reading

Quarterly Planning

Since December I’ve been using the HB90 quarterly planning method from Heart Breathings. I mentioned it here in January, but it’s helped my productivity more than anything else I’ve done.

This past quarter wasn’t perfect. There’s plenty that I didn’t accomplish, but that’s okay. Quarterly planning gives me a clean slate. I can analyze what happened last quarter and try to do better in the future.

Another cool thing about the HB90 method is creating outcome goals. For example, I want to boost reader engagement by X percent. Once I know those goals, I can decide on the projects and tasks that will help me achieve that goal. It’s great because having a plan for the quarter means starting a new month isn’t as stressful. Those outcome goals haven’t changed much. I’ll just create different projects to accomplish them.

For April, a few of the things I plan to do is…
– Finish my WIP
– Read at least 2 books
– Get back to journaling
– Plot my next novel

What are you hoping to achieve this month?

Until next time,

Sarah

Historical Fiction

vaulted cellarHistory has always been one of my favorite topics.

In college, I started out as a double major in English: Creative Writing and History with an emphasis on European History. That didn’t end up happening since I was so ready to be done with school. Knowing how helpful the time I’ve spent learning from Romance Writers of America and the internet has been, I wish I’d gone with the History major instead.

But I digress.

I’ve always loved historical romance novels and historical fiction. At one point, I didn’t feel comfortable writing them and the level of research that go into something like that. They still do intimidate me, even though I’ve written a fantasy romance series set in medieval Ireland, a Wild West paranormal romance novella, and co-wrote an urban fantasy romance that takes place in an alternate reality Ireland.

Regardless, I sincerely admire authors who write them. I’ve accepted that paranormal romance and urban fantasy placed in contemporary times is more my forte.

Anyways.

My favorite historical time period and location is Dark Ages and Medieval Europe, particularly in Scandinavia (Vikings!) and the UK and Ireland. So many fascinating things happened, and I love reading about mythology. When my husband and I have traveled, we always try to hit the museums.

There’s also ancient Greece and Rome. I’ve read a couple of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s books that incorporate that time period, which were really cool.

I’m very passionate about history. Surprisingly, it’s been a while since I’ve read a historical romance or fiction. That genre is on my TBR list this year, though, since I’m challenging myself to read wide.

What are your favorite time periods to read about? Do you have favorite time periods you don’t feel are represented enough in fiction?

Leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think!

Until next week,

Sarah

Writer’s Mission

Since the end of last year, I’ve thought more about this topic than I have for a while. What’s my mission as a writer?

As an entrepreneur, I have a business plan with my long term goals and what I’d like to accomplish. That’s a different cap than a writer’s mission though.

The pull for me to become a writer comes from my childhood. I used to escape into books and let reality take a back seat, even if it was for a little while. Exploring a world that I might never get to see, all through the pages of a book.

For the first time in a while, that’s happened to me again. I fell face first into a book that started out a little slowly, but now that it has sank its claws into me, all I can think about is getting back to it! I’m relieved it’s the first book in a series because the book is almost over, and yet, I don’t want it to end.

That’s something I crave to create for my own readers. To entertain them and whisk them away to make believe worlds too. To let the book sink its claws (or fangs) into them and not let go. To keep them thinking about it until it’s over.

It’s a great time to reflect on that mission. I’m truly grateful to everyone who has read my books. Hearing from people that they love them is humbling (and blows my mind).

Until next week,

Sarah

Reading Challenges

Many moons ago, or at least that’s how it feels, I used to do reading challenges a lot. With a huge TBR list, there was something magical about seeing what topics were presented each month and digging through my books to see what fit where.

These days, I’ve basically followed what my Kindle suggests to me. That’s cool sometimes, but it doesn’t give me that same excitement as the reading challenges did before.

So, my reading goal for this year is at least 24 books, which might not be a lot compared to some people, but that would be four more books than I read last year.

This year, I’m following Roni Loren’s The Read Wide Challenge. There are plenty of books in many genres that I’ve had, so now I’ll a solid reason to actually finish them! Hooray.

Do you enjoy reading challenges? How many books are you hoping to read this year?

Until next week,

Sarah

Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance Reading Challenge

Here’s my list for Book Chick City’s Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance 2013 Reading Challenge. I’m so glad they combined my two favorite genres. Hopefully I’ll have better luck than last year and the year before! I’ll be updating this list each month as I complete new novels. Let me know if you’re participating as well!

