May 2022: A New Beginning! (and Goals)

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted on here. The last year or so has been sort of a reset for me. To say that I burned myself out as an indie author would be putting it mildly. It was time for a change, and that came in the form of getting back into content writing (which I’m pretty damn good at) as my income source, and letting my brain take a rest from fiction writing for a bit.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve spent the last year writing about gardening and witchcraft and home-related topics. I’ve been editing for another home and garden website. And I started dipping my toe into the content marketing arena… and found that I fucking loved it. Content creation, SEO, analytics… I find all of that weirdly fun, and started freelancing with a local agency. Fast forward a few months, and I’ve just accepted an offer to work with them full-time as a project manager.

Life takes you to some weird places, sometimes. And I could not be happier.

While I know there will be some stress during the first few weeks as I adjust to the new job, this feels like a new phase of my life in many ways. Additional focus and security. More free time. A clear work/life separation, which I sorely needed.

May 2022 Goals

As a result, I feel like I can set goals again that aren’t solely work-related. I’m a fairly driven person, and can definitely veer toward obsessiveness, so I’ll always have professional goals, and those will be their own thing. But as far as personal goals, I feel like I have the breathing space now to set some and start working toward them. So, going to follow my longtime Twitter pal Krikket’s lead and start doing some monthly goal-setting posts. Here we go!

Reading Goals

I haven’t finished reading a book since February. FEBRUARY! I can’t remember the last time I went that long without reading regularly, and I miss it a lot. So the goal for May is to read at least two books. Not picky about what they are at this point; I just want to get back into reading.

Health Goals

I’ve been walking a bit more, taking little strolls with my husband a couple of times per day, and I want to do more of that, along with eating better and drinking my water. For now, I’m going to go with the goal of tracking steps (3,000 per day to start, which is a lot more than I was getting for a long time), eating a whole foods (mostly) plant-based diet, and drinking at least 100 oz. of water per day. 

Gaming Goals

I haven’t done much pet collecting at all in Warcraft during Shadowlands, but I think I’m going to try to get my Shadowlands Safari achievement. That, and I want to get my Draenei hunter, Astrevide, up to max and get her better-geared, because I think I want her to be my main for Dragonflight. 

I also want to read and learn more about playing a bard in D&D. My current character for our family campaign is a Drow bard, and I know I’m not doing as much with her as I could be!

Writing Goals

It’s time, y’all. I’m not sure what I want to work on, because I have three projects started and any of them should be fun. The goal is to settle on something by the end of this week, and then write 500 words per day of whatever that thing is. Eventually, there’ll be a new book out.

I am ridiculously excited about getting back to it!

Tracking!

Other than the gaming goals, which will be tracked in Warcraft itself, I think I’m going to find some printable habit trackers to keep in my planner for the reading, writing, step, water, and diet goals. A “don’t break the chain” approach will work well for me here as I’m getting started.

Weekly Wrap-Up: Books, Notion, and Lilacs

It was a week full of words and planning for me. Grab your favorite beverage and let’s talk about it!

I’m a little over a month into my new job as the garden writer for Love to Know, and things are going wonderfully. After so many years of the chaos of a freelance life and trying to publish faster faster faster as an indie author (which, to be honest, led to burnout and me mostly starting to hate the act of writing anything more difficult than a shopping list, or a very frequent journal entry berating myself — “other authors manage this, why can’t you??”) it has been a wonderful change. My mind is calmer in many ways, and I’m lucky to have good-paying work doing something I love.

Writing Plans

Which is to say, now that my brain has detoxxed itself from the chaos that is indie author life (and it was most certainly toxic, at least to me) I’m feeling excited about writing again. So I have a few projects in the works, after stepping back, taking some time, and figuring out what it is that I really want to do as an author.

