☕ Book Break ☕ |~Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber~

~Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber~

 

“Christmas is a condition of the heart.”

 

Merry’s loving, but meddling, family sign her up for an online dating service. They don’t post a photo of her. Merry’s boss, who she perceives as cold, comes across the dating profile. He doesn’t post his photo, either. Inevitably, the two strike up a conversation without knowing the true identity of the other and develop an online relationship. You know where it goes from there.

 

Classic, well done romcom of the best sort. Merry Knight is an adorable character, and her situation with her love interest is charming. As it turns out, Jayson Bright  is not really the bad sort he’s been pegged as. Both our hero and heroine have a complicated family life and issues to deal with. Good story line that kept me reading.

 

Every time I try to write about this one, I end up giving spoilers, so instead let me just say, if you like charming romcom with a Christmas theme you should get this book. Cute, warm, satisfying. An enjoyable holiday read.

 

This year I’ve discarded more Christmas books than I finished, but this is a good one.

 

Have you read any good Christmas books this season?

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows~

~My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows~
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This book had me snorting into my teacup. It’s a retelling of Jane Eyre, with the authors taking flexible liberties. It’s kind of a cross between the classic tale and Ghostbusters with a little extra thrown in for good measure.
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For purists who like their classics, the irreverence may be a bit much. I found it hilarious. The cultural references to LOTR and the Princess Bride had me laughing out loud. I’ve always had a soft spot for literature that breaks the story by speaking directly to the reader. There’s something special about seeing “Dear Reader”. ❤️
I adore this book. I did not read the first one, but it certainly on my list now.
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If you’re looking for a lighthearted read I love Jane Eyre adaptations you should check this one out.
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There is mild language in one section of the book when are heroines are in dire straits and frustrated beyond their limits. Other than that, there should be nothing in here to shock the sensibilities. Unless ghosts disturb you. These ghosts are funny, for the most part.
❤️
Loved it.

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Whining or Winning

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” said Rain. She wished they could go back to just sitting in the quiet, not saying anything.

Will stood, fists clenched at his sides before he visibly relaxed, and let his arms hang loosely. Rain expected him to come and sit beside her, or look at her, or say something. Instead, he turned on his heel and walked away into the late afternoon shadows, leaving her sitting there alone on a cool concrete bench in his dead mother’s garden.

***************

At 40,000 words, the rough draft of this novel is about half way through my plot outline. Hmmm. May need to trim a bit. I usually write short and then add. I’m not good at math, but even I know at this rate the story would be way too long.

Last month I took advantage of nanowrimo fever to try and keep up the momentum I established a few weeks earlier after reading Finish by Jon Acuff. One of his suggestions was to cut your goals in half, so at half done I feel pretty good about my progress. Except when I don’t feel good about it. Ha! Do you ever beat yourself up for not being as good, as fast, or as brilliant as someone else?

This morning I told my daughter I was a bit sad and depressed for no apparent reason. I wondered if it was because I wasn’t cranking out the high word counts I saw others producing.

Obviously, I was feeling a little sorry for myself and enjoying some sour grapes when I said, “Other people are getting to be all fabulous because they won nanowrimo and here I am still poking along.”

She said, “But you’re already fabulous, mama.”

We laughed. So much for whining about not winning. I guess maybe I don’t need to “win” at everything. As long as I stay fabulous.

Time for me to quit belly aching and get back to work on this novel.

Stay fabulous, y’all!

By the way, what do you think of the new mini book break reviews I’ve been posting? Do you like them?

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Book Review| Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

Book Review| Talking as Fast as I Can

By Lauren Graham

I became a Gilmore girls fan late. During the years we were homeschooling, I rarely watched television of any sort. Who had time? I started watching the show when it was on Netflix one day when I wasn’t feeling well. I felt an immediate connection with the characters and was delighted by the quick banter. I shared the show with my daughter, who, at the time, was a very reluctant teenager. You know that there is a certain age when anything mom likes is certain to elicit a negative response.

A few moments into the show, she turned to me and said, “It’s us!”

Obviously, we are not the only duo  to feel this connection to Gilmore Girls.

