December 30, 2017

What I read in 2017

It's the end of the year and time to review the books I read in 2017. This year, I read 84 books, slightly up from the 82 books last year.

The average rating for the books I read was 4.05 stars per book, broken down as follows:
  • 5 stars - 26 books
  • 4 stars - 36 books 
  • 3 stars - 22 books 

The 4.05 stars average was an increase from the 3.93 stars per book in 2016.

In January, I said that I would make a conscious effort to tackle the books I already own on my TBR list. My goal was to read at least two books that I already own each month for a total of 24 this year, and I surpassed that goal with 33 books read.

The ratings for these books were distributed as follows:
  • 5 stars - 7 books 
  • 4 stars - 16 books 
  • 3 stars - 10 books 

The average rating for my TBR books was 3.91, a bit lower than the ratings for the other books I read this year. Perhaps there was a good reason I had put off reading them. :-) Nevertheless, I need to continue chipping away at my TBR, so I plan to continue reading at least two books that I already own each month throughout 2018 as well.

In my next post, I’ll list my top ten favorite books of 2017. Stay tuned!

December 16, 2017

2017 holiday sale

Christmas is just around the corner, which means it's time to have a holiday sale! Between now and the New Year, every one of my e-books will be on sale for 99 cents or FREE on Amazon! There's no better stocking stuffer than the gift of reading. Get them before prices go back up!

All That
Remains of Me
New Eden
Gifted Believe Me

Transmissions In the Hands of
Keep Your
Enemies Close
George and the
Galactic Games

A House in
the Woods
Protect Search Rescue

Drive Through a
Tangled Wood
Celestial Spectral Tales

Happy holidays, and happy reading!

December 2, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 recap

After debating whether to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, I decided to take the plunge. Unlike the past three years, however, I didn't win this year. From the outset, I wasn't on pace to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

Here's my daily chart from this year.

I ended up with only about 30,000 words written. Was I disappointed not to have won? Yes, a little bit. Keeping my NaNoWriMo winning streak intact would've been nice, but I'm definitely glad I participated this year. Here are some reasons why:
  1. November was still the most productive writing month I've had by far this year. 
  2. I re-established a writing habit, which I had lost at the beginning of the year when my day job became too hectic. (I can only hope I'll be able to continue it now that November is over.)
  3. I'm halfway through the first draft of a promising new novel.
Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I want to finish drafting my WIP because the story holds a lot of potential so far. Also, it'd be nice to publish something again. And looking ahead, I know that even if I get deluged with work after this novel is completed, I have next year's NaNoWriMo to kick me back into gear.

November 18, 2017

DC Icons

I just finished reading Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo, and it was great! At the end of the book, there was a teaser for Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu. Whoa, I didn't know there were more books in the series!


Yup, as it turns out, these books are part of the DC Icons series. I must've been living under a rock when it was announced, but I think it's a great idea to have popular YA authors write superhero stories that take place when the protagonists are teenagers. Warbringer was a good story (albeit non-canon IMHO) that left me wanting more, so I can't wait to read the rest of the DC Icons books.

In case you're wondering, the DC Icons series consists of four books (so far):
  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
  • Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu - to be released in early 2018
  • Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas - expected to be released later in 2018
  • An untitled Superman book by Matt de la Pena - publication in 2019

October 21, 2017

To NaNoWriMo or not to NaNoWriMo

For the last three years, I've participated in NaNoWriMo. For those unfamiliar with the event, NaNoWriMo is the abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands of writers attempt to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in 30 thirty days. Crazy, right? I'm proud to say that I managed to reach the word count goal the three times that I tried! Two of my stories even wound up getting published, Believe Me and Transmissions.

This year is different. I haven't been writing as much because my day job has been kicking my butt more so than in previous years. If you combine all of the words I've written so far in 2017, they'd total less than 50,000. What makes me think that I'll be able to produce 50,000 words in one month? It's not like my day job will become easier in November to accommodate my desire to participate in NaNoWriMo (although that would be really nice).

I'm being realistic when I say that there's very, very little chance that I'll win NaNoWriMo this year, and it has made me wonder if I should participate at all. Part of me says that I shouldn't because near certain failure isn't exactly great motivation for me to write. I haven't prepared at all for it, and preparation is key to having a chance at reaching 50,000 words. But another part of me remembers how the challenge of NaNoWriMo resulted in some of the most productive writing habits I've ever had. Besides, there's nothing wrong with not reaching my NaNoWriMo goal, is there?