  1. Finish Five of Wands. I scrapped this shortly before my expected release day because I wasn’t happy with it and started rewriting almost the entire thing. I’ve rewritten a good chunk of it, and I’d like to have it published by the end of summer. For the time being, my Patreon supporters are getting a first look at it, reading it a chapter at a time every Friday.
  2. I only have one book left to write in my Paradise Bay contemporary romance series (written as Ella Linden) and I really, really want to tell Holly and Scott’s story. So I’ve been starting work on the outline and notes for that one. I’d like this one to release sometime this fall, and then I have an idea in mind for my next small town romance series, and I’ll be working on launching that in late 2021/early 2022.
  3. The fantasy romance trilogy that I’ve been planning and playing with for years will be my next big project as far as my Colleen Vanderlinden books go, once Moira 5 is done. It’s time, and I do not have to rush this series. I can take my time and try to make it everything I’ve been envisioning. I’m not putting a timetable on it. 

So, that’s my writing plan, in addition to writing more regularly here, and on Patreon, and at my garden blog. It feels right, and I’m excited about what’s ahead. 

In the name of getting rid of some of the chaos, I’ve started using Notion to organize my book notes, outlines, mood boards, and all of the other miscellaneous information that comes with working on a book. Up until now, I’ve had various, weirdly-named files in Google Docs and scrawled, illegible entries in my journal about whatever I’m working on. It’s a habit shift, but I can definitely see how solely using Notion will make my writing life infinitely simpler.

Reading!

I’ve been reading a lot lately, which is as it should be. I stayed up way too late last night finishing Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, which absolutely blew me away. Looking forward to reading the next in the series.

I’ve also recently read Kent Haruf’s Where You Once Belonged (which is one of my Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge books) and as you can see from my GoodReads review, I had to take a day or two to see how I felt about the book after I’d finished reading it.

I also read Tsh Oxenreider’s Notes from a Blue Bike. While I don’t agree with all of Oxenreider’s viewpoints, this book about slowing down and focusing on what matters was definitely a good read for this point in my life.

I’m reading several books right now, including some of my Libby holds that came in recently and some books for my Grasshopper Hill Farm garden blog.

Lilacs and Apple Blossoms

And, finally, it’s always a joy to share what’s blooming here in my little corner of the world. The wildflowers, including violets, dandelions, and trilliums have been adding plenty of color to our world for the last couple of weeks, but this week, the big old apple trees on our land bloomed, and, my favorite flowers in the entire world, lilacs, are just starting to bloom now as well.

That’s it for me! Thanks for stopping by! Have you read anything good lately? What’s blooming in your neighborhood right now?

 

 

Summer Reading Time!

I love a good reading challenge. 

They take me back, I think, to my favorite part of elementary school, which entailed reading through a list of books and getting an award (remember those Pizza Hut free pizza coupons?) or getting to try out for the Battle of the Books team (which I made, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had competing.)

They also work so well with my personality. I love lists. List all the things! And then check them off and get that little hit of dopamine that comes with accomplishing something.

I’m already participating in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge, so some of the books in this list will cross over with books I’m reading for that challenge, and I’ll make a note of it when they do.

This summer, I’ll be joining along with Cathy at 746 Books for her #20BooksofSummer21 Challenge! Part of the fun of challenges like this is in the preparation, in finally taking a good, long look at my TBR lists and actually choosing which ones to read. After a few days of deliberation, I think I have a good list for this summer’s 20 books. I wanted a mix: genre and literary fiction, poetry, nonfiction, YA and middle grade books, graphic novels… and I wanted to make sure I was reading a portion of those books written by #OwnVoices authors. 

So without further ado, here’s what I’m reading this summer.

