The Dark Carnival!

Good morning my friends! First, let’s all take a moment and be WILDLY EXCITED BECAUSE I FINALLY HAVE INTERNET AND I AM SO, SO HAPPY!!!!!

Next, I have some super exciting news- remember that anthology I’ve been telling y’all about…The Dark Carnival, a collection of stories about what horrors are unleashed when the Carnival comes to town? Well, we finally have a cover, and I get to share it with you! Are you ready?

 

 

 

For sure ready?

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Absolutely ready?

 

 

 

 

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Isn’t it amazing?! It’s so creepy and cool and awesome and I can’t wait for you all to read the equally cool creepy awesome words. You can add it on Goodreads right here!: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20495362-the-dark-carnival What do you think, y’all?!

 

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Book Review: Finding Mr. Darcy, Erin Butler

Welcome back! Today I have a really fabulous book for you: Not only is there plenty of Pride and Prejudice feels which I adore, but lots of sweet, fun, lovely story to boot! Read on to find out more about Erin Butler’s Finding Mr. Darcy.

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Finding Mr. Darcy- High School Edition by Erin Butler (2)The Book: Sixteen-year-old Liza Johnson takes fangirl to a whole new level of crazy when she decides to take dating advice from her literary hero: Jane Austen.

With the help of her best friends, Liza sheds her ancient-speak and complete Austen wardrobe for something a bit more modern in an attempt at finding her very own Mr. Darcy.

Enter Will, the new kid and Liza’s Darcy incarnate. Add her BFF’s ex to mix and the sexy Brit who kisses with an accent, and Liza is in trouble.

So, what’s a girl to do? Without her mom to go to relationship advice, Liza turns to the only person she can truly trust with matters of the heart via her mother’s copy of COMPLETED WORKS OF JANE AUSTEN.

It’s too bad Austen’s heroines have never played Spin the Bottle or Seven Minutes in Heaven. Liza’s determined to find her true Austen-esque happy ending, but if she can’t trust herself instead of books, she just might end up in her own tragic love story.

My review: Finding Mr. Darcy: High school edition, is a fun, delightful story that just wormed it’s way into my heart. As a lifelong Jane Austen lover and someone who can indeed easily become obsessed enough to know all the little details no one else would care about (hint: I still have a book I believe I borrowed from my cousin and then never gave back on the customs of Jane Austen’s day (sorry Katie! You will get it back one day I promise!)) I enjoyed the story of someone trying to find that balance between loving something and even taking advice from stories to help her, but staying in her own time and place and figuring out who she is when she’s not being someone else. The romance was fun and sweet and the development of the relationships interesting. At times it felt the story skewed a bit young, but overall it was still enjoyable. I recommend for fellow Jane Austen fans and lovers of sweet romances.

erin butler (2)About the Author: Erin Butler is lucky enough to have two jobs she truly loves. As a librarian, she gets to work with books all day long, and as an author, Erin uses her active imagination to write the kinds of books she loves to read. Young Adult and New Adult books are her favorites, but she especially fangirls over a sigh-worthy romance.

She lives in Central New York with her very understanding husband, a stepson, and doggie BFF, Maxie. Preferring to spend her time indoors reading or writing, she’ll only willingly go outside for chocolate and sunshine—in that order.

Erin is the author of BLOOD HEX, a YA paranormal novel, and the forthcoming contemporary romance titles, HOW WE LIVED and FINDING MR. DARCY: HIGH SCHOOL EDITION. You can visit her online at www.erinbutlerbooks.com.

Book Review: Stone of Thieves

Hello my lovely friends! Today I have another book review for you – love the Robin Hood story? Want magic, excitement, and adventure? Without further ado, here’s the book for you!

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sotThe Book: The Stone of Thieves . . . for centuries its magnetic draw has twisted the hearts of ambitious men and women with the promise of power, passion, and intrigue until it fell into the hands of unlikely thieves Robin and her boyfriend Creek. But can they steal their destiny away from the curse that pursues this magnificent ruby heart? As the stone begins to spread its sorcery, Robin races to find her long-lost mother in Italy in the hopes of discovering the truth about her unique gypsy heritage and the ruby heart that is rumored to steal souls. Yet when the desire for this stone by powerful members of her family threatens their very lives, Creek decides to take matters into his own hands to protect Robin, his greatest treasure of all . . .

