100 Favorite Things

Starting this month, I’d like to try getting more personal with my posts. All work and no play, right? But really, I can’t always blog about my writing life – it’s just not that exciting. Not that my regular life is exciting, but it’s nice to switch things up sometimes!

So, these are some of my favorite things. It’s not an exhaustive list, nor is it listed in any sort of order. Here goes:

  1. sunrises/ sunsets
  2. a quiet cup of coffee in the morning
  3.  Netflix
  4.  yoga
  5.  starting a new book
  6.  Thanksgiving
  7.  riding with the car windows down
  8.  vinyl records
  9.  dogs
  10.  fresh flowers
yellow mums orange peruvian lilies and carnation flower arrangement

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  1.  Bath and Body Works
  2.  curtain lights
  3.  compliments from strangers
  4.  Funko POPS
  5.  going to the movie theater
  6.  movie theater popcorn
  7.  Target
  8.  Tieks ballet flats
  9.  good hair days
  10.  breakfast for dinner
cooked food on a plate

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  1. bootcut jeans
  2.  guys with British accents
  3.  hearing my favorite song on the radio
  4.  shopping
  5.  writing
  6.  candlelight
  7.  reruns of favorite sit-coms
  8.  pizza
  9.  when my husband calls me “baby”
  10.  the sound of ocean waves
sea waves crashing on shore during sunset

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  1. brunch with my Mom
  2.  seeing live shows/concerts
  3.  grilled cheese sandwiches
  4.  hearing birds sing
  5.  margaritas
  6.  visiting New York City
  7.  the smell of lavender
  8.  watching the snowfall
  9.  jewelry from Tiffany’s
  10.  autumn
nature red forest leaves

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  1.  the color pink
  2.  the sound of my daughters’ laughter
  3.  Jane Austen
  4.  rings
  5.  80s teen movies
  6.  sunshine
  7.  getting letters/cards in the mail
  8.  date night
  9.  macaroni and cheese
  10.  fresh sheets on the bed
white pillows on a bed

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  1.  meeting friends for coffee
  2.  Spotify
  3.  Ice Breakers peppermint gum
  4.  gift cards
  5.  comfy pajamas
  6. Starbucks
  7.  Pinot Grigio
  8.  pumpkin spice everything
  9.  Ruth’s Chris restaurant
  10.  champagne
clear stemmed glass almost full

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  1. manicures
  2.  pedicures
  3.  massages
  4.  lounging by the pool
  5.  cheesecake
  6.  cute outfits
  7.  browsing through bookstores
  8.  adding to/crossing things off my bucket list
  9.  listening to thunderstorms
  10.  my birthday
vacation winter ball balloon

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  1.  having the house all to myself
  2.  tiramisu
  3.  cashmere slippers in winter
  4.  Burt’s Bees lip balm
  5.  Reese’s cups
  6.  trying new things
  7.  breezes
  8.  my iPhone and iPad
  9.  cute/funny coffee mugs
  10.  throw pillows
brown and grey leather sofa with throw pillows

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  1.  my writing space
  2.  my car
  3.  my bedroom
  4.  my wedding rings
  5.  my spot on the sofa
  6.  30-day challenges
  7.  making new recipes
  8. graphic tees
  9.  soft throw blankets
  10.  opening the windows in the house
tulips in clear vase beside window

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  1.  my Happy Planner
  2.  watching the Puppy Bowl with my family
  3.  going to museum exhibits
  4.  my pink Christmas tree
  5.  lazy days
  6.  seasonal home decor
  7.  playing Farm Heroes Saga
  8.  when my dog cuddles  with me
  9.  finding the perfect gift for someone
  10.  making lists
notebook

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I guess that the last one is no surprise, but I will say this – it’s not easy to make a list of 100 of anything! Were some of your favorite things on my list? Drop me a comment and let me know!

February Reading Wrap-Up

I can’t believe it’s already March! Time seems to be flying by. But last month was another fantastic reading month!

Here’s the snapshot of what I read. I liked them all…it’s hard to choose one favorite! I tend to read a lot of romance every February, and last month was no exception. 🙂

Here’s the breakdown:

1 reread

1 graphic novel

2 library books

8 from my TBR

Here’s my Goodreads rating for each book:

Hidden Bodies, 4-stars

Every Last Word, 4-stars

A Study In Charlotte, 4-stars

The Bromance Book Club, 4-stars

Silver Bay, 3-stars

Surprise Me, 3-stars

The Kiss Quotient, 5-stars

Waiting For Tom Hanks, 3-stars

Red, White, & Royal Blue, 5-stars

Sometimes I Lie, 5-stars

The Hating Game, 4-stars

To Kill A Mockingbird: A Graphic Novel, 5-stars

And that’s it! I don’t know if I’ll get as much reading done in March because I plan to put my butt in the chair and start writing my new book. But any amount of reading is good!

