Saturday, December 10, 2016

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice (The Austen Project, #4)Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a love/hate relationship with Curtis Sittenfeld. I think she's a good writer if a bit pretentious. I read Prep when I was in college and was confused by its plotless story. I followed it up with The Man of My Dreams and was once again confused about when it would get to an actual story. By the time I got to American Wife I honestly had to ask myself if I'd ever read anything of Sittenfeld's again.
That being said, I read this because I love Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is probably one of the most amazing novels ever written. Elizabeth Bennet is complex, likable, and completely learns from her experiences.
I didn't feel that Liz Bennet learned anything in this modern remake. She was as judgemental as the characters she complained were judgmental. She goes through this entire novel acting like she's better than everyone because she's spent the last twenty years in New York, and not in Cincinnati, which is apparently Hickville, USA.
This is what almost every modern retelling of P&P gets wrong: Lizzie Bennet, while she definitely has her foibles, she's overall a kind person. Liz in Eligible just felt petty. She treats her parents like petulant children (though they were in denial, but she could've been more tactful, especially following her father's health scare), her sisters like children (though they were never forced to grow up, so that's to be expected, I guess), and the idea that she and Darcy decided to have hate sex just kind of grated on my nerves. She makes snap judgments on people, which are always spot-on. She's right about everything, which is annoying. I also felt like she was trying too hard to prove she was with the times, unlike her backward, conservative parents (Sittenfeld is seriously a one-sided writer).
I was glad that this book had a plot to follow. There were numerous goals with good challenges to block the goals, but I think the appeal of this book for me was the fact that it was based around P&P. I also thought the last bit with Mary's POV was unnecessary. It was just a POV to show how superior she was to her family. I already didn't like Mary, but that was overkill.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Incursion (Catalyst Moon #1)Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received this from the publisher for a review and my honest opinion.

I just want to start off this review by saying that I didn't hate this book. In fact, there were parts that I really liked. What I didn't care for was the structure and the lack of description. Aside from the fact that Kali was injured and had dark hair and Stonewall was a burly soldier-type, I couldn't tell you anything else about the characters. I couldn't tell you who half the supporting cast was, or why their stories were important. The only thing I can figure is that they'll have bigger, more substantial roles in later books.
I've been reading a lot of books on story structure lately, because I know it's something that I definitely need to work on. In this, the characters had several misadventures, but nothing added up to a big climax at the end. There was no real antagonist to keep the main characters from their goal of reaching Whitewater City (Canderi, maybe?), and the threat and stakes didn't feel like they were much risk. I kept expecting some of the people that Kali and Stonewall stopped to help to betray them, but betray them from what? They weren't trying to do anything except get to the city. I think if Kali had been a bit more anxious to get away from Stonewall there may have been more opportunities for conflict, but she was almost too agreeable.
I think this was a valiant first effort in a book series, I just wish that there had been more at stake. Perhaps in later books, and this is just the first rumble of a full-on revolution for the Mages?

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

September Musings on Writing

Another year has gone by.



I'm 20 days out from my 31st birthday.


I'm 24 days out from embarking on my first cruise to Canada.


I'm thismuch closer to finishing a second manuscript this year.

So, it's shaping up to be a pretty exciting month for me. I'd REALLY like to finish both manuscripts so that I can get to working on their second drafts before NaNoWriMo kicks off in November.

Yes. I'm using my thirties as I should've used my twenties: As someone who wants to write books for a living. Novel concept right?

But honestly. Six years ago when I started at my current job, I was under the illusion that what happened to Amanda Hocking would happen to me. Haha! I was so cute and naive when I was 25.

The last year or so, I've tried really hard to understand what it means to be an independent or self-published author. How you have to put your best work out there, not just the crappy first draft that you were just relieved to finish. That editors want to help you and not hinder you. That the entire business of getting word out rests on your shoulders.

I keep waffling between wanting to find a real publisher and sharing profits, or doing everything myself (or hiring it out), and getting to keep more of my hard earned money. But if I do that, will I still have time for writing? Therein lies the real question.

Do I want to attempt to find a publisher (I've got a list of small publishing companies I could pitch to), and risk rejection from a small number of people? Or do I want to self-publish, create my own brand, risk losing valuable writing time, but keep more profit?


