It’s That Time of Year Again

Going over what is in my To Be Read pile

I usually start the new year with a pile of books that I can’t wait to read, but 2022 is a little bit different. I’m starting out the year with a pile of books that are to be read – that have been there for quite some time.

At the end of 2021 I hit a reading rut. I had created a decent habit of reading a little bit every night at bedtime. It would calm me and settle me down. And then I stopped. I’d read here and there. I’ve been working on the same book since September, maybe August.

It’s very sad.

I tend to go in reading phases. I’ll knock 60 books out in a year. Or, before 2017 when I started tracking my reading, I’d gone YEARS without picking up a book. I don’t want to get back to that – not reading at all – so a goal of mine for 2022 is to make it a good habit once again.

The books I have in that dusty pile from 2021 are:

Essence by Mandi Lynn

This is the first of Mandi Lynn’s books I’ve read and I truly do love it. I feel bad that my “reading rut” hit while I was in the midst of this one. The book tells the story of Amelia (Emma) who dies and becomes and Essence and her journey of learning that that means.

Mandi is a self published author that I look up to and admire. I found her on YouTube and grabbed this book off her website. I hope I can dig out of this rut so I can finish this and move on to more of her books. Her writing grips you in the moment and her book cover design is epic!

Heartbreak Bay by Rachel Caine

This is the last book in the Stillhouse Lake Series by Rachel Caine. I’ve had this book in this pile since it released in March 2021. The author passed away before this was released, so it’ll be the last book in the series. I hate goodbyes and endings, so knowing there will be no more is going to be a hard pill to swallow. The series follows Gina Royal and her fight to seperate herself and her children from the horrendous acts of her ex-husband and his psychotic followers. It’s a fantastic read and an absolute page turner. Once I’ve read the entire series, It’s one I see myself reading over again to relive the suspense. It’s that good.

Breakthrough by Joyce Smith (also released as The Impossible)

This one is based on a true story and has been made into a movie, which I’ve seen already. I’m a sucker for a good true story. This one is heart wrenching. Joyce Smith tells the story of her son who fell through the ice of a pond and essentially died and was resurrected. It’s a faith based read as well, so if that’s not your thing, skip it, but otherwise, I’m really looking forward to this one. The movie was great but I feel like the book on which the true stories are based have just a little bit more information and meat in them.

Craven Manor by Darcy Coates

I have lists of books everywhere that I want to read, and this one has been on that list for a while. It’s been in this dang to be read pile nearly all of 2021. As I’m typing this, I can’t even remember the premise of the book, but it’s got to do with a rotting, old, probably haunted mansion and that’s right up my alley. Creepy, huge old houses falling apart with some kind of marred history. Yes, Please. I can’t wait for this one!

Her Best Friend by Sarah Wray

This was a Christmas gift so it’s on the top of that 2021 pile. I felt like I’ve read a Sarah Wray novel before, but I can’t find it in all my lists, so I guess not. The author just seems so familiar. I’m not positive what this one is about either since it was a gift, but it sounds great by the tag line. Would I do anything to save my Best Friend? I’d like to think so … or would I?

There they are, the first five books for 2022 (or the 2021 leftovers, however you want to look at it). The thought of reading is starting to feel exciting again so I’m praying these don’t end up on a 2023 list.

I Can Do That – Cricut Vinyl Decals

This new blog series will share crafting and DIY projects I’ve been inspired to try on my own – the good, the bad and the ugly.

I bought a Cricut. I’ve been terrified of the Cricut machine for ages. It seemed so intricate and above my level of comprehension. But my curiousity won out and I bought one. And I’ve made some stuff with it. And surprisingly, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

So far, I’m mostly trying my hand at vinyl decals and quotes. I’ve done quite a few and I think I have this down pat. The above are the very first projects I did. These were simple (I really like simple) and took just a few minutes. The Cricut Design Space takes some getting used to and I’d suggest watching a YouTube video or eighteen before you start to familarize yourself with it. I also took notes and each type of project I anticipated doing and put them in that nifty Today I Cricut notebook.

This was another of my first projects.

So, to do these you’ll need a Cricut machine – I have the Maker, but there are other models available. You’ll also need several Cricut accessories (cutting pad, vinyl, weeding tool, transfer tape). I do kind of feel like most people are at least aware of the magic a Cricut possesses and I was just very late to the party (not surprising).

These little cards were made with cardstock and a Cricut writing pen. These particular project took a little more research to figure out. And I didn’t get it right the first time. I measured wrong, my cards were cut too big and off the actual cardstock, which was fun. I’m learning.