Aesthetics From My New WIP

I’m still in the planning and researching stage of my new work in progress, Always Be My Baby (a working title). I hope in March to get down to the business of writing, but I’d like to start sharing what I’ve been putting together.

I love to make aesthetics as part of my writing process, and my new WIP is set in the 1970s, so I made the following five aesthetics to help get me in a Seventies frame of mind. While writing, I can look back on them if I feel myself wanting to lean back into modern times. Shall we travel back in time?

1970s Fashion Aesthetic

1970s movies aethetic

1970s essentials aesthetic

1970s news aesthetic

1970s fads aesthetic

Making these was one of the very first things I did when I started my research, and I won’t be able to use all of these in my story. Always Be My Baby takes place in late 1970 and early-to-mid 1971, and I do want to be historically accurate. So, for instance, my characters won’t be seeing Grease at the local movie theater, as it hadn’t come out yet. But they served a purpose for me, plus, they were fun to make!

Also, to aid in the actual writing of the book, I put together a Seventies playlist on Spotify. I also love to make playlists that coordinate with my projects! I’ve listened to it while researching, and I look forward to listening during my writing sessions. Click here and enjoy it!

photography of woman listening to music

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That’s all for this week…see you back here soon!

Character Names – How To Choose?

One of my favorite parts of the writing process is fleshing out my characters. It’s also one of the first things I do because I like to spend time with these people and get to know them before I start actually writing about them. Other than figuring out what your character “wants” and how they get it (or don’t get it), you also have to name them. But how to go about it?

group of people standing indoors

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There are several ways to find names for your characters, and these are the three methods I use most. Keep in mind, I write contemporary fiction, so I won’t be touching on how to name characters for genres such as fantasy or science fiction because frankly, I don’t know how to go about it. Much respect to those who do! I can tell you that no matter which method I use, I have a blast figuring out my character’s names!

  • The Basics:

When you get a story idea, you probably automatically have an idea of your character’s basics. Things such as their age, race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic background, you may think of pretty quickly. Those things, and many other basics, can help shape your character’s names.

If your character is a product of hippie parents, most likely, his name won’t be Michael. You have a license to get creative with their name. Moonbeam might make much more sense than Michael. That name may be the bane of Moonbeam’s existence, or perhaps he embraces it. Who knows? Names can also be a fun, recurring point in your story!

Here’s an example specific to me. I’m in the process of doing research for my next project. It takes place in 1970, so I had to consider that when naming my characters. My main character was born in 1954, so I did an internet search for the most popular baby names for that year. I knew I couldn’t name my character something trendy, something that sounds very “today.” So, Kaitlyn was out, but Kathleen was in the top twenty most popular names of 1954. I liked the sound of Kathleen, and I think it fits my character’s look, as well as the time period. And in case you like fun facts, I’ve decided to call her Kat! 🙂

The basics can also help determine a character’s surname. In my mind, Kathleen’s grandparents or great-grandparents immigrated from Ireland, so her last name is Murphy. It’s a popular Irish surname, and I wanted one that was simple and sounded good with Kathleen.

  • Random Name Generators:

What do you do if you can’t decide on a character’s name? Maybe it’s a secondary character, and not as important as the main character, and you’re stuck on a name. Maybe like me, you use photo inspiration for characters and need help with names. I use celebrity inspiration, but I know writers who use stock photos for inspiration. In the case of stock photos, you don’t know the model’s name, and with celebrity inspo, I’d never use the same name for the character. What’s creative about that? Nothing!

Random name generators can really come in handy in these types of situations. There are so many to choose from, a simple internet search is all it takes to find one. Some generators are very simple and just generate a list of names. You may be able to specify male, female, or neutral names, and it’ll give you a list of names. How many names depends on the generator; some will let you choose how many names you want to see.

Other random name generators will let you get even more specific. You can specify nationalities, traditional or whimsical names, and even first, middle, and last names. Whether you need just a little help or a whole lot of help naming a character, there’s a random name generator out there to fit your needs!

  • A Gut Feeling

You know how they say that your first instinct is almost always the right one? If a character name jumps out at you and it just feels “right,” then it’s probably a great character name. As long as the name is correct to the time period and any other social or economic parameters (and if it feels right, it probably already is), then go with it! After all, you are the one who will know your characters and story the best.

This happened with my first book’s main character, and it does make the naming process a lot easier!