While I'm still debating whether to join NaNoWriMi this year, I do plan to make an extra effort to write more in November. How about you? Anyone else planning to tackle NaNoWriMo?

September 23, 2017

Signs I'm reading a really good book

Once in a while, I'll read a book that really captivates me. There's something about these special books that make them more than just a good read. They tend to take over my life while I'm in the midst of reading them. How so? Here are five ways.

  1. I don't want to pause in the middle of reading it, even to go to work or to sleep. I also consider missing my train stop during my work commute so that I can finish the chapter I'm on.
  2. It's all I think about during the day. Even my mood in real life is determined by what's happening in the book.
  3. I start looking for other books written by the author because I'm convinced that they're all going to be as awesome as the book I'm reading. I look up the author's website and stalk her/him on social media because I can't get enough.
  4. I wish I had half of the writing talent that the author of the book has.
  5. I don't want the book to end.

How about you? What is it like when you read an awesome book?

September 2, 2017

Working on two books at once

I've never been the type of writer who can work on more than one book at once. When I'm writing a novel, I'm usually so focused on it that I can't think of other novels for fear that it will pollute the one I'm working on. That changed recently when I stopped working on the YA fantasy series that occupied the first half of this year.

Last month, I started a new novel outside the YA genre. It's a thriller because thrillers are my second favorite genre after YA. I spent a couple of weeks coming up with the outline for my new book. The exercise re-ignited my writing passion, and I was eager to work on it. I wrote the first chapter, and writing became fun again.

Then the workload at my day job got out of hand. For two weeks, I had no time to write or to even think about writing. The thriller was in the back of my mind, but I had pushed it far enough back that it sat with the YA series I had abandoned. When I finally found a little bit of time to write again, to my surprise, I wanted to continue with the YA story instead. So I did. I didn't force myself to plow ahead with the thriller. I let my muse (or whatever it is that drives me to write) lead me back to the story that I thought I had left behind.

Now I'm going to work on both books at once. When I find the time to write, I'll let my inspiration dictate which story I want to work on. It'll take me longer to finish either story, but I'd rather continue making progress, albeit slow progress, on two stories at once than to not make any progress at all.

August 12, 2017

Books with unusual formats: The Themis Files

This post is a followup to my post from March about books with unusual formats. I recently read The Themis Files, and the two books in the series (so far), Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods, were awesome! Although the format isn't as unique as the books I mentioned in the original post, I like how The Themis Files are told through journal entries and interviews. At first, I wasn't sure how effective that would be in conveying the plot, but it turned out to be very well done.

Admittedly, a big reason why I liked these books so much is that I'm a sucker for giant robots, and reading the books took me back to the movies and TV shows I'd seen as a child involving giant robots saving the world. It wasn't just the robots that made The Themis Files great. I found myself drawn to the characters in the books, although most of what I knew about them were from interview transcripts.

There is supposedly at least one more book in the series, and I can't wait for it to be released!

July 22, 2017

Abandon ship!

I don't like to abandon a book once I've started writing it. (Heck, I don't even like to abandon books I've started reading.) I will plow through the first draft at least before deciding whether to spend the time and effort in revising it. However, I made a decision this week to stop working on a novel in progress. That novel was meant to be the first book in a new YA Fantasy series that I hinted about in February. After months of working on it, I'm no more than a quarter of the way through, based on my story outline.

Why am I going to stop working on this book? I can think of a few reasons:
  1. There are other, more interesting ideas I want to write. This comes up with every book I'm working on, so by itself, it wouldn't make me abandon a story. It's easy for a new shiny object to catch your eye, but up to now, I've had the discipline to continue with the project at hand until the first draft is completed.
  2. Writing a series is intimidating. Since this is the first time I've embarked on writing a series of novels, I admit that the idea scares me a little. I've outlined the plot of the first book, but I only have rough ideas of what will happen in books 2 and 3. As a result, I've found myself paralyzed when making decisions, wondering how they will affect events in subsequent books.
  3. I'm weaving three characters' stories into one, which is more complex than I thought. There are three protagonists in this series, and I'm alternating between their points of view with each new chapter. While I've outlined what each character will experience, having one chapter flow seamlessly into the next without jarring the reader has given me some headaches.

All three reasons are obstacles that I can overcome, but the combination of them has sapped my interest in continuing with the book. I'm going to shift gears and select another story idea to work on. My hope is that, after finishing a different book, I'll have a fresh perspective on this series because I do want to eventually finish it. Whether that will be in a few months or next year is hard to say right now. If anyone out there was looking forward to reading the series, I'm afraid that you will have to wait a bit longer for it.