These little buckets I got at Dollar Tree and cut these cute quotes. I’m using these are trash bins in various locations in my office. 10 Points to anyone who recognized the Harry Potter quote in the HP font. You’re my people.

Super simple, but so cute! I cute this 10 with the Cricut on glitter cardstock and used it in my planner to mark my daughter’s tenth birthday! There is no chance I’d been able to cut a perfect 10 out by hand. Absoltely none. I’m already falling in love with this machine.

And then there was this project. A To Do list for my daughter to do in the morning before school. I got this cute little white board easel at Dollar Tree. It took me at least three tries to get this right! Each time I cut this out, the font I picked was too skinny and it was a pain in the boot to weed out. I’d rip and tear and lose pieces of my words each time. FINALLY figured out a font that would work. And then it fought me getting transfered. It was the tougest project to date, but I did get it. Took a few tries and a few days, but I did it.

The moral of this story is to try new things. Even if they scare you. Whether it’s a Cricut or a different kind of DIY project. Don’t let fear rule your life. Do the thing. Most of the time, things can be fixed if need be and if they can’t, well, maybe they were supposed to be that way anyhow.

Writers, Can You Survive Danger & Death in the Conflict Challenge?

I don’t know about you, but I get a little excited when a new writing guide comes along. Today I get to spill the news that The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Vol. 1) has hit the shelves.

This guide is about that killer ingredient our stories need: Conflict. It shows you exactly how to use conflict to raise tension, create a fresh story premise, and pull readers in. The guide also dives into over 100 conflict scenarios and how each can be endlessly adapted to challenge a character inside and out. Problems, Moral Dilemmas, Ticking Clocks, Obstacles, No-Win Scenarios…this book is plot brainstorming in overdrive!

I’m part of Angela & Becca’s Street Team for this release, and we have an important question to ask you:

Can You Survive Danger as Well as Your Favorite Protagonist?

Sure, it’s easy for you to use conflict to torture your characters and make them struggle, but what if it’s you in the hot seat instead? Will you make good decisions, or bad ones?

It’s time to find out by taking the Conflict Challenge! I dare you to become the protagonist in a special story Angela & Becca have created. And heads up, if you survive, you win some pretty cool stuff!

GIVEAWAY ALERT

While you’re at Writers Helping Writers taking the Conflict Challenge, make sure to enter The Conflict Thesaurus celebratory giveaway, too. But hurry – it’s only on for a few days.

So, take the challenge…if you dare. And don’t forget to come back and let me know how you did against Camp Deadwood!

The Conflict Thesaurus IS COMING

The Conflict Thesaurus releases October 12th.

And they’ve done it again, you guys. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are releasing another book in their Thesaurus Series – this one all about Conflict. And the best part? It’s VOLUME 1.

If you are not familiar, Writers Helping Writers is an endless resource for any level of author out there. The website is a treasure trove of information that seems refilling everytime you check it out.

Part of their immense stock, is the The Thesaurus Series. Each book in the series dives into a different aspect of descriptive writing with guides, insights and examples.

The latest is this golden beauty – The Conflict Thesaurus Volume 1 out October 12th.

And, of course, no story is complete without some form of Conflict. It’s arguable that every author out there could use a brush up with what struggles their characters can encounter.

The time and effort that went into creating this resource is unimaginable. There are endless amounts of possible conflicts for your character to face. Conflicts that you didn’t even think possible! I love reading a good resource, doing my research and finding something that makes me think “There is no way I would have ever considered that!”

Click here for your reminder to pick up your copy of the Conflict Thesaurus on October 12th!

Come back to the blog for an in depth review of The Conflict Theasurus before it’s release!

Plan Your Writer Life

What can help keep your writer life together and organized?

THIS IS ONLY MY OPINION. I feel like I should start with that because not all authors feel the same way about organization and that’s okay.

Me? I need organization. I thrive with a structure. And if it’s pretty, that’s even better.

There are two items I’ve been using recently to keep my writer life together and I’m going to share those with you.

Item 1: The Happy Planner

It’s no secret I love The Happy Planner. That’s been well documented for the last two years on all of my social media. However, this year I really dove into tracking and planning my author life and I used a Happy Planner to do that. I tried several of the Happy Planner layouts to see what worked best for me, and for now, I think I’ve found it. Promise you won’t laugh?

I’ve been using the Disney Princess Happy Planner in a Vertical Layout. And I’ve been making each weekly layout a different Princess. Mostly Disney Princesses, because, let’s face it, they kind of have the market cornered. The layout pictured is one of my favorites and it’s the Emerald City portral of Princess Langweidiere from the Oz universe.