Stone of Thieves is a sensual, stand-alone new adult novel and the sequel to Robin in the Hood in the Robbin’ Hearts Series. Due to mature themes, readership is advised for ages 17+

My Review: This is the second book in a trilogy, and while the first book was just an okay read for me, this one was lots of fun! Magic runs heavily through the book, as does danger, intrigue, and suspense. The settings are beautiful and evocative, and the characters are much more mature than in the first book. This does lead to some adult times which some readers may prefer to skip over, but on the whole the chemistry between the characters and the pace of the action is strong. I love that Reed dives into some unusual culture and details that are a welcome change from some of the more traditional cultures and practices that tend to color our pages, particularly in NA. I will say that there were times where though the subject matter felt mature, the writing still felt a bit young, as though the author brushed over the story instead of digging into the richness, and some of the characters’ thoughts and emotions still seemed rather young for the maturity of the subject matter, but on the whole it was an interesting adventure with lots of color and zing, perfect for those of you who enjoy a fun, wild read.

dianerThe Author: Diane J. Reed has a Ph.D. in English and a lifelong passion for books—both popular, forgotten & literary—as long as they touch her soul & make her want to tuck them under her pillow at night to remember them in her dreams. She writes novels that are infused with enchantment, where characters dare to break through boundaries and believe in true love. She also has a soft spot for artisans & outlaws of the heart, those who burn brightly to live each day as a gift—because it is! She loves to hear from readers, so feel free to visit Diane J. Reed’s website at www.banditsranch.com or message her here to share the whispers of your spirit.

You can buy Stone of Thieves here. Have a fabulous day friends!

About Times and Places

As most of you, especially those on Twitter, know, I bought a house! And I have spent the last few weeks of my life spending every moment not at work either unpacking, tearing out moldy garage wall, and attempting to set up things like Internet, which should not be hard, but have inexplicably taken two weeks are are still not activated correctly. Blergh.

Anyways, throughout this process, writing has fallen woefully aside. Like, extremely woefully. I believe I’ve written approximately 5k over the last 2.5 weeks…and even that is rough guessing and could be wildly off. As you can imagine, the fact that I usually try to stick to a 2k/day 6 days/wk schedule means that having not written significantly in weeks has been driving me nuts. And on top of that, I haven’t felt a burning desire to work on these books. I love them, I think both the books I’ve been working on have potential and I even outlined a really good plot for the YA spies book…but I just haven’t been able to find the drive I usually have for telling a story.

I had two conversations this last week that helped me sort through some of these things, and I want to share them with you so that when you find yourself in a similar situation – because you will, these times of upheaval, confusion, and loss of writing mojo happen to us all – you’ll be able to find your way through it too.

The first conversation I had with a friend, we talked about how much a year can hold. What I realized out of that conversation is that I’ve already written four ms’s this year, and you know, sometimes it can be good to acknowledge that you have done good work and that your brain might be in a place where it needs some resting, some refilling of the well. That happens, it’s a legitimate reason not to write – not just an excuse for being lazy – and it’s important to acknowledge for yourself what you’ve accomplished and know if you need a break before the next thing. So from this conversation I, and hopefully you, can be reminded that writing isn’t like other jobs- it requires spaces and times where you just think, where you toss around ideas, and throw yourself into the world, so that when you do sit down to create words again, they have the heart and soul they need. You can push yourself to create as much as possible, but you need to also acknowledge your own limits and be willing to give yourself that time.

The second conversation I had was with a friend who pointed out that stories have times and places. Who you are when you begin the book is not who you will be when you end it, and sometimes, when you experience a large transition in the middle of a story, you may find that who you become in that split second change is someone who cannot complete that particular story right now, in this place. It doesn’t doom your book, it doesn’t mean you won’t tell that story – it just means right this second, right in this place, is not it. I started both these books in the few leisurely days of hot summer weather at my parents kitchen table in my pajamas. Now, just a month later, trying to write them on the couch in my new and not yet unpacked house after a long day of racing from thing to thing at a brand new job, it shouldn’t be entirely surprising that I can’t quite find those same voices. I’m reluctant to leave these books behind, because every time I’ve left a book I’ve never come back to it, and I love these stories. I don’t want to lose them. But I also know that if I try to force the words onto the page, I’ll have lost the story just the same. I need to trust myself, and the words, and write what fits. If those stories are meant for me, they’ll return. And so will yours.

There is a time and place for everything, my friends, including our words and stories. Be patient with yourself – not letting yourself be lazy, but also building in the time needed to be the best you can – be kind, live well, follow the stories where they take you, and above all, honor the writing and yourself as a writer. Every little thing is going to be okay.

