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My Writing Goals 2021

I have a lot of writing goals, some more achievable than others. 🙂 For this year, I wanted to narrow in on a few primary goals, divided by topics. Since it always great to have accountability, I’m sharing them here with you all.

Novel Writing

As of right now, I have seven completed manuscripts in various stages of revision. One I have set to the side, unsure if I can get it into the proper form for publication. My current WIP is the closest to publication ready, and this is the one I’m focusing in on for this year. I also have a sequel – the manuscript is nearly complete, so I would like to finish that manuscript this year as well.

  1. Finish all the revisions/edits for my current WIP (TBSK).
  2. Prep TBSK for publication.
  3. Complete first draft of NN.
  4. Start revisions/edits of NN.

Blog/Website

Another thing I want to focus on is this blog! I’m fairly good at posting, but I know I could do better. 🙂

  1. Post at least once a week, ideally twice a week.
  2. Create newsletter incentive.
  3. Send newsletter out periodically.

Social Media

My main writerly platforms are on Instagram and Twitter, so I am going to focus on growing both platforms.

  1. Grow Instagram and Twitter.
  2. Plan out content for posts.

Reading

I do lots of reading – especially in the genre I’m writing. I participate in several reading challenges each year, and you can check out the challenges I’m doing this year here.

But I don’t read as much nonfiction, and I want to read more books on all aspects of writing. So, my goal is to read at least one book on writing per month.

What about you? What are your goals for 2021? Let me know in the comments!

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My Christmas Recs – Books and Movies

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year! It’s the end of something, but it’s also bringing a new beginning. And this year, I think we are all ready for a new beginning.

Every year, I pull out my favorite Christmas books and movies, and set aside time to read and watch them as part of my own personal Christmas celebration.

Favorite Christmas Books

  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Although this is not strictly a Christmas book, it’s opening scene takes place at Christmas, and the whole book gives you cozy Christmas-like vibes. When I have the time, I like to do a reread (or listen to the audiobook) of this classic.
  2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Speaking of classics, this one is a must read for every Dickens fan or any fan of Christmas. And truthfully, this is my favorite Dickens book.
  3. The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand. This is a YA retelling of A Christmas Carol and it is so good! Once I finished reading it the first time, I knew it was going to be a yearly reread.
  4. Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. I know this one is a children’s picture book, but there is just something so magical about the rhyming prose. I have loved this one for as long as I can remember.
  5. Everything I Need to Know About Christmas, I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow. There’s a whole series of these humorous books, that just happen to look like Little Golden Books themselves. And I may be giving away my age a little here, but as a kid, I loved Little Golden Books.

And of course, I always find some new books that I want to read, so here are my most anticipated reads for this Christmas:

  1. In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren. I’ve heard so much about this book, and seen it all over the place, so it’s at the top of my TBR pile. 🙂
  2. Snowed In by Rachel Hawthorne. While not specifically Christmas, this book is touted to still have all the cozy Christmas vibes, so I’m pschyed to read it.
  3. The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody. Written by the author of Save the Cat Writes a Novel (find out more about this awesome book here), this one has been on my TBR pile for a bit. After rereading the book’s blurb, I decided I wanted to read it this year. This one is set on New Year’s Day.
  4. The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. This is a Nutcracker retelling and was on my Christmas TBR list last year, but I didn’t get to it, so it’s near the top of my list this year.

Favorite Christmas Movies

  1. A Mom for Christmas. This is an old favorite from childhood. It originally aired on TV as a Hallmark movie, and my grandparents taped it on a VHS tape for all the grandkids to watch at Christmas. (My grandfather loved doing this – taping movies and having them ready for us to watch either at Christmas or during the summer when we come and stay awhile.) Bonus: Olivia Newton John plays the wished for “mom”.
  2. Mickey’s and the Muppets Christmas Carol Movies. These are another couple childhood favorites that I always try to make time to watch each year.
  3. Elf. You knew this was going to be on here. 🙂 I don’t always like the slapsticky comedy, but this one has its own sort of charm. Maybe it’s the Christmas setting that makes it such fun.
  4. Season of Miracles. This is another Hallmark movie, but it’s a throwback one, so it has a slightly more complicated plot than girl finding the perfect man.
  5. While You Were Sleeping. Not only is this one of my Christmas favorites, it’s one of my favorite Sandra Bullock movies and I’m willing to watch it anytime of the year.

