Monday, December 30, 2019

Monthly TBR Pile Update: December 2019

I'm excited to share that I've finished several books on my TBR pile this month. Below are the list of books finished and links to their reviews as well as their star rating. If you've read anything of these, let me know in the comments below what you thought of them. And if you haven't, maybe some of them will be added to your TBR Pile!

IT by Stephen King
House at the End of the Street by Lily Blake
Curiouser and Curiouser by Melanie Karsak
New Mexico Book of the Undead: Goblin & Ghoul Folklore
by Ray John de Aragón

2019 is almost over

Wow, what a year 2019 has been! It's been an odd one for me as I explored new hobbies and continued ones I'd begun a couple of years ago. The biggest thing I noticed throughout the year was that I never seemed to have enough time to do all the things I wanted to do. But then, that's pretty much every year! lol

Looking back on this year, I did manage to get one book published: Peregrinate (Annals of Ellie #3).

This book was a lot of fun to write, but also a challenge since I was writing about a part of the world I've never visited (Australia and New Zealand). But the story was about Ellie more than her surroundings, so it didn't turn out as bad as I was fearing.

Once I got that book published, I turned my focus to the next book in the Galactic Dynasty series that I'm co-authoring with my hubby and muse. We're still working on that manuscript, but I hope to have it published early in the coming year.

For the most part, though, I've been traveling and crafting this year. I'm still working on the afghan that I started a year or so ago as well as a cross-stitch that was also started more than a year ago. I'm steadily working my way through sewing classes and am now in the middle of sewing my first sundress! So excited to see how it turns out! I'll be sure to post pics on here when it's done. I've also crocheted Christmas presents (a slouchy hat and fingerless gloves) for my bestie, completed a paint-by-number for my hubby, and cross-stitched a little tree ornament stocking for my aunt and uncle.

As for traveling, I've been to San Diego and back, taking a month to travel with the hubby in our RV. That was back in January-February timeframe. I've been back and forth to Kentucky several times to visit my bestie. And I've been to Alabama and back to visit my aunt and uncle. There's also been trips to book festivals and a couple of house-hunting trips that ended up telling me that I wanted to stay right where we were instead of moving!

In all, it's been an active year. Not so much on the writing side of the house, but hopefully that will pick up again with the new year. I'm hoping to have the next Galactic Dynasty book out as well as possibly the next Annals of Ellie book out in the coming year, crossing my fingers and toes that my brain can recapture my love of writing that seems to have faded in the last year or so. I also intend to continue my book reviews of books I have on my TBR shelves. You can find a page called TBR Pile on my site which lists all of my books I've yet to read and follow the links to the ones I've already reviewed. 

As for crafting, I plan to hopefully have the afghan crocheted, the cross-stitch done, and my sewing classes completed within the next year. And who knows? There will probably be all kinds of other things I'll be experiencing and crafting and writing throughout the year.

So, no doubt 2020 will be just as busy as this year has been. But I don't think I'd want it any other way. Life is short and I believe that we should try to make the most of it while we can. And since all of these things are activities I love to do, that just makes life all the sweeter!

I hope everyone has an amazing 2020 and have a safe and fun time celebrating the passing of another year!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Review: Gardening for Beginners

*This review can also be found on my Goodreads account.
**This is not part of my TBR Pile as I got it for Christmas!

A great introduction for beginners who want to learn how to garden but don't know exactly what they want to grow. It gives overviews of what you need, how to prepare the site (whether in ground, raised beds, or containers), and provides some really good links to resources for further exploration/information gathering depending on what you want to learn more about.

There were also some sections that talked about the multiple uses of both flowers and vegetables. Everything from medicinal to color dyes and paints was covered. Again, briefly as the book's not that big. But it was enough to get the imagination stirring as to what all these plants can be used for. And there were some great links to further explore about these ideas as well.

The only negatives I have for this book, and they are minor but they prevented me from giving it 5-stars, was that all of the images in the book were black and white. And gardens of any variety are in color, so it made it hard to even distinguish what they were trying to show. The images were grainy as well as being black and white, so I feel the book would have been better off without them or using colored imagery. Also, the charts and tables used were in a grainy black and white and were reduced in size to fit the page. So, unless you have amazing eyesight or a magnifying glass, you're not going to be able to read the information in the charts.