Gold and Ashes

Join me at this bonfire, won’t you? I’ll set the scene and you can stay here with me for a little while.

Here, have this hot chocolate. It’s thin and sweet, made with water because I wanted to make it fast, not necessarily good, but it’ll settle hot in your stomach and the warmth will spread along your arms, through your fingers, inside your chest.

The air is cool and sharp, the sky spotted with white clouds thick enough to block out the stars but not so white they can’t be mistaken for night gathered up like wool and clustered untidily across the expanse. It hovers on your skin, startles your eyes open, open even though you’re drowsy and content. It pulls you closer to the flames, hunting for the heat though the chill makes you feel alive.

The air is laced with the scent of pine, spicy and laced with memories. Once you were much younger – younger in body, in thoughts, in interests. You wore knit gloves and a thick black hat, and inside your down vest your heart beat a little faster because it was church camp and your whole youth group was there and you were free from your parents and standing close – so close, just two people away – from the boy you thought you might be in love with and if you just smiled the right way and laughed loudly enough, maybe he’d see you this time.

Steam swirls up, silver and fleeting, from the mug in your hand. It’s too hot, really, but everything else around you is too cold so you keep holding on anyways. After you sip, you breathe out, and your breath is silver and fleeting too, like this moment, which is so still you can hear the rush of the traffic on the highway several blocks away, and which seems impossible, so that in the next breath or sound you might shatter it.

So maybe today was not perfect. Maybe the delivery people had the wrong address and your washer/dryer is still lost on a truck somewhere, and maybe you didn’t perform every single task at work with the level of excellence you wish you would have. Maybe the past year has been hard, maybe you remember it as a series of mornings growing more and more difficult to face and more times angry and afraid than not. But this moment is good. Right now, somewhere, sometime, you’re at the church camp, and he does finally notice you. Somewhere out there are a dozen of the moments you regret or have never accepted, and this time they all go right and every good thing is yours. And when you look now into the fire and you see the flames rising, white and blue and darting, things make more sense.

Because what it all boils down to is gold and ashes, flashing fire over liquid coals and gray charred wood, moments that shine in perfection and others that disintegrate in our hands. And it’s okay, it’s all okay, because out of the ashes rises the gold and with that gold we can pave streets and build cities. In the chilly night air, with your breath like steam and the mug still hot but cooling fast clutched in your hands, you’re going to be okay, and sometimes okay – silent and dark – is more than enough. All we are is gold and ashes.

Back To School: WrapUp Edition

Well, here we are at the last day of our Back To School feature. I’ve had a lovely and fabulous time hanging out with you guys a little extra and with a little more focus than usual, and I’m so glad you’ve been willing to hang out with me for this month!

I don’t have much to say – we’ve had some amazing guest posts, featured some outstanding authors, reviewed some absolutely glorious books, and dived into a bit about our favorite characters and stories. Now there really isn’t much more to cover, except to talk for a moment about promise.

Not just any promise. The promise of tomorrow. The promise of getting better. The promise that this year is going to be our best year yet, that these next words will be our most beautiful, that this page, this pen, this story, is going to change the world.

Is it now? Maybe not. But soon. One day soon. You’ll get where you’re trying to go and you’ll become who you’re striving to be.

For now? Sit up in the morning. Watch the sunrise. Sip your coffee. Let the puppy sleep on your feet as you watch the mists dissolve and the sunbeams pale from gold to lemon to snow.

Take a breath in the afternoon, when the pressure of your work or family are pressing heavy on your temples. Stretch your arms, arch your back, think about possibilities. Have a snack, ask yourself what stories the people around you can’t reveal, and then focus in again on these secondary passions that pay your bills and keep the ones you love going.

When you come home at night, listen to your steps echo on the pavement. Watch the shadows crowd in close, feel the lick of first cool breezes, watch your fingers tap across the keys. When you cook, savor the textures of the ingredients under your fingers, when you’re doing laundry watch the plot swirl into the water too, and as you vacuum and sweep and help with homework and finish up extra projects, be thankful that you’re here, that you’re breathing, that every sense is alive and every moment is a precious and fleeting thing.

Before you go to bed, stand in the window and watch the stars pinpointing out, silver streaks of history blazing with singular purpose. Hold hands with your loved ones, sip something warm, watch the words formulate, slowly and then all at once, and realize that breath by breath you’re creating a living thing, independent of you, something with existence that may, that will, outlast you.