If I wanted to be honest with myself, I'd rather make more money (You haven't seen my student loans. Hoo-boy!). I'm extremely cautious about showing my writing to some people, because I was scarred from it during college (no one in my department liked it, it seemed, but everyone outside my department loved it. WTF?).

However, this past year of soul searching, I've discovered a couple different writing communities that have opened my eyes not only to the vast array of writers and their stories out there, but that people want to read what I have to write.

Last night, I was taking part in #StorySocial on Twitter, and we were talking about character relationships. I talked about one of my current WIP (Works in Progress), about a woman coming into her story in the middle of a beautiful relationship. It managed to pique the interest of several other members of the group. I've never gotten that kind of feedback from a group of writers before. It made me think, I can really do this.


So, despite the month being shorter for me, due to my vacation at the end of the month, and I cut myself off from technology during vacations, I really want to finish both manuscripts. I want to get them both published in the next year. I want to make a go of this crazy writing life that I've desired since I was nine years old.

That's why I haven't been hanging out here for awhile. I've been working on my books. And I hope when they are published, you'll do me the honor of reading them.


  • What are your September goals?
  • Anything fun coming up?
  • What are you writing? Reading?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Free Money! 3 Tips For Giving Plasma

Today, I wanted to talk to you about giving Plasma. Plasma is the liquid part of your blood that carries your blood cells all around your body. When you give plasma, they use it to make medication, and it also helps patients who have experienced trauma, have bleeding disorders, and more. I started giving Plasma back in 2007 when gas prices were upwards of $4 a gallon in Missouri, where I was living and needed all the extra money I could get. At the time, I got about $40/donation, but now I give through OctaPharma here in CB, with different pricing (It varies based on your weight).

It hasn't always been easy, though. A few years ago, I was unable to keep giving, and I couldn't figure out why. When I went back to try to raise money for an upcoming vacation the first few times I tried, my protein levels were either too low or at the bare minimum, so I thought I'd share some tips that help.

1. Three hours before you go, start eating something with protein. 

I usually give in the morning, so I make sure to eat two large eggs (12g of protein), and then as I'm driving out, I'll drink a protein shake. Doing this, my levels have been steady, and I've had no issues. Remember to also eat protein consistently on your off days, too. It's just good nutrition. I've also noticed that if I add spinach, my hematocrit levels are perfect. You have to be at 38 to give, and mine is usually on the lower side. I've also started taking an iron supplement, which helps.


2. HYDRATE

Storytime! Back in 2011, before we went on our first Disney Cruise, I had been giving plasma to get souvenir money. The week before I left, I didn't hydrate well enough, and when they were returning my blood cells to my body, my veins weren't plump enough to get the blood back through the vein, and I ended up with a huge bruise on my arm. I wasn't able to give again until the bruise went away. When you're hydrated, your veins have extra water to push your blood through, and accept the blood cells back.


3. Bring a stress ball

If you've ever given blood, they usually give you a stress ball to squeeze to help your blood pump out. I'd taken to squeezing my hand in a consistent, medium speed. I can actually feel the vein popping out (Are you getting squeamish yet?). I've found that if I squeeze my hand too quickly, it doesn't come out as fast, and it makes the machine beep. When I do it slower, the lights on the machine stay green, the phlebotomists don't have to keep checking on you, and you're out quicker. At a baseball game a few weeks back, a company gave my mom a stress bathtub, which she gave me to use when giving plasma. It works so much better than just squeezing my hand.



These are the tips that work best for me. There's probably a lot of trial and error, and you should find what works best for you, but I hope these tips can give you a jumping off point for your own plasma journey. It's completely worthwhile and helpful if needles don't bother you, and a good way to make some extra money. I'm able to pay off my next cruise, and extra bills. If you're paying down debt, it's a great option for only a couple hours of your time per week.

Visit octapharmaplasma.com for more information, and donation centers. I'm not affiliated, aside from being a patron, but I think helping the medical community is a worthy cause. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I Promise I Haven't Abandoned You

Time flies when you're busy doing other things, doesn't it? The blog hasn't really been at the front of my mind lately, because things have been pretty busy.