And there you have it, the three ways I choose character names. To me, it’s the most fun aspect of character development!

close up of scrabble tiles forming the words the end

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January Reading Wrap-Up

Writers read. Besides committing to a writing schedule, reading is one of the best things writers can do to improve their craft. To that end, I’ve decided that each month I will share the books I’ve read.

woman in black shirt wearing eyeglasses

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January was an excellent reading month! I finished 14 books! That’s a high number for me; usually, I only read 8-10 books per month. But, some months are better than others! Here’s a snapshot of what I read last month:

And here’s a little breakdown (most books fit into multiple categories):

7 library books

2 audiobooks

3 nonfiction books

1 short story

1 classic

7 from my TBR

Lastly, here’s what I rated each book. I won’t give a full review of each book (who has time for that?), just how many stars I gave them on Goodreads. Plus, a lot of the time, I don’t know what to say in a book review! That may be an odd thing for a writer to say, but there you go. 🙂

The Testaments, 5-stars

The Deal of a Lifetime, 4-stars

Keto For Women: A 3-Step Guide to Uncovering Boundless Energy and Your Happy Weight, 4-stars

A Man Called Ove, 4-stars

The Winter Girl, 2-stars

Gunslinger Girl, 4-stars

Three Women, 2-stars

I Wish You All the Best, 4-stars

A Clockwork Orange, 4-stars

The Dollhouse, 3-stars

Design For Dying, 4-stars

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, 4-stars

Robopocalypse, 4-stars

Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years, 4-stars

And that’s what I read in January! I can’t wait to see how much reading I can get in this month! Aren’t books the best? I think so…

pile of books

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My Word of the Year

Many people do a Word of the Year each year, but this is my first attempt at it. Why am I attempting a WOTY? Why even declare a WOTY?

There are many reasons to decide on a Word of the Year, but I have one reason. a WOTY can help you focus on the goals you have set for yourself. You can many goals, but you only have one WOTY. If you choose your word wisely, it can encompass all your other goals and keep you on track for success. And one word is a lot easier to remember than a bunch of different goals, right? I don’t know about you, but I always have several thoughts running around in my head, so one word that can bring me into focus certainly cannot hurt!

So, what is my Word of the Year? Drumroll, please!

group of people playing drums during daytime

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Ready? Here it is: my Word of the Year is

CONSISTENT

color pencil set

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It’s not the prettiest word or the most entertaining word; in fact, it’s kind of a boring word. But for me, it holds a lot of meaning.

I need some serious reining in, people! I am always all over the place. I either do things willy-nilly or, I go fast and furious at something, then hit a wall. I feel like I can benefit from structure, a schedule if you will. The three main areas I need help in are exercise, writing, and housecleaning. These three areas take up the most time in my everyday life. I find that I can concentrate on one or two of them really well, but then, the third one gets ignored. I need to divide my time more evenly among all three areas. Also, at some point, my all-or-nothing mentality kicks in, and I think that if I can’t do something well all the way through to the end, then I may as well not bother doing it. That’s a whole separate issue of mine that I need to work on, but I hope more consistency in my life will help.

I’m going to try the following schedule out and see what happens:

  • Monday – cardio for 20 minutes, write for 2 hours
  • Tuesday – strength train for 20 minutes, clean house for 1 hour, write for 1 hour
  • Wednesday – yoga for one hour, write for 2 hours
  • Thursday – strength train for 20 minutes, clean house for 1 hour, write for one hour
  • Friday – cardio for 20 minutes, write for 2 hours

I haven’t made a schedule for weekends because those days are usually dedicated to whatever my kids and husband have going on, and I’m okay with that. If most days of the week have some structure, then I can live with weekends being a free-for-all!

But I’ll see how the schedule goes. If something doesn’t work, then I’ll make changes until I find something that does! Do you have a Word of the Year? If so, leave a comment and let me know what it is!

100 Books I Want To Read

Writers read, or at least they should. I’ve said before that it’s THE best way to improve their craft. This is one case where I’m proud to say that not only do I talk the talk, I walk the walk.

I’ve made a list of 100 books I want to read. Many of these will likely be read this year, but not all of them. Typically, I read between 80-100 books per year. And at the beginning of each month, I plan what I’m going to read for that month, but those lists are guidelines and not chiseled in stone. Things happen – I may bail on a book, or a book gets pushed to a different month, or my dog chews up a book. Yes, that actually happened once! So, the same goes for this master list – I may start a book and not like it, or a new release comes out, and another book gets bumped, or danger may befall a book. That’s life for you!

pile of books

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So, without further ado, here is my list of 100 books I want to read. There are different genres represented and are listed in no particular order:

  1.  The Testaments – Margaret Atwood
  2.  The Dollhouse – Fiona Davis
  3. A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer
  4. The Whisper Network – Chandler Baker
  5.  The Bookseller – Cynthia Swanson
  6.  The Recipe Box – Viola Shipman
  7.  Ragtime – E.L. Doctorow
  8.  How To Build A Girl – Caitlin Moran
  9.  I’m Fine and Neither Are You – Camille Pagan
  10.  Tampa – Alissa Nutting
  11.  Love, Hate & Other Filters – Samira Ahmed
  12.  Heartburn – Nora Ephron
  13.  Dark Matter – Blake Crouch
  14.  Ash Wednesday – Ethan Hawke
  15.  I’ve Got Your Number – Sophie Kinsella
  16.  You Think It, I’ll Say It – Curtis Sittenfeld
  17.  The People We Hate At The Wedding – Grant Ginder
  18.  What If It’s Us – Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
  19.  99 Percent Mine – Sally Thorne
  20.  Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson
  21.  Dear Daughter – Elizabeth Little
  22.  Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
  23.  Olivia Twist – Lorie Langdon
  24.  Idaho – Emily Ruskovich
  25.  Sophie’s Choice – William Styron
  26.  The Talented Mr. Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
  27.  The Hopefuls – Jennifer Close
  28.  Elsewhere – Gabrielle Zevin
  29.  Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty – Diane Keaton
  30.  Sometimes I Lie – Alice Feeney
  31.  Sex Object – Jessica Valenti
  32.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  33.  Little Monsters – Kara Thomas
  34.  This Savage Song – Victoria Schwab
  35.  The Hating Game – Sally Thorne
  36.  The Girl Before – J.P. Delaney
  37.  Tell Me Three Things – Julie Buxbaum
  38.  Elizabeth Is Missing – Emma Healey
  39.  Dog Crazy – Meg Donohue
  40.  What She Knew – Gilly Macmillan
  41.  Orphan Train – Christina Baker Kline
  42.  Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
  43.  A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
  44.  Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson
  45.  Olive, Again – Elizabeth Strout
  46.  A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
  47.  Surprise Me – Sophie Kinsella
  48.  Next Year In Havana – Chanel Cleeton
  49.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
  50.  A Study In Charlotte – Brittany Cavallaro
  51.  The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen – Syrie James
  52.  Wedding Night – Sophie Kinsella
  53.  A Tree Grows In Brooklyn – Betty Smith
  54.  Hidden Bodies – Caroline Kepnes
  55.  Behind Closed Doors – B.A. Paris
  56.  Conversations With Friends – Sally Rooney
  57.  One Of Us Is Next – Karen M. McManus
  58.  We Are Okay – Nina LaCour
  59.  I’m Not Dying With You Tonight – Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal
  60.  Remember Me? – Sophie Kinsella
  61.  On the Come Up – Angie Thomas
  62.  Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty
  63.  The Sun Down Motel – Simone St. James
  64.  Breakfast At Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
  65.  I Owe You One – Sophie Kinsella
  66.  Lock Every Door – Riley Sager
  67.  The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell
  68.  The Flatshare – Beth O’Leary
  69.  The Sun and Her Flowers – Rupi Kaur
  70.  Meg & Jo – Virginia Kantra
  71.  The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris
  72.  The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
  73.  Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward
  74.  The Bookish Life of Nina Hill – Abbi Waxman
  75.  Again, but Better – Christine Riccio
  76.  Star-Crossed – Minnie Darke
  77.  To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf
  78.  A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
  79.  Waiting For Tom Hanks – Kerry Winfrey
  80.  My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout
  81.  Howards End – E.M. Forster
  82.  We Were Liars – E. Lockhart
  83.  Then She Was Gone – Lisa Jewell
  84.  My Oxford Year – Julia Whelan
  85.  The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
  86.  The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce
  87.  Park Avenue Summer – Renee Rosen
  88.  Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult
  89.  Opposite of Always – Justin A. Reynolds
  90.  The Safest Lies- Megan Miranda
  91.  A Dog’s Journey – W. Bruce Cameron
  92.  The Nix – Nathan Hill
  93.  Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors – Sonali Dev
  94.  Genuine Fraud – E. Lockhart
  95.  The Editor – Stephen Hawley
  96.  Ghosted – Rosie Walsh
  97.  There’s Something About Sweetie – Sandhya Menon
  98.  How Not To Die Alone – Richard Roper
  99.  If Only I Could Tell You – Hannah Beckerman
  100.  Every Last Word – Tamara Ireland Stone

And there’s the finish line! I’m tired just from looking at that list! 🙂

photo of woman running on fishing line

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So, what books are on your reading list? Comment and let me know! I’m always open to book recommendations. Happy reading!