Three Distractions That Kill Writing

Since I began writing my YA novel I have become incredibly efficient at everything other than writing. My house is cleaner than it’s been before my son was born. My office is organized, my kitchen is tidy and de-cluttered. We rearranged the furniture and I planted my hanging baskets.

Every time I think, I should get back to my book, a new chore pops into my head that has to get done right away. Procrastination is fickle, ever-changing, and a writers worst nemesis. Aside from chores, here are the main culprits of distraction that I battle every day.

Television

Oh sitcoms, you are my downfall. F.R.I.E.N.D.S, The Golden Girls, The Middle, and many more. I could easily lose days watching these shows. It’s so tempting to zone out when my son is sleeping and just let the television entertain me.

Turn off the damn television Rachel.

Internet

Here are the tabs I currently have open on my screen:

  • Amazon
  • Redfin
  • Yahoo
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Etsy
  • WordPress (duh)

Poor little Microsoft Word is minimized at the bottom of my screen and shovedlike a pair of dirty socks out of my immediate visual proximity.

I can justify WordPress because I’m writing and engaging with other writers, but the rest of the tabs I should just close up and put away for an indefinite while. They are total time-sucks. I spend so much time reading about other people’s success (real or otherwise) when I should be focusing on my own goals.

Close the damn tabs Rachel.

Reading

Reading is valuable research, but also my deadliest procrastination. If someone told me I had to chose one source of entertainment to pick, reading would win hands-down every time. Aside from spending time with my friends and family, reading is my greatest joy. It’s my drug and my own YA book pays for  my addiction.

My Solution: Balance

To complete our goals we all need balance. If I gave 100% to my goals, I would burn out and I can’t allow my patience to extinguish, because my husband and son need me too. I have given up A LOT of my television time, that addiction was by far the easiest to weed-out. I’ve tried cutting back on the internet, but it’s more persistent and follows me wherever I go (hello smart phone). So I try really hard to just check my notifications, and I don’t allow much scrolling. I focus on the most important media outlet (WordPress) and spend most of my time there. I still get sucked in, but I’m working on it.

As far as reading goes, I am only reading one book at a time and I allow myself to read AFTER I write before bed. I also sneak pages in while my son is playing or during nap time. I’m a firm believer that reading is critical for writers, and I simply refuse to deprive myself of the joy of reading.

What are some of the deadliest distractions to your writing? How do you battle your procrastination demons? Let me know in the comments below.

I gotta go, my Microsoft Word icon looks sad and neglected at the bottom of my screen.

♥R♥

 

 

10,000 Words Deep

I reached the first milestone in writing my YA book. I reached 10,000 words this morning. Actually, 10,343 words to be exact when I looked at my word count. The average YA story has around 55,000 words, so I know I still have a long way to go, but I’m a firm believer in celebrating little victories.

This is a sandpaper draftit’s rough, but I love it like the awkward toddling little creative creature that it is. I’m basically just spewing out the story as I write, but it’s very cathartic because I have been carrying my ideas around with me for about five years.

I’m doing a little happy dance (quietly because there is an actual baby in the next room still sleeping).

Have a wonderful Sunday!

♥R♥

Book Review: Just Like Fate

One decision changes everything in this Sliding Doors meets Anna and the French Kiss novel that explores split realities of romance and family loyalties, “recommended for fans of Sara Zarr, Elizabeth Scott, and Maureen Johnson (School Library Journal).”

Caroline is at a crossroads.

Her grandmother is sick and, like the rest of her family, Caroline’s been at Gram’s bedside since her stroke. With the pressure building, all Caroline wants to do is escape—both her family and the reality of Gram’s failing health. So when Caroline’s best friend offers to take her to a party one fateful Friday night, she must choose: stay by Gram’s side, or go to the party for a few hours?

The consequences of this one decision will split Caroline’s fate into two separate paths—and she is about to live them both.

Friendships are tested and family drama hits an all-new high as Caroline attempts to rebuild old relationships and even make a few new ones. If she stays, her longtime crush, Joel, might finally notice her, but if she goes, Chris, the charming college boy, might prove to be everything she’s ever wanted.

Though there are two distinct ways for her fate to unfold, there is only one happy ending…

I just finished reading “Just Like Fate” written by Suzanna Young and Cat Patrick, it was very interesting and a good read. I enjoyed the way the book was written, (two authors, two versions of fate). I really admire books that tell a story in a unique way. Just Like Fate is creative and quite riveting.

