Best of 2016 – My Favourite Movies, Books and T.V

Happy New Year!

2016 is over

And the consensus is that is a good thing.

Everyone can agree that a great many bad things happened in 2016. And then to top it off, only days from the end, George Michael and Carrie Fisher passed away. And her mother, Debbie Reynolds. But instead of dwelling on the negatives, I chose to look at the positives. Like all these good things that happened in 2016:

  • The manatee population is increasing! And there are more tigers. And more pandas
  • In California, 6 million homes are now powered by solar energy. And a solar-powered plane circled the world
  • India planted 50 million trees in one day
  • The Ice Bucket Challenge helped ALS researchers get one step closer to help find a cure for the disease
  • Leonardo Dicaprio won an Oscar!

A Few of My Favourite Things

Let’s start with a few lists of my favourite things from 2016.

Movies

Now, these aren’t the best movies of 2016, but the ones I was looking forward to seeing, and didn’t disappoint.

As you’ll see from my list, I go primarily for entertainment value when it comes to my movies – entertainment that often involves laughter, comic book heroes and things blowing up! What can I say – I go for mindless entertainment! I’m also a self-professed geek, and since 2 out of my 3 kids are headed that way as well, we go see a lot of ‘fun’ movies!

Favourite Movies of 2016

(in no particular order)

  • Captain America – Civil War
  • Rogue One
  • Bad Moms
  • Deadpool
  • Finding Dory
  • Dr. Strange
  • Batman vs Superman
  • Suicide Squad
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Favourite Television shows

  • Stranger Things – this Netflix show was amazing! Scarier than I expected (I ran from the room more than once, to my kids’ delight at seeing their mother scared!) Set in the 80s with a weird Lost/Stand By Me feel to it, I’m counting the days until the next season
  • Game of Thrones (season 6) – Oh, Jon Snow. And Tyrion. And Daenarys. And Arya Stark. How do I love thee?
  • The Crown – Another good one from Netflix. I’ve always been mildly interested in the royal family, but now I’m hooked!
  • Madam Secretary – Does anyone watch this? Because I never hear anything about it, but it’s terrific

Favourite Books I Read in 2016

  • Eligible (Curtis Sittenfeld) – best retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Ever.
  • Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)  – full of 80s references, this sci-fi thriller would appeal to anyone who likes action, not just the gamers. I’ve already passed it on to 2 guys I know will love it as much as I did
  • It Ends With Us (Colleen Hoover) -I read anything of hers
  • The Court of Mist and Fury (Sarah J. Maas) – the second in this YA fantasy series so much better than the first book! And I never like the second books in a series. Can’t wait for the next one
  • Kindred Spirits (Rainbow Rowell)  – Short and sweet, about two fans waiting in line for the new Star Wars movie
  • Mount (Jilly Cooper) – It’s been years since Jilly Cooper released a book and I’ve been (im)patiently waiting! This is smut, in it’s finest form
  • Nuts (Alice Clayton)
  • Dirty Rowdy Thing (Christina Lauren)  – Sexy and sweet from two of my favourite New Adult authors
  • Victoria (Daisy Goodwin) – I’m all about the royal families. Can’t wait for the series to come to Canada this month!
  • Dark Matter (Blake Crouch) – Wow. Just wow. This blew my mind. Some of the quantum physics stuff went right over my head, but wow. So good.

WWW Wednesday – This Week in Books

WWW WednesdayThis meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Why not join in? Just answer the following three questions in a post and then put a link to that post in the Comments over at Taking on a World of Words.

The questions are:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you recently finish reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I haven’t taken part in this for the last few weeks so here’s my list:

What I’m Reading…

court of thorns

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

I’m still on the Sarah J. Maas kick. I have to say I wasn’t that impressed when I began CoTR. It’s okay and all, but it seemed like Feyre was trying to be a cheap knock-off of Katness Everdeen and it wasn’t working for me. Then she started to have feelings but then – what’s the point? It’s the first in a series – it’s not going to end well for them! I’ve got about a quarter left to go and it’s finally picking up and here’s hoping for a good finish.

What I Finished Reading…

assasin's blade

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas – together in one edition for the first time – Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn’s orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out.

I liked the insight it gave to Celaena’s character and the back story. But I don’t see how she didn’t know who was responsible for Sam! Reading this made me even more eager to get my hands on the next book in the series!!

 

anne and henry

In this wonderfully creative retelling of the infamous—and torrid—love affair between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, history collides with the present when a sizzling romance ignites in a modern-day high school.

