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One of my favorite places to be is in a book! I read a wide variety. Books are food for the mind and soul, and I cannot seem to restrict myself to one genre.

My novel writing, on the other hand, is focused on young adult contemporary and women’s contemporary. I like to share stories that leave the reader with a sense of hope.

Every week I blog about books I’m reading. I usually post on the first Monday of the month with an author interview, news from my bookish friends, or writing related updates.

About My Novel Writing

I tend to write about people who are facing tough times. I’ve written about grief, eating disorders, abandonment, and other difficult issues. There isn’t always a romantic element, but when there is the romances are sweet. Endings aren’t sugar coated, but I always strive to leave my readers with a sense of hope. No graphic language, sex, or violence, just plenty of heart tugging and laughing. This is general fiction with a slight to rich southern flavor, depending on the book. I have two books with a character on the autism spectrum. I am currently seeking representation while I continue to work on my craft.

I spend most of my writing time working on my novels, but I blog here and on my homeschool blog, Undaunted Homeschool.

You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

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☕ Book Break ☕ |Damaged by Lisa Scottine

Shy and dyslexic, ten year old Patrick O’Brien is a target for bullies. He is sexually assaulted by an aide at his school, an incident that comes to light when the aide  sues Patrick and the school district, claiming the child attacked him.  Patrick’s grandfather, his only family, hires lawyer Mary DiNunzio.

Damaged is a legal thriller, one of a series. This author was new to me, and even though I read this book out of order, I had no difficulty following the storyline. The novel has just the right amount of backstory, weaving in the main character’s personal story arc along with the main plot of Patrick’s story.

The young boy’s situation tugs at the heart, and there are plenty of smaller mysteries  to unravel as the novel progresses. Twists and turns kept me reading, and I was surprised by the final “whodunnit” revelation. All the questions brought up in the story are tied up to conclude with a satisfactory ending.

I listened to the audiobook read by Rebecca Lowman and appreciated her performance.

I plan to check out more of this series. All in all, a good, solid legal thriller/mystery. Recommended.

Minor language, subject matter of abuse of special needs child, death of grandparent, violence (not graphic)

 

☕ Book Break ☕ |~Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine~

~Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine~

 

“I don’t like the word soon because you don’t know when it’s going to sneak up on you and turn into NOW. Or maybe it’ll be the kind of soon that never happens.”

 

Caitlin depended on her older brother, Devon, to help her navigate the world. But when he is one of the victims of a school shooting she has lost her guide. Her father, overcome by grief, is of little help. Functioning in an environment that is not friendly to her was difficult already, and now she must deal with the fallout of her brother’s death.

 

The story is told from the point of view of an 11-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. Even so, the descriptions of Caitlin’s world and attitudes of those around her came through clearly. I could tell what her counselor was thinking at times, the surprise you feel when a kid on the spectrum makes a pronouncement, in all innocence, that smacks you in the head and makes you do a double take.

 

This novel stirred up so many emotions in me. My heart cracked open every time Caitlin tried to figure out “closure” and how to get it. A beautifully written, emotional read with an important message and a satisfying ending. This book touched me.

 

This novel was written with a tremendous amount of sensitivity. It’s on the short side but is not light weight. It covers heavy topics. There are no graphic descriptions or extreme bullying, but the characters do struggle with the issues stemming from school violence.

 

Very relevant to the situation in our schools and culture today. I was of two minds about a book that dealt with both the issues of special needs with school violence. Too many people have wedded these. It’s a complicated issue. I felt like this novel did a beautiful job with the topic while honoring storytelling.

 

One thing I hope everyone can agree on is that empathy and understanding can go a long way in helping all humans deal with the tragedies life throws our way.

 

If you’re looking for a book about the power of friendship, relationship, and the struggles of grief, this one might fit the bill.

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All the Feels

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Character Interaction

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Relevant

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Storytelling

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

How I Ruined Snowflake Plotting

Repost from my old blog. I’ve finished a few books since then and this is still how I plot, more or less.

The Snowflake Method

I am a girl in need of a plan. My book requires a second in the series. I have most of my characters, my theme, setting, and I know the message I want to convey. It’s time to plot the story.

Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method of Plotting always looked interesting. I thought I’d give it a try. My previous approach had been to use massive amounts of note cards and tape them to the walls, shuffling and adding to them periodically. This worked fine, but it seemed a bit random and tedious to me.

Many writers have been helped by plotting with The Snowflake Method. The method has been so popular and worked for so many that now you can buy Snowflake Pro software or his book How To Write A Novel Using The Snowflake Method but he still provides the original article free of charge. (Thank you, Randy Ingermanson!)

From the get go he says to take what you can use and don’t worry about the rest, but something in me wants to follow lists. I want to know the plan.

I have looked at his directions before. I usually got bogged down about halfway through reading and would give up before I started. Since then I have learned that for me, with some projects, I need to just go ahead and jump in. It’s hard because I tend to want all the details ironed out before I commit. If I can’t see the end I don’t like starting down that path.

I got through steps one to four with no trouble. It was fun and easy. Then, when I started on the next step, parts of story began to pop into my head so I started making a list of scenes before they got away. Randy Ingermanson suggests using a spreadsheet for your list of scenes, but I started the list in the same document I was putting everything else in. I didn’t want to forget what I needed to write while trying to figure out a spreadsheet. I was already out of order with the Snowflake Method instructions anyway.

So far I have a decent direction for the story, more than I had when I started writing the first book in my series. This method helped me figure out holes before I started writing the novel, even if I made adjustments to the system early on.