Now is the time for you to be gloriously alive. Now is the time to find faith, abiding faith, in your stories. Now is the time for you to believe. To step forward. Now is your time.

Back To School: Long Past Curfew

Hello my lovely friends! Today we have an outstanding visitor – the gorgeous Allison Mulder has agreed to pop by and chat schedules, schoolish responsibilities, and writing.

Here she is!

Long Past Midnight

When Jamie asked me to write a post on balancing school and writing, I’m not sure she was entirely aware of the nocturnal status I’ve held throughout my first two years of college.

Last semester, my schedule generally went like this:

Get up as late as possible. Class. Nap until next class. Nap until Lunch. Then stay up until about 5 AM (with another nap thrown in if I need it).

The people who lived on my wing those first two years (the people who’d get up in the morning and run into me on my way to bed) would be the first to laugh at the idea of me talking about “balance.”

The thing is, I was balanced.

Maybe not in the most healthy way, but I managed to find a schedule that worked well for me.

If that involved getting my homework done late at night so that I could socialize and have time to breathe during the day, then that’s just what I needed to do. I write better at night anyway. If it involved giving up part of my weekend, or giving up on a little sleep, I was cool with it.

Because here’s the thing—something that comes up again and again in every post I see about finding the time to write:

You don’t find the time, you make it.

Writing as a student means writing and doing homework, and maybe working for a paycheck, and socializing with friends to avoid (or at least delay) hermit status, and juggling all the other pressures of Things You Should Do while in school…

And chances are, you’ll come across people who consider writing the least important thing on that list.

You aren’t getting paid (at least probably not in the near future). You aren’t getting academic credit. So why on earth would you sit around writing page after page outside of class, for fun? Why on earth would you skip a social event to iron out plot details, and why would you bash out a new short story when that paper deadline looms mere hours away?

Maybe sometimes you feel like writing really is your lowest priority.

Because doing it all is hard.

It’s possible to write in school. I’ve done NaNoWriMo in school, I’ve finished drafts, I’ve poked through as much revision as I ever poke through at home…

But it’s hard. Really hard. And when your grade is hovering lower than you’d like, and when your friends are heading off to get ice cream or have a movie night, and when the scene you’re writing feels like crap to the point that even essay-writing starts to sound more appealing…

It can be easy to tell yourself that you’ll write once this big project’s over with, or maybe over the weekend, or over the summer.

And sometimes, maybe that’s what you need to do.

My writerly work for the day isn’t always writing. Sometimes it’s thinking through something I learned in a class that could be relevant for a novel someday. Sometimes it’s musing on how I’d describe random things I see on my way to class. Sometimes it’s taking notes on the quirks of my classmates right alongside my notes on Cultural Anthropology and American Literature.

Some days, I don’t do anything.

Some days, that’s all you can do.

You take those days as they come and try to make up for it on the days when you do have time, when the words are flowing, when you can afford to let yourself remember that writing is not your lowest priority.

Accept that you’ll have a few Nothing days, just try to keep it from becoming a pattern.

As I mentioned, I struggle with this too, and the schedule I’ve kept would obviously not work for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a schedule that will work.

What’s important is that you learn for yourself when you can take the time.

For me, balance means looking at what objectively needs to get done, and what I want to get done, and then prioritizing what I personally need on a given day.

That could be carving out time to chill with friends, or it could be finally getting done with that essay I’ve been putting off. Or…it could be letting myself jot down story ideas for half an hour before I actually get to that paper.

I’ve had some fabulous story insights in the dwindling hours before a deadline crashes down on me.

Obviously I’m not saying you should blow off homework or your social life all the time, and I’m certainly not condoning a nocturnal lifestyle. Ideally, you don’t want any aspect of your school life to suffer.

But know yourself. Know when you can take the time to write, know when you can’t (and let yourself be ok with that), and know when you just need to.

Writing as a student—and writing throughout your whole life—means making the time for what’s important to you.

It means making your priority list reflect your priorities.

So if it is important to you, make it happen.

 

Allison is both crazy and smart y’all. And one hundred percent fabulous. Here’s a little more about her:

Allison Mulder can often be found stealing taller bookshelves from family members, scouring Iowa’s wilderness for fellow writerly types, or pursuing an English degree at college. With all this stealing, scouring, and pursuing to do, she sometimes forgets to blog. But she is steadily filling her laptop with YA fantasy novels and also tweets a lot. Check out her blog at http://thesilentpages.blogspot.com/ or yell at @silent_pages for not remembering to blog.