Henry Tudor’s life has been mapped out since the day he was born: student body president, valedictorian, Harvard Law School, and a stunning political career just like his father’s. But ever since the death of his brother, the pressure for Henry to be perfect has doubled. And now he’s trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who isn’t Tudor-approved.

Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life.

Wild, brash, and outspoken, Anne is everything Henry isn’t allowed to be—or want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. His mother, his friends, and even his girlfriend warn him away, but his desire for Anne consumes him.

Henry is willing to do anything to be with her, but once they’re together, will their romance destroy them both?

I hate to be disappointed by a book. It’s worst feeling. And this one had so much potential – I love the stories of Anne Boleyn and Hentry Tudor and putting it in a YA setting seemed a no-brainer. But no. Didn’t work for me. Didn’t work at all. And I can’t even say why – just didn’t do it for me. sigh. 🙁

 

nov 9

Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day before her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon’s last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist.

I don’t know if it’s my mood today, but this one didn’t cut it for me either. It was good – awesome dialogue, fast moving. Colleen Hoover makes me care about the characters and I usually come away from reading her books by being inspired to write more romance in the attempt to create what she can create. (I’m not a romance writer, so haven’t been successful yet – will still keep trying!)

But the twist. And the ending. Did not love them, and that’s all I will say about it.

What I’m Reading next…

I need a big adult book to offset all the YA. But I have a new Star Wars book that is supposed to give hints for the movie… I’ll see what the mood brings.

 

What I’m Writing…

CharlotteDodd2The Secret Life of Charlotte Dodd is available for pre-sale!

After taking an experimental drug to erase her memories of saving the world (or at least the country – several times) Charlotte is given a new life – a quiet, unassuming job, a second chance at love with Luke, and no one trying to kill her.

Two years later and with no recollection of saving the world, she steps in to help a random stranger and is amazed at the ease in which she dispatches her opponents using a rolled-up magazine. But how is that possible? She has Buffy-like fight moves, fires a gun with deadly accuracy and can use the air from car tires to keep breathing underwater.

When she meets Ham – why is he so familiar? The flashes, the déjà vu, the dreams – they’re not really dreams? Blowing up a building in Mexico, being buried alive – those things really happened to her? And what is her brother doing flying a plane? Turns out those two years of quiet with Luke was really an undercover mission to help bring down a secret organization targeting her family.

Charlotte needs to remember her secret life if she wants to save the world again and the only man she’s ever loved.

And I’m frantically trying to put the finishing touches on the kids’ book I’m writing for mu kids. I need a copy of it under the tree – whether it will be the finished copy is yet to be seen!

What about you? How’s your reading been lately?

 

 

Monday Musings – Great Find – Used Bookstores!

monday-musings

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…

• Describe one of your reading habits.

• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).

• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!  • Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.

• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!

• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

Favourite Find of the Week – Used Bookstore in Toronto

The worst thing is that I can’t remember the name of the bookstore!  But I can tell you exactly where it is in Toronto – on Avenue, south of Wilson.

I’ve written about the disappearance of independent bookstore in the area – Lamenting the Death of the Independent Bookstore and used bookstores are no different – very rarely do I come across one.  And when I do, I make sure I return.

It’s this little hole-in-wall used bookstore, staffed by a wonderful older woman who I’m sure if she hasn’t read all of the books in there, then she’s giving it a good try.  She commented on every one of the books I picked out.  I would have been in there much longer, but the meter for my car was broken and I had told the parking cop I’d only be five minutes!

I had visited the store with my kids a few days earlier and when I was ready to buy the books my girls had picked out, I forgot that the store only took cash.  I never carry cash, so I told the woman I’d run down the street to the bank machine.  This is when she told me not to worry about it today, but to come back when I had the time!  And she let us go with over twenty dollars worth of books!

Of course I went back to pay for them. I was impressed by the trust she has in her customers and by the wealth of knowledge and love she has for books.  I loved my brief tenure working in the bookstore but I think this woman was having even more fun than I did!

If you’re a book-lover in Toronto, make sure you pay her a visit!

These are a few of the books I picked up

bookstore

Monday Musings – Books and Wine

monday-musings

 

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…

• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! 
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

Share the link to your own Monday Musings or just leave a comment! 

It was National Wine Day yesterday so to celebrate, here’s my Monday Musings on the subject!

 Books and Wine

I was tidying up my basement last week.  How is that exciting, you ask?  Well, my basement is where I keep my bookshelves, and also my wine.  These are two of my favourite things, so I got to thinking – has anyone ever tried to compare the two?