  1. Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver: I love Mary Oliver’s work and it’s been too long since I savored a book of poetry. Very much looking forward to this one.
  2. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson: This YA novel also crosses over with one of my Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge books, which is a book I chose for its cover. Plus, my oldest daughter highly recommends this series.
  3. Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson: I’m currently reading the first book in this series, Mistborn, which crosses over with the MMD challenge in that it was a book that I originally abandoned. I gave Mistborn a chance again and am enjoying it so much I decided to read the next book this summer.
  4. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Hahneman: Another MMD crossover, this one fulfills the category of “book recommended by a local librarian or bookseller.” This book is a staff favorite at my local indie bookstore, Brilliant Books, so I’m going to give it a try.
  5. Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas
  6. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  7. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas: These three books really could fulfill 2 of the MMD Challenge categories: three books by the same author and book recommended by a family member of friend. My older daughters love this series.
  8. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: This, again, has been on my TBR list for a while, and it fulfills the MMD challenge category “memoir, biography, or work of creative nonfiction.”
  9. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Fulfills MMD category “a book from your childhood.” I loved this series growing up and we bought all of them for our kids as well. I truly believe this is why I always wanted to live in the middle of nowhere. I’m old enough now to recognize some of the outdated themes in these books, and it’ll be a good source of discussions with my kids, most of whom have read or are reading this series now.
  10. Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland: My youngest daughter recommended this middle grade novel (and really the entire series) so I’m counting this as fulfilling the MMD challenge category “book rec from a spouse, partner, sibling, child, or bff.”
  11. The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo: This novel has been on my TBR for a while, and I was happy to see it available on the Libby app, so this is the time to finally read it.
  12. Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
  13. Amulet: The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi: We have this entire series in paperback, and my kids have all read and loved it. I honestly don’t know what’s taken me so long, but I plan to start reading it this summer.
  14. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: Another book that has been on my TBR forever.
  15. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi: I honestly just saw this book when I was scrolling through the Libby app and had to read it. 
  16. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: I’ve had this book on my Kindle forever.
  17. The Bees by Laline Paull: This has also been on my Kindle forever.
  18. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: This has been on my TBR for a while.
  19. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward: Another TBR book I’m finally reading.
  20. An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo: And my final book is another book of poetry, this one by the current US Poet Laureate, who is also the first Native American poet in that post. I’m looking forward to reading this.

So, there they are. I think it’s a good mix, with plenty to keep me reading all summer long. I’ll make some progress toward my Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge and finally read some books from my TBR list as well. I’m excited!

Do you enjoy reading challenges? Are you doing any this year?

Review: Coffee Girl by Sophie Sinclair

Fashion consultant Kiki Forbes is… not in a good place. Set up on a string of disastrous blind dates by her well-meaning best friend, suddenly unemployed, facing the prospect of working as a nanny for her sister (think Bridezilla crossed with a deranged version of Martha Stewart), she leaps at the chance to work as an assistant to a country band’s stylist. Sure, country isn’t her thing, but it’s better than what she has going on in San Francisco. Plus it’ll help build her resume. A few months on a tour bus, and she can figure life out afterward.

Enter sexy country superstar Tatum Reed and his green eyes and smooth voice and cocky, sweet demeanor, and suddenly nothing is simple. The attraction is immediate, but what really drew me in was how Sinclair built a realistic relationship between two people with very different lives. Flirting and friendship becomes more, and soon you’re just as caught up in Kiki and Tatum’s tender, sexy as sin romance as they are.

Of course, one of the trademarks of any great contemporary romance is a stellar supporting cast, and Coffee Girl has them in droves. From Kiki’s crazy sister to Tatum’s ex (now THERE is a piece of work), to the band and the other crew members, and even Kiki’s cat, every character in this book feels alive. It would have been easy to make a few of the more antagonistic characters into cardboard cutouts, but Sinclair does an excellent job of writing them in a way that feels real…. even when you kind of want to dump a latte over their heads.

This book hits all of my contemporary romance buttons: hot sex, adorable banter, a fun supporting cast, gleeful highs and heartbreaking lows. There were several moments when I wanted to smack Kiki upside the head, but love can make even the smartest among us into idiots at times, and I couldn’t fault her for those moments.

