Romance, Fantasy, Writing Books

In addition to the writing I’ve been doing and all the story ideas I’ve been collecting through July and August and likely through September, too, I’ve been doing some reading and thought I’d share what those titles are…

I’ve finished a reading a fantasy novel, A Court of Honey and Ash by Shannon Mayer and Kelly St Clare, and to be honest with you… I’m both looking forward to the sequel and yet, I’m not. I didn’t like the way the first one ended and had I known, I’d have waited until the whole series was available.

I’m currently reading Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury for nonfiction. I heard someone describe it as a love letter to writing and she was right. It is. It’s wonderful.

Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin. Because I can always, always, always handle this better.

I’m also slowly working my way through Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. If I focus on it, I’ll not be doing any writing at all because I’ll be reading it and the two books that follow and re-watching the series on Netflix. So, I have to pace myself.

Not My Romeo by Ilsa Madden-Mills. It’s slow going, too.

I gave up on City of Sin by Ivy Smoak. I couldn’t get into it. At all.

I need to finish, at some point, Ruckus by L.J. Shen. This one isn’t reaching me the way Vicious did. Defy was really good…

I have The Love Interest by Kayley Loring and Magical Midlife Madness by K. F. Breene waiting to be read as well as The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly.

There are a few on pre-order, too…

Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

Gallant by Victoria Schwab

Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerry Maniscalco

And…

The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly.

Let’s not talk about the number of books already on my bookshelves (real and virtual), my library wish list, and my bookstore wish lists.

So many books… Man, I need a couple extra lifetimes.

If there’s anyone reading this, tell me what books your reading…

A Little Update

I’m at my desk this morning with a rather large cold brew coffee which is an anomaly. Not the coffee. The coffee is never an anomaly. If I’m without coffee of some sort at my desk, someone needs to call 911 because I’m not me. But I’m not usually sitting at my desk this early. Normally, I’m taking care of some household chores, sitting out on the porch watching the cows, doing a crossword puzzle, wandering the kitchen, running errands, trying not to go back to bed, exercising… Being at my desk typically comes in the afternoons. That’s when I write and have some time to myself, but I’m at a point in a couple of writing projects that while maybe not require me to give a little more time, they certainly compel me to and so, here I am.

I also wanted to touch base with you. It’s been a couple of weeks and I’m sorry for that. I didn’t mean for that much time to go by without connecting and talking.

I lose track of time. Not in the way I used to lose track of time when I was still scrolling social media (though I may have a bit of a YouTube issue…), but in a general I find other ways to occupy my time kind of way.

I’ve become a bit more of a movie person again. I used to have movies on all the time when I’d write or shows like Law and Order, but I got out of that. Now, I’m back to it. It’s kind of strange, too, my choices of late…

While working on a Christmas novella… It’s been The Expendables (all 3), The Equalizer (both movies), and I’ve moved on to Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, and Mission Impossible (4, 5, and 6).

While working on some erotic shorts… John Wick (2 & 3) and Red (both).

I’ve put on The Lord of the Rings while working on some writing other projects as well.

These are all movies I know and like and love and I don’t have to pay strict attention to them. They’re just a moment to look up and recite dialogue or watch someone get their ass handed back to them.

Strange for writing romance. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t know what others do. Maybe they chat with other writers. Maybe they do write-with-me videos. Maybe they listen to music or dictate or…I don’t know. I do listen to music a lot, as well, when I’m writing.

But I’m more than halfway into the Christmas novella. I’ve finished one of the erotic shorts and am almost done with a second one. A third and fourth are started and beginning to take shape.

We’re coming up on football season and I’ll be writing while watching a lot of college football, too.

I’ve been working on some racing romances here and there for next year and with the end of the current racing season coming over the next few months, I’ll be starting to pick up pace on them.

Aside from what I’m working on writing wise, once a week, the Spouse and I go for a drive into the mountains or into a little town we haven’t been in before. Last weekend we found Blue Wall Preserve. It’s twenty minutes from our house and that I have things like that all around me, all within 20-30 minutes of where I Iive now… Just…grateful.

Anyway, it’s called Blue Wall because it’s said that when the Cherokee used to hunt the land here, they called the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Blue Wall. And there are places leading into the mountains where they just loom ahead and you can totally see why they would be called that. And when the blue hue is just right… It steals my breath every single time.

These hours we take to see something, breathe the air, find a new coffee shop (for me), marvel at nature… They renew me and I’m learning to take it all in, to watch it all, to savor it all without thinking that I should post it or what hashtags can I use or… These are moments that are precious and special and I missed too many of them, wasn’t present for many of them the way I should’ve been before.

Which is also to say…

I’m still enjoying this time away from social media. I’ve been thinking I should check messages on Instagram, but honestly y’all… I’m a bit nervous. I don’t want to fall down the scrolling hole again, but I know myself well enough to know that it’s a possibility. I even told the Spouse that if I log in, he’ll probably have to come take the phone from me and delete the app again. This is how much I don’t trust myself and my behaviors. How sad is that?