I like the moral of the story and I think this line sums it up best, “‘I’m saying we have freedom to make mistakes’, Rivers says shaking his head. “‘I’m saying that our mistakes -one mistake or many of them-don’t define us. They don’t derail us. We end up where we need to be in the end.’ He pauses. ‘But hopefully having learned something from our stumbles… having grown into better people because of them.'”

Learning from mistakes and understanding that one lousy mistake doesn’t have to ruin your life is a valuable lesson. I can’t tell you how much I dwelled on my mistakes when I was a teenager. Now that I am older, I don’t agonize over many of my previous choices anymore. For once in my life I feel like I’m where I need to be. If only I could go back and tell my teenage-self that my mistakes won’t break me and fate will play out the way it was intended.

I recommend this book, it’s a quick read and the characters are entertaining. If you are interested in story structure this book unravels in a unique way.

Happy Reading,

♥R♥

HOW I MANAGE AS A WRITER AND MOTHER

 

I haven’t talked about my YA novel in a  LONG time. Mostly because I have prioritized other writing opportunities, and lets face it, writing time is precious and rare. A lot of my writing has been personal essays about motherhood because that has been the consumption of my life. It’s easy for me to write about funny, special, horrible moments about motherhood because they happen ALL OF THE TIME and I can complete a short essay while my son is sleeping.

While I want to continue writing about motherhood, I have also made my YA novel a priority again. With all of these writing goals and raising a son I have had to learn some time management and prioritization.

outlining

This is how I attempt to manage writing and motherhood:

CREATE A SCHEDULE AND STICK WITH IT

This is what my average day looks like:

7AM-8AM

Wake up at 7am and build my social media platform i.e. IlluminatedLiteration (blog), Twitter: @Illuminate_Lit, Pinterest,  Facebook, and LinkedIn. I try to make my rounds as quickly as possible before my son wakes up around 7:30-8:00am.

8AM-11AM

Then I take care of my son (and clean house) until he goes to sleep around 11-11:30am.

11AM-1:30PM

Naps are PRIME writing time. I get two solid hours of uninterrupted writing when he takes a nap. I try to do a lot of my blog posts while he is napping, I also try to catch up on a lot of my blogs that I follow.

1:30-9pM

I’m on parent duty with my husband from 1:30pm- 9pm.

9pm-You can’t keep your eyes open any longer

So guess when most of my writing time happens… late evening and into the night. Sometimes I crawl into bed around midnight or later if I’m on a roll.

Don’t forget to make time to do your research.

If you want to be a successful writer you have to read A LOT. There are some evenings when I skip writing because my brain just can’t even because I know reading your target genre is crucial for a good artistic outcome. Sometimes, if I really need to multi-task I watch a movie adaptation (*gasp*!) and take care of my son. Honestly, the point of writing non-fiction is to tell a story, and watching the movie adaptation of a novel still teaches you structure.

Get Social

This is honestly my favorite part of writingmeeting other writers and professionals in the industry. Unfortunately, this is the step most writers struggle with because at the end of the day, they have to spend a ton of time on their own craft and when you are a mother you have other priorities that you need you RIGHT NOW! I try my best to read other blogger’s work and respond to comments between feedings and when my son is playing and really any time I can grasp a smidgen of time to interact with other writers.

Embrace Chaos And Accept That You Can’t Do It All

I have so many blog posts, stories, words, ideas floating around in my head. I also have a pair of hazel eyes that look to me for nutrition, exercise, learning, and loving. We CAN’T do it all, we can only do our best. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of the things we want to do. I know that this blog post could have been 10x better if I had more time, but my son is going to wake up in 30 minutes and I really should eat SOMETHING today.

♥R♥

IMMACULATE: A Book Review & Literary Analysis

Mina is seventeen. A virgin. And pregnant.
Mina is top of her class, girlfriend to the most ambitious guy in school, able to reason and study her way through anything. But when she suddenly finds herself pregnant—despite having never had sex—her orderly world collapses. Almost nobody believes Mina’s claims of virginity. Her father assumes that her boyfriend is responsible; her boyfriend believes she must have cheated on him. As news of Mina’s story spreads, there are those who brand her a liar. There are those who brand her a heretic. And there are those who believe that miracles are possible—and that Mina’s unborn child could be the greatest miracle of all.

 

IMMACULATE by Katelyn Detweiler will grab your curiosity and refuse to let go; it’s a compelling story about a young woman who receives a modern-day miracle and has to live with the consequences. Detweiler wrote a fantastic novel that explores the strength of family, friendship, and faith. Mina finds herself  asking her family and closest friends to stretch their understanding and beliefs to the max.