Some of my layouts are mostly decorated (like this one), but some are not. I love the vertical layout for my catch all planner as well, so it’s what I’m used to. Right now, my author life is kind of quiet, so mostly decorated makes me feel less like a lazy butt. When things pick up, it’s going to be fantastic. I’ve been doing WIP research and putting that in my author planner as well as any author related projects I’m currently working on.

If you’re looking for a paper planner to organize your writer life, I’d suggest The Happy Planner. Check out the different planner types and layouts and find what works best for you!

Item 2: Stone Ridge Stickers

PLANNER STICKERS FOR WRITERS FROM A WRITER. Uh, what more could you possibly want? Stone Ridge Stickers have a wide variety of different author themed stickers as well as decorative stickers for your everyday planner or specifically, your author planner!

I love these Instagram icons for social media planning. These Chapters Edited stickers are going to change my world while editing! Author Mandi Lynn has created an amazing line of author stickers perfect for your organizing, planning and tracking needs.

These are just a few of the amazing author items you can use to help you organizing your author life. If you’d like to learn more about my favorite items, leave a comment and let me know!

DISCLAIMER: Some links included in this blog might be affiliate links. If you purchase a product with the links above I may receive a small commission. There is no charge to you, at all. Thank you for all your support!

I Can Do That – Desk Mat

This new blog series will share crafting and DIY projects I’ve been inspired to try on my own – the good, the bad and the ugly.

For the first project in the series, I started off EASY. I love to craft and try DIY projects, but what I really love is easy. Too intricate and I shy away. More than a few steps? No, thanks, I’m good. However, as of late, I’ve been motivated to try and do some things to challenge myself. Some upcoming projects featured in this series will be things I never thought I’d attempt.

But, first things first. This easy, adorable and useful project – taking a simple clear, plastic desk mat and making it my own!

The hardest part of this project was the trip to IKEA to get the actual desk mat. The closest IKEA to where I live is almost two hours away. I could have ordered it online, but what’s the fun of that?

IKEA desk mat

Click Here to get this sweet deal for yourself. This desk pad is sturdy and translucent and for only $4.99 it is a steal for this project.

I took a gorgeous floral gift bag that I’d been holding on to for years and cut it to the size of the desk mat. I’ve seen people primarly use wrapping paper for this project, but you can use just about anything!

I took some double sided tape and attached the foral paper to the bottom side of the desk mat. The desk mat is translucent enough to see the paper but you can not see the tape.

And that’s literally ALL IT TAKES!

Finished product

I still need to trim up some of the corners, but I think it looks super adorable in this space. It also saves my beat up, much loved, wooden desk from any other cuts, scraps or damage.

Be on the lookout for more in this blog series! Some projects will be just as easy peasy as the beauty, but others will take a smidge more effort.

Anxiety – It’s not a dirty word

Most of us have felt it at one point or another; anxiety. It’s often described as nervousness, sweaty palms or a sense of dread. It’s not frequent; before a big presentation at work, before a gathering of people you don’t know that well and it usually subsides before you can ever really think about it. For most, that is the extent of our relationship with anxiety.

For others – for me – it’s different. Much, much different.


To give a little back story, I’ve always been one of those nervous people. One who worries about things that are completely out of my control. Once, when I was in high school, our area in Central Florida was under a Hurricane Warning. I packed up my entire room “just in case”. I’ve always been that kind of nervous.


In October 2018, my dad went to the hospital with chest pains. He had a history of cardiac issues. They kept him overnight for observation and released him finding there to be no new issues with his health. Around this same time, I remember vividly sitting in my office at work and having a pain in my chest. I told my friend Jeanne about and she looked at me as if I had two heads and said, “That’s not your heart.”


In November 2018, my dad had a heart attack that required he have double bypass surgery. I’ve never in my life been more terrified. My family and I banded together, we found strength in each other and my dad made it through surgery and has recovered amazingly.


On New Years Day 2019, my friend Jeanne passed away from a heart attack.


This is where my life changed.


I don’t know what exactly did it. I don’t know if it was a little bit of everything the prior three months had involved or if it was her death solely that rocked me to my core.


I broke.


I am broken now.


When shock wore off anxiety moved in. Full force, without notice and without permission. Nonstop, debilitating anxiety. Every. Single. Day anxiety maneuvers my life.


Somedays I’m really, really good at hiding it. I put on nice clothes, wear fancy earrings, put on mascara and smile, all while barely keeping anything together on the inside. Other days I give in completely and it takes all I have to just get out of bed and get to work.