TBR pileLooking at my T-be-read pile, I seem to have to a wide, variety of taste in books from Nora Roberts to Stephen King, Ami MacKay to Nelson DeMille.  When I looked at the smooth bottles resting on their racks, I noticed I have accumulated a diverse selection of wine as well.  What do I like best?  Well, that depends on my mood, where I’m reading and what I’ve read before.  Same as the kind of wine I like to drink.

Consider historical fiction, one of my favourite genres to read.  I’ve always been a history buff, and it’s either go back to school and get a graduate degree in the subject (which unless I want to teach, not sure I’m ever going to use) or read historical fiction to get my fix.  For me, reading about Tudor England or the life of Marie Antoinette is like a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.  I’ve heard good things about the bio of Cleopatra in my pile, so let’s hope that’s like a smooth, full-bodied Amarone for me to enjoy.

I used to read a lot of romance novels when I was younger and I still have a few of them in my collection.  They were easy to read, quick to get through.  I call this my white zinfandel phase.  Sugary sweet and easy to drink – just like the latest Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele.  Actually, I will still pick up a Nora Roberts novel now and again, so we’ll say she’s like a Pinot Grigio – light and refreshing and great for summer.

I also used to read quite a bit of chick-lit.  My first novel, Baby! Baby? Baby?! is chick-lit and while I love it with all my heart, I know it’s not for everyone. Kind of like a bottle of Gewurztraminer, or a sweet Riesling.  The new Emily Giffen I’m reading now – I’ll compare that to an off-dry Ontario Riesling – not as sweet and with a little more body.

I’m reading more and more women’s fiction these days; not surprising since Coming Home is women’s fiction! And like my taste in books, my taste in wine has evolved too.  I’ll reach for a glass of New Zealand Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc or a Bonterra Chardonnay along with my women’s fiction novel now.  Another genre of go-to books; same for the wine.

I also like Young Adult novels these days.  They are easy to read and entertaining – sort of like a bottle of Beaujolais; it’s not always a great wine but you can always get it down.

My pile of thrillers, suspense and Star Wars sci-fi?  Let’s put that in the Argentinean Malbec or an ItalianValpolicella – always a good choice for me but not for everyday and not for everyone.

Also, I don’t drink a great deal of shiraz.  It’s too full-bodied for me – sort of like how I tend to stay away from serious literary fiction, especially the kind where the protagonist has insurmountable issues and the book never ends well for them.  Too heavy for me, unless it comes highly recommended!

I’ll finish with what I consider the perfection comparison – sparkling wine and erotica.  You can get some cheap stuff where the bubbles don’t amount to much, but you can also get a champagne-style read – when it’s good, it’s really good!

What do you think?  Do you favourite reads have a favourite drink to go along with them?

 

Monday Musing – to those who shelve the stacks at your local Coles bookstore

monday-musings

I got this idea from another blog and I think it’s shareable so I’m stealing it.  Every Monday – maybe every Monday, maybe not we’ll see – you’ll get a musing from me, hopefully about books or writing, or maybe just what I ate for dinner the night before.  Who know?  It might be an amusing musing!!!  (Haha)

For this, my first of many musings, my thoughts lead me to bookstores, which makes sense because of the recent discussion of the possible closure of Barnes and Noble in the States, the on-going debate between ebooks and traditional publishing and the fact I was recently employed by Coles (Indigo).

I had decided to go back to work on a part-time basis last fall after 10 years of staying at home to raise my kids, and to ‘play’ at being a writer.  I use the word play in a good way because I’ve loved being able to stay home and write while my kids were napping, and later on, in school.  But I didn’t really make any money from ‘playing’ at it. For the sake of procuring a bit of financial independence, I decided to go back to work.  But ten years away is a long time, and I knew lack of training and current, relevant experience, along with my husband’s unpredictable work schedule, would make it difficult for me to reestablish a career.

So I decided to find a part-time job doing something I liked.  Applying to a bookstore was a girl on bookno-brainer.

I used to think I was a decent reader.  Pretty good, in fact.  I’m a fast reader, have a variety of genres I’m interested in… but when I went to work at Coles, I quickly found out I was nothing!  The staff at the little bookstore were amazing readers!   The knowledge and information they could give about books was beyond impressive, it was mind-boggling.  I knew I needed to start reading more.  And fast!

And so I did, trying to read a wider variety of books to be able to better recommend and discuss them with customers and staff.  My To-Be-Read pile of books grew and grew as I wielded my employee discount card with gusto.

