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Monday, December 25

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Word Wranglers are taking a Christmas break. We'll be back on January 2, 2018. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year. See you in 2018!

Saturday, December 23

Kindle Rafflecopter Giveaway! by @JanaRichards_

Enter for your chance to win a Kindle Fire or a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Friday, December 22

The Year in Hindsight

by Ava Cuvay

Nothing like the end of the year to don our 20/20 goggles and look back. I think the exercise helps
us put a little perspective on events that might have been overly emotional at the time…a sort of making molehills out of mountains concept. The retrospect also helps us see how we’ve (hopefully) grown and evolved as individuals.

If memory serves, I began 2017 cursing and shaking my fist at it. Death and cancer had taken hold of loved ones, and my life was rather turned upside down those first few months. I was busy dealing with the legal aftermath as well as the emotional turmoil. Fortunately, the cancer is gone. And the deceased one has been laid to rest, along with her estate.

Mid-Spring, I was downsized from my employer of 18 years. On one hand, I was devastated that the employer to whom I’d been so loyal and supportive had decided I was not worth keeping. On the other hand, I was excited at the prospect of having a summer free to write my heart away (and surely publish a dozen or so books as a result). At the end of the year, I’m still struggling with a fruitless job search, I didn’t publish one single book (much less a dozen), and I’m substitute teaching which swings the gamut of job satisfaction for me. My career frustration is double-edged. I haven’t found my new job niche, and that eats away at the self-esteem. And writing is not yet a viable option for a career, which also eats away at the self-esteem. I try to remind myself that these things take time and God has a plan for me… but at present, I’m not where I feel I’m meant to be and that’s a big source of discontent.

I wrote “The End” on book number three. Finally. And I’m working through the first round of my personal edits so I can send to critique partners. But it’s still a lonoog way from being ready to publish. So, other than the mermaid short story in The Lake House Anthology which was published this year (a charitable effort to raise funds for literacy), I won’t have anything new to promote until next year… two years after my last book. Fortunately, I have the daily blogs from my Word Wrangler pals that I can comment on… those are the only times this year I’ve been able to hit the “publish” button! Lol!

But, as I look at our lovely Christmas tree, and at all the gifts underneath which have been pushed away because the kitties have claimed the tree skirt as their personal playground, and I see the excitement of my kiddoes when they see the growing pile of gifts and count down the days until they get to open them… the frustration and unhappiness and missing sense of accomplishment because background noise that I can easily drown out. In reality, it was a good year. The bad wasn’t as bad as it could have been, the good was probably better than I gave it credit for being, and I’m blessed to be able to turn my calendar over and give it another go at it in 2018. Plus, one of the kiddos I subbed for learned I was an author and asked if they could study me for their Famous Hoosier project. I declined, but couldn't deny the boost to my ego! ;-)

So, Happy Holidays to everyone. Blessings to all, positive thoughts into the ether for each of you, and I’ll see you in the New Year!

Thursday, December 21

Merry Christmas!

Image result for Merry Christmas
By Margie Senechal

The past three days have been filled with getting stuff done. I guess that's what days off are for, especially this time of year.

Today I've been busy finishing up my baking--mint brownies, frosted sugar cookies, and no bake cookies. I did PB Blossoms, Icelandic Christmas Cake, and fudge yesterday. Finished up my shopping--thank you, Amazon Prime. And wrapped most of the gifts, although quite a few have sticky notes because I ran out of tags.

For the most part, I finally feel like I'm caught up. Good thing because I go to work in two hours for a midnight closing shift and then two mids before Christmas Eve--which basically means that I will only have time for work and sleep for the next three days. 

I used to think I didn't have traditions that were passed down, but I realized yesterday that baking and making a craft for Christmas presents are my traditions. And today, Jordan pitched in to help me finish up the cookies before work.

The past few years I made coasters and I have hundreds in my garage to prove it. This year, I made these candles. I think it's fitting that a baker makes a glass of milk with a cookie candle. And besides the mess I made while making them, I enjoyed them. I also have a hot chocolate in a mug one I'm playing around with. Creativity spawns creativity.

And after Christmas, I'm going to get back into the writing saddle and start living my new year theme. But, that's another blog for January.

Have a great Christmas and try to find a little serenity. Mine is usually in a dark room just staring at the lights on the Christmas tree when everyone else is in bed.  Where's yours?