July 1, 2017

Summer book sales!

I want to let you know about two sales involving my books.


To celebrate the 4th of July, two of my books, Gifted and Keep Your Enemies Close, are on sale at Amazon from July 1 to July 8. During the week, you can purchase either e-book for only 99 cents!

Smashwords is also having their Summer/Winter Sale, which will take place throughout the month of July. Some of my books are 50% to 100% off as part of the sale! Many other authors are also participating in this huge sale, so head over to Smashwords to check it out.

Happy summer reading!

June 17, 2017

Reading amnesia

Not too long ago, I borrowed a book from the library because the description sounded interesting. I started reading it, and about thirty pages in, I ran across a scene that seemed familiar. I couldn't remember if it just resembled a scene in another book I'd read or if I had in fact already read this book. Fortunately, I've been recording all of the books I've read the last few years on Goodreads, and when I looked it up, it turned out that I had read the book already!

This isn't the first time this has happened to me (and fortunately it's a rare occurrence). I thought I was just getting old and forgetful. Then I ran across an article about reading amnesia on Bookriot, and I realized I wasn't the only one. I also felt better knowing that it had a name!

Why does book amnesia happen? I don't know about other readers, but I forget that I've read a book when:
  • The book isn't memorable. That's the most obvious reason. If there was something memorable about the book, such as the plot or the protagonist or writing style, I wouldn't forget it. The Goodreads rating I gave the book from the library was 3 stars, which meant it was just meh and nothing stood out.
  • The blurb is misleading. Sometimes a book's blurb will promise something that doesn't pan out. The blurb will hint at a plot line that isn't the main focus of the book or suggest a genre that doesn't match the actual contents of the book. Regarding the book I had borrowed, its blurb led me to believe it was a taut thriller, but the first thirty pages were anything but thrilling. It was only when I ran across the first scene that caught my interest that I realized I may have read the book before.

Have you ever suffered from reading amnesia? If so, what causes it for you?

May 29, 2017

Fantastic Young Adult Fiction promotion

Fill up your e-reader with free YA books and enter for a chance to win a $10 gift card from Amazon, iTunes, or Barnes & Noble! Between now and June 20, you can download lots of free YA e-books through the special Fantastic Young Adult Fiction promotion, including one of my books, All That Remains of Me. Enjoy!

May 20, 2017

Release Announcement: Believe Me

I'm happy to announce the release of my latest book, Believe Me!

What if you could see into the future, but no one believed you? 

When Cassie was six years old, she discovered that she had the gift of prophecy. But with that gift came a curse. No one believed her predictions. 

Ten years later, Cassie doesn’t bother telling anyone about her powers. Not even her best friend believes in what she can do. Cassie is content living the life of a normal teenager until she meets Ryan, a new boy in school. She uses her powers to try to win him over, but her prophecies about their relationship eventually take a more dangerous turn. Are her visions of the future doomed to come to pass or can she change their fates? 

You can purchase Believe Me from these retailers:

April 30, 2017

Explore New Worlds

Do you want free Sci-Fi and Fantasy ebooks? How about a chance to win a $50 gift card from Amazon, iTunes, or Barnes & Noble?

I'm part of a multi-author promotion from May 1 through May 15 where you can download lots of free ebooks from Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors! Just visit the group's page here. Enjoy!

April 8, 2017

Cover reveal: Believe Me

I'm in the final stages of releasing my next book! It's called Believe Me, and it's a modern day retelling of the Cassandra myth. Check out the cover and description below.

Believe Me will be available at popular book retailers next month!

What if you could see into the future, but no one believed you? 

When Cassie was six years old, she discovered that she had the gift of prophecy. But with that gift came a curse. No one believed her predictions. 

Ten years later, Cassie doesn’t bother telling anyone about her powers. Not even her best friend believes in what she can do. Cassie is content living the life of a normal teenager until she meets Ryan, a new boy in school. She uses her powers to try to win him over, but her prophecies about their relationship eventually take a more dangerous turn. Are her visions of the future doomed to come to pass, or can she change their fates? 

March 25, 2017

Books with unusual formats

I'm a sucker for books with unusual formats. It's one thing to come across a great story, but it's way more awesome to find one that's told in a unique style rather than the normal prose format. Here are five books with unusual formats that I recommend, in order of how much I enjoyed them:

1. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - This was my favorite read last year. Even if there was nothing special about the book's formatting, I would've loved it. The fact that it's told through message chats, memos, transcripts, schematics, and more makes it one of my favorite books of all time.

2. Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - The sequel to Illuminae is as good as the original. If you're going to read Illuminae, you may as well read Gemina too. :-)

3. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski - This is the book that introduced me to the possibilities of unique formats. Even the font colors play a role in this book. The story itself is also gripping and somewhat spooky, and as with Illuminae and Gemina, I'd enjoy the book regardless of the formatting.

4. Night Film by Marisha Pessl - Some readers have compared Night Film with House of Leaves. Although both books are creepy and feature some unusual formatting, the story writing in Night Film doesn't quite compare to House of Leaves, and it doesn't have as much to offer in terms of uniqueness.

5. S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst - Conceptually, S. could've been the best of the lot. Formatted like an old library book titled Ship of Theseus that's been passed back and forth numerous times by two college students who wrote notes in the margins and put inserts between the pages, I loved the idea of the book. Unfortunately, I found the text of Ship of Theseus to be boring, but the margin story and everything else about the book was great.

March 11, 2017

A Spoonful of Stories update

In January 2016, I embarked on a writing project on Wattpad called "A Spoonful of Stories." The premise was to write a compilation of flash fiction, where the title of each piece represented a letter of the alphabet. I'm happy to say that, over a year later, the effort is still going strong. I just published the letter O story, "An Offering to the Ocean", making it fifteen out of twenty-six planned parts. The genres have varied, some whimsical, some serious, and some even scary.

One thing that surprised me was how hard it was to come up with some of the titles. I tried to stick with the format, "A _____ of _____" (e.g., "An Armful of Armadillos" and "A Batch of Bugs"), but some letters didn't lend themselves to a good set of words. I also found that, because titles could be hard to come by, I let my titles drive the story rather than coming up with a story idea and then finding a title to fit. The result was that these monthly stories became interesting writing exercises to see if I could invent a story when given a title. So far, I think I've been mostly successful in writing compelling stories for the collection.

There are still eleven more months of flash fiction to go before I complete this project, but if you're a fan of short stories, I invite you to check out "A Spoonful of Stories."

February 18, 2017

I'm finally going to write a series! (FAQ)

After publishing six standalone novels, I'm finally ready to write a series!
The two or three of you who read my blog may have questions, so here's an FAQ:

1. What about The Driver Series? Doesn't that count? It even says "Series" in the name!
Yes, that's technically a series, but it's a series of short stories. My new series will be one in the more traditional sense in that each book will be a full length novel. I learned a good deal about writing a series from The Driver Series, so let's call it the warmup for what I'm planning to write.

2. What is the new series about?
I haven't figured out all of the details, but it will be a YA Fantasy series.

3. How many books will be in the series?
Right now, it looks like the story will take three books to complete, so it will be a trilogy... unless it's not.

4. When will it be published?
I've just begun the outlining stage, so it's too early to tell. Given that it usually takes me about a year to write a novel, the series may not be finished for three more years! However, I'm hoping it'll take less time than that since it'll be like writing one long continuous story broken into three parts.

5. Will you publish anything else while working on the series?
I'm glad you asked! I will publish at least one more book in the meantime because there's a YA story currently in the hands of beta readers. That book will likely be released in a couple of months. After that, it's hard to say. At a minimum, I'll continue to post to Wattpad, especially as part of my project, A Spoonful of Stories.

January 28, 2017

Reading my TBR

Like many avid readers, I accumulate books faster than I can read them. Through the years, I've bought several shelves' worth of books, and while I've read a large majority of them, there are many books in my possession that I haven't read yet. Throw in the e-books that I've downloaded to my Kindle, and my TBR list is pretty darn long!

At the beginning of this year, I decided to tackle my TBR in earnest. I signed up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, with a goal of reading 75 books in 2017. That comes out to an average of a little more than 6 books each month. Among those 6 books, I'm vowing that at least two will be from the inventory I already own. (The rest will come from the library, which is where I get most of the books I read.) That means, if I don't buy more than 24 books this year, I should have net fewer books on my TBR list by the end of the year.

January 15, 2017

Favorite movies of 2016

After posting about my favorite reads of 2016, I decided to go through the movies I watched last year (thanks to Netflix, where my ratings are recorded) and post my favorite movies as well. I don't watch as many movies as I read books, so I'm only going to list the top 5.

1. "Rogue One"
I admit that, when I first heard that they were making a standalone Star Wars movie, I was skeptical how it would turn out. Then, when the first trailer of "Rogue One" was released, most of my doubts faded. This turned out to be my favorite movie of the year and one of my favorite Star Wars movies of all time. The fact that I already knew how the story would end didn't diminish my enjoyment of it. I'll also never view the first minutes of "A New Hope" the same way again.