This is probably part of the reason I am no longer working.  I bought a lot of books, and spent so much time reading that I didn’t have enough time to work on my writing.   That, and the bigger problem that working part-time and running a house and raising three kids with a husband who works more than anyone I know, didn’t leave me any time to write.  And since my dream has always been to be a writer, this was a problem.  Especially since I was now beginning to make some money from my writing!  I sold a book last fall and the ebooks series I was writing started to take off around the same time as I went back to work.  I was a published writer, working in a bookstore, but this didn’t leave me any time to promote the books I had or to work on writing new ones.

You can see my dilemma.  And it was.  I truly enjoyed working at the bookstore.  I liked the staff, it was fun and it was books!  I tried to play Superwoman for as long as I could, but after six months realized I just couldn’t do it any longer.  If I was going to be a writer, I was going to have to write.  Something had to give.

Wow, this has really turned out to a rambling tale of my last eight or nine months rather a quick musing on the state of bookstore employees.  That’s really where I was getting at, and if you hang on, I think I’m there now. coles staff

Last night was my leaving party, organized by my co-workers at Coles, who I’m pleased to call friends.  Working with this group has shown me what true, deep, never-ending love of books is all about.   Like I mentioned, the knowledge and understanding they have about books and genres and authors is truly astonishing.  They more than love books – they worship them.  They are devoted to them.  They have chosen to make books their career, and for me, if I didn’t have the dream of writing continually nudging me, it would have been a dream career.

Bookstores everywhere – whether they are the big, box-like stores full of floors of best-sellers, or tiny, family owned independents struggling to stay afloat – are full of people like Tracey and Reeka and Stuart and all the others at the store.  Staff who love books.  My husband is a real estate broker.  He sells houses.  He understands the intricacies of this, but he doesn’t love houses. Those who work in bookstores love books.  How great a job is that?books

Amazon, and other on-line retailers sell a whole bunch of books.  They have recommendations they send to you about what you’ve bought and what they think you might like.  Sometimes it works and you get a really great find.  But don’t you miss talking about books to someone?  That was my favourite part of working at the store.  (That and just plain being around books all the time.  It was like living in my bookshelves, as strange as that sounds, but it did make me happy!)

During my all-too brief time at the store, I got to talk to people who loved books as much as I did, and in some cases, more.  That is something Amazon is never going to have – the personal contact and connection that you get by walking into a bookstore, not knowing what you want but determined to find something and relying on the staff to help you.

That’s something I never thought about before when I would hear about bookstores closing.  Sure, you consider the people who will be out of a job, and hope they’ll find new ones.  But how can you go from selling books, selling something you love, to selling the latest in designer jeggings at the nearby H&M?  Talk about heartbreak.

This Monday musing turned out to be a lot longer than I anticipated and I hope you’ve held on until the end.  I’m not telling you to stop buying books online, because I do it too.  But I do suggest the next time you’re looking for a new book to read, head over to your nearest bookstore and ask the staff what they recommend.  I guarantee (at least if you go to Coles anyway!) you’ll find something amazing and unexpected.

Happy Reading!

Happy Holly-days! 2014 is the Year of the Book

Hope your 2014 is off to a great start!

I’ve decided 2014 will be the year of the book.  And not just my book, even though Coming Home will be coming out in early 2014!

I need to read more.  My day job is working part-time in a bookstore, which I love because I get to hang out with books all day, plus talk about them.  I’ve always considered myself an avid reader but since I’ve started there, I’ve discovered that I’m really not!  I love to read and I thought I read a lot, but compared to some of my co-workers and customers, I really don’t!

So I’m going to fix that.  More reading this year.

Now that the craziness of the holidays are over, I can begin.  Actually all of December was nuts- getting the edits back for Coming Home, trying to finish my latest Anna book all the while keeping my head afloat during my first Christmas in retail.  Throw in getting ready for Christmas and an ice storm, not to mention a busy family and it’s a wonder I found time to open a book at all!  (I need to make a shout-out about how awesome my hubby has been through all this – xoxo Jeff!)

But that’s in the past.  2014 has begun – the Year of the Book!

Someone at work mentioned he’s going to try and read a book a week and I thought that was a good start.  It’s my quest to read more!  More books, different genres, new authors – and reviews about them!   And I’ll set something up to chart my progress and what I’ve read and to motivate me.  I’m sure I won’t always hit my target but I’ll give it a go, starting now.

2014 will also be the year of my books.  Like I said, Coming Home will be released by Etopia Press this year and I’ve SO excited about that!  Plus I have tentative plans for my baby – Baby! Baby?  Baby!?.  I’d like to re-release it with a new title and cover because some people still thinks it’s a non-fiction book about how to have a baby! (No promises though)  I’d also like to see what’s happening for Casey and J.B. and their babies in a sequel, so look for that this year.