My last post, back in March, was about writing. I'm still working on finding some freelance work, but it's harder than I anticipated. I think confidence has a lot to do with that. But at the start of April, I focused all of my writing energy toward Camp NaNoWriMo, and I won! My novel still isn't done, but it's pretty darn close. I'm currently tying up loose ends, and think it'd be amazing if I could send it to a couple indie publishers before Christmas.



I also completed Camp NaNoWriMo in July for another book, which I'm focusing on now. Plus, I just got an idea for another story that I might attempt for regular NaNoWriMo

I'm working on some backstory for a couple other books, and learning more about Scrivener. I'm falling in love with Scrivener. I think I can count it as a big reason I was able to write so much of my novel.

I haven't been keeping up with Built By Beks much, either, but I did restart WW, and am doing pretty well with it. I'm working on a morning exercise habit, and I'm starting to notice my new healthy habits are starting to pay off with better sleep and looser clothes. Win!


I've moved to a new client at work. I was pretty sad when they said they wanted to move me, but then I found out that my client was going away, and I felt relieved that they had a place for me first. And apparently some nice things were said about me in the process, which was awesome. I love finding out that the work I do is appreciated.

I've joined a Book Club. Back in September, my library forgave all library fines, which had been what kept me from going there (they added up REALLY quickly back in the day!), so I renewed my card, and have been exploring all of the community activities they offer from craft classes to Book Club. The first book I read with them was The Night Circus, which was amazing. We've also read Boneshaker (It was just meh), Ready Player One (Pretty good), The Heroines (Avoid at ALL COSTS), Station Eleven (Pretty good), and for next week, we're reading The Mists of Avalon. I've seen the miniseries, but I'm having trouble getting into the book.


So, that's pretty much what I've been up to.


  • What have you been doing this summer?
  • Ready for Back to School?

Monday, March 14, 2016

How I Finally Got Started in Freelance Writing


For the longest time, I thought the only way I could be happy writing was if I was writing Fiction. Novels, Screenplays, Short Stories, I wanted to write outlandish stories about people and eventually have the audience of Danielle Steel (That woman has a million books!).

It's amazing how things are so much different in life than they are in your imagination. Looking back at an old list of goals, I was supposed to have been at this year's Oscars. Considering I didn't even WATCH the Oscars this year, it's funny how things actually work out.

When I was in college, I was trying to figure out how to make a living blogging so I could quit my job at HyVee. I was extremely miserable, broke, and ready to take the next step in my life and career. 

My first stop was at one of those Examiner-type websites that you put in what you could write about, and they were *supposed* to find you work, if you passed muster. I didn't have any samples of my writing, except my papers for school, so I found my best ones and submitted them. I got a robotic "Thanks, but no thanks" email from the company within a day.

I had no idea about pitching to companies. I didn't know what I was doing, and with that, I decided to just accept a job at a call center (which turned out to be one of my favorite companies to work for. Loved them!), and continued with school, writing my fiction, and dreaming about the day I could be a writer.

One of the nice things about working in the call center, especially in 2009/10 when I started working nights, I had a LOT of time during the off-season (I took orders for textbooks) to read, write, and practice my craft. I all but forgot about freelance writing during that time, resting back on my desire to write fiction.

With the advent of Pinterest, I discovered different blogs sharing their own knowledge of how to start "Side-hustling" and Freelancing part time. Many even went on to make tens of thousands of dollars per month. Enough that they were able to quit their jobs, and write full time, anywhere they wanted. This appeals to me on so many levels, from the introvert to the girl who wants to work in her pajamas, or make her way to Starbucks to do some writing. It just seems like a fun idea to get to choose where, when, and how often you work. 

That's pretty much why I started this blog back in 2012. I wanted a place to write, where people might see it, and I'd be able to get some writing samples up. It took me a long time to figure out the kind of blogging I wanted to do, though. I originally wanted it to be a blog about writing, but I still feel like I know next to nothing, especially in regards to characterization, plot, theme, all those things that people tell you are important in storytelling. 

In my Pinning frenzies, I discovered the story of Gina Horkey, a mother of twins who started freelancing, and within a year was making $4,000/month. You see these headlines, and can't help but gape and go "How can I do that, too?!" Seriously. It's what I did. I gaped. I asked, "How can I do that, too?"