Wednesday, December 20

2017 Reading Challenge Update & a 2018 Challenge ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

I started the year with two book challenges going and I'm ending the year...with one. Although I'm still working my way through the abandoned challenge. It all started with Wrangler Liz: she announced her 50 books in a year challenge, and I thought, sure! I can read 50 books in a year...that's a little less than one book each week - no problem! I read all the time! Then, I decided to add a bit more of a challenge and joined in Roni Loren's 2017 challenge, which was a read/watch challenge with themed months, thinking I'd add some genres I don't normally read. You know, expand my reading horizons.

Turns out, some reading horizons aren't for me. And some - some that I'd thought were definitely NOT for me - very definitely are. Who knew, right?

So, the year end report: The Read/Watch challenge was abandoned in about March. I attempted to start it back up in July, but I just couldn't get into the theme for that month and so...I dropped out. Again. Here's what I did like about the challenge, though: the themes. Well, okay, some of the themes...but I digress. The themes were what got me reading outside my comfort zone. I picked up a couple of true crime novels (they were murderous and scared me. Turns out, True Crime is not for me), I skipped right over the horror because if True Crime is going to make me want to sleep with a gun under my pillow, horror is going to insist I add a butcher knife...and who needs two deadly weapons in bed? I mean, RadioMan was getting a little nervous, you know? But then I hit on memoirs and found that I L O V E memoirs! I thought I hated them. Again, who knew? So, as I attempt to finish the Read/Watch challenge, I'm adjusting to fit my reading palate while still keeping me out of that comfort zone.

The 50 books challenge: also a bust, although I never abandoned it. I simply fell behind and could never get fully caught up. I'm ending the year (well, as of December 19) with 41 books under my reading belt. I'm proud of that 41 book mark. I think I've read more in a year than 41, but I didn't also write (and edit and revise and edit some more) 4 full length novels and 2 novellas at the same time. So this challenge, I'm calling a success...and I'm adding on to it for next year with a THEME. Because, the read/watch challenge showed me that themes can make reading fun.

I went searching for a theme for my reading this year and stumbled a couple of lists of the 50 best books set in each state. Here's a link to the 50 Best Books Set in Every State and here is a link to the 50 Most Famous Books Set in Every State. The lists are nearly identical, but there are a few differences; I'm going with the 50 Most Famous list, and I'm even making a couple of adjustments. For example: substituting Stephen King's On Writing rather than Carrie (because horror movies are very much NOT my thing and I figure On Writing is also set in Maine), and substituting The Help for Faulkner's The Sound & The Fury (because I read that book in high school AND college and hated it both times...I'm not going for a 3rd!).

So, that is my reading plan for 2018 -- what are you going to be reading in the New Year? ~Kristina 

PS: Glynis was my winner from last week's rafflecopter - watch your email, Glynis!

Tuesday, December 19

Shouldn't You Be Writing?

It’s been a tough year for me, for my family, for my dear friends. You might even say its been one helluva year. Changes, both tragic and joyful, have been coming at us so fast, I feel like time’s zipping by in one of those flippy calendar timelines they used to use in the movies to show the passage of months and years.

But if I am the writer that I claim to be, that I want to be, shouldn’t I be able to write, no matter what? Shouldn’t the desire, the discipline, the need to write be inside me always and not just on days where I have the time to sit down at the computer or when the muse smacks me upside the head? Shouldn't I be clipping merrily along, filled with joy because I'm writing my first contracted book? I’m seriously asking here because getting into this book has been difficult, even arduous.

Writers fall into two basic categories, plotters, who sit down and map out their stories before they start writing, and pantsers, who just start writing, full of faith that they will figure the story out as they write. (Pantsers write “by the seat of their pants.”) I am a pantser. Mostly. For me, stories begin with the people in my head. Characters show up and suddenly there is a circumstance, a “hey, what if this guy does this and then this woman comes in and does that?” kind of synergy happening. The characters are in my head, but is really getting in my way.

