2020 in Books and Other Worldly Things

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I set a goal to read 125 books for the year 2020, which was 25 fewer books than the number I finished in 2019. I went lower because I knew I’d be finishing my fourth novel in 2020. Little did I know that a pandemic would hit the world a mere two months later and that the year would be the strangest on record for me.

While I didn’t meet my reading goal, I did manage to finish 116 books, which is great.  If you’re interested in seeing my reviews of these novels and the others I’ve read in the past, you can check out my Goodreads page here. Here are my top 15 books for the year, all of which I rated at five stars for different reasons for each of these amazing works.

  1. The Stand by Stephen King.
  2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.
  3. Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds.
  4. The Bright Unknown by Elizabeth Byler Younts.
  5. We Are Not Free by Traci Chee.
  6. It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne.
  7. Bloodline by Jess Lourey.
  8. The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos.
  9. Find Layla by Meg Elison.
  10. Anything Once by Meka James.
  11. A Whisper of Smoke by Angela Hoke.
  12. White Out by Danielle Girard.
  13. Raising Boys to Be Good Men: A Parent’s Guide to Bringing up Happy Sons in a World Filled with Toxic Masculinity by Aaron Gouveia.
  14. This Won’t End Well by Camile Pagán.
  15. Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo.

Also, in 2020, COVID-19 hit the world hard. It started slowly and then grew exponentially, just as the experts predicted. On March 17, 2020, my children’s schools went virtual, and so did my employer, luckily. All I can say is that I did my best to help them with schoolwork while keeping up with my own work and sometimes my sanity. Continue reading

To All The Pets I’ve Loved Before

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I’ve grown up with pets for as long as I can remember. My Easterling family seemed to have an affinity for the feline and canine variety of pets and the Russell side, especially my Aunt Diana, whom we sadly lost about two years ago, loved dogs.

Lucy Ann

The first dog I remember loving was Lucy Ann. She was a little mutt puppy I named after a character on a TV show that I believe was called The Littles. I was 4 or 5 years old at the time. I know she died soon after I got her, but I’m not sure how, but I sure loved that little dog and missed her when she left us.

 

Bobby

Next was Bobby. He was a Labrador-Doberman mix who was all black except for a white stripe all the way around his waist from where he was caught in the zipper of a sleeping bag when he was about six weeks old—just a few weeks before we got him. I remember feeding him in an old metal cake pan, and he was so small that he would just lay in the whole pan to eat. Bobby stayed with us from the first home in which I lived with my mother and stepfather through our move to our next home and the birth of my little sister, Kelli. Continue reading

Finding Inspiration

Snoopy's Night Idea
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A question writers (and other types of artists) often get is “Where do you find your inspiration?” I honestly get mine from everywhere. My family. My friends. My coworkers. My surroundings. My travels. My experiences. My fears. My doubts. My successes. You get the picture?

Background vector created by Bluelela – Freepik.com

As far as inspiration goes, everything you consume is material. Movies you watch, novels you read, music you hear, conversations you overhear, the human emotions and actions you witness. You can create a story for the situations you encounter.

Why is the man screaming at the store clerk? Well, maybe his father just died, and he’s having trouble dealing with it. Why is the woman crying at the bus stop? Well, maybe she just spent the last of her money on medication and doesn’t have enough money left to pay rent. There are endless possibilities with stories because no two authors will tell stories in the same way.

Good writing practice is to find a headline in a newspaper (printed or online) and retell the story with great details about what happened before or after the story. There are also some books with writing prompts that are helpful to get into the habit of writing every day if you need that kind of discipline. *I am not a writer to writes every day. I only write when I am inspired or have a strict deadline (in the case of writing for my day job at a university). I find that forcing myself to write when I am not inspired causes a headache and a lot of junk that I end up cutting out during the editing process.

Another good way to practice writing is to find a song that you love and write a story or poem to go along with it. How does the song make you feel? Who or what is the song about?

I think about things I’ve read and wonder how the stories could be different. I think about situations my friends have experienced and how their stories could be told in different ways. Many of my stories feature characters who have certain traits I’ve taken from friends, family, or myself. It makes my characters feel real to me, and hopefully to my readers. This is especially true with showing the characters’ flaws. In fiction, flaws make the characters feel real to me. It’s the flaws and human emotion conveyed that make me what to jump into the pages (or through the e-reader screen) to hug the character.

There is inspiration all around you if you look for it or let it find you. I keep a notebook beside my bed in case I get an idea in the middle of the night. So many of my ideas just come to me in my dreams, or while considering the “what ifs” of life as I’m trying to fall asleep after I’ve exhausted myself reading or playing word games on my phone.

For more information on the types of written content I produce, read more: Continue reading