In all, a good beginners guide and one I'll be referencing in the future depending on what I decide to grow and how I want to use it.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

TBR Pile #5: New Mexico Book of the Undead: Goblin & Ghoul Folklore

*This review can also be found on my Goodreads account.

Folklore, myths, legends... there are so many out there, some seen in multiple cultures and some unique to one particular culture. This book focuses on New Mexico and the Spaniards that settled there in the sixteenth century up until today.

Everything from La Llorona to Bloody Mary is explored in this story collection. And I liked how the author wove Spanish and English throughout, providing some verses in Spanish before giving the English translation. There is also a nice mix of New Mexico history provided to give a backdrop to the stories and superstitions.

The only negative is I would have liked a little more historical/cultural background for some of the stories in this book. He did that well with some and not with others. And the layout was a little confusing, but not enough to deter from the individual stories.

Overall, a great introduction to New Mexico and Spanish folklore. If you're looking for something more detailed, this isn't it. But this book gives enough to whet the appetite to do more research on particular stories that intrigue the reader most.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

TBR Pile #4: Curiouser and Curiouser

*This review can also be found on my Goodreads' account.

Teapots, flamingos, whimsy, and chaos... it's all in this book that is a kind of retelling of the classic Alice in Wonderland but with many differences that assist in making it it's own story. All of the beloved characters make an appearance in some form or fashion and Alice is recreated to be a strong heroine that is intelligent and resourceful, but makes mistakes.

This is a story of adventure, love lost, hope, redemption, love found, and of course, madness. And it's backdrop is that of steampunk London. I loved that the elements of steampunk were woven throughout without being the focal point. And the wonderland that was created was just as whimsical as the original telling yet given many realism's that made me feel as if I could step right into that world and feel at home.

The only reason I wasn't able to give this a full 5-star treatment was the style of writing this story was told in. It was too jarring for me and actually detracted from the flow of the narrative. This might turn some people off and others may not have a problem with it. But I believe I would have enjoyed this even more if the flow of narration had been a lot smoother.

Overall, a great book for fans of the classic as there are a lot of nods to the Lewis Carroll original (including a lot of head rolling thanks to the villainous Queen ;)). But it's also a great read for those that love a good steampunk setting and a bit of whimsy in their fantasy worlds!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Another Chapter Done!

With all the chaos that has been my life the last few months, not much has been done on the manuscript I'm currently writing.  But I am happy to say that I finally got another chapter written and am almost to the halfway mark in the story!  As with everything I write, I have no doubt that there will be rewrites and massages when I go back through later, but it's a relief and an exciting feeling to have one more chapter written.

So, as I continue to plug away at this manuscript, for anyone who hasn't read this series yet, I hope you'll take the opportunity to get caught up with the first four books.  You can find synopses, book covers, and links on the Galactic Dynasty page of this website.  And I'd love to hear from those of you who have read these books.  Let me know what you think of them in the comments section!

I hope everyone is having as stress-free a holiday season as is humanly possible.  And if you need a break from all the chaos and hustle of this time of year, be sure to check out my various novels.  You might find something new to curl up with and escape the madness for a while!

Monday, December 16, 2019

TBR Pile #3: House at the End of the Street

*This review can also be found on my Goodreads account.

I'm not even sure what to write. The plot was uninspiring, the characters underdeveloped, and the climax underwhelming. I found the main character annoying and her relationship with her mother so full of teen angst it was unrealistic. I kept reading just to see what the deal was with Ryan, but I'm more disappointed than anything. This book just didn't do it for me.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

TBR Pile #2: IT

*This review can also be found on my Goodreads account.

So, this was my first time reading this book. I've been slowly trying to work my way through Stephen King's massive array of novels and since IT was just remade and both Chapters are now out, I felt it was time to pick this book up and see how different it was from the movies.

As always, Hollywood didn't come close to capturing the entire essence of the novel, but I will admit they did a fair job of getting closer than some adaptations they've done of King's novels in the past. I fell in love with Mike Hanlon's character and actually wished I could have read more from his perspective alone. But all of the characters had their unique perspectives to lend to the story and they were all fascinating in their own respects.

One of the things I wasn't sure I'd like but actually found to be a perfect way to tell this story was the back and forth between the years 1957-58 and 1984-85. It was done in such a way that didn't give me heartburn trying to keep up and it was laid out to complement what happened in the past to what they were remembering and what was happening in the present. So if this is something that normally bothers you, give it a chance as it really does make sense the way it's told and how various events are revealed.