Mina has to overcome an incredible amount of adversity, just like Mary had to centuries before with the immaculate conception of Jesus. The allegory of Detweiler’s modern, miraculous, conception story is a reflection of how corrupt and violent our society can become when a person or event challenges beliefs, ideals, and faith.

Literary Devices explains allegory:

Allegory is a figure of speech in which abstract ideas and principles are described in terms of characters, figures and events.

It can be employed in prose and poetry to tell a story with a purpose of teaching an idea and a principle or explaining an idea or a principle. The objective of its use is to preach some kind of a moral lesson.

During a visit with Mina’s doctor (Dr.Keller) Mina and Dr. Keller have a discussion about the cruelty that the public has shown to Mina on a website that was created to mock and condemn her. Mina says,

I just don’t understand the kind of angerthe kind of passionthat drives complete stranger to feel this involved in my life. Who are these people, really? Do they seem normal in every day life? Are they school teachers , nurses, lawyerspeople who seem completely rational and stable? And then they come home at night, or take their lunch break, and they go online and they write that I’ll burn in hell? That my baby will burn in hell with me? I just don’t understand where it comes from. The fervor. The idea that it’s their duty, almost to condemn me. Or maybe it’s just sick entertainment for them.

We see this cruelty every day in the mass media, against other HUMANS that challenge the norm. Detweiler’s novel encouraged me to be open-minded when a loved one may need my support and blind faith. IMMACULATE served as a reminder to never cast stones at people who challenge my own beliefs.

IMMACULATE made me pause and reflect on my actions and reactions both in my personal life and on social media. I hope you gain as much from IMMACULATE as I did.

Happy reading.

♥R♥

Note: The split image I added to this post is not my original artwork. The image on the left was found here. The image on the right is the book cover for Katelyn Detweiler’s novel IMMACULATE.

 

Infandous: A Book Review & An Examination of a Foil in Literature

20160402_095311.png

 

Infandous- Describing something too horrible to mention.

Infandous by Elana Arnold is one of the best literary pieces of the YA genre that I have ever read. There are numerous examples of literary devices throughout Infandous, today I am going to focus on onea foil.

Arnold plays with the literary concept of “a foil” between Sephora who is the main characterwho argues that she is actually only a supporting character in her life, second to her mother.

A foil, in literature is defined as:

“A character that shows qualities that are in contrast with the qualities of another character with the objective to highlight the traits of the other character. The term foil, though generally being applied for a contrasting character, may also be used for any comparison that is drawn to portray a difference between two things. What we observe in literature very often is that a foil is a secondary character who contrasts with the major character to enhance the importance of the major character. The etymology of the term foil testifies the aforementioned assertion as the word “foil” is taken from the practice of backing gems with foil (tool) so that they shine more brightly.”

Literary Devices.Net

Some of my favorite lines from Infandous are when Sephora explains her mother as a mermaid:

My Mom, Rebecca Golding, was born in the sea. She was the most beautiful of all the mermaids, her hair shinier, her tail shimmerier, her voice more captivating that any other fish girl’s…..And then a wave cameboiling, insistent, it bore her to the ocean’s surface and threw her far and fast, and she tumbled, head over tail, again and again, until she landed coughing and sputtering and drowning in air on the sandy beach…And she grew up like that, a fish out of water, too beautiful to really pass for one of us. Her hair, even on land, seemed to float as if in water. She moved like liquid gold, crossing her legs, gesturing with long, beautiful fingers, and her mermaid heartbeat in her chest all the while.

She sets up this glorious, otherworldly description of her mother, but describes herself like this:

I didn’t have her beautymy hair was frizzy with static, tangled and quarrelsome, not ethereal and floaty like hers. My movements weren’t liquid beauty. People didn’t turn to follow me with their eyes, not like they did with her.

Clearly we see how Sephora views herself when compared to her mother. There are pages that describe the beauty of Rebecca, but Sephora only allows a few general, unpleasant descriptions of herself. Arnold, in my opinion, used a foil very wisely to help the reader understand the way Sephora views her herself in comparison to her mother.

Infandous is bursting with literary themes. I highly recommend reading this book. The imagery, characters, and twists will haunt you.

Happy reading,

♥R♥

99 Days: A Book Review

Wow drama drama DRAMA! 99 Days is packed full of romance, interesting characters, and bad choices.

Molly Barlow is facing one long, hot summer—99 days—with the boy whose heart she broke and the boy she broke it for . . . his brother.

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything. She has every right to hate me, of course: I broke Patrick Donnelly’s heart the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe wouldn’t quit till he got me to come to this party, and I’m surprised to find I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

The whole time I was reading 99 Days I kept thinking that Molly is a freaking train wreck. She seems to self-sabotage her chance at happiness every time it was within reach. But as the story progresses the reader has to wonder if happiness is even possible with the Donnelly brothers. The brothers are competitive and Molly seems to be the prize. By objectifying Molly I found some of their behavior less-than appealing.