I loved Lauren Graham’s memoir, Talking As Fast As I Can. If you are a Gilmore girls fan I think you would enjoy this book. The Lorelai Gilmore fast-paced dialogue we are all familiar with is infused throughout this small volume. Lauren is so personable. Reading this book was like reading letters from a dear friend, one who is generous with advice and laughter. I don’t usually read celebrity memoirs, but I enjoyed every minute of this book, even when I was crying. Yes, I did cry.

I was encouraged by her advice on everything from writing, making choices, dieting, and technology. She did this all with a splash of humor.

“Eventually I learned that, in the beginning at least, it was better for me to be finished then to try to be perfect. I had to get out of my own way.”

“Often, waiting reveals the truth about something, and not responding to your every impulse can save you the heart ache of waking up in the morning with a sense of regret.”

“Talking about getting a tattoo was, I realized, a perfect case of life thing about the journey not the destination.”

To me, this memoir feels like a gift. Thank you, Lauren Graham! I will definitely be checking out Lauren Graham’s novel, Maybe, Maybe, Someday.

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Pitching at A Writers’ Conference

I was ready. My book was finished, revised, and edited. My book coach encouraged me to go to this year’s writers’ conference and make an agent appointment, so I did.

I bought shoes, got a bad haircut, and actually ironed clothes. This was serious.

Months in advance, I did the research and prepared myself to meet a literary agent or publisher. I wrote a one sheet, printed my first four chapters in correct format, and had lists of questions to ask for the ‘extra’ time left over after my pitch. After reading about the available choices, I listed three, understanding I would get one of them. Since I registered early, I would probably get the first one I listed. In case I didn’t, I continued to read online a bit about each person so I could easily bring up topics to chit chat about. Pleased, I realized I had plenty of conversation fodder. I had this.

Then I got there.

Things were going well at first. Arriving early, I had plenty of time to spare. I felt fine, if tired. Sleep had eluded me, but no worries. Instead of sleeping, I listened to relaxing music and did deep breathing to Paul Cardall’s Be Calm. Who needs sleep? I’d faced bigger challenges on less sleep and succeeded. I could probably even get a blog post out of this experience like other writers do, sharing wisdom I garnered from the meeting.

Finding out I had three appointments threw me for a sec, but no problem. I had planned to meet with anyone, remember? I was prepared.

Another poor soul who was waiting to pitch her book looked as if she were about to come unglued. I felt bad for her. I traded business cards with the other writers in the waiting area. We reassured each other that we would be fine. This wasn’t so tough.

My name was called. Even though I had done my homework, I did not recognize the agent I was directed to. After a few seconds, it became apparent this was the one person in the room who I did not have an appointment with that day. No problem. We exchanged pleasantries and exited the room. It turns out I had been confused with another Donna. No big, I didn’t miss anything because I was early.

My actual turn came. I floundered at the beginning, but I was sure to find my footing soon, right?

Uhhhhh. No.

My brain emptied itself, thoughts completely scattered. My hands flopped around on the table as if I could gather those thoughts back somehow, but every coherent speck of intelligence was gone. Poof. I was tongue-tied, stammering. This from the lady who talks to people in the checkout line and has long conversations with telemarketers.

The agent was exceedingly gracious and kind.

I did not throw up or cry. I did not dump hot coffee on her. So that was good. As a friend told me, the encounter probably wasn’t as bad as a sharp stick to the eye.

I don’t know why I was so anxious, unless it was because my little subconscious was screaming, “This may be a pivotal moment and the next ten minutes is likely to have an impact on your ability to deliver the message God has given you to share with the world of suffering children and the timer is running right over there, numbers flying by.”

No pressure.

Now, I realize this was overly dramatic, but it was my subconscious whispering. It’s hard to reason with such a thing. Realistic Donna understands that my ability, or lack of, in any given situation is not capable of derailing God’s plan. I am simply not big enough to have that kind of impact. To place such importance on self displays an arrogant lack of trust and faith.

Ouch.

I made it through this rite of passage. No one was injured. And she asked to see my work. Maybe she will like it. All I can do now is wait and see.

In the meantime, I plan to trust in the process knowing it will all work out while I happily dig into my next project.

Onward.

Here’s a few pitching tips from Writer’s Digest and The Write Practice. All I can add is: Tell your subconscious self to chill.