Coffee Girl got me out of a weeks-long reading slump. If you’ve ever been in one of those, you know it takes a certain kind of read to get you out of it. This book did it for me. Five enthusiastic, rhinestone-studded stars.

About Sophie Sinclair: Sophie is an avid reader of contemporary romance and suspense thrillers. She lives with her husband and two daughters in North Carolina. When not hunkered down writing, she’s either driving the kids all over town or taking care of their three rescue dogs, rescue cat and a guinea pig named Fluff.

Connect with Sophie Sinclair:

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Disclaimers: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click them, I will receive a small commission. I received an ARC of Coffee Girl from Reedsy Discovery.

Friday Reads: Contemporary Romance Obsession Edition

It was a very good reading week for me. I read two novels and started two more. Both of those I finished were 5-star reads for me…

Which leads me to a bit of a tangent. Looking through my GoodReads shelves, I have lots of four and five star ratings for the books I’ve read. At a glance, this makes it look like, wow, she likes everything she reads! The truth is I start WAY more books than I finish. I can usually tell within a chapter or two if something is going to do it for me, and in the cases in which a book isn’t working for me, I have ZERO guilt about setting it aside and starting something else.
Because I have a TBR list that I’m never going to finish anyway, and it keeps getting longer, and life is too short for books that don’t grab you.
So yes, I start reading plenty of duds. But I don’t finish reading them and I don’t bother reviewing them, because I’d much rather highlight things I loved.
Now, on to this week’s reads.

Grit: A Love Story on 7th and Main by Elizabeth Hunter

Full disclaimer up front, Elizabeth Hunter is a friend of mine and one of the people who encouraged me most when I started publishing. That said, I was a reader of her books before I was her friend, and I would have loved this book regardless of who wrote it. It had everything: a strong, independent heroine; a grumpy, gorgeous, competent, loving farmer hero; an adorable, goat-obsessed pre-teen daughter; and a town full of people I wish I knew in real life. I was able to read an ARC of this, but you can pre-order it now. Grit will be out on September 3rd, but if you simply can’t wait that long, the first two books in her Love Stories on 7th and Main small town romance series are also amazing, and you can read them now!
I’ll be interviewing Elizabeth here on the blog during Grit’s release week, and I’ll have a longer, more in-depth review post up so that should be a lot of fun, as well!

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I want to kick past me’s ass for not reading this book immediately upon hearing about it. Another smart, vibrant contemporary romance, The Kiss Quotient is about a heroine with Aspberger’s Syndrome. She’s an economics wiz and very, very successful in her career. However, her Aspberger’s makes it hard for her to relate to people on a personal level, and that’s even more true when it comes to romance. She doesn’t know how to interact with people, she feels like she always says the wrong thing, and she simply can’t relax or enjoy sex. Her mother starts pushing her for grandchildren and threatens matchmaking. Stella (the heroine) decides to hire an escort so she can get used to sex. The escort she hires ends up being much, much more than just someone to have sex with, and she and the hero, Michael, find themselves drawn together and growing as people, taking brave steps neither of them would have thought possible before. I devoured this book, and immediately put a hold on book two, The Bride Test, on my Libby app. Unfortunately for me, I have to wait 14 weeks for my turn. Cue sad trombone.

Currently Reading:

I’m reading The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay, which I checked out of the library. It’s about an eccentric bookseller and a literary mystery, which seems to be one of my reading obsessions of late. So far, I’m enjoying it.
I’m also reading Zoe York’s Love on a Summer Night (yes, another small town contemporary!) and am already having a hard time putting it down. I’ve never read a Zoe York book that didn’t pull me in, and this is definitely doing it for me so far. Hopefully I’ll be reviewing it for next week’s Friday Reads!
That’s it for me. What have you read this week? Help me add to the ever-growing TBR list!

Cover Reveal: Two of Swords

IT’S HAPPENING!