To Be Read:

  1. On The Edge by Ilona Andrews
  2. Dark and Stormy Knights Anthology
  3. On the Prowl Anthology
  4. Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong
  5. Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs
  6. River Marked by Patricia Briggs
  7. Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
  8. Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
  9. Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton
  10. Skin Trade by Laurell K. Hamilton
  11. Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson
  12. Edge of Destiny by J. Robert King
  13. Stripped by Julie Leto
  14. Wynter’s Captive by Milly Taiden
  15. Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig 
  16.    
  17.  
  18.  
  19.  
  20.  
Completed (in order of read):
  1. Blood Drive by Jeanne C. Stein
  2. Ghosts of Ascalon by Matt Forbeck
  3. Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Books I’ve Read this Month

I hope everyone is having a Happy Monday! So, I was doing Meme Monday, but I’m not crazy about keeping that going. Instead, I decided that since I want to do more reading this year, that maybe the last Monday of the month I can talk about the books I’ve read in that month. So, here goes!

First of all, this has been an odd month for me. Normally, I don’t read this many books in a given month, but it just turned out that way, and I’ve really enjoyed the time spent reading.

1st book – Stolen by Kelley Armstrong (Horror & Urban Fantasy Challenge): Wow, I only read Bitten last month, and I adored it. So I grabbed it the next book as soon as I could. I love Elena and Clay. I’m looking forward to more information on Paige, but the werewolves rock in this! This book was action packed, and I seriously wondered on occasion how Elena would ever get herself out of her predicament. I really enjoyed it. (Side note: I did start it at the end of December, but since I finished it in January it counts. lol) 5 stars.

2nd book – Fool Moon by Jim Butcher (Horror & Urban Fantasy Challenge): I love Harry Dresden. I wish the TV show wouldn’t have been cancelled before it had gotten off the ground, but ah well… I thought the first book was amazing. This book was really cool as well, but I thought it wasn’t as awesome as the first one. Still gets a 4 star rating though. I love that it dealt with werewolves since I’m totally a werewolf fan.

3rd book – Dark Lies by Vivi Anna (Speculative Romance Challenge): I have to be honest. With this book, I’ve had it for a while and when I picked it up, I didn’t realize it was book 2 in a series. I’m a stickler for reading series in order. If I haven’t read the first one, etc., I won’t read a book even if I want to unless I’m caught up. I didn’t track down the first book here, I decided to pick it up and read it since I’d started it a few years ago and then got sidetracked. I didn’t feel like I was lost having not read the first book here. I appreciated that. It also had an interesting plot. Although, the villain isn’t handled fully but a minor villain is, so I think he’s either in all the books or some more. I’m not sure. It was a good book though. I’m glad I finally read it. 4 stars.

4th book – Hexed Anthology (Horror & Urban Fantasy Challenge): I read Magic Dreams by Ilona Andrews and Ice Shards by Yasmine Galenorn in this book. I’m not going to read the other novellas, yet at least. I’m in the process of reading the Anna Strong books (just picked up book 2 from the library), so I’d prefer to read it when I get to that point in the series.

Magic Dreams by Ilona Andrews – 5 stars. I absolutely loved it! I love Ilona Andrews, but I wasn’t completely sure how I would like a Dali/Jim story since I adore Kate/Curran. But this was SO good. I’d totally want to read a full Dali/Jim novel now.

Ice Shards by Yasmine Galenorn – 4 stars. I really enjoyed this story. I mostly read it because it had the Finnish element to it, and I love Finland. This was different than something I would normally read. Felt very fantasy-ish. I hadn’t read the other books in the series, but I didn’t feel clueless about what was going on. In fact, it made me want to read the other books.

Overall, I’d give the book 4.5 stars. Easy to figure out since I’d read two of the stories. lol

Currently Reading – Touch of Darkness by CT Adams and Cathy Clamp (Speculative Romance Challenge): I started this book in June of last year, but my time with it since I checked it out at the library expired, so I decided recently to get it off my “Currently Reading” and finally finish the series (hence I re-checked it out). I’ll tell what I think about it next month since that’s most likely when I’ll have finished reading it. 🙂

So, what have you read this month?

