kingdom Series and The Knights of Arrethtrae strongly influenced both my faith and early attempts at writing. When I saw that he had a new series out that was more geared toward my age group, I was elated.

Drew’s life has been chased by tragedy. Those close to him keep dying and just when he thinks things are looking up, his life gets turned upside down again. Little does he know that defending a fellow student against a bully in high school will earn him a friend for life, or that helping him will lead to a freak physics accident that will rob him of his sight.

When Drew returns to normal life, he finds that he can see into another dimension, one with strange invaders that battle each other for the visible realm. Are these the aliens his friend expected? Or are they something else entirely?

At first, I really thought I wasn’t going to like this book. The first fifty pages or so were a bit of a drag. However, once the book really got going, I fell in love with Drew as a character.

Unfortunately, the love interest in the story did not do much for me. (Surprise there!) I really found her quite obnoxious and was a little irritated by how she was chosen to be the spiritual light of the story. For the most part, the Christian aspect of the story was well-played, but it was nearly cringe-worthy at points.

The action scenes and thoughtfulness of the spiritual warfare aspect redeemed the book overall. The realism of spiritual warfare was more thought-provoking than the Bible Study we’re dropped into at one point. The book almost has a dark super-hero feel to it, without being cheesy.

Furthermore, Drew is a great character. I look forward to seeing him developed more fully in future books.

I’ll definitely be picking up the next book sometime soon. The end of this story foreshadowed great things to come.

The Bottom Line: If you don’t mind a stronger Christian message and a slow-starting story, this spiritual warfare novel with super-hero undertones is worth a look. 

Looking for allegorical fantasy by Chuck Black? Check out my reviews of The Kingdom Series here and here.                                                

Who's your favorite superhero?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A New Year

How is it 2017 already? Where did the last year go? Regardless of where it went, I'd like to take a quick look at the upcoming year and a nice glance back at 2016. (With plenty of side notes in parentheses, of course).

Reading Goals

In 2016, I read over 60 books, beating my goal on GoodReads! My goal for 2017 is to read 65 books and to make at least 2 of those books be non-fiction. Many of these books were reviewed on the blog.


In 2016, we were visited by three authors for interviews coinciding with book releases: Jaye L. Knight, with Samara's Peril; Kerry Nietz with Frayed; and Matthew Dickerson with The Betrayed. The Book Hound was also part of the Rise Tour with Nadine Brandes and her release of A Time to Rise. I'd like to give a hearty thank-you to all of these authors for taking the time to stop by!

I'd love to continue hosting interviews, book spotlights, and tours in the upcoming year! You can contact me using the form in the left-hand column if you or someone you know is interested.

The Blog

This was the first full year for the blog, which was very exciting. The grand total of posts was 114 (I'm capable of that much writing?), the number of followers nearly doubled (Thank you!), and it was just a really great year. You guys have made blogging a lot of fun. 

New series this year included: "The Writer's Mind" (in which I rambled about my writing), "We Write Books" (where I attempted to write a novel with Go Teen Writers and essentially faceplanted), "Pastors in Fiction",  "Reality, Meet Fiction" (in which I basically ranted about current events and tried to apply it to writing), and  "NaNo Survival Guide". 

Based on poll results, viewing numbers/comments, and my personal interests, I will be continuing "Reality, Meet Fiction" and "Pastors in Fiction". I'm also looking into re-booting "The Writer's Mind" or re-designing a way to update you on my personal writing goals. Have an idea? Shoot it to me using the contact form on the left hand side!


So, I know I did a small one a while back, but I had more questions that I'd like to ask and I finally had some time to explore survey applications. If you can fill it out, I'd really appreciate it! It's short, I promise!

Powered byTypeform

So, that's a wrap on 2016! Any suggestions? Thanks for another great year!