Two of Swords is almost here, and the second it’s live on Amazon, I will be shouting it from the rooftops. This book had so many false starts, so many scrapped drafts… a year’s worth of them! But I have a book now that I’m proud of and I’m so excited to share it with you.

Two of Swords

Moira Chase, Book Two

All she wanted was a quiet life. A bakery, a new life focusing on nothing more exciting than kitchen magic. Moira paid her dues during her time as a supernatural bounty hunter in Detroit. She’s retired and more than ready to leave the chaos of her past behind.

With her bakery, wonderful friends, and the beginning of the kind of love she’s only thought was possible in dreams, it feels like her life is finally starting to come together.

That is, until an old contact from her bounty hunting days insists on her help with a case that’s right up her alley. And until the man she loves finds himself in the middle of a turf war he never asked for.

Moira has a choice to make, and the lives of those she loves most hangs in the balance.

It’s almost here! I cannot wait to share the next part of Moira’s story with you, and unlike the LOOOOONG wait between books 1 and 2, book three will be out later this summer!

Things I Loved This Month

May was a whirlwind. But I’m trying to keep track of the things I enjoyed each month, both the big and the small, because it’s so easy to lose sight of those things when life is crazy. Which mine is. All the time…

So in no particular order, here are the things that made me happy in May.

  1. Finishing Two of Swords. You heard me. It’s done! Expect a cover reveal this week, and a new book available on Amazon during the first week of June.
  2. Strength training. I’ve been slowly but surely getting my shit together health-wise as well. I did a Whole30 during Lent, and am about to start one again, and I’ve felt my energy levels improving. I took up strength training again this month and remembered how much I loved it. It’s so rewarding to feel myself getting stronger, improving my balance and energy. Excited to keep going with this.
  3. My Crusaders reader group on Facebook. This group is just the best. Even during my long silences of late, the group keeps going, sharing talk and memes about comics and superheroes and books, and I just adore them. We’re actually going to be starting a group read of one of my books, which the group is voting on now, so it’s a good time to join us!
  4. Good books! I’m currently reading Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn and Elizabeth Haydon’s Rhapsody. Definitely in more of a fantasy mood of late. I’m thinking of re-reading Sara Douglass’ Troy Game series, which has long been one of my favorites. Curious to see if I’ll love it as much now as I did before.
  5. Spring blooms, finally.

So there we go! Five things I loved in May. I’ll be back later this week with a cover reveal and blurb for Two of Swords. Thanks for reading — I love you guys.

Writing Update: Two of Swords (and a snippet!)

This is the first of my weekly writing updates, and I’m happy to report that Two of Swords is moving along pretty well! I struggled with it a bit and came to realize that the problem was my outline. I was trying to force Moira and company into a script that was starting to feel unnatural, and it was showing.

I’m a huge proponent of outlining. I love my outlines and character sketches and charts and all that fun stuff. But with this book I’ve once again learned that the outline is supposed to serve me, not the other way around. So once I realized where the problem was, I tossed the outline and wrote what felt natural for these characters at this particular time in their story arc. And it’s been much easier since I allowed myself to do that.

My goal is to have Two of Swords available on Amazon before the end of the month. It’ll probably be sometime during the last week of February, fingers crossed that the revision and editing all goes well.

One of my Two of Swords mood/inspiration boards.

What Else Am I Working On?

Aside from Two of Swords, I have been trying to figure out a serial for my Patreon supporters. For a while I was planning on writing and releasing Haunted that way, but it’s just too hard for me at this point to write part of an ongoing series that way and release it a week at a time. I’d rather release Haunted when it’s all finished, because I know where I want to go with that.

It struck me that secondary characters work really well for serials. I get to tell the story of characters that you guys love but maybe don’t know as much about as you’d like. So I polled my Crusaders group and it looks like I’m going to be telling a Jenson (from StrikeForce) prequel story for the Patreon serial. The first episode will be up on Patreon on Friday, and supporters who pledge $1 or more per month get to read it as it comes out. Once Jenson’s story is told, I’ll release it as a novella, much as I did with the Hidden side story novellas.