Speculative Romance Challenge 2012

Okay, so here’s my list for Book Chick City’s Speculative Romance Challenge 2012. I’ll be updating it each month as I complete new novels. I’m going to try to go the distance with reading and do better this year than I did in 2011. Let me know if you’re participating as well!

To Be Read:

  1. Night Embrace by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  2. Stripped by Julie Leto
  3. TBA
  4. TBA
  5. TBA
  6. TBA
  7. TBA
  8. TBA
Completed (in order of read):

  1. Dark Lies by Vivi Anna
  2. Touch of Darkness by C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp
  3. Tor by Lynn Lorenz
  4. Night Thief by Lisa Kessler

Writer Wednesday: Reading Challenges

Hey everyone! I hope you’re having a fantastic New Year so far! Welcome back to Writer Wednesday. Reading is important to writers because it helps them hone their craft. Hence why I’m discussing it today.

With a fresh new year here, I know I’ve been thinking about what I want to accomplish in it. One of those things is read more. Last year, I failed with my reading goal, so this year I’m setting a new one. Probably one that’s more ambitious, but I’m hoping to stick to it. Yes, it’s… 36 books (novels, more specifically). No, no, please don’t start laughing…

Anyways, I’m a slow-ish reader. If I don’t do anything but eat, drink, use the restroom, and read, I can finish a book in one day if it sucks me in. Otherwise, a little over a week is my pace. Yes, writing, and then computer games, take up the other portion of my time. *grins*

So, I’ve been looking at quite a few blogs recently, and I’ve seen a lot of people doing a wide array of reading challenges this year. The three that I’m doing are:

Goodreads’ 2012 Reading Challenge: Pretty simple, all you need to do is join Goodreads, set a goal for yourself, and read those books. It keeps track by you specifying “read” and when you read the book. Their widget shows if you’re ahead or behind of your goal.

Book Chick City’s Horror & Urban Fantasy Reading Challenge 2012: This is a genre based challenge. To sign up, you just go to the website, fill out the linky, etc. and read the books!

Book Chick City’s Speculative Romance Challenge 2012: The same as above here, except this one is for all kinds of romance like sci-fi romance, paranormal romance, fantasy romance.

Book Chick City also has other Reading Challenges. There’s more here, and I’m sure if you typed in reading challenge (romance, sci-fi, etc.) that you’d find more.

So… who else has taken the dive to read more this year and joined a reading challenge? If you have, which ones?

Horror & Urban Fantasy 2012 Reading Challenge

Okay, so here’s my list for Book Chick City’s Horror & Urban Fantasy 2012 Reading Challenge. I’ll be updating it each month as I complete new novels. I’m hoping to do better this year than I did in 2011. Let me know if you’re participating as well!

To Be Read:

  1. Dark and Stormy Knights Anthology
  2. On the Prowl Anthology
  3. On The Edge by Ilona Andrews
  4. Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
  5. Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton
  6. Skin Trade by Laurell K. Hamilton
  7. Blood Drive by Jeanne C. Stein
  8. Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong
  9. Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson
  10. TBA
  11. TBA
Completed (in order of read):

  1. Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
  2. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
  3. Hexed Anthology
  4. Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
  5. Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
  6. Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
  7. Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
  8. Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance
  9. Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs
  10. The House at Cobb End by Karen Chance
  11. A Family Affair by Karen Chance
  12. The Burning Times by Jeanne Kalogridis
  13. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Guest Author Cathy Pegau

Five Reasons I Love Speculative Fiction

No matter what basic storyline pops into my head, I always seem to throw an otherworldly curve in it. A western becomes a story about demon hunters on the frontier. A women’s fiction about best friends becomes a ghost story. I love tales that have some kind of “otherness” in them, some twist on what we know as our normal reality. Why does my mind take these turns? I have no idea. But I can tell you why I love reading and writing them.

1) Bending the Rules—or even breaking them (my personal favorite ; ). If you can imagine it, you can write it into your world. As long as you can explain why the sky is green and the grass is blue, why not? Not only can it make a run-of-the-mill story different, but you get to do cool research too.

2) Get Lost—in your imagination. A story set on another planet, in another reality, is a great way to put your own reality aside for a little while. It’s like a mini vacation that costs only a few dollars. And the characters typically have much greater problems than our everyday issues. If the MC can handle alien invaders, I can deal with the evil day job.