I dropped the ball for NaNoWriMo and I’m planning on rectifying that.  I’ve found myself with a week of from work (I hope I didn’t jinx myself by saying that!) which will allow me to make a great start on my own NaNoWriMo.  I hope to have a completed first draft of a new book ready by the end of January!  Wish me luck!

Along with this, I’m working on my Anna books. (Husbands and Wives Series by Anna Ellis)  I’ve finished the three of them and they are doing AWESOME!  Look for more stories of Jacey and her neighbours and for the series to be available for your Kobo and Nook and all other ereaders in a few weeks!

Books are a big part of my life.  But so are readers – my readers –  and I need to appreciate them more which means stop neglecting the blog!  Keep tuned for even more posts, giveaways and general news of what’s happening to come this year.

2013 was a crazy busy year and 2014 is already shaping up to be just as chaotic.  But however hectic and stressful life can get, I’m vowing this year to carve out a few minutes each day to escape into the pages of a book.

Wish me luck on my quest!  And pass on recommendations of what I should read!

Happy Reading in 2014!

 

 

Breaking up with Books

When is it time to give up on a book you’re just not enjoying?  First page?  First chapter?  Half-way through? Or do you keep slogging through, filled with a diminishing optimism that the ending will make it all worthwhile?  And if you do stop,  what does it take to make you stop reading?

Right now I’m reading The Columbus Affair by Steve Berry and I’m really not loving it.  I’m about two thirds of the way through the book and every time I pick it up, I find myself asking why do I bother?  The story is interesting – for the most part.  I like the fact that reading a Steve Berry book is like getting a little history lesson.  In this book I’m learning more about Christopher Columbus and the trials and tribulation of the Jewish race – and odd combination but one Berry ties together somewhat believably.

My problem is that I can’t stand any of the characters.  The protagonist is slowly, so very slowly growing on me and that’s only because he finally decided to grow a pair.  As for the others, I’m really hoping Columbus’ lost gold mine turns into a death trap for the whole lot of them.  I’ve read quite of few Berry’s books and they’re becoming somewhat monotonous.  He changes the names, locations and the historical problem but they’re all the same book!

Not that I’m criticizing Steve Berry, New York Times Bestselling author, winner of…yes I am criticizing him!  If he’s that good of an author, he should be able to hold my interest throughout the entire novel!

So why am I reading it?  I really don’t know! I was hoping you had some suggestions!

I love reading and I love books and off the top of my head, I really can’t think of a book I’ve stopped reading without finishing.  Or maybe I have and they were so uninteresting I’ve forgotten all about them.  Maybe that’s why I keep slogging through.  I like to read different genres and I’ve been conditioned  to give them a chance.  When is enough enough?!

It’s getting annoying – because I’m not enjoying it, it’s taking me forever to read.  Usually I’ll whip though a book in no time, but I’ll pick up anything else but this novel to read these days.  And I’ve accumulated such a towering pile of To Be Read Books that I feel like I should read it, just so I can move on to something else.

In everything I’ve learnt about writing, I know the first page – the first line – has to grab your attention.  And maybe this one did but it’s been so long I really don’t remember.  I don’t know where it lost me, or whether it really ever had me.  But since the end is near – I really hope it is – I will persevere to see it through, if only to see who does die in the deathtrap of a mine!  But I think I will think twice about picking up the next Steve Berry novel.

Questions:  Worst book you’ve read.  Did you finish it?  What makes you stop reading a book?

 

New Year’s Resolutions or Things I Want to Accomplish in 2013

I have a friend who sends out an annual epistle for the beginning of each year.  I’ve never been one to do that, but this year, I thought 2012 deserved a little bit of attention.

Books and Blogs

2012 was a pretty good year.

Most importantly for me, I became an author with the publication of my novel, Baby! Baby? Baby!?  I also jumped into the world of social media and started not one, but two blogs.

I began my Bethany Blog – Observations of a Small Town to help promote my husband’s development in the Village of Bethany.  Originally being from a small-town myself, I think Bethany has a lot of offer and wanted to give it some much deserved attention.

I had a similar reason for creating my own website and subsequent blog – to promote Holly Kerr, author, and help get my novel out there.  Doing that, I’ve learned so much about social media and there is still more out there that I haven’t got a clue about.  I’m looking forward to learning more.

2012 also saw the ending of some relationships and the renewal of others, not to mention the beginning of a few.  Friends and family have an important place in my life, so beginnings, endings and renewals always have a big impact on me.