Movies on Netflix/other worth a watch

  1. Holiday in the Wild – Set in Africa, the beautiful scenery itself makes this worth a watch, but it also has a good storyline too.
  2. Christmas Chronicles – So cute! This is a fun Santa story.
  3. The Knight Before Christmas – So this one might be a little cheesy, but I really enjoyed it!
  4. Noelle (Disney+) – This is another fun Santa story, with a twist.
  5. Godmothered (Disney+) – This one is new this year and is so fun! Perfect for a family movie night.
  6. The March Sisters at Christmas (Hulu, possibly available other places too.) A modern day retelling of Little Women, with a Christmasy theme.

And of course there are a few I’m highly anticipating, but have not watched yet:

  1. Christmas Chronicles 2 (Netflix)- The first one was great, so of course I want to see this one too.
  2. Jingle Jangle (Netflix)- I’ve heard a lot of great things about this one.
  3. Operation Christmas Drop (Netflix) – The preview for this movie caught my eye and so it’s also on my watchlist.

What books are you reading this holiday season? What movies are you watching? Let me know in the comments!

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A Thanksgiving Reflection

In the US, we are celebrating Thanksgiving today. This year has been such a crazy and difficult one, it may seem hard to find things to be thankful for. But, once I think about all the things I have to be thankful for, I find my mood is raised and my hope is restored.

I have food, clothes, and a place to live. And fortunately, I also still have my job which I know is not true for some people. I am able to celebrate today with my loving and supportive husband, my adorable little dog, and my wonderful in-laws. I have several other family members I’ve been able to celebrate with virtually. This year, I’ve made progress with a couple different writing projects and have become part of a great virtual writing group.

I have a faith that sustains me even in difficult times, and I have witnessed wonderful acts of kindness even in the midst of troubled times. As we move into the Christmas/holiday season (which is my favorite holiday, btw), I’m going to continue to remember the things I have to be thankful for and look for ways to spread kindness. It is through kindness and love that we can bring change and help make the world a better place for those who come after us.

What things are you thankful for today? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Nemesis and the Swan Blog Tour Book Review

I’m excited to be part of The Favourite Pages Book Club’s blog tour for Nemesis and the Swan by Lindsay K. Bandy.

About the Book

by Lindsay K. Bandy

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Release Date: October 27th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Fiction, France

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | BookDepository | Kobo | Google Books
Synopsis:
From her prison cell in revolutionary Paris, nineteen-year-old aristocrat Hélène d’Aubign recalls the events that led her to choose between following in her parents’ unforgivable footsteps or abandoning the man she loves.
Despite her world of privilege, Hélène is inspired early on by the radical ideas of her progressive governess. Though her family tries to intervene, the seeds of revolution have already been planted in Hélène’s heart, as are the seeds of love from an unlikely friendship with a young jeweler’s apprentice. Hélène’s determination to find true love is as revolutionary as her attempt to unravel the truth behind a chilling set of eye-shaped brooches and the concealed murder that tore her family apart.
As violence erupts in Paris, Hélène is forced into hiding with her estranged family, where the tangled secrets of their past become entwined with her own. When she finally returns to the blood-stained streets of Paris, she finds everything-and everyone-very much changed. In a city where alliances shift overnight, no one knows who to trust.
Faced with looming war, the mystery of her family’s past, and the man she loves near death, Hélène will soon will find out if doing one wrong thing will make everything right, or if it will simply push her closer to the guillotine.

My Review

The cover for this book caught my eye and piqued my interest. Also, the title is so creative, and it’s great how it’s meaning is explained in the story.

The story starts with Helene in prison, and I love that the chapter numbers look like the slash marks she makes to count the days she is there. The flashbacks were done well, and the story was fast-paced, and hard to put down. I also enjoyed the way the author weaved in all the historical details, and how all the little pieces came together in the end.

I’d recommed this book to any fan of historical fiction, and fans of These Northern Lights by Jennifer Donnelly would also enjoy this one.

About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Lindsay Bandy writes historical and contemporary young adult fiction as well as poetry. She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with her husband, two daughters, and two cats, and currently serves as the co–regional advisor of the Eastern Pennsylvania region of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

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Virtual Book Events

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I recently attended the virtual #Yallstayhome Book Festival, the Yallwest Book Festival gone virtual, and it was so much fun! I’ve been researching other virtual book events and have found quite a few.  So now I’m sharing them with my readers:

  1. Everywhere Book Fest – lots of videos on YouTube from a variety of authors.
  2. Social Distance Book Festival This festival aired a couple of weekends ago, but you can still view the recordings on YouTube. This is a festival hosted by a book YouTuber, Beautifully Bookish Bethany.
  3. Wordplay Book Festival – This is going on now and has events for all ages.
  4. Bookcon – Bookcon is doing a virtual series on Facebook.
  5. Midtown Scholar Bookstore – This bookstore has several virtual author talks scheduled.
  6. MYVLF – This site has all kind of virtual events, including The Big Book Weekend.
  7. Gaithersburg Book Festival – I’ve enjoyed attending this festival in person, and am happy to see I’ll be able to attend virtually this year!