That Snippet I Promised You…

He smiled at me as he started the truck, and within moments we were driving out of town, the highway taking us out to the countryside. The windows were open, and I breathed deeply, taking in the scent of sun-drenched pine forest, the late strong afternoon sunlight warming my arm as I rested it on the passenger side door. We pulled up at the last stop light at the edge of town, and I turned my head to see Michael watching me, warmth like honey in his dark eyes.

“What?” I asked, feeling a blush rise to my face.

He shook his head and smiled. “I wish you could see yourself at moments like that. You looked so peaceful, so whole. Powerful, really,” he added quietly, hitting the gas as the light changed.

“Yes, my pies and I are very powerful,” I quipped, and he smirked and shook his head.

“It’s this place. And you. My grandma always said the Chase witches were the lifeblood of this place. But maybe this place is your lifeblood, too.”

I didn’t answer. There was no need to. I felt the truth of it deep in my bones. And he saw it. Saw me. Not all of me, of course. Not the parts I worked so hard to hide. But he saw the me I most wanted to be, and there were no words for the magic in that one simple fact.

I reached over and rested my hand on his thigh, and he immediately let go of the wheel and placed his hand over mine, twining our fingers together as if this, us, was the most natural thing in the world.

“How was your thing yesterday that you had to deal with?” I asked. He gave my hand a light squeeze and sighed.

“Not as good as I could have hoped.”

I waited for him to go on, but he didn’t.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

The corner of his mouth quirked up and he glanced at me. “Do you want to talk about what you were doing for Director Jones yesterday?” he asked in response.

I smiled. And then, to my surprise, I started talking. Because damn, yes I did want to talk about it, and talk about it with him. This, he could be a part of. This, I didn’t have to keep from him the way I kept my dhampira hidden.

So I talked. I told him about all of the ghosts at the resort, and about Ethan Edwards, and about feeling like he knew more than he was telling me. I told him I’d have to go back.

“You don’t sound happy about it.”

I shook my head. “I’m not. If I go back, I’m probably going to have to talk to the ghosts. Which isn’t usually a problem, now that I have the amulet, but the amulet has its limits. It broke up on me when I was there yesterday. It’s not meant to handle more than a ghost or maybe a few at a time. The amount of spirit energy is just too much.”

He was quiet for a moment. “So you’ll have to use your necromancy,” he said quietly, and I nodded. “Which you don’t really want to do.”

“Yeah. I had to use it a little yesterday when the amulet started fritzing on me. My kitchen magic hasn’t been right since that thing a couple months back, and it feels even weaker now.” I didn’t have to tell him what “thing” I meant. We both knew, and we both still knew he had questions about it all.

He didn’t respond for a few moments. “What is that like, though? I mean you can clearly still cook,” he said, nodding toward the tray of pies on my lap.

“I guess.. The only description I can give is a kinda weird one.”

“Hit me. You’ve met my family.”

I chuckled. “It’s like being blocked. All you want is to use that magic, and you know it’s there and it wants to be used so bad it hurts. But you can’t, and the longer it goes on, the more it hurts, and you start thinking, ‘damn, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I do something so basic?’” I glanced up. “I’m bad at analogies.”

He shook his head. “Nah. I get it.”

“You do?”

A nod. “That’s how it feels when my wolf wants to run, and I can’t let him. Usually when I’m working or something. And then if I go too long before I’m finally able to shift, sometimes the shift comes hard and it hurts so bad I can hardly breathe.”

“It does sound similar.”

“Except that I don’t have something else wanting to rush in and take the place of my wolf. That’s what it sounds like the issue is with your necromancy, that it wants to be used.”

“Exactly. And the more I use it, the more I feel my kitchen magic slipping away.”

“Then don’t.”