The Big 4-0

My husband turned 40 this year and by the time I post this, I will have reached the big milestone as well.  I’m okay with being 40.  At least I think I am.  Or I will be.  Publishing the book was a big thing for me, something I wanted to do for a while so to have accomplished that, as well as have created a happy and healthy marriage and family by the time I was 40 is something I can be proud of.

But there’s more I want to do!  Turning 40 is nothing more than a new chapter in my life, one I am ready and willing to embrace.  Maybe not that willing – I still prefer to say I’m still in my 30s!  But it’s a new chapter, one that is coming up whether I want it to or not.

I haven’t made New Year resolutions in a while, mainly because I never kept them.  But I’ve been following a blog lately, Bucket List Publications.  She has this cool list of things she’s done and wants to do, so I thought I’d make one too.

Mine won’t be as extensive or rely on me developing some globe-hopping ways, but I came up with five things that I feel are important for me to do.  I’d consider 2013 a success if I accomplished these.

Five Things I Want to Do This Year

Finish writing my next book. 

Publishing my book was a proud moment for me.  The first, very rough draft of my (hopefully) next book, Coming Home, is finished, thanks to NaNoWriMo. So it’s safe to say, I should be able to get it ready for publication before too long.  I’d like to say it would be ready for the spring.  More than I’d like to – I’m going to say it will be ready by April 1 for me to take it to the next step, and it has to be edited by then as well.  I think that’s a realistic goal.  The question is also, do I give the traditional publishing world another shot at me, or self-publish again?

Get rid of that 10 pounds that won’t budge!

I came up with this one during boxing class, when I was staring at myself in the mirror and trying not to laugh at my hopeless attempts to skip.  I’m really very uncoordinated.  Losing weight shouldn’t be a problem for me because I really like to exercise.  I’m strong and healthy.  I ran in my first 10km race and hope to do a longer race in 2013.  I like to think I’m in good shape, but there are these wobbly bits in certain areas that just won’t go away!  And I know I shouldn’t rely on the scale to tell me I look good, and I don’t, but every time I step on the darn thing, I don’t get the numbers I want!

So that’s my goal – lose those 10 pounds.  And I’ll even go so far to say my goal is to see a constant 130 when I step on the scale.  I’d like to drop to 125, but we’ll see how the first ten go.  All I have to do is cut back on the wine, cheese, chips and pasta, which unfortunately are my favourite things to cook as well.  I guess I’ve never made chips, which is a really good thing because I’d have to bump up the numbers a little, and thank goodness I don’t make my own wine.  I should be able to do this – a little more exercise and a little better eating.  I’ll give myself a deadline of May 1 – just in time for shorts!

Go on a trip with my husband.

I say this as I pack for myself and three kids for a trip to Florida.  Family vacations are fun and because of Jeff’s work schedule we don’t go on as many as we would like.  And Jeff and I go on trips even less; I think we went to Vancouver for a wedding when the kids were babies, before our youngest was even born.  She’s 6 now.  So…it’s been a while.  I’ve been on vacation three times myself, which was great but I think the hubby and I need some time on our own.

Work on my Relationship with my kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a great relationship with all three of my kids.  But as they grow older, I’d like to see them becoming a little more independent.  A little more self-sufficient.  I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for eleven years now, and it’s been great and I wouldn’t change a thing, but things are changing.  Since my book came out, I call myself a writer, mainly to justify to the kids that I’m working when I’m at the computer.  They are kids, and it’s only been a few months, but I don’t think they’re quite getting it.  I’ll keep trying.

We talk a lot about respect in our family – respecting yourself, each other and others in your life.  This includes me, as well.  What I need to reinforce to my kids, is that even though I’ve been around all the time, and will continue to be, they shouldn’t take me for granted.  Every stay-at-home mom can relate.  It’s easier to do things for them – quicker too.  But they have to learn; whether it’s making their lunches, learning how to work the DVD player or putting away their clothes.  Simple things, and some not so simple, like learning to respect me when I’m working.  I may be sitting in the living room, because that’s where my computer is,  but if my head is in my book or if I’m in the middle of a blog post, it’s hard to answer twenty questions about snacks and what we’re doing that day.  Let me finish what I’m doing and I’ll be glad to help with whatever you need.  That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Take the time to do the things I love to do.

This should be a given for everyone.

When I make the time to do what I love to do – whether it’s spending time with my kids, volunteering at their school, spending time with friends, reading, writing, watching movies, or playing in my garden – it makes me happy.  I then, find it easier to make other people happy.  I’m not proposing I spend all my time doing what I want.  Like the rest of the population, I have responsibilities.  I have things I need to get finished or chaos will result.  And sometimes it’s really hard to do, and sometimes things get sacrificed.  But once in a while, wouldn’t it be nice to spend an hour doing something you love to do?