How about you all? Are there any virtual book events you’ll be attending during this quarantine time? Let me know in the comments!

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Tips for Tackling Your TBR List

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If you’re like me, you probably have shelves full of unread books. I read a lot, and am planning to read twenty books this month to help whittle down the amount of books I own that I haven’t yet read. ( This is part of a reading challenge, and if you missed out on that post you can check it out here.)

People often ask me how I read so many books, so today, I wanted to share some tips to help you tackle your TBR. Since many of us are at home during this quarantine time, you may have more time to read than usual, so maybe these tips can help you get even more reading done. 🙂

1. Know your limits. A lot of things play into how many books you can read within a given time period. How fast do you read? How many other responsibilities do you have? Don’t try to compare yourself to other people. Set a realistic but challenging goal for yourself.

2. Mix it up. Read in a lot of different genres. I find this helps to ward off reading slumps. Once I start to feel fantasy-ied out, I switch over to mysteries or memoirs, and I find my interest in reading is renewed.

3. Read various book lengths and levels. This is another great way to avoid a reading slump. If I’m feeling tired of reading, I might pick a book of poetry or even a picture book I’ve been wanting to read. As an educator, I often read children’s and MG books as I need to stay up on the trends and know what is available for students to read,  but I also believe that people of any age can find enjoyment in a picture book. Many of them are worth reading simply because of the beautiful artwork they contain. And most of us know at least one kid that we could read to or recommend a book to.

4. Listen to audiobooks. This is one of the easiest ways to up your book count. I increased my yearly amount of read books by over a hundred, simply by listening to audiobooks. I listen to audiobooks in the car, in the kitchen, when I’m cleaning, and when I’m crafting.

You may be wondering if it’s cheating, or you may think you can’t focus on an audiobook. I understand your hesitation on this one, as I had similar doubts at first. But then I realized if I chose the right audiobook, I was engaged and even found myself laughing out loud. This is especially true for celebrity memoirs that are narrated by the said celebrity.

I would suggest starting with celebrity memoirs if you’re hesitant about trying audiobooks. Another way to determine if the audiobook is right for you is to read the reviews for the audiobook before listening to it. The success of the audiobook depends on the narrator. If the narrator does a poor job, it will be noted in the reviews.

5. Take a break when you need to. Yes, it is okay to take a break sometimes. Just like basically everything else in life, sometimes you just need to take a break and do something else. Every so often, I take as much as a week and a half off from reading, and am still able to meet my reading goal for the year. I find that I am able to go through several books quickly after taking a break.

6. Read what you want. This is another important one. Don’t be so focused on reading the things you think you need to read. Read the books that YOU want to read. So many times, people read something because it has been recommended to them by someone else, so they feel they must read it even though they aren’t really interested in it.  This just ends up wasting your reading time and can even put you into a reading slump. If you’re not interested in the book, don’t read it. If you’re worried about what your friend will think,  politely tell them that you just couldn’t get into the book, so you moved onto something else on your TBR list.

7. Don’t be afraid to not finish a book.  This kind of goes along with the previous tip, and is the hardest one for me to follow. I just hate the feeling of not finishing a book, but ultimately I know that I will end up wasting my reading time by trying to finish a book I don’t enjoy. I have gotten better than I used to be, but I am still working on this one.

8. Most importantly, have fun! This kind of sums them all up. Your reading time is supposed to be enjoyable, so make sure it is by reading the right things for you!

How about you? What is your best tip for moving through your TBR list? Let me know in the comments, and if you want to check out what I’m currently reading, feel free to add me as a friend on Goodreads.

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Fairy Tale Central February Blog Tag

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In honor of National Tell a Fairy Tale, I decided to participate in the Fairy Tale Central’s February Fairy Tale blog tag. I love their blog and their Instagram page. They have lots of fun fairy tale themed challenges and plenty of fairytale retelling recommendations. If you love fairytales, you need to bookmark their blog!

