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Monday, December 29, 2014

The Ups and Downs of 2014

Ahhh, 2014. It's been a slice, you've held some amazing moments, but I have to say, I'm glad you're almost over.

1. 2014 was the year my son and I started working as background actors in TV and movies. Lots of fun, but this has also kept our lives very busy. We've learned to use the time to get homeschool work and writing done, so it has ended up being a very useful job for both of us. Plus, the extra money is nice.

2. Family-wise, our son turned 11, and is quickly becoming a young man. We didn't do much traveling this year, other than the odd trip to Seattle. My husband wasn't working as much as he has in the past, which left us without much money and in each other's space much more than usual. But...iron sharpens iron. My husband and I celebrated our 20-year anniversary in 2014, and we are expecting 20 more even better years. We are amazed that even after 20 years, we still continually learn new things about each other and ourselves and how to best get along in life.

3. In 2014 I released two new books--FAST FICTION for writers, and FOREIGN EXCHANGE for readers. Releasing a nonfiction book with a small press was a huge confidence-builder for me, Honestly, there are times that I still don't completely believe I did it. Working with New World Library taught me a lot about writing nonfiction, and about being a radio-show guest--all a little nerve wracking, but I came out a stronger person on the other side. As for FOREIGN EXCHANGE, this novel holds a special place in my heart, so it was with some disappointment that I saw it release with little fanfare, at least in comparison with my other books. I'm still thrilled that it is out and available in the world, of course, thrilled that I can hold a copy in my hands, but I hope it will find more of a readership in 2015.

4. I took on a couple of projects this year (a writing contest and a homeschool co-op), without thinking clearly about how I would fit them into my life. You see, I'm already a busy homeschooling mom, who tries to fit writing and book promotion somewhere into her schedule. I really didn't have time for extra big projects. But I love to be a part of things--especially writing or homeschool related things. And sometimes I just don't plan out my schedule as well as I should. So I think the biggest thing that made this year difficult for me is that I overextended myself. And once I commit to something, I won't back out of it. So I ended the year feeling a bit exhausted, but with better, more realistic plans for 2015.

5. Speaking of which...this is the first year I've taken a full month off of writing since I began writing in 2003. I've mentioned before that taking time off of writing usually leaves me feeling grumpy and unsociable, just because I'm not stoking my creative juices. But I was just so overdone about so many things that I needed the break. So I took one. I tried to be ungrumpy and sociable. I don't think I did too badly through the holidays. But now, as I feared, I'm having a hard time thinking about going back to writing. Maybe I need a longer break. Or maybe it's just the business of publishing is getting me down again (as it often does). We will see what 2015 holds in that regard.

6. In 2014 I met my teen idol! If you don't follow me on Facebook, you may have missed this story, and I didn't get a chance to go into the details, so let me share those now.

When I was 16, I watched General Hospital religiously. I would leave the beach on vacation to go back to my hotel room so I didn't miss an episode. The draw for me, specifically, was Frisco Jones, played by Jack Wagner.

I grew up, eventually, and stopped stalking Jack's appearances on prime time Melrose Place, and eventually stopped thinking about him altogether. But in mid-November, out of the blue, I had a dream that I showed up to work on set and Jack Wagner was there. I didn't think anything of it until I was booked on a locally filming show the next week and showed up to look at the call sheet. I couldn't believe it when I saw his name there! I was not scheduled to work with him at all, but fate intervened, and I ended up in a very small scene--just me and the three main actors. I just about died when Jack Wagner walked up to me, hand outstretched, and said, "Hi, I'm Jack."

I held my professionalism until filming was finished, but then I admit, my inner teen fangirl had to get out and tell him how much I worshiped him as a teen. He graciously joked with me about it and offered to take a picture with me. This day was definitely one of the highlights of my year!

Those are a few of my highlights and lowlights from 2014. Even the lowlights I wouldn't trade...they've helped me grow as a person and understand my limitations and where I want to put my energy. I'm excited for 2015, for new books to come out (I should have more info about that soon!) and I'll be performing with my Polynesian dance troupe on a cruise to Hawaii! Just a couple of things I'm looking forward to.

I hope you've had some wonderful highlights to look back on from 2014, and I wish you a 2015 filled with peace and joy and all of the best opportunities and experiences!

Blessings from our house to yours...


Sunday, December 28, 2014

My Favorite Books Read in 2014!

I read over 70 books this year, and while that may seem like an impressive amount, it's actually down quite a bit from my 2013 total. But this year I was determined to not set a reading goal (well, actually I set it at 10 books, but I knew I would read at least that many). Instead, I wanted to read when I wanted to read and what I wanted to read, not feeling a push to get more and more reading in, like I did last year.

So, because of that, I have lots of favorites this year. I'll try and give a quick sentence or two about why I loved each book here. I hope you'll check some of them out (and also I'd love to hear about your favorite books read in 2014!)

In no particular order...

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas - What a well-plotted mystery! At some point I suspected almost everyone in the book of the murder, and I was flipping pages furiously to find out.

17563833I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson - There's been so much buzz about this book, I'm not sure I need to say anything more here. But I will say that Jandy Nelson's writing is evocative and exquisite, and I aspire to write as well as her one day.

Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez - I love everything Jessica writes, but this is probably my favorite. It combines her usual literary style with a thriller-esque mystery. Very engaging!

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith - An unusually set romance, combined with a road trip and many interesting locales. Loved it!
Anywhere but Here
Just One Night by Gayle Forman - This was actually a novella, but it's exactly what was needed to complete two of my all-time favorite novels, Just One Day and Just One Year.

Anywhere But Here by Tanya Lloyd Kyi - This book deserved more notice. One of the best male point of view YA's I've read in a long time.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han - One of my favorite romances of the year, by one of my favorite romance writers. I've heard there's a sequel, which I'm super-excited for.

Don't Even Think About it by Sarah Mylnowski - I needed a few laughs this year too, and this book definitely fit the bill. It was one of those books where I kept waking my husband up with my sniggering.

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally - Miranda always belongs on my favorite lists. Her romances are so engaging, I could easily drop everything in my life to just read for two days straight.

OCD Love StoryJust One Year by Gayle Forman - One of my all time favorite books. I love taking travels through these characters' eyes. I will read this one again and again (and I cannot wait for the movie!)

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu - I already know Corey Ann will be one of my favorite authors for many years to come. Her sharp witty writing and engaging plots make her books un-put-down-able.

Those are a few of my favorites! Now I'd love to hear some of yours.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and an amazing 2015!