Some days I break in private. At home, with my husband helplessly watching me pace the kitchen for two hours clenching my chest and trying to convince him I’m dying while he tries to convince me to breath.
Some days I break in public. At work, running out of the office and to my car where I cry hysterically and hyperventilate to the point I nearly pass out in my back seat.


If I hear of other people’s symptoms or problems, I suddenly feel like I have those too. Listening to Covid reports and symptoms has been difficult.


I’ve been to the emergency room and doctor after doctor, even a cardiologist, for what all is determined to be anxiety.
I’ve been told my heart is healthy, I have minimal heart palpitations (most people have these, but do not feel them). My overall health is good; I need to lose weight and eat better, but for the most part all is fine. I’m fine – physical health wise.


My mental health is the problem. My anxiety has convinced me that I’m in danger of dying every day. Every ache, pain, pinch, tingle sends me into panic, and I spiral. People tell me not to think about it, but that is impossible, and they don’t understand why. The anxiety rules everything.


I’ve tried several anti-anxiety meds that ended up having the opposite desired effect on me, making the anxiety kick into high gear.


I go days, weeks, months at a time doing nothing but dwell on my anxiety and what this pain, tingle or pinch can mean. Recently, I spent four days believing a tingling in my ear and face was a stroke. I cried, I panicked, I took medication and finally went to my cardiologist. He told me I had zero chance of having a stroke. My primary care doctor said the tingling was my anxiety. I realized finally, after almost two weeks, that the tingling mostly happens when I’ve got my jaw and teeth clenched.


I believe the trauma of losing Jeanne so suddenly triggered something in me. I had said, shortly before she passed, that Jeanne was a mountain, nothing could touch her, she could withstand anything. She’d overcome some many different types of obstacles unscathed and with grace, it was astonishing.


Because of what happened to my dad the previous few months, on New Years Eve, as the clock struck midnight and we welcomed 2019, I kissed my husband and said “2019 has to be better, right?” It wasn’t. I woke up New Year’s Day to this horrible, life altering news and It was the opposite of better. Now when I hear someone say anything like that, I cringe. I now say to myself “it can always be worse”.


I’ve been on this journey for over two years now. I’d like to get off this particular roller coaster ride, but it may just be a part of me from now on. I’ve started a different anti-anxiety medication and it seems to be helping so far. I’m able to feel a pain, a tingle, a clench and not immediately panic. I’m able to get up and get ready for my day and focus on many of the other parts of my life instead of waiting for the next symptom. I’m part of a Facebook support group for cardiac issues / anxiety and it’s been so helpful.


Anxiety seems to still be so taboo, and I don’t think that’s fair. I know those around me try to understand and listen, but most of them have never felt this type of anxiety – or any anxiety. My anxiety is health correlated – specifically, cardiac anxiety. I also like to worry about strokes and blood clots, but I focus on my heart the most.


Be patient with those you love with any form of anxiety. Listen to them, research their type of anxiety to better help them along their journey. Most of all, love them and talk to them. If we all do our part, anxiety will no longer be a dirty word and those of us in it’s grasp can began to heal a bit better.

Why I’m in love with my desk

I’d suspect that most authors are in love with their offices, but my desk in particular, is my love. I don’t have a dedicated office. My writing space was tucked into a corner of my bedroom. Since Covid became a thing, it’s in a corner of my living room. We moved it when I began working my 9-5 job and schooling from home. We’re still doing both of those items part time.

I’d love to have a dedicated office space. I’ve got a Pinterest board a mile long of my dream office. A space I could go into and get lost in my writing. But to be completely honest, the last book I wrote was mostly written from the couch while Unsolved Mysteries reruns played on Hulu.

Nevertheless, back to my desk. I don’t write from her often but I still love her. Anyone who knows me personally, knows I love this hunk of furniture. Here is a quick biography of my desk.

I got her as a Christmas gift when I was a kid, sometime between ten and twelve. It’s my favorite Christmas gift, ever. My desk is a light colored, heavy-as-hell wood. She’s got two drawers on the left, two on the right and one skinny one in the center. As you can imagine now, she’s beat to hell, but still beautiful. Her drawers still smell like they did when I got her. That Christmas I got the desk, an electronic typewriter and a desk chair with wheels. I also got one of those old fashioned desk lamps, the one with the green glass lampshade that was about as heavy as the desk itself. I also got tons and tons of desk (office) supplies. Paperclips, organizers, stapler, tacks, paper, pens. I’m not kidding when I say that was my best Christmas ever.

My bedroom was roughly the size of a walk in closet. I had a twin bed, my hella awesome desk, a small TV stand and a wood cabinet for a closet. My Dad put my desk in front of my window. I set everything on it and was in heaven.