However, as I’ve stated a few times before, being away from social media has been good for my writing and my mental health. I’m occupying my time in other ways and I’m learning who I am again without all that noise and I’m liking myself more. I’m not sure I’ll go back and I don’t know what that means for me as a writer, as someone who once published books and intends to publish more. I don’t know what not being on social media for connection and marketing will do to sales. Though, honestly, I didn’t have many sales before leaving social media, so… I guess I’ll see when I start publishing again.

Anyway, that’s about all I have right now…

 

 

Checking in with my creativity

One of the things I wanted to focus on this year was creativity. I think I mentioned that in one of my posts recently.

Creativity comes in different forms for different people and one of mine, the biggest one for me lately has been in the kitchen.

You’re shocked, right? I mean… Who wouldn’t be? I love a lot of things in this world, but playing in the kitchen with cooking or baking or coffee…that’s one of my biggest jams.

Y’all have heard me talk about how long I’ve been cooking, that my first jobs were in food service. The first kitchen I loved was my grandmother’s kitchen and the smells that would come from it. My favorite meal smell is Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and dressing.

My favorite comfort. Food.

Over the years, being married for so long, dinner gets stale. Ideas are harder and harder to come by, even with Pinterest and food bloggers and YouTube and cookbooks galore. I tended to just stick to the things I knew my family would eat until this year.

We joined HelloFresh for a few months and I started to fall in love with cooking again. We tried new dishes. We tried new ways of cooking familiar ones. I tried things I hadn’t before. It became fun, making dinner.

We canceled the service a few weeks ago, but I’m still cooking. I started falling back into the same old ruts from before until dairy decided it didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. Now, I’m trying new recipes that are dairy-free, a lot of them are more vegan than not, and they’re good. They appeal to my sense of curiosity in the kitchen.

My thing right now is taking food I grew up loving and trying to make it tasty and dairy-free. This is easy and not, and it tests and tries and rewards my creative soul. And when my creative soul is thriving in one area, it also starts to thrive in others. I’ve learned that I need a day to simply play in the kitchen. A day to try something new. A day to explore and experiment. A day to just get excited with no expectations.

Yesterday was one of those days for me. I made vegan Mac and Cheese.

Now, I’m a Southern woman. Mac and Cheese is one of our religions down here. Every family has a secret to their recipe. But what happens when you can’t have all those layers and layers of cheesy goodness? Well, you try to find something that will work for you.

This is not the kind I grew up with. This is not the baked with burnt edges of cheese and pasta that I grew up with. This is definitely not the holy grail that the Spouse grew up with. But it worked. It worked and I ate a bowl of it and I wanted seconds. It satisfied the craving for pasta and cheese, baked under a crispy layer of breadcrumbs.

I also roasted my very first butternut squash yesterday. I’d never had it before. Roasted or otherwise. See, I don’t like yellow squash at all and I pretty much lumped all squash into the category of NOPE! But I wanted that mac and cheese up there in that picture and the only way to get it was to roast a butternut squash. I only needed half of it for the recipe, so the other half of the squash was roasted with maple syrup and cinnamon and let me just tell you now… Oh. My. Goodness. Literal goodness.

I was happy. I was making messes left and right. I was testing the taste at every stage of the recipe. I made a cheese sauce out of…no cheese. You read that right. No. Cheese. And yet, with the combination of ingredients in the recipe, it became a cheese sauce for the pasta. Even the Spouse said it was good and that he’d eat it. And remember, he grew up with the holy grail of mac and cheese.

I was so proud of myself and for the second week in a row, I exclaimed how much I love being able to cook.

Yesterday, I also made some iced pour over coffee. And two different kinds of overnight oats (maple cinnamon and lemon).

It’s fills my heart and soul to be able to play in the kitchen. It boosts my overall mental wellbeing. It’s a happiness and a need that I have. It’s a must like writing. When I’m going strong with writing, doing it daily, especially, it becomes a living, breathing part of me and my mental health thrives.

Creativity is something I need to be happy and whole. It’s not everything I need… There are other things too… Music, naps, drives up into the mountains, reading. Each thing fuels and feeds the others. And playing with food, playing in the kitchen… I definitely do need it for my creativity and for this new way of eating. Talk about nourishing the soul and the body…

Talk to y’all soon…

Sad Day for FSU Fans

Bobby Bowden, former coach and head of the FSU Seminole football program, passed away yesterday from pancreatic cancer.

It wasn’t unexpected. It wasn’t a surprise. But I found myself incredibly saddened.