 

 

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Crappy First Draft: My Smiling Pile of Poo

All writers know first drafts are less than perfect. In fact, they are usually awful. Crappy first drafts are par for the course.

At Walmart one day I was shopping with my son. I saw a Smiling Pile of Poo Bank. Jokingly, I said, “When I finish the rough draft for my novel I should treat myself by buying this to hold all the money I earn when I’m a famous author.”

He took it off the shelf and put it in the buggy. “I’m buying it for you.”

“No, no,” I said. “I have to finish the draft first.”

“You will,” he said.

“What if I don’t?”

“You will.”

It gave me the warm fuzzies to think he had faith in me. The guy must believe I could write a novel if he parted with cash to purchase such a thing.

I’m not really sure if having this bank represents earnings I will make selling books. Perhaps, being empty, it better represents all the money I have spent attempting to learn the craft of novel writing.

The Pile of Poo sat in a central place. I saw it every day. We all saw it every day. If I had been good and worked on my novel, the face smiled encouragingly at me. On the other hand, on days I could have written but didn’t, I swear that pile of poo mocked me with its big, round bugeyes and sly, silly grin. Plus, now my son was invested, having bought that pile of poo for me.  He is a grown man, but he is still my kid. If he had enough faith in me to buy a ceramic bank with his own money, I had to be worthy of that pile of poo.

poobank

It was about this time last year when I heard back from an agent. My full manuscript had been requested, but in the end was turned down. I wasn’t entirely sure what the issue was, so I hired book coach Sarah Hamer to help me. 

Here we are many months later with about 40,000 words added to the story. Many of these words were written 500 at a time as I kept to my daily minimum goal. Over time I did pick up speed, learning to use speech to text and making adjustments to current challenges.

New characters walked onto the stage, and the plot is better. I decided to change from Middle Grade to Young Adult, and hopefully corrected any major story flaws.

Finally, my draft is finished! You know what that means. Now I get to begin re-writing and editing.

And my Smiling Pile of Poo will be here to encourage me every step of the way.

Oh, and by the way, one of my other boys bought me this lovely first draft notebook, trusting I have another story in me waiting to be written.

poonotebook

 

It’s wonderful to have supportive kids, even if they give me lots of crap, I mean poo.

#AmWriting

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4 Tips On How Not to Plan a Writing Retreat

#amwriting donnajostone.comI have had fair success at getting words on the current WIP flowing. Not all of those words are kept, mind you. But then that is the nature of a first draft.

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”Joyce Carol Oates

Committed to writing a certain amount on my novel in progress every day, I have decided to pretend this forced vacating of my home is a writer’s retreat. This fantasy would probably be easier to maintain if I had not brought my family, including our new puppy, along with me.

Tip #1 Don’t bring your kids or a puppy.

kayleeintroublesmall.

There are also the constant interruptions of new information about the home repairs which tend to get me sidetracked. The ongoing saga is a twisted version of a never ending story, reminding me of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.

Along the way to the discovery of where the moisture is coming from we found no leaks, but we did find out the home has what was referred to as “the pipe of the future” otherwise known as polybutylene pipe. This particular kind of pipe is no longer used because it is destined to fail. Check your pipes, peeps.

During the new water line installation, I was informed the hot water heater has been leaking. No word on the water damage from that yet.

After numerous consultations, it has been determined that the constant water collecting under the sinks is probably from condensation. This may be due to the vapor barrier being compromised when a neighbor’s dog got under the home. Or it could be because of improper site prep. They are working on it.

Tip #2 Leave your home problems at home and don’t answer calls.

Other issues will be dealt with as the summer progresses. The good news is, no mold in the walls as far as we can tell with mold kits and this handy snaking camera.

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Tip # 3 Don’t give up writing no matter what.

“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”               Red Smith

Meanwhile, I will keep busy scribbling away on the book when I’m not enjoying myself poolside here at my writing retreat.

Tip #4 Don’t forget to find JOY in the journey.

#amwriting

How are you reaching your goals? What inspires you? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment.

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Book Review| Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

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Daddy Long Legs

By Jean Webster

I recently revisited a childhood favorite of mine, Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster.

Daddy Long Legs was published in 1912 and contained drawings by Jean Webster as well. Unfortunately, I do not have a print copy of the book but was able to download the text for my kindle from Project Gutenberg here.