I turned to look at him. “It’s not that simple.”

“Sure it is.”

“It’s really not.”

“You’ve been blessed, or cursed, if you want to look at it that way, with talents in two very different types of magic. It sounds like you have to choose one, whether you want to or not.”

“Right.”

“So choose the one that makes you happy. If it’s kitchen magic, then do that.”

“Believe me, that’s all I want.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“Kitchen magic isn’t saving anyone, you know? Necromancy… I’ve saved lives with it. Moira the Great is always on me about how I’m spitting in the face of what the Universe has given me, that someone as strong as I am in necromancy has a duty to use it… and I mean, she’s not wrong. Necromancy comes to me like breathing. Kitchen magic, I have to work at. I have to finesse it, focus on it. And Jamie seems to agree with Moira the Great. I’m good at necromancy and I’ve done good things with it. No one’s life is being saved by eating a scone imbued with calming magic.”

He turned and pulled into the driveway in front of the white clapboard farmhouse his family lived in. I could hear the shouts of children playing in the yard, smell the scent of meat roasting over the large grills the family used frequently on warmer evenings. Michael turned the engine off and looked into my eyes.

“What do you want, though?” he asked.

I looked down at our hands on his lap, shivered as he lightly brushed his thumb over mine. This. This was what I wanted. But I was too much of a coward to tell him that.

“What I want and what I should do aren’t always the same thing,” I finally said. “You can’t tell me you don’t deal with that sometimes too. You’re the alpha. I’d imagine that your own wants and needs get put on the back burner from time to time for the good of the pack.” I shrugged. “Not that I’m anything like that. Just… I don’t think they’re wrong, when they say that it might be selfish of me to pick my happy magic over the life-saving magic I’m good at.”

He nodded, still grazing my hand with his thumb.

“So when do you get to be happy, Moira?”

*****

That’s it for today! Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed that little tease of Moira and Michael. I love writing them so much!

January: What I Read, Watched, and Listened To

Is it just me, or did everyone else feel like they aged about 5 years during January too? Such a loooooong month. But we’ve made it through. It’s a new month, and we’re that much closer to spring in my neck of the woods (she says as she sits two feet away from the woodstove, permanently encamped there until this cold snap lifts.)

I thought it would be fun to keep a monthly log of what I’ve been reading, watching, and listening to each month. It’ll be interesting for me to see how this changes with the seasons and then I can easily look back at the end of the year and remember what I loved and what I maybe didn’t love so much.

What I Read

I read 8 books in January, three comics trade paperbacks (Rat Queens volume 1, All-New Wolverine volumes 1 and 2), one writing-related book, one self-help book, and three novels.

The comics are something I’m letting myself count toward my challenge again. It’s stupid to try to pretend they don’t count as reading just because they’re shorter. My only parameter is that I’m only counting graphic novels or trade paperback collections, not single issues.

James Scott Bell’s The Mental Game of Writing is a book I’ve read before and it was a good, inspiring kick in the pants to start my writing year off right. I highly recommend his books — I’ve read several of them and have always learned something or been inspired.

My self-help read for January was Rachel Hollis’ Girl, Wash Your Face. I think sometimes the right book finds you at just the right time, and that was the case with this book. I have to admit that I put off reading it because it seemed very… EVERYWHERE. It felt like everybody and their grandma was reading this book and there’s some weird little part of me that rebels against doing what everyone else is doing. I don’t know. But I put it on hold via the Libby app a while back and it was available to me in early January, so I read it, and I’m glad I did. It made me take an honest look at some aspects of my personality and gave me some clarity I wasn’t even sure I was looking for.

The fiction I read was fabulous this month. Naomi Novik’s Uprooted lived up to the hype, and I read the final two books in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, which I started reading because my teenage daughters love them and I am going to listen to their book recommendations from now on, because that whole series was fabulous. I was sorry to see it end when I turned the final page of Winter.