When I moved out when I was twenty, I left my desk at my parents house. At twenty I’d lost some of the admiration for my desk. I was much more interested in my boyfriend (which is okay, he’s now my husband). My desk stayed in my old room for seven years. Until I became pregnant.

Needing to empty our spare room / office to make way for a nursery, we ditched my husband’s huge desk and opted to bring home my small, more functional desk. I fell in love all over again. She was back with me.

We’ve moved from that house and she came with us. In our new house, my husband mainly used my desk to house our ancient desktop computer and I just picked up the laptop and parked it on the couch.

About three years ago I said NO MORE. I want her back. I want her to be mine and only mine. My husband bought himself a little Walmart desk and my girl was tucked into the corner of our bedroom to be wholly mine.

She’s pieces of wood barely hanging on but she’s held together with love and memories. I’ll never get rid of her. She’s the best. And she still smells good.

Early 2021 TO READ List

Now that we are almost two months into 2021, I thought I’d share my to read list, as of right now.

At the end of 2020, I began reading the Harry Potter series. I’ve seen the movies countless times and even started reading the series once, but never got all the way through. Now, I’m determined.

Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince

Right now I’ve made it through the first five books of the series and I’m currently reading Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince. Next up is The Deathly Hallows and I’ll have finished this entire series! The books track the movies pretty closely, but do have various differences, which is fun and unexpected. I love the series – I really love the movies. I’m not sure if the book series is something I’d read again, but you never know. I won’t lie; it’s kind of nice knowing what happens. Sometimes the anticipation of “what’s going to happen” in a book sets my anxious nerves on edge.

I got quite a few books for Christmas that are stacked up and waiting to be read. Most were off of my Amazon wish list. I don’t know a lot about them yet, but I’m excited to get into them.

I read Kathryn Croft’s Silent Lies last year and found it pretty interesting. It had been sitting my wish list for a while and I finally grabbed it. Totally loved it. I added her book The Warning afterward and got it as a gift. Once I find an author I really enjoy, I like to grab a couple of their works and see what I think. This book sounds like it may follow a similar style as to the first book of hers that I read, so I’m intrigued to see how it goes.

Another book on my Amazon Wish List that sat that for quite some time was Lucy Dawson’s The Memory. I think it’s been on my list for a couple of years. I don’t think I ‘ve read anything of hers before, so I’m looking forward to see what kind of style writer she is and if I enjoy the story. Anything that I can get dropped into is fun for me. I’ve looked up her other works and they seem like good reads as well. I’ll see how this first one goes and then decide. But I know me. I’ll probably love it. I have a habit of pain stakingly picking an author and then loving everything they’ve ever done (with a few exceptions).

I grabbed Broken Girls by Simone St. James off of Thriftbooks.com. It had been on my Amazon Wish List as well, but I could never decide if I wanted to pull the trigger and read it. I’ve never read anything by this author so I just wasn’t sure. I added it onto a TB order on a whim and it’s sitting waiting to be read. I get anxious reading authors for the first time, so I hope I enjoy it. Like I’ve mentioned before, I do tend to fall in love with whatever I read, but sometimes I get disappointed in the story. Or worse, I can’t finish the dang book at all. Thankfully, that has only happened once or twice.

Now, onto two nonfiction books. I gravitate to fiction, but I honestly love true crime books and true stories as well. If it’s got some adversity, I want to feel that pain with you. These two books, His Bright Light and Almost Perfect were on my wish list as well. I don’t remember how I stumbled across these book. I’ve always been drawn to true crime and true life stories – how did this awful thing happen and why? I just have to know! I’m a sucker for these types of shows on television as well. I’ve watched reruns of Unsolved Mysteries and Disappeared more times than I can count. These two books fall into these categories and I think I’m most excited to read them.

The last book on my list is a bit sentimental. It’s the last book in Shirly Murphy’s Joe Grey series, Cat Chase the Moon. The series is about Joe Grey – he’s a talking cat who helps solve crimes with other talking cats and their human counterparts. My friend Jeanne got me started with this series many years ago and I fell in love with it. This book is sentimental for a few reasons. Jeanne passed away in 2019 so we never got the chance to read this one together. It’s also the last in the series because Mrs. Murphy has been unable to continue writing. It’s rather heart breaking that there won’t be any more Joe Grey adventures. This is a series I’ll read again and again. It’s fun and adventurous and holds a special place in my heart.

My Goodreads goal is to read 30 books this year, so at some point I’ll post additional books, but this will get 2021 started. Good reading, everyone!