I like how the author (Cotugno) writes Molly as a sympathetic character, even though she makes some less than sympathetic choices. Cotugno tackles the double standard of labels such as “slut” or “whore” and how these offensive labels are only given to women in sexual scenarios. This book is a great example of conflict in small towns and how quickly one young woman becomes the town pariah.

I highly recommend this page-turner. As always, if you read 99 Days please join the discussion in the comment thread. I would love to hear your opinions!

Happy reading,

♥R♥

Cover image found @:paperiot.com

Writing a Negative Book Review

All of the book reviews I have written thus far have been very positive. I think I’m a pretty optimistic reader; I try to find the good in every book. Who am I to bash a book when:

A) I haven’t finished my own YA book.

B) I have never been published (except for that one time in college by SLAM magazine.. does that even count?).*Update I was published on xoNecole, but still it’s not on the level of a novel getting published.

C) I don’t like being a jerk.

 photo giphy_zpstzo3umbf.gif

Authors bust their ass to get their work out there, even the “trashiest, cheesiest, male machismo” romance novels have a lot of time invested i.e.: Fifty Shades of Grey-read it, Twilight-read it, Christine Feehan’s Dark Series-read it, Sookie Stackhouse Novels-read it. Is it romance? I’ve probably read it.

In my humble opinion, there are certain factors that books must have to be worth a reader’s time. A book can be trashy BUT then it also has to be entertaining. Or a book can have a slow story, but it better be full of beautiful prose and STRONG interesting characters. The last book that I read did not have much going for it, and in my frustration I decided to write my first negative review and explain my letdown:

Like it Never Happened

When Rebecca Rivers lands the lead in her school’s production of The Crucible, she gets to change roles in real life, too. She casts off her old reputation, grows close with her four rowdy cast-mates, and kisses the extremely handsome Charlie Lamb onstage. Even Mr. McFadden, the play’s critical director, can find no fault with Rebecca.

Though “The Essential Five” vow never to date each other, Rebecca can’t help her feelings for Charlie, leaving her both conflicted and lovestruck. But the on and off-stage drama of the cast is eclipsed by a life-altering accusation that threatens to destroy everything…even if some of it is just make believe.

It’s almost laughable how apropos the title is. I turned the final page of this novel last night and I sat their wondering, why did I even bother? What was I suppose to get from the story? It was incredibly slow, the characters were as shallow as a thimble of water, and the language was mediocre.

Slow Story + Vapid Characters = Boring Read.

I do not recommend this novel. It’s just a bunch of high school drama with no lesson learned, no depth gained, and zero substance.

♥R♥

Cover Image Found @:realbusinessphotographer.com

Me Being IS EXACTLY AS INSANE AS You Being You: A Book Review

Darren hasn’t had an easy year.

There was his parents’ divorce, which just so happened to come at the same time his older brother Nate left for college and his longtime best friend moved away. And of course there’s the whole not having a girlfriend thing.

Then one Thursday morning Darren’s dad shows up at his house at 6 a.m. with a glazed chocolate doughnut and a revelation that turns Darren’s world inside out. In full freakout mode, Darren, in a totally un-Darren move, ditches school to go visit Nate. Barely twenty-four hours at Nate’s school makes everything much better or much worse—Darren has no idea. It might somehow be both. All he knows for sure is that in addition to trying to figure out why none of his family members are who they used to be, he’s now obsessed with a strangely amazing girl who showed up out of nowhere but then totally disappeared.

Told entirely in lists, Todd Hasak-Lowy’s debut YA novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone, including yourself, is:

1. painful
2. unavoidable
3. ridiculously complicated
4. possibly, hopefully the right thing after all.

The theme of this novel that really stuck with me was the family unit breaking apart. A pivotal point in your life is when you realize that your family unit consisting of you, your siblings (if you have any), and your parents will lead separate lives. If you are the one who had a harder time grasping that concept, then I think you can relate to Darren.  I had a hard time with my parents divorcing and my older brother leaving for the military, I felt abandoned and alone. I don’t blame anyone for moving on with their lives and finding their own way, but it was fucking tough for me.