What I Watched/Listened To in January: Super Quickie Reviews

Movies

  • Chocolat — loved
  • Kill Bill — despised

TV Shows

  • The Punisher (season 2) — meh
  • Supernatural (season 12/13) — loved
  • Once Upon a Time (season 1) — it’s growing on me
  • Tidying Up with Marie Kondo — loved. I have KonMari-ed most of my house and I’m so glad I did.

Music

  • Hamilton the Musical soundtrack — never, ever gets old
  • Nirvana: Live and Loud — amazing
  • Supernatural soundtrack on Spotify — all the classic rock you could ever want!

I think that does it for this month! It was a good month overall. What did you absolutely love reading/watching/listening to in January? Tell me about it!

Five Things I Learned in January

One of the things I look forward to at the end of every month is reading Anne Bogel’s “what I learned this month” posts, an idea that she got from Emily P. Freeman, whose blog I also enjoy reading. I’ve wanted to start doing the same for a while, and it seems like a good time to start.

Here’s what I learned in January — the big, the small, the serious, and the silly:

  1. I can easily make my own chocolate-flavored coffee creamer from a couple of simple pantry ingredients. We try to avoid leaving our house as much as possible during the winter (we live about ten miles out of town, down a very hilly highway — not ideal for slippery winter travel!) We’ve found that if we stock up as much as possible on meat and dairy and produce, we can go about three weeks without having to shop again, thanks in part to the miracle of grocery delivery from Amazon, Target, and Walmart. Anyway, I ran out of the chocolate Coffee-Mate I like to add to my coffee from time to time (hey, you have your vices, and I have mine, okay?) and I found that I can easily make my own. One part cocoa powder, two parts sugar, and it’s actually more chocolaty and less sweet than the store-bought version. Win!
  2. Twitch isn’t just for game streamers. I know this might be old news to some of you, but it’s opened up a whole new world for me! Aside from the usual video game streamers, there’s a whole category of crafty streamers making everything from intricately carved clocks to amigurumi stuffies. I found several that I love and I have them on while I’m cooking or dealing with email or whatever. As a bonus, they’ve gotten me back into crafting again!
  3. I spent too much time planning and not enough time doing. I got obsessively into using a paper planner last year, and decorating it with stickers and washi and color coding and making all of these lovely lists and goals and… not getting shit done. Turns out, spending a bunch of time writing or talking about your goals flips a little psychological switch that gives you a sense of accomplishment as if you’ve ALREADY done the thing. False satisfaction. Stupid brain. Anyway, I’ve super pared back my planning and the time I spent making lists and schedules, and my productivity so far has shot through the roof. As with any habit/lifestyle thing, your mileage may vary, but for me, cutting back on the planning really helped a lot.
  4. I’m super picky about books. I looked back at last year’s GoodReads challenge, and I didn’t even come close to meeting my goal of reading 75 books. But comparing it to my journal, in which I listed every book I started reading… I ended up tossing aside about two-thirds of the books I started reading. I’ve finally gotten over my old English major need to finish EVERY book because I just might learn something, damn it, and it shows. If something isn’t grabbing me, I don’t stick with it. As a result, I read fewer books last year, but also a lot less crap, which was awesome. I’m planning to keep that up this year.
  5. Warcraft challenges provide a whole new way to enjoy the game. I’ve been playing WoW for a long time (going on ten years now, I think) and you get to a point, especially if you’re like me and not super into raiding or dungeons, that you feel like you’ve done everything. Enter WoW Challenges, specifically the Iron Man challenge. Simply put: crappy gear, no potions, and if you die, you lose. It, along with our family’s Friday night PvP, has given me a whole new love for the game.
January saw the birth of Team DeathGnome. My husband, teenage daughters, brother-in-law, and I all made death knight gnomes to quest with. We’re super serious players, guys.

So that’s it: five things I’ve learned this past month, from the deep to the slightly silly.