So that’s what I want to accomplish in 2013.  That, and stop caring what people think.  Wish me luck and good luck on your own resolutions if you have them!!!

Wishing all of you a Very Happy 2013!!

 

I LOVE What I Do! How Getting to be a Writer Makes me a Happier Person

I Get to be a Writer!

Last night I woke up at 1:20 am.  What was bothering me, you ask?  Was I concerned/stressed/upset about something, so much that it woke me up in the middle of the night?

Nothing was bothering me.  I wasn’t concerned/stressed/upset about anything.  Actually, quite the reverse.  I was excited.

Not that kind of excited.

I woke up thinking about writing.  I had a brainwave about my new book.  An inspiration about a new direction I wanted to take the character in.  Her name is Brenna Ebans and I’m quickly falling in love with her, as I should be, as I did for my other characters.  This new direction would help tie up some of the loose ends I’m struggling with and open up new avenues of possibilities and growth for her.

And then, as it always happens, once you let your mind start to wander late at night, it just starts to run, poking itself into unforeseen nooks and crannies.  I started thinking about other things I wanted to write about, including three new ideas for my blog posts, one for Jeff’s Bethany blog that I write, plus an article for the newsletter I edit.  All this in the middle of the night.  I have to say it was a very productive couple of hours.

For me: Writing = Happiness

I’m sure all writers are often hit with the lightening bolts of ideas and inspirations.  For me it usually happens when I’m running, driving to my parents (without kids in the car) or even in the shower.  Never have I had the waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-where-I-had-to-go-downstairs-and-write-some-of-this-stuff-down experience and what got me was that I wasn’t the least bit upset about it.  Normally, lately, I’ve had problems falling back asleep and it’s one of the most frustrating things – lying awake trying to turn your mind off, and getting more and more mad at all these thoughts that won’t stop running through your brain.

For me not to be frustrated with the late night wakefulness means one thing – I must really love what I do.

I know I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to stay at home and raise my three children.  And now to have them all full-time in school, and still be able to stay at home and focus on my writing – I’m the first to admit I’m goddam lucky!  I have wanted to be a writer for my entire life.  I’ve been writing stories and books, had cast of characters floating around my head, scenes and scenarios that needed to be cast on paper for as long as I can remember.  To be able to do that full time makes me one of the luckiest people on the planet.  I just hope I can make some money doing it!

FYI…as my fingers were flying over the keys, I heard the rattle of the mail slot.  When I checked, I had a very pleasant surprise – my first royalty cheque for my novel!  Not much, but it’s something. So maybe I can make money from this gig!

I know so many people who can’t love what they do.  Maybe they enjoy the work, or tolerate it – some actually hate their jobs, I’m sure.  I’ve had a job where I dreaded going into work every day.  I had one job I really enjoyed and that was at the movie theatres in Cobourg when I was younger.  It was a great job – I got to watch movies for free, eat popcorn and Avril was the most awesome boss who loved her employees like her own children.  The job I had (notice how I don’t call it a career?) when I left to have my babies – it was okay.  They were pretty decent to me, although refusing to promote me when I thought I was ready made me a little bitter, but I got to do a lot of un-worklike activities which kept me occupied and amused, because the actual work wasn’t very good at keeping me occupied or amused at all.  But I never loved it.  I was never inspired, or felt passion for what I was doing.  It was just a job.

I think that’s how it is for most people.  They have a job because they need to, not because it is the most perfect of all jobs for them.  But when I was working, I was still writing in my spare time.  I wasn’t inspired by my job, but I had my passion to keep me happy.  I don’t think enough people realize the importance of that.

Holly’s Happiness Guide

Here’s where I switch to the inspirational post.  I’ve never tried that before.  And I’m not an expert on what makes you happy – far from it.  I get pissed off, I have bad days, but for the most part I’m a genuinely happy person.  I also have a positive outlook on life, which I’m sure can be annoying to those who don’t share my attitude.  I’m sure there are some reading this who are cursing my good fortune to be able to focus on my writing all day.  Yes, I am lucky and it’s not my intention to rub it in anyone’s face.  But I thinking about being able to do just that – focus on something I love doing – makes me so incredibly happy that I was excited to be awake in the middle of the night with a plethora of ideas to write about.

So that’s my advice to you – find something you love to do.  And do it.  For most, that’s not going to be a career, or a job.  For some, if you have that opportunity to do what you love – DO IT!  I’m not saying quit your job as a stockbroker to become a rock star but if the opportunity ever arises where you can be happy at your day job, then take it.