So much is going on, mostly joyful stuff, but some not so happy. I'm letting it keep my mind and heart in chaos, which is not at all conducive to writing. So today, this day--December 19, I'm resolving to get my house in order. I'm committing to writing in the early morning again for 21 days. And yes, I know it's practically the holidays and how the heck am I going to do this during the dang holidays? Well, that's the test, isn't it? I'll give myself Christmas Day and New Year's Day off, but otherwise, the alarm is going off at six and I'm hauling my butt out of my nice warm bed and plopping it down in front of my computer. When I did that for Saving Sarah, it worked. I wrote without editing and got the first draft done in just under five months.

Hold a good thought, okay? If I can do 21 days, then I can keep going, so send me all your good writing mojo and I'll report in next Tuesday. Have a great rest of the week, y'all!

Oh, and the winner of last week's Women of Willow Bay Rafflecopter giveaway is Amanda Fucher. Amanda, Congratulations! I'm going to be contacting you today with more information!

Monday, December 18

If you're happy and you know it... a  book. Okay, maybe I changed that up a bit.

I was on "tour" last week, with Prism Book Tours. It was a good trip, a good week. I was also working with the local community theater and at the library and occasionally at home and then we went to North Carolina to watch our granddaughter graduate from college and I ran out of time. So I hope you don't mind if I use a post--or maybe a couple of them--I used somewhere else and ask you a question I asked last week. I'll ask it here at the top, so you can't miss it, and then again at the bottom in case you did, because we Wranglers are the curious type and we want to know, What have you read or what do you read that makes you happy?

Before I was a writer—although not long before I was a writer—I was a reader. I wasn’t at all prodigy-like—when I entered first grade (no kindergarten then) I was uncertain of my letters and could barely count to 10. I was scared of my teacher and don’t remember all that much about the year.

But I do remember that the first word in the first Dick and Jane book was Look. Within that first paperback reader were other words I can recall: see, oh, come (that one took me a while for some reason), and run. I’m sure there were others, too. Dick, Jane, Sally, Puff, and Tim were names. And the kids called their parents Mother and Father instead of Mom and Dad. (I assumed that was what rich people did.)
And there’s something else I remember from when I was learning those words in that first reader, and the ones in every reader thereafter and every Little Golden Book I could get my hands on. I remember it from later on when I was reading all those words in every library book that was made available to me. I remember that when I was reading, I was happy.

I think it was a pact. Between Louisa May Alcott, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Kate Douglas Wiggin, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and a whole host of other writers who wrote exclusively for young people. I think they wanted to fill gaps in lives, incite laughter where there wasn’t enough, and provide a psychological hankie to dry tears no one else knew were being shed.

I am still happy when I’m reading, and below are some of the titles that continue to make me that way. 

1.     Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. The book introduced me to Vermont, for which I am ever grateful. It is one of the few children’s books I’ve read as an adult that I have enjoyed as much as I did the first time. I even have it on my Kindle and occasionally read parts of it to make me feel…yeah, happy
2.     Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin. And I don’t have a reason. I don’t remember how old I was or for that matter, where I was when I read it. But I loved Rebecca and Aunt Jane and Mr. Ladd. And I know reading the book made me happy. With adulthood, I’ve come to admire Aunt Miranda. I think age has given me appreciation for ornery women!
3.     Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It still makes me happy. I still want to be Jo. And I want to go to Concord.
4.     The Sue Barton nurse series. Because Sue was an independent spirit before her time. And after her nursing school and New York City adventures, she went back home to New Hampshire. Which I love nearly as much as Vermont. Do
5.     Till the Stars Fall by Kathleen Gilles Seidel. Okay, anything by Seidel, but especially this one. I’m still waiting for Danny French’s HEA.
6.     Once More from the Top by Nan Reinhardt. We’re friends, which makes me happy, and she first introduced me to Michigan’s west coast in this book. It’s the first of a series—another happy thing!
7.     Forgiving by LaVyrle Spencer. Spencer makes a setting into a strong and wonderful secondary character-–do you sense a pattern here? I love good settings! My husband and I even went to Deadwood this fall so I could breathe in the texture she painted it with. I was disappointed, but we tried.
8.     The Born In… series by Nora Roberts. I’ve liked a ton of her books, but these not only have great protagonists and Ireland, they are just special.
9.     Always Annie by Liz Flaherty. It was the first time I ever heard an editor say, “I want to buy your book.” Yes, happy.
10. The Happiness Pact by Liz Flaherty. Because every new book is my favorite and they all make me happy.

What ones do it--or have done it in the past--for you?