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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!

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

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.

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Save Money on Professional Edits—6 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Own Manuscript

Some great tips for editing your work!

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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Over my career I have literally edited thousands of works, most of them written by emerging writers. My greatest frustration always was (and still is) when I couldn’t even GET to critiquing the deeper story elements because I was too distracted by these all too common oopses.

Good editors are NOT cheap. There are also many editors who charge by the hour. If they’re spending their time fixing oopses you could’ve easily repaired yourself? You’re burning cash and time. Yet, correct these problems, and editors can more easily get to the MEAT of your novel. This means you will spend less money and get far higher value.

#1 The Brutal Truth about Adverbs, Metaphors and Similes

I have never met an adverb, simile, or metaphor I didn’t LOVE. I totally dig description, but it can present problems.

First of all, adverbs are not ALL evil. Redundant adverbs are evil. If…

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My Best Reads of 2016

I read a lot of good books this year(I read a total of 60). It was hard to narrow them down to a short list, but these are the ones that finally made it:

 

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer. This retelling of Cinderella was set in a futuristic space age world, and I loved it! I’m not that into Star Wars and stuff like that, so I wasn’t sure if I would like this book, but it delivered.  The characters are relatable, the world-building is amazing, and I couldn’t put the book down.  I’ve already bought the rest of the books in this series, but haven’t read them yet. This was one of my top five reads for the year, and tied with another book for my top read.

 

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These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly. This was a mystery set in the Victorian era. A young woman tries to discover what really happened to her father – she knows he didn’t kill himself like everyone is saying. An attractive reporter aids her in her search. I loved the heroine. She has the courage to face the truth even when it isn’t easy, and she doesn’t let the strict standards of the time prevent her from finding answers. This was one of my top five reads for the year.

 

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The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead.  The Glittering Court offers servant girls the opportunity to change their lot in life. They are taken to a special place where they are trained to be ladies before they are sent to a newly discovered country where they will marry the noblemen who already live there. Though already a lady, Adelaide pretends to be a servant and sneaks into this group to escape marriage to an odious man. There was lots of glamour and adventure in this book.

 

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The Siren by Kiera Cass. This was a beautiful retelling of “The Little Mermaid”. Both main characters were willing to sacrifice everything for the one they loved. I even cried a little while reading this book.

 

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The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins. A giant beast attacks the kingdom, and the king calls all the hunters to help catch the beast.  The prize for killing the beast, the hand of his daughter in marriage.  The princess balks at marrying a stranger, but wants to save the kingdom, so she agrees.  Once the hunters arrive at the palace, she is surprised to find she connects with one in particular. The only thing I didn’t like was the cliffhanger this book ended on.  I can hardly wait to read the second book.

 

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Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes. This is a story about the future queen of hearts. Dinah is set to become queen, but not everyone is willing for that to happen. It seems she can’t really trust anyone. Her enemies aren’t just seeking the crown, they are also seeking to take her life. Another cliffhanger, but the next book comes out this month! This was one of my top five reads, and the other book tied for my favorite read of the year.

 

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Ruined by Amy Tintera. Emelina’s family has all been killed.  She seeks revenge by posing as the prince’s intended.  She marries him, planning to infiltrate the kingdom and exact her revenge, but she starts to fall for the prince. I loved the way you see Emelina change through the book, she was relatable and I felt like I was right there with here.

 

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The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine.  I loved this retelling of Snow White. A bit darker than the original, it was full of adventure and romance.  The heroine is brave and determined.  This was one of my top three reads for the year!

 

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Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan. Frances was one of three survivors on a cruise ship that sank. She knows the truth of what really happened, but the other two survivors have fabricated a story that everyone believes. Frances searches for a way to prove the truth. This fast-paced thriller kept me turning pages into the night.

 

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Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley.  Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Bronte have created worlds that come to life. They love venturing inside those worlds to escape the mundaneness of their lives. But Branwell starts to loose his sanity and the girls begin to loose their grip on the real world. When they try to let go, the characters they have created turn against them, refusing to let them leave. A bit different from what I usually read, I really enjoyed this book.  It gave some insight to the Bronte siblings lives and the relationships they had with one another.  After reading this book, I was motivated to find out more about the Brontes.

 

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The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury. This is an unique take on Aladdin.  Zahra is the jinni in the lamp Aladdin finds. As she stays with Aladdin, waiting to grant him his three wishes, she starts to fall in love with him.  When she’s offered the chance to be free of the lamp forever, she must decide if her freedom is worth losing Aladdin. This was one of my top five reads for the year!

If you want to check out the rest of my reads for the year, you can see them on goodreads here.  What was your favorite read in 2016?  Let me know in the comments!