2. "Finding Dory"
I can't count the number of times I've seen "Finding Nemo." Not only did I love the movie, but it was my kids' favorite for a long time too. I was excited when I learned there would be a sequel featuring Dory, and the movie didn't disappoint. It was great to see many of the old characters return for the sequel, but this is really a new story with fresh new characters. Ellen DeGeneres is once again superb as the forgetful Dory.

3. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"
Even if you've never seen any of the Harry Potter movies, I think you'll enjoy "Fantastic Beasts." However, as a Harry Potter fan, I appreciated all the little nods to the books found in the movie as well as the chance to see what the wizarding world in the U.S. was like. It also didn't hurt that Newt Scamander is a Hufflepuff like me. :-)

4. "Deadpool"
I didn't expect to like "Deadpool" as much as I did. It wasn't because of the story, which we've seen before. It must've been due to Deadpool's witty commentary, which made me laugh throughout the movie, or the references to other Marvel movies. Although the origin story didn't quite fit the Deadpool character in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", Ryan Reynolds did a great job in both movies as Wade Wilson/Deadpool.

5. "Zootopia"
"Zootopia" was a cute movie with a nice lesson, especially given the current political climate. Ginnifer Goodwin did a good job bringing Judy Hopps, the protagonist who is a police officer bunny, to life. If you've seen the trailer featuring the sloth at the DMV, that wasn't even one of the best parts of the movie IMHO, so if you liked that scene, you'll really enjoy the rest of the movie.

January 7, 2017

Favorite reads of 2016

In my last post, I mentioned that 23 of the books I read in 2016 received 5-star ratings. Among them, these were my top ten favorites.

1. Illuminae - Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
I'm not sure how to describe this book, but I loved everything about it. Illuminae was like a YA sci-fi love story with zombies and a homicidal AI rolled into one, told in a unique way that makes it even better than the sum of its parts. If that didn't make any sense (or even if it did), go read the book!

2. Attachments - Rainbow Rowell
Can you believe that I had never read a Rainbow Rowell book until 2016? I know, what kind of rock have I been living under? I went on a Rainbow Rowell reading binge, and Attachments was my favorite of the bunch. This was a fun, fast read that appealed to the romantic comedy fan in me (did I just admit to liking rom com?). I liked this book so much that I read it twice! I'm definitely a Rainbow Rowell fan now.

3. Winter - Marissa Meyer
A great conclusion to a great series. I won’t say more in case you haven’t read Winter or its predecessors yet. However, if you haven't read the Lunar Chronicles, you definitely should!

4. Fractured Innocence - Julia Crane
Freak of Nature was one of my favorite reads of 2013. I can't believe it's taken me this long to read the sequel, but it was well worth the wait. Equal parts YA, sci-fi, and action, this story has all the elements that I enjoy in a good book.

5. Dreams of Gods & Monsters - Laini Taylor
I finished the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series this year. What a great series, and Dreams of Gods & Monsters was a fitting finale. As with the Lunar Chronicles, I highly recommend everyone read this series if you haven’t yet.

6. Bits & Pieces - Jonathan Maberry
The Rot & Ruin series is one of my favorites of all time. Although the series has ended, it was great to revisit the universe again in this collection of short stories.

7. The Hero of Ages - Brandon Sanderson
2016 was also the year that I read the Mistborn trilogy. Given my notoriously slow pace at finishing a series, it says something that I read all three books in a single year. While all of the books in the trilogy were good, the finale, The Hero of Ages, was my favorite. It was impressive to see how everything fit together in the end. Hats off to Brandon Sanderson for crafting the Mistborn universe and for creating a plot so intricately interwoven that I felt like a fool for not seeing it all sooner.

8. The Final Empire - Brandon Sanderson
Following on the heels of The Hero of Ages, the first book of the Mistborn series was similarly as good. It was hard for me to choose which one to rank higher.

9. My Lady Jane - Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows
Historical fiction is typically not my cup of tea, but the comedic elements in this story made it a winner. Fans of The Princess Bride, Monty Python, or even historical fiction should enjoy this re-imagining of Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for only nine days. If you're a stickler for historical accuracy, however, you might want to skip this book. :-)

10. The Barriers - Katie French
Every installment of the Breeders series has made it onto my annual top ten list, and the series finale is no exception. If you’re a fan of the YA dystopian genre, you need to read the Breeders series!