At one point in the novel Darren is talking to his older brother Nate and Nate tells him a story about being lost as a young boy when Darren was still a baby. Nate explains when his parents found him,

“Eventually, of course, they found me. And they were freaking out, crying, and pretty much hyperventilating, especially Mom, who was wearing you in that baby carrier they used to have. She hugged me, just smothered me, with your legs dangling in my face. And I was glad to see Mom and Dad, relieved I guess, because I knew living by myself was going to be hard. But, I don’t know, I as mostly thinking , Okay , that was some kind of test and I passed it, because I had to, I could be okay on my own. You were literally tied to Mom, but I was surviving on my own; that’s how I felt then.” Nate continues to explain to Darren that he figured out at a much earlier age than Darren that eventually your parents leave and you must learn to adjust and make it on your own.

As a teen you really start to see your parents as the individuals they were before they became your parents. They don’t work as hard to keep the image of innocence alive for their children. How would they ever help us grow and prepare for the “real” world if we didn’t get to see them as flawed humans? Their defects allow us to forgive ourselves when we make similar mistakes as adults.

I had a wonderful time reading this novel. With each scenario Darren comes closer to finding himself, and ultimately walks away from the family chaos and begins life as an adult.

I highly recommend this book.

Happy reading,

♥R♥

Even When You Lie to Me: A Book Review

We did a lot of reading this weekend. Our Pacific Northwest weather  was very persistent with rain, wind, and just damp. Luckily there is an endless supply of great books at out local library and it’s only a 5 min drive away!

20160213_094033.jpg
Even my son Leif spent his time with a book. Eh hem, upside down Baby Bear.

 

I decided to read Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott. Even When You Lie to Me is Alcott’s break through YA novel and I was very impressed with her prose and description about an improper love story between a student and her high school English teacher. Here is the synopsis:

Charlie, a senior, isn’t looking forward to her last year of high school. Another year of living in the shadow of her best friend, Lila. Another year of hiding behind the covers of her favorite novels. Another year of navigating her tense relationship with her perfectionist mom.
 
But everything changes when she meets her new English teacher. Mr. Drummond is smart. Irreverent. Funny. Hot. Everyone loves him. And Charlie thinks he’s the only one who gets her.
 
She also thinks she might not be the only one with a crush.
 
In this stunning debut, Jessica Alcott explores relationships—and their boundaries—in a way that is both searingly honest and sympathetic.

Charlie is a sympathetic character, if you have ever felt like an outsider (and who hasn’t?) you will relate to her socially awkward struggles. Alcott has fun incorporating classic love stories into Mr. Drummond’s lesson plans: Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights. Using these tragic love stories for Mr. Drummond’s lesson plans, Alcott sets the stage and tone of her novel. Charlie’s English teacher Mr. Drummond has all of the makings of a modern Heathcliff, he has a tragic past, he is mysterious, and he seems so close and yet out of reach for 17 year old Charlie. Alcott does a wonderful job of vilifying him to the point of being disgusted with him and then pulls him back into a some-what sympathetic character through Charlie’s eyes. Alcott played with the idea of age through Charlie and Mr. Drummond by making Charlie seem much older than 17 and making Mr. Drummond  as emotionally immature as a teenager.

 

I have heard of too many women who had teachers that were vulgar in their actions or speech. So as an adult reading this story, I wanted to protect Charlie from beginning to end. While reading Alcott’s novel I saw some of my high school teachers in Mr.Drummond. I had the cool young teacher that everyone loved and adored. There were also times when he crossed the line and became too involved with student’s personal lives (never romantically though). I also had a teacher that was a flat out perv. There were rumors that every year this corrupt teacher would pick out senior girls who he planned to sleep with after graduation. I saw first-hand accounts of him touching students inappropriately and saying obscene insults to his female students. So, which teacher was Mr.Drummond? The caring teacher who got too personal or the total perv? I think he was a little bit of both.

  As an adult reader I applaud Charlie’s feminist friend Asha who is wise beyond her years. She disapproves of the inappropriate behavior of Mr. Drummond, but still doesn’t totally hate the guy. She can’t help but smile at his jokes and succumb to his charm like the rest of her peers, but she is also wary of him. I think Alcott wants her readers to see Mr. Drummond through Asha’s eyes. She wants the reader to know that romancing his student is completely wrong, but she doesn’t let you forget that charm and charisma can easily sway high school students (and adults).

At one point Charlie asks “What is the sublime?” and Mr. Drummond responds, “The idea of something being simultaneously beautiful and terrifying.” Alcott took an ugly subject and with her thorough and thought provoking prose she turns it into a work of art. Alcott examined the subjects of body image, feminism, power, and sexuality through the intricate charters she created.

This novel was a quick read, but try to savor the text. Examine the way the book makes you feel and give it the thought it deserves.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Even When You Lie to Me.

♥R♥