Like I said, that may only be possible for a few.  If it’s not you, then find something you love for your non-working hours.  It could be spending time with your family.  Watching your son or daughter play hockey, or swim or squash.  It could be working on your creativity by drawing or painting or writing poetry.  Maybe you like playing in your garden, or playing sports.  Just do it.  Find something you love, that makes you happy and make the time to do it as much as possible.  It’ll change your life.  You’ll be happy doing it, you’ll be happy after you do it and you’ll be happy planning on doing it again.

What’s so bad about that?

Sexytime in books

I went for a run this morning. Usually I go with my good friend but she was having a much-deserved sleep in this morning, so I thought I’d go myself.   I thought this morning would be a good time to get my head around an article I’m writing for the church newsletter on Spirituality and Running. My minister suggested it, I think because he knows I would rather go for a run on Sunday mornings than go to church with husband and kids. Have I ever had a spiritual experience while running? Not really sure, but I thought a solo run might be a good time to reflect on it. And then I could talk to my friend about connections to religion and spirituality and running the next time we ran…heehee. Inside joke.
I also thought it might be a sign of solidarity to another good friend (my walking friend. I have a running friend and a walking friend and also a boxing/bellydancing friend who once called me a workout slut but that’s off topic.) My walking friend and 90% of my predominantly Jewish neighbourhood were enjoying(?) the high holy day of Yom Kippur while I was reflecting on my spirituality this morning. I thought that might make me a good neighbour. Anyway, I started out with my ipod and thought it was a good sign that ‘Like a Prayer’ was the second song on my playlist. I began to contemplate my spirituality…

…and then my thoughts turned to sex.

Not my sex life, but sex in books. Sex in my book. So much for spirituality and running this morning.

When I tell friends about my book coming out, I get a lot of eager questions about if there’s a lot of sex in it. Unfortunately, there’s not. There’s a little bit where Casey finds the cheating boyfriend in the process of cheating with the girl in the church (I’m sure that would be great for the church newsletter!) and the end of the second chapter ends with her having sex, but that’s about it. It’s not that I’m avoiding it – if Casey should have had sex, I’d be perfectly happy to have her enjoy some sex but I wasn’t about to put in a gratuitous sex scene just for the sake of writing a dirty bit.  But because of all the questions and the interest in sex in books in general lately, I was wondering if I should include more in the new book I’m working on. And if so, how graphic should I make it?

I’ve read the three Fifty Shades and have seen how erotica is sweeping the literary world these days. I enjoyed most of the books, although Christian’s ‘You.Are.Mine.’ while they’re getting it on gets creepy really quick. Reading the Fifty Shades trilogy led me to check out other books in the erotica genre, which was an undiscovered field for me. Memorable ones were ‘The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty’ (starts out good but too much spanking/paddling for my liking. A little might be ok, but if that’s all they do…) and ‘A Diary of a Submissive.’ BTW, any other suggestions would be welcome!

Doesn’t everyone have books with the pages earmarked at the good bits? When I was a teenager, my friend used to talk about the scandalous Jackie Collins but for me, Judith Krantz crafted a much better sex scene. And these days I love how Jilly Cooper writes sex. It’s not too titillating but more matter-of-fact. “Here are Billy and Janey walking through the meadow and now they are having sex and this is what he is doing to her and she is clearly enjoying it.” I love Jilly Cooper!

I remember I included a sex scene in one of my first books. Actually, I think I put in a couple of scenes, including a threesome, which a friend of mine loves reminding me about. He keeps asking if I’m going to put in another one in every book I write! I also remember reading the scene (straight sex, no kink) aloud in a writing class I was taking. Talk about embarrassing!

Because of the success of Fifty Shades, it’s clear sex sells. And women aren’t hiding in the bathtub reading their books anymore. Well, they are, but they’re also reading it on the subway, on the beach and in book clubs. And it’s not just women who are reading it. This summer, another family came to our cottage with us and all four adults were reading one of the Fifty Shades books!

So how much sex is enough? And how much is too much? I write chick-lit, not erotica, but should I play this new trend and spice it up? In the new book I’m working on, I think Brenna is going to have sex with the much younger Brady but how graphic should I make it? Should I sex up my chick lit, give Ana and Mr. Grey a run for their money? Then what happens when my great aunt reads it?
It’s something to think about. Do I try and channel my inner E.L. James or keep it sweet? (Maybe not too sweet) And apparently it’s more interesting to think about then my spirituality!

I should go work on that article now!

Ps. Just got the new J.K. Rowling. I wonder if she put in a sex scene?