As always, every time I read a Stephen King novel, I'm amazed at the depth of character that he creates. He truly knows the human condition better than most authors I've read and is able to capture the innocence of youth, the pangs of adolescence, the struggles, hopes, fears, triumphs, and failures that make us human. And the amount of details woven in to create the scenes, the atmosphere, the cultures of the time periods... all of this makes for a well-developed, truly immersive experience.

As for IT... I actually wish Hollywood would have stuck with the novel so the audience could see the true terror this being could create. The various shapes it took, calling on the imaginations and fears of the children, were so varied and grotesque, it would have made for some amazing scenes within the movies. And then the hold IT had on Derry itself... how the adults responded to the spikes in violence and tragedies, was scary in and of itself. But, I guess they had to be selective and of course, make their own changes.

In all, the book was amazing, the characters so real, and the descriptions so vivid, that I felt as though I was right alongside them as they triumphed, failed, and triumphed again in their struggles not just with IT but with their every day lives. If you haven't had a chance to read this yet, I would highly recommend it!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Author Struggles

Happy December!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.  I believe we ate way too much food, but I guess that's expected around this time of year!

Just a head's up, this is kind of a rambling post.  So, bear with me.

For the last couple of years, I've found myself struggling with my writing.  My characters seem to want to take weeks' long breaks and finding the magic that is normally there for me has been difficult, putting it mildly.  I've tried taking sabbaticals, I've tried forcing the words to come out, I've tried turning my focus to other creative outlets (sewing, crocheting, cross-stitching, paint-by-numbers), but not much has been working.  In essence, I believe all I was doing was finding new ways to distract myself from the core problem... where has my love for words gone?

In fact, for the last few months, I've been concerned that the joy and awesomeness of writing just isn't with me anymore.  I don't lay awake at night mulling over scenes in my head.  I don't seek out my computer to get my jumbled thoughts out or else I'll implode.  In a lot of ways, writing has become a chore lately and I don't like that.

I've been trying to figure out how to get myself out of whatever this funk is.  I've tried keeping a writing journal, using writing prompts, even going back to writing my thoughts on the various books I've been reading.  Not so much a full-on book reviews like I used to do on a book review blog I had, but more my thoughts on whether I liked it or not and why.

None of these things have seemed to help much, but last night I lay awake for almost three hours while my current characters (Commander Vorsky, Rosa, and Daemos in particular) decided to act out a couple of different scenes that will be coming up in the manuscript I'm writing.  I was tired and wanted to sleep, but they were determined.  And since this is the first time in about a year since this has happened, I let them have at it.  I'm glad I did, as I feel as though I might actually be seeing a light at the end of this dark chasm of struggle I've been dealing with.

Sorry for the ramblings, but I felt I needed to get this out into the electronic world.  Maybe there's someone who visits this blog and has been having the same struggles as me.  I just want to leave this post with encouraging words of don't give up hope just yet.  I've loved writing for as long as I can remember and that love doesn't go away.  It just sometimes takes a vacation, usually when you least expect it.  But it will come back and when it does, be prepared. 

I'm off now to finish up the latest chapter so I can give it to my co-author for his input and suggested changes.  And hopefully, fingers crossed, I'll have the passionate spark once more to move forward with this particular manuscript so I can see it through to the end!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

TBR Pile #1 - Great Paintings

So, I'm trying something a little different here.  I want to add reviews of books on this site from time to time, sharing my thoughts about the various books that adorn my shelves.  These reviews will also be posted on Goodreads. So here's the first book off my To Be Read shelves:

 Great Paintings: The World's Masterpieces Explored and Explained
Published by DK Publishing

This is a great introductory book to the many styles/genres of art as well as artists throughout the centuries or it could be a great quick reference book. I liked the tidbits of information about each artist, about the paintings themselves, and the analysis of each painting. And the paintings themselves are well-presented in the high-res photographs provided for analysis. There was just enough information to have piqued my curiosity about several artists I was unfamiliar with before reading this as well as some of the greats that I've always admired. So I'll be looking for books that relate to those individual artists and their works to satisfy my growing curiosity!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Writing Prompt #9

Feeling the love with this Writing Prompt.  This and other writing prompts can be found at Writers Write.