I’m not sure if I will be able to go back and pick up with the rest of The Snowflake Method from where I’m at right now with this book. I will try The Snowflake Method again, though, of that I am sure.

Will my plot work out even though I’m deviating from my originally intended mode? Probably. Would it work better or easier if I follow directions? I don’t know. Did I ruin it? I don’t think so.

Just Write, Create, Jump In

The point is, I am writing my own story. I got a jump start from suggestions and tools, but it’s okay if I take another route. I know I will make it to the end.

Life is like that. Don’t be scared to be a little creative with the format and structure of approaches as long as you stay true to the course. You are not going to ruin it.

It’s your story. You know how to tell it.

Jump in.

P. S. The Paper Snowflake Ballerina

The directions for the snowflake ballerina in the picture can be found at krokotak, but there is no printable template for the skirt. There are pictures. I eyeballed the designs and took a stab at it and it worked fine. You can’t let a little thing like a missing template stop you.

Did this encourage you? Please share it! Have you made adjustments to a plan recently? How did it go? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below.

☕ Book Break ☕ | The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

 

~The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See~

Li-yan is from a remote village in China where her family makes a meager living by cultivating tea trees and picking the leaves to sell. When Li-yan has a baby out of wedlock, she takes her newborn to a nearby city and leaves the baby outside an orphanage. A cake of tea, wrapped in a paper with writing on it, is tucked in the baby’s blankets.

The infant girl is then adopted by an American couple and taken to America. This epic story spans from 1988-2016 is is told in alternating points of view, switching between mother and daughter. The history and customs of the Akha people, the cultural minority that Li-yan belongs to, is fascinating, and I was hooked from page one. In reading, I could tell that a great deal of research went into this novel and was impressed by how well See melded facts and story.

This is my first Lisa See novel and I was completely intrigued.

☕ Book Break ☕ |~What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum~

 

~What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum~

 

“There’s a famous expression that if you’ve met one person with autism, then… you’ve met one person with autism.

So you met me.

Just me.

Not a diagnosis.”

 

 

David Drucker has what used to be known as Asperger’s although he does not claim the label.

 

David is at the bottom rung of the social ladder . Kit, on the other hand, is one of the popular crowd. When her father dies, she can’t bear to hang out in the lunchroom with her chatty  regular crew and decides to sit with David, who eats his lunch all by his lonesome at a table devoid of company. A friendship ensues which eventually leads to a romance.

 

David is sweet, socially naive, and blunt. He carries a notebook around with him that his older sister helped him start when he first began high school. It lists things to remind him of proper social behavior, and clues to help him identify people. David, like many on the spectrum, does not easily recognize people, not to mention being totally lost socially.

 

The idea of David’s notebook reminded me a bit of the nonfiction book “The Journal of Best Practices” compiled by a man on the spectrum as an assistive tool to help him be a good husband. I can so see this kind of notebook being a necessary part of an aspies life to help navigate all the intricacies of day to day interaction.

 

Kit has her own set of issues to deal with.

 

I liked this book. I felt the portrayal of David was realistic, and I liked his character. There is a little bit of stereotyping by David himself when he denies his autism, even though it’s obvious he’s on the spectrum. I loved the positive relationship David had with his big sister, and the fact that he had supportive parents.

 

Adding to the story was a bit of a mystery about the car accident, which Kit asks David to help her solve. The answer is surprising.

 

Characters

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Plot

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Realistic

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Heart Tugging

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

David does have to deal with some serious bullying, but I felt it was realistic, considering some of the stories I’ve heard.

 

 

 

☕ Book Break ☕ | A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake

~A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake~

Kate Drayton is a grad student studying the 1800 time period under the guise of research for school in an attempt to uncover a family mystery. The story is set in Charleston, South Carolina, and movies in time, alternating chapters from present day to 1822 during the events surrounding the Charleston slave revolt. I had a hard time relating to Kate in the beginning, but quickly became interested in the story. The supporting characters in both timelines are well done, and I immediately became engrossed by the 1822 storyline.

I enjoyed reading this book, although I have to admit I liked her novel, Blue Hole Back Home, more and marked it as one to reread. Still, this one a great book and I will be on the lookout for new books by Joy Jordan-Lake in the future. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction. If you liked The Invention of Wings, or other fiction about 1822 Charleston, you may like this one. Good read with interesting characters.

☕ Book Break ☕ |~Kindred by Octavia E. Butler~

~Kindred by Octavia E. Butler~

 

“Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of “wrong” ideas.”

 

Twenty-six year  old Dana lives in California. The year is 1976. She has recently moved into a new home and is suddenly caught up in a mysterious time portal that transports her to 19th century Maryland. In this alternate time, she saves a boy from drowning. He turns out to be her white, slave-holding  ancestor.

 

The plot  has depth to it, exploring the complexities of Dana’s relationship with her white husband and her own feelings about her family history. This is a complicated story, one to read and think about. The writing is so good the story pulls you along, but be warned, parts in the narrative are disturbing. Dana is thrust repeatedly into a world where she is a slave and repeatedly has to save her ancestor, regardless of her feelings.

 

This novel is incredibly well written, the storytelling superb. The writing feels fresh. I did not realize it was written in the seventies until after I finished the book.

 

Kindred is a unique book. Even if you never read fantasy or sci-fi, you should get this book. I’m not sure who recommended it but I’m glad they did. Part historical fiction and part sci-fi, this novel written by Octavia E. Butler is one I think everyone should read.

 

This novel is firmly in my notable books pile. If this had been on my radar when I was homeschooling the kids I would have used it in a unit study for my older students.

 

This book convinced me it is okay to write prologues! Read it and you will see what I mean.