I probably read this for the first time when I was very young and read it over and over. I have not reread it since I was twelve or so.

I was surprised to find it was not what I expected. The character of Jerusha was still witty and charming with a bit of sass, but reading as an adult gives an entirely different perspective.

Jerusha Abbott is an orphan dependent upon the charity of a benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous.  Daddy Long Legs is story told through a series of letters that Jerusha must write as a stipulation to receive college funds. Jerusha is smart, clever, and beautiful, if educationally stunted by her orphanage upbringing.

Daddy Long Legs is an easy to read book. If you are interested in women’s rights, social movements, societal changes, or the political history of the time period, you might be interested in this book.

Even though I kept in mind this book was published almost 100 years ago, I still felt uncomfortable at parts of the book by the behavior of Daddy Long Legs aka John Smith. Perhaps men of the day did typically treat women in such ways, but to a modern reader there is a high creepiness factor.

The author’s political view point and worldview come thorough in this story.

It would make for an easy and enjoyable way to study the issues and topics of the day.

A book from a slightly later time period reviewed on this site is Miss Buncle’s Book by By D.E. Stevenson. Both books are humorously clever and easy to read with a female protagonist making her way in the world.

SPOILER

As a child, I thought Daddy Long Legs was a simple story about an orphan who is rescued by a rich man who then falls in love with her. There are no mature themes in the book, but Daddy Long Legs was written for young ladies, not children.

The new view of my old favorite was somewhat disappointing. I still liked the character of Jerusha, but the story felt a bit disorienting, like approaching a once familiar place from a different direction.

Have you reread a childhood favorite and had a similar experience?

 

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Book Review|Invisible: An Ivy Malone Mystery by Lorena McCourtney

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Invisible: An Ivy Malone Mystery #1

By Lorena McCourtney

Invisible by Lorena McCourtney follows our possum grey haired heroine through various situations. Ivy Malone attempts to solve what started out as a simple vandalism mystery that turns out to big much bigger crimes. Ivy is a LOL (Little Old Lady) with more than a touch of curiosity and humor. She also had a tendency to get herself into scrapes.

When Ivy realizes that she is often overlooked to the point of feeling invisible, she decides that may not always be a bad thing. Invisibility is a boon when making observations and getting into places unnoticed. I loved this character. Ivy is one smart lady, but she does not take herself too seriously.

This is an inspirational cozy and the main character’s Christianity flows naturally. Ivy has some encouraging and comforting advise about life in various parts of the story that fit with the character and situation.

If you are looking for a light summer mystery with doses of Christian encouragement occurring throughout,  Invisible: An Ivy Malone Mystery #1 may be one for you.

Invisible is one of my favorite inspirational cozy mysteries. I snagged this one as a free kindle copy a while back and liked it enough to buy the next two books in the series.

A new book in the Ivy Malone series, Go Ivy, Go! An Ivy Malone Mystery #5 was released on May 27th, 2015. It is available for kindle and nook.

Author Lorena McCourtney’s Website

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Book Review|The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan

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The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less

by Terry Ryan

The memoir The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan is entertaining and inspirational. Terry’s mother, Evelyn Ryan, used ingenuity and wit to battle poverty and raise her ten children despite a difficult home situation. Gifted with a writing ability, she kept the family afloat financially by making a career of entering product contests popular at the time.

Often, I was moved as I listened to the story of this family and the struggles they experienced growing up in the 1950s and 60s with an alcoholic father and constant financial uncertainty .

Although she was faced with trying circumstances, Evelyn handled them all with a no nonsense attitude colored with humor. Terry obviously has a great deal of love and respect for her mother. I think this book is a beautiful tribute.

This was a story that kept me engrossed. I listened to the audiobook and finished it in one sitting.

Recommended.

Issues of concern:

Father’s alcoholism, poverty, destruction of property, incident where father pushes mother and causes injury, lack of support

I listened to the audio version of The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less read by Terry Ryan, the author. This is an abridged version. The recording and the reading were well done and easy to listen to.

Book Discussion Questions for The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio from Mount Prospect Public Library

This memoir has been made into a movie, which I have viewed. The movie stays true to the version of the book I listened to with minor changes and deletions. I believe the heart of the story is conveyed quite well on the screen.

 

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