You know that loving feeling... hearing a favorite song, tasting a favorite food, curling up with your favorite book!  It's what we live for, to generate that feeling through as many outlets as possible.  It feels good to love, so why limit ourselves to just loving a person or a pet?  Love books, love songs, love food, love life!  And if you have a loved one to share all that with, so much the better!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Writing Prompt #8

A bit of an apocalyptic theme this time for the Writing Prompt.  This and other writing prompts can be found at Writers Write.

The third world war has just ended and devastation spreads as far as the eye can see.  Instead of victorious cheers and dancing in the streets, people shuffle about in a daze.  All is chaos and no one knows what will happen next.

Infrastructure is non-existent and all the ways we once kept in touch with our fellow human beings no longer function.  It is as if someone has thrown a switch and we have all been transported back to the Dark Age.

Survival is all anyone can think about.  Where to get the next bite of food.  Where to find the next drink of water.  Where to find shelter and safety in a world gone mad.

It will be some time before any semblance of order reemerges and no doubt it will resemble days of feudal reign.  But for now, we are all just surviving one minute at a time.

Copyright © 2019 by Wendy Lohr

Monday, July 29, 2019

Writing Prompt #7

After a brief hiatus in which I took a trip to Erie, PA with my hubby and muse to celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary, I'm back to join in on the latest Writing Prompt.  This and other writing prompts can be found at Writers Write.

At the bus stop, I fidget nervously.  It is the first day back to school and the familiar routine of last year feels so foreign now.  Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that I was attending a new school this year.

New state.  New town.  New house.  New bus stop.

As unfamiliar kids begin to join me, I check out each one cautiously from the corner of my eye.  Would they become friends? Enemies?  I was worried they would ignore me and at the same time, I was worried they would see me.

Then a curly red-haired girl stood next to me and offered, "You can sit with me, if you want."

And suddenly, my nervousness turned into hope that maybe this move and the new school and even the new bus stop wouldn't be quite so bad.

Copyright © 2019 by Wendy Lohr

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Writing Prompt #6

Careful what you eat when camping in the woods! Today's Daily Writing Prompt and others can be found at Writers Write.

They found him after seventeen days, straddling the log of an ancient Redwood.  He was completely naked and tapping his heels into the sides of the fallen tree, urging it "Onward ho!"

After convincing him he'd arrived at his destination (the town of Deadwood), paramedics ushered him to an awaiting ambulance and on to the hospital.  Several series of tests later revealed he'd gotten hold of hallucinogenic mushrooms while out on his three-day camping trip and had been wandering the forests while eating the mushrooms.

It was several days before he was finally released from the hospital and his husband declared, "You are never going camping without me again!"

Copyright © 2019 by Wendy Lohr

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Writing Prompt #5

Today's Writing Prompt is a bit of a fill in the blank scenario.  You can find and other writing prompts at Writers Write.

She wanted to be an archaeologist, but gave that up when panic attacks led to the onset of agoraphobia.  Unable to leave her home due to a growing list of fears, she found a way to still pursue her dream in a different manner.  Becoming a translation specialist for ancient languages, she managed to feed her desire for the past without setting foot out of her home, but the embarrassment of her phobia was never far from her thoughts.  Perhaps some day she'll find a way to conquer her fears, but in the meantime, she'll take comfort in what she is able to give to the fascinating world of archaeology.

Copyright © 2019 by Wendy Lohr

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Writing Prompt #4

Short and Sweet Writing Prompt for today. You can find this and other writing prompts at Writers Write.

He had me at 'ice cream.'

Monday, July 15, 2019

Daily Writing Prompt #3

A somber, alien twist for today's Writing Prompt. This and other writing prompts can be found at Writers Write.

They began with a moment of silence, honoring those that were no longer among the living.  So many lives lost to protect those that still remained, a sacrifice that would not be forgotten for many generations to come.  And it was not a sacrifice in vain.  On this day, the living were celebrating their newfound freedom. 

Freedom from tyranny and oppression. 

Freedom to have opinions and ideas.

Freedom to create without censure or fear. 

Freedom to explore their world as well as the many worlds beyond. 

As the moment of silence came to a close, haunting voices rose in unison, singing the new beginning for their species... a beginning that would have never been without the sacrifices of the brave, fearless, and determined warriors being honored this day.  Warriors of the unassuming Naavu race who were now the sole surviving species on their beloved planet, Renvost. 

The silence was for the warriors, the singing for the living, and with hope and imagination, their race would one day fulfill the long-held hopes and dreams of all those who had come before them.