So here are the questions for the blog tag with my answers 🙂 :

What’s an obscure fairy tale you love?  “The Wild Swans” (Anderson version) or The Six Swans (Grimm version), and The Steadfast Tin Soldier

If you got to choose Disney’s next animated princess movie, what fairy tale would you choose to be adapted? The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Before Tangled came out, my answer would have been Rapunzel. 🙂

What is the first fairy tale you remember hearing when you were a child? It’s hard to actually know which one I heard first. The first one that made an impact on me was The Steadfast Tin Soldier. I was given a lovely illustrated book with this fairy tale and a few others that I don’t remember now, but I just remember I loved looking at the pictures for The Steadfast Tin Soldier.

If you were to embark on a fairy tale quest, what necessities would you pack in your bag? My cloak and my dagger, food, water, maps, my bow and arrows, healing herbs and bandages.

What’s your favorite fairy tale trope? rags to riches, because there’s something so magical about an event or series of events being able to so drastically change your life.

If you could be any fairy tale character archetype (the princess, the soldier, fairy godmother, talking animal, mischievous imp, wise old woman, evil stepmother/sister, etc.), who would you want to be and why? The princess, of course. But not one who needs rescuing, one who does the rescuing. Why, because I’d love to rule my own country. 😉

What animal/mythical creature would be your sidekick for fairy tale adventures? A unicorn that can fly!

What is your favorite historical era, and what fairy tale would you love to see in that setting? the Victorian era. I’m writing a Bluebeard retelling that has a Victorian vibe, and I’d also love to see a Beauty and the Beast retelling set in that era.

If you could change a fairy tale’s villain into a hero, who would you choose and why? Captain Hook, because it’s horrible to be doomed to your fate by boy who refuses to grow up. (I’m playing around with an idea for a sequel to my Bluebeard retelling that would be a Peter Pan retelling where the Hook character is the hero.)

Do you prefer fairy tales with happy endings or sad/tragic endings? why or why not? Happy endings! I’m always going to say happy endings. (The only exception is a villain origin story, because I do love Heartless by Marissa Meyer.)  There’s enough real life tragedy in the world, and when I want a fairytale, I want the fairytale ending to go along with it!!

This was so much fun, but some of the questions I had to think about a little bit. How about you? What do you love most about fairytales? If you want to join in on the blog tag, you can find all the details here.

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My Best Reads of 2019

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So I haven’t been as active on here as much I would have liked to lately. The holiday busyness, a sick dog (who is doing better now 🙂 ), a new position at my day job, and multiple car issues  have all contributed to a crazy start to the New Year.  Thankfully, things have calmed down some now and I’ve had the time I’ve needed to get in some writing time.

So, I had to share my best reads of the 2019:

1. Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly – A retelling of Cinderella that’s more about one of the stepsisters than Cinderella. I love retellings and this one didn’t disappoint. If you’re a fan of retellings, you’ll want to check this one out.
2. The Blood Spell by C.J. Redwine – Another Cinderella retelling. I love the worldbuilding and the characters in this world.
3. My Plain Jane by Jodi Meadows, Cynthia Hand and Brodi Ashton – At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of the humorous take on famous literary/historical characters, and then I read this almost 500 page book in two sittings. It was so good! You just have to read it to understand. 🙂
4. My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemmet – Sometimes the celebrity memoirs are a bit over the top, sounding more like made-up or at least exaggerated stuff. This one wasn’t like that. A fellow Midwestern girl, I found it really easy to relate to Ellie’s experiences as a kid.
5. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager – So I read all three of Sager’s books this year, and he’s become one of my favorite suspense writers. I can’t wait for the new book to drop this year!
6. Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody – An excellent writing source, and if you’re a writer you need to have this book in your library. It’s one of the best writing books I’ve ever read. It gets to the heart of what makes a story work.
7. Last of her Name by Jessica Khoury – Another favorite author, this book was a bit of different take for Khoury – a spacey sci-fi story – but I still loved it.
8. My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – This one was so good! Braithwaite balanced suspense and humor masterfully. I loved the dynamic between the sisters, and as an older sister I can totally relate to the “always cleaning up my sister’s messes ” thing. I will read anything else Braithwaite writes without even having to read the blurb.
9. Educated by Tara Westover – Oh, this one! It hit me right in the heart. Her story is amazing and it shows the resilience of the human spirit.
10. Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco – Another great addition to the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. I really wanted to read Capturing the Devil last year too, but didn’t get to it, so it’s up next on my TBR. 🙂
11. The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson – This is part of another mystery series, and the third book comes out Tuesday! I can hardly wait.
So what about you? What was your favorite read of 2019? Did you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!
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The National Book Festival