Luckily for me, Gina has a course on her blog, The Horkey Handbook, all about setting up your freelance writing business. She offers three different tiers for different levels, from very basic (The Starter Package), to pushing the limit (The Growth Package), to I NEED TO DO THIS OR I'LL DIE!!!!!! (Okay, maybe not DIE, but if you have the biggest passion, you'll want the biggest program, right? That one is called The Rockstar Package).

I opted for the Growth Package, deciding that it had everything I needed (and there are options to get the rest later if you want).

The course is an email course that you can set your own pace too. I finished it in three days and marked off everything I'd already done, which was kind of fun. I started searching job boards for potential places to work, and while I've yet to actually get responses from people who PAY (at least to the point of them offering me work), I will be writing for The Daily Megaphone, a blog on filmmaking, and Dig Omaha, an online magazine for people in the Omaha area. Neither pays, but at this point, I like the fact that I'll have samples of my work in places other than on MJA. 

I'm not giving up on finding paying work. I know it's out there, and since pitching is a numbers game, it'll come, eventually. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but it will come. I'm positive it will. If nothing else, I now know what having a freelance writing business takes, and I'm excited to get myself there. 

I'll be sure to do monthly updates to let you know how things are going. I'm really excited about this new venture!


This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a percentage.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekend Overview: Why I DIDN'T Watch The 2016 Oscars


I have to preface this by saying that I have been watching the Oscars on TV every year since 1998 when Titanic was the big winner.

The last several years the show has been abysmal. It's been, boring, the jokes have been pretty flat, and the only thing I enjoyed was the heartfelt acceptance by all the winners.

Okay, not entirely true. Last year, after JK Simmons won Best Supporting Actor, and Neil Patrick Harris sang the Farmers Insurance jingle with "He won an Oscar. Bom ba dom bom bom bom bom." My family and I still sing this when we see him on TV.

Comedy gold.

Source

Anyway, this year, when the nominees came out, I didn't think much of it. Certainly not of their race. Half these people I didn't know. I didn't see any of the nominees for the "Big" awards, just smaller ones for costumes, animation, and effects (Cinderella, Inside Out, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). With all of the controversy surrounding #OscarsSoWhite, and Chris Rock hosting, I just didn't really have any desire to watch. I didn't enjoy Chris Rock last time he hosted, and I'm sure I wouldn't have this time.

The state of relations in America is worse than ever. Personally, I don't know what to do about it, but I think that cutting news stories to fit a narrative (both sides are guilty of this) isn't the answer, and compassion is. Unfortunately, no one knows what compassion is anymore.

The Oscars used to be the creme de la creme of acting awards, showcasing artistry and innovation. I believe in certain awards, like costuming, music, and effects, they do still showcase this. But the big six, Picture, Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, and Director seem to be polarizing, and not necessarily the best job done.

I never really watched any other awards show, but I think watching The People's Choice and The Golden Globes would be a decent start, as the People's Choice are based on the viewers, and are movies people have actually seen, and the Golden Globes, which I always referred to as the Pre-Oscars, is a lot less stuffy and a lot more fun (See Amy Poehler and Tina Fey's hosting).

Source
(Basically Lauren and I)
When I was a kid, winning an Oscar was my dream. I went to the Donna Reed museum in Dennison, Iowa during the Donna Reed Festival in 2000, and saw hers in person, which only pushed the desire. In the last several years, with everyone in Hollywood getting on their soap box, and pushing a political agenda during their acceptance speeches, I'm not entirely certain I want to be in that group anymore.

I did catch the awards for Best Actress, Actor, and Picture. Brie Larson's speech was refreshing and genuine. She thanked everyone who took part in making a project she was proud of, and her friends and family who supported her. Leonardo DiCaprio had to make a political plea to the masses, which lost me.

It'll be interesting to see the ratings for the show. If there were a lot of people who boycotted because it was #SoWhite as they say, or because they're like me, and they like their drama to stay in the movies, and not in the real world.

  • Did you watch? 
  • Did you boycott?
  • What did you think of the show or the controversy?