Copyright © 2019 by Wendy Lohr

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Daily Writing Prompt #2

Feeling a bit philosophical for this particular writing prompt.  Agree or disagree, just remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and thoughts.  This and other writing prompts can be found at Writers Write.

If wishes came true, the world would actually be a really dull and uninspiring place.  Whether we're wishing for money or love or happiness or health or any of the other multitudes of things people wish for, if we were to receive all of these things, what would we wish for?  What would we strive for?  What would we dream about?  What would we hope for?

A wish is sacred and beautiful, but if it always came true, would we even bother to wish anymore?  What would be the point?  Even in adversity or despair, wishing creates that light at the end of the dark tunnel.  Maybe that wish will be granted, maybe not, but at least it provides what is really important, even in times of struggle: hope.

So, if wishes came true, we would no longer have anything to wish for.  And I believe that would be a sad place indeed.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Daily Writing Prompt #1

Okay, going to try something new here. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to post one of these each day as it is called a Daily Writing Prompt!  These are courtesy of Writers Write and anyone can sign up for a daily writing prompt in their inbox!

It was the first day after the election and my head was filled with stampeding elephants.  Whole herds were racing through my brain, forcing me to groan in agony.  But then the blessed aroma of black magic wafted in, followed by the sounds of popping and sizzling.  Bacon.  Bacon would save me from the stampede.

With an effort that would have made Hercules proud, I rolled over and somehow managed to plant my bare feet firmly on the shaggy, cream-colored throw rug.  Squishing my toes in the fabric for a moment, I let the smells and sounds of breakfast being prepared lead me further into the land of the living.  Then I heaved myself up and stumbled into the bathroom.

After the necessities were taken care of, I shuffled out to the kitchen and grinned goofily at Mr. Coffee.  He was percolating happily, telling me everything was going to be alright once the magic brew was ready.  Then slender arms wrapped around my waist and I was snuggled from behind, lips tickling the side of my neck as my partner in life and love greeted, "Good morning, Madam President."

Copyright © 2019 by Wendy Lohr

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

I'm Baaaaacccck!!!

I know, it's been freakin' forever since I last posted out here.  So, let me do a catch up and we'll see where we are when I'm done.

First, I did take a sabbatical, as my last post indicated.  From August until January, I didn't write a single word.  Instead, I practiced my creative skills in other arenas: crochet, cross-stitch, paint-by-numbers, learning to draw, and sewing.  I was feeling artsy/craftsy and amazingly enough, found I had a talent in those areas of creativity!  Here are some pics of what I've been up to!

Not all of these were done in those few months of sabbatical.  More like started but not finished until way later.  But just starting them made me feel creative in a whole new way and allowed for my mind to relax and learn some new things.  That in turn helped me to get back in touch with my characters and when the new year rolled around, I was ready to sit back at the computer once more and get back to writing.

Which brings me to the belated announcement that Peregrinate (Annals of Ellie #3) is now available on Kindle, Nook, and in paperback on Amazon!!!  I'd begun working on it before I went on sabbatical and ended up writing like a madwoman once I had my mind right again.  Peregrinate has been out for a couple of months (sorry for the late announcement), but better late than never, right?!  So, if you haven't had a chance to check out Ellie's ongoing adventures, be sure to get a copy of Vivication, the first book in the series, and get started!

So, that's been the last year, practically, and I'm still having fun with the various arts and crafts.  However, I am also working on the latest manuscript for the Galactic Dynasty series I'm co-writing with my awesome hubby and Muse!  This will be the fifth book in the series and I'm super excited about it!  Rosa's discovering all sorts of things and her friendship with Daemos is growing exponentially.  So, if you haven't started this series yet, get a copy of Starward, the first book, and see what all the fuss is about!

As you know, I do keep a word count on this blog so readers can see how far along I am on a writing project.  So, Book 5 of Galactic Dynasty is now up and the word count will be updated from time to time so you all can see how far along I am on the manuscript.  I'm hoping to have this book written and published by October, but we'll see!  It's always good to have goals!

And that has been the story of my life for the last year, throw in some traveling and such as well!  As always, I will do my best to try and be a more frequent poster out here, but we all know how that usually goes! lol  Regardless, I'll try to post pics of finished artsy/craftsy projects as well as updates on manuscripts and publication dates as I have them.  Hope everyone is having a great summer so far and if you're looking for something to read, be sure to visit the other pages on this website.  Maybe you'll find a new series to fall in love with!

Happy Reading!!!