This past Saturday, my husband and I went to the National Book Festival, and it was so cool! They are now hosting it in the convention center rather than on the National Mall. It’s a lot easier to move around and it’s air-conditioned. 🙂

We got there right when the doors opened, so we were able to visit all the exhibits before it got really crowded. I loved the Parade of States exhibit.  Each state had its own table and there was a state booklet you took around to get stamped by each state. The people there from Indiana actually knew of the little town I grew up in, and the people from Illinois knew the tiny town I was born in, so that was cool.

Also, PBS had booth for The Great American Read that was fun. They had a wheel you could spin to win a prize. I landed on the special space that allowed me to pick a prize from a box. I got a journal.

I had heard about The Great American Read, but didn’t know exactly what it was about, so I was glad I was able to find out more about it, because now I’m participating in the event. (More to come about The Great American Read in a later post, so if you’re interested, be on the lookout for that.)

There were three authors I was hoping to meet and get books signed by, and I was able to meet all three and get my books signed.

I got When Dimple Met Rishi signed by Sandhya Menon,  Wonder Woman and The Language of Thorns signed by Leigh Bardugo, and The Darkest Minds signed by Alexandra Bracken.

All in all, it was a great day, and if you ever have the chance to check out The National Book Festival, I’d highly recommend it!

What about you? Have you been to any book festivals?  What did you like best about it?

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#Authortoolboxbloghop – Tips for Editing Your Novel

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If you follow me on Instagram (@charityrau), you know I have been working through revisions on my novel.  And in March, I shared the different stages of editing (check that post out here).  So, for today’s post I decided I’d share some specific tips for editing your novel. These are some things that have really helped me strengthen my writing, and I hope they’ll help you as well. 🙂

1. Watch out for filter words. Filter words are words like heard, looked, and felt. When you use these words, you filter your characters’ experiences through your words rather than letting the reader share the experience with the character. This goes along with the whole “show, don’t tell” principle.

For example:

Filter word sentences: “I pulled out the bag and looked through it. It had everything I needed.”

Better sentences: “I pulled out the bag and reached inside. A little vial of syrup, dried roots, and plenty of rags. It had everything I needed.”

2. Limit passive sentence use. Passive sentences can be used in some instances, but in most cases an active sentence is better. Active sentences help pull the reader into the action.

For example:

Passive sentence: “The quiet flip of her covers told me she was angry.”

Better active sentences: “She flipped her covers over her head and didn’t say a word. Great, she was angry at me.”

Another example (with a passive/active verb):

Passive sentence: “The team was cheered on by the girls.”

Active sentence: “The girls cheered on the team.”

3. Remove unnecessary adverbs. Adverbs are tricky. Sometimes they can help tell your reader something, but often they aren’t needed. In fact, many times all you need is a stronger verb.

For example:

With adverb: “She walked unsteadily down the stairs.”

With a stronger verb: “She stumbled down the stairs.”

or:

With adverb – “He bowed low and removed his hat, twisting it nervously in his hands.”

Without adverb – “He bowed low and removed his hat, twisting it in his hands.”

It still makes sense without the adverb, and you can infer from the twisting action that he is nervous.

4. Cut out obvious statements. Sometimes an action already tells the reader your character’s emotion or attitude, so there is no need to state that emotion or attitude.

For example:

Obvious statement: “I kicked at a rock in the driveway, angry at the spell and that idiotic woman who cast it.”

If she’s kicking a rock, we can figure out she’s angry.

Better sentences: “I kicked at a rock in the driveway. Just who did that woman think she was, casting a spell on us just to get herself out of a jam?”

5. Remove all the unnecessary thats. ‘That’ is another tricky word. We add it to sentences all the time, but it’s rarely ever needed.

For example:

With that “At least she was pleased that Stephan had invited me to the Spring Ball.”

Without that – “At least she was pleased Stephan had invited me to the Spring Ball.”

As you can see removing the ‘that’ doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence.

These are just a few things that can help strengthen your writing. Both the “that” and the “-ly” adverbs can be fixed with a Find search through your document. The others will take a bit more work to find and correct, but it is worth it in the end!

What about you? What tips do you have for editing novels? Let me know in the comments!

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This post is part of the #authortoolboxbloghop hosted by Raimey Gallant. To check out all the participating blogs, or to join in the fun go here.