3) Turn a Subgenre on Its Head—Space westerns. Elves in Manhattan. Automatons in a Victorian-era mystery. Subgenres and combinations abound in speculative fiction. Granted, too many categories can be a little cumbersome (space elves landing in Victorian Manhattan to solve a murder? Well, maybe…) but if the author does her job even that might fly.

4) Plot-tastic Tales—where the world-building lends itself to wild situations. As long as they make sense, just about anything goes. Hmm…I wonder what those space elves are up to?

5) Super Characters—sometimes literally. Some speculative fiction characters have super powers. Some have wings or pointy ears or pointy teeth. Some change form. Some have kick-ass martial arts skills or pulse weapons and jet packs. No matter what their attributes, skills, talents or tech, a good spec fiction character is a step above mere mortals while retaining traits that the reader finds relatable.

Those are my reasons for loving all manner of speculative fiction, from high fantasy and magic realism to science fiction and steampunk. What about you?

Cathy’s debut F/F Science Fiction Romance Rulebreaker is out from Carina Press now. Here’s the blurb and a short excerpt:

Liv Braxton’s Felon Rule #1: Don’t get emotionally involved.


Smash-and-grab thieving doesn’t lend itself to getting chummy with the victims, and Liv hasn’t met anyone on the mining colony of Nevarro worth knowing, anyway. So it’s easy to follow her Rules.


Until her ex, Tonio, shows up with an invitation to join him on the job of a lifetime.


Until Zia Talbot, the woman she’s supposed to deceive, turns Liv’s expectations upside down in a way no woman ever has.


Until corporate secrets turn deadly.


But to make things work with Zia, Liv has to do more than break her Rules, and the stakes are higher than just a broken heart…

From Rulebreaker, Chapter One:

One of the three masked men raised his rifle and shot a short burst of energy pulses into the ceiling of the First Colonial Bank of Nevarro. Fft-fft-fft-fft-fft. Plaster hit the wood floor in a staccato patter louder than the shots themselves. Ozone, dust and cries of alarm filled the air.

The shooter swung the muzzle toward me. “I said, heads down, lady.”

Gut tight, I complied, imitating the others who had been caught inside the bank when the black-clad men had entered just before closing time. It wasn’t often that I stared into the dark, deadly hole of a weapon. I don’t recommend it as a regular activity.

“Everyone stay down and stay quiet,” he ordered. “We’ll be outta here in two minutes, and y’all can go home alive.”

One of the men in black escorted the teller and the manager to the back of the bank where the vault was. The guard, an elderly couple, Calvin and I lay on our bellies, hands on the backs of our heads and cheeks to the rough wood. The elderly couple had come in to check on their savings.

Cal and I had come in to rob the place ourselves.

Despite the pulse pistol nestled under my clothes against the small of my back, and Cal’s gun tucked in a holster covered by his right pant leg, neither of us was inclined to play hero.

Cal turned his head away from the shooter to glare at me. “Only you, Liv,” he whispered fiercely, “would pick the exact same day to rob a bank as real criminals.”

Real criminals? I opened my mouth to loudly voice my indignation but snapped it shut.

I’d already drawn enough attention to myself. Instead, I returned his harsh whisper. “We are real criminals. This is just poor timing.”

Cal and I had been planning this job for a while. The Exeter Mining Company deposited its employees’ pay during an undisclosed period each month to avoid such actions as, say, robbery. But Cal had finagled the schedule and amounts from a friend. Seventy-five thousand in cold, hard cash had been delivered to this bank in Milchner the day before. Many small-op contract miners preferred hard money to electronic transfer—fewer slipped digits and short changings to worry about.

We chose this branch because it was the most remote, the least secure and had the fewest personnel. Despite its lower take than a branch in one of the larger cities, like Pembroke, it was the perfect hit.

Apparently the competition thought so too.

“We should have done this sooner,” Cal grumbled.

“It’s not my fault my car died,” I said.

This had not been one of my luckier days, or months, or years for that matter. The job was supposed to go down last month, but fast transportation was a must. Cal only had access to a slower model Airvan. A week before the original hit date, the lifters on my somewhat newer, sleeker and more sensitive light air car went offline. Part of this take was earmarked to pay that bill. Damn the void.

*******************

Rulebreaker is available from Carina Press Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Visit Cathy at her blog, website or say hello on Facebook and Twitter.