I never met him, but I admired and respected him as did many fans, sports writers, commentators, analysts, players, opponents, etc… The teams he coached were from all walks of life, were incredible on the field, and produced some amazing men off the field. I read a lot of the tributes from former players and other college football coaches and was moved by the stories of the lives he touched and changed. He lived his life with a purpose bigger than himself.

Football season for FSU begins in a month, on September 5th. I don’t know what the team will look like or play like. We’re on our 3rd coach since Bobby Bowden retired in 2009. Before that, he’d been the coach at FSU since 1976. In 34 years, he had 1 losing season. The first season. Under Coach Bowden, the Seminoles appeared in bowl games for 28 of those season and won 2 national championships, and for 14 straight won at least 10 games in each and finished ranked in the top 5. That’s the kind of powerhouse program Bobby Bowden built and the kind of powerhouse program we haven’t seen in years coming out of Tallahassee. I hope that changes soon.

For today though, my thoughts are with his family and friends and the lives of all those he touched. He was revered and respected on and off the field, and he made us all proud to be fans.

Rest in Peace, Coach.

July Changes and Challenges

First of all, look at this picture! Isn’t it pretty?

I took this yesterday morning just before sunrise.

We also saw a deer for the first time coming out of the trees. To the other side of the yard, there’s a large field with a pond and there’s usually seven to nine cows multiple times a day. This is all very different than being in Charlotte where there was a really busy road on the other side of our backyard. Here, there’s a pond and trees and cows and well, now deer.

It’s August. In my mind, that means we’re on the downhill slide from Summer and headed into Fall. I realize we still have a while yet until we see temperatures below a hundred with equal humidity, but a girl can dream and dream I shall until it becomes a reality that I’m able to open the windows or sit outside by the fire pit and roast marshmallows while watching football.

But back to July for a few minutes…

It started out with me deleting Instagram from my phone. I missed it for a few days in the beginning, but as the month went on, I stopped missing it. I stopped looking for it. I haven’t been on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. I have had no voices in my head save my own. I haven’t compared myself or my progress to anyone else. I haven’t spent countless hours scrolling and living vicariously through other authors, publishers, editors, readers, food bloggers, coffee companies, etc… The only social media I’ve had anything to do with has been Pinterest and YouTube.

Pinterest has been something I hadn’t paid attention to in a long while, until the past few weeks when I needed some new recipes.

YouTube is where I go for videos on writing, food, and exercise. And all three of those things changed for me in July.

I wrote a lot. Not by anyone’s standards but mine, but still, I wrote a lot. I didn’t meet my Camp NaNoWriMo goal by any stretch, but I did write. I also added a lot of new story ideas. I mean… Y’all  just have no idea. My brain is constantly coming up with new ideas on the daily. Sometimes more than one a day. There are some started, and there are others percolating in the back of my head. I typically have to write at least one page so I remember what the idea was. I haven’t had this happen in YEARS!

My diet changed. Not because I wanted it to, but because my body decided it wanted it. The change it picked? Dairy. I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to do it. But I did… And I started with coffee because of course I did. I figured that if I could find a way to drink coffee without dairy, then I could pretty much handle anything else without dairy. So, I went to Sprouts Farmer’s Market. They are amazing and I love them. I am beyond grateful Greenville has one. They have a large assortment of non-dairy creamer and half and half. I bought several and have been experimenting with them. I can do this. I also began switching out other products that contained to dairy to ones that don’t. Slowly, I’m adjusting and adapting. And there have been a few benefits beyond my stomach not being upset every time I ate… My joints haven’t been hurting as much. A lot of sluggishness and bloating has disappeared. I’m enjoying cooking again. I’ve found a lot of dairy-free information on YouTube that has helped me and recipes on Pinterest. I have a friend who is dairy-free and one who has a daughter who is. They have helped me a lot, as well. I am learning in the kitchen and finding things that work for me. My goal is health and to feel better and to have a little fun with it.

And finally, I am exercising again. I had been walking a lot when we first moved here, but as it became increasingly hotter, that stopped. I don’t want to walk at nine o’clock at night or six in the morning. I don’t want to gasp for breath because the humidity is such that I can’t fight it. I used to do yoga through YouTube videos and walking from home through YouTube videos, so why not try other workouts. I found one that is for women 50 and over who are going through menopause and while the woman is beyond perky and grates on my nerves every so often, her workouts are moderate and short and fairly enjoyable. I like them and they’re helping me get my heart rate up, get my resting heart rate down, move easier, and in general feel better. I haven’t lost any weight, but that isn’t the point for me. The point is health and yes, I do believe you can be healthy at any size if you’re moving, eating balanced, and enjoying the majority of things in your life, laughing and smiling more.

And now that we’re in August, I’m still exercising, still learning all the ins and outs of dairy-free which is a lot plant based, too, and still writing.

I hope you had a good July and while I know some of you love Summer, I know some of you are like me and you’re looking forward to Fall.

I’ll chat with you later.