One Year Ending, Another Beginning: 2014 Reflections

December 22, 2014
I would say that 2014 has been a year of writing. Although I've been less active on my blog, I have written more creative work this year than any other year. It's surprising too, because I have been under significant amount of stress, which usually leads me to writer's block. That wasn't the case this time.

What changed?

Who knows? A combination of maturity, discipline, and finding a niche all my own.

As I look ahead, I want 2015 to be the year of rewriting. I won't set any resolutions (like I read on a blog recently, resolutions are for people who want to stop eating cookies), I will say that I want to revise the stories I've finished this year. At least a few. One would be nice actually.

For my blog, I'll try to do better. Use it as the outlet I started it for.

If I don't post again this's a somewhat perfect holiday message from my modest Instagram account -

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5 Reasons Why I Like Writing in the Morning

December 14, 2014

Each morning I take the bus into work. It's about a 45 minute ride, and since I have to get up horridly early (6:45 is when I leave to catch the bus) to show up on time., it's a pretty dark ride until the very end. Yet, something about waking up in the early morning hour and sitting crammed in a bus seat, inspires me.

I've not considered myself an early morning person before, until I absolutely had to be, and wondered what the appeal of early morning writing was.

I put together a list of top 5 reasons why I like writing in the morning and I wonder if any of you can relate.

1) Nothing too awful has happened yet.

Unless I'm under the mellow spell of a glass of wine, if something crummy has happened in my day, it's hard for me to turn my brain off at night long enough to enter the realm of imagination. I'm usually obsessing, ranting, figuring out how to solve the problem or whatnot.

If it's early in the morning and I'm barely awake enough to register anything yet, it's the perfect time for me to use that creative muscle. This is a major reason why I don't install work email onto my phone. God help me if I read an annoying or worrisome email and it's 10:30 pm at night. Goodbye sleep.

The first appeal of writing in the morning is that nothing awful has happened. Nothing has gotten in the way of the creative process.

2) A dream filled night can inspire me.

I love when I dream vividly. Like the kind of dream I'll think about throughout the day. And because of this, my dream filled mind can inspire the story I'm working on and nudge the plot along or add a bizarre element that only a dream can throw in there.

3) It inspires the rest of the day.

Writing makes me happy. If I can start my day with something that makes me happy, I'm starting things out on the right foot. I will also feel more ready and confident to go back to that same story later on in the day, no matter what happens.

And since I rarely get rejected before 8 am, this is a good thing.

4) My mind is more open and less critical.

I don't think my inner critic likes to wake up early. I'm pretty certain it doesn't wake up until about 8 o'clock. When I'm writing early in the morning, I don't hear those awful thoughts that say this piece of writing isn't any good and that I really should work on something else. I'm much more at peace with my writing and the process.

5) I think the sunrise is my muse.

Something about watching the sky go from a dreary dark color to the beautiful array only the sunrise inspires me.

What time of day do you write best? What about that time inspires you?
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Getting That Story Back [A Computer Crash Success Story]

December 6, 2014
For those of you who have been with me for the long haul, I wonder if you recall the dreaded day my computer crashed. Let me tell you how awful that day was, especially because I'm not the type to back up my files. (Yes, I learned my lesson,)

I probably would have been MORE devastated had I not been such a devoted handwriter. But still, I felt the loss.

It's been over two years since the loss of that laptop and I do have a new one that I've been using. For a long time that old laptop sat at the bottom of my closet floor. I kept thinking one day I would take it in somewhere and have someone recover the files, but I never did.

Well, until the very last day of my Thanksgiving break, I decided to take the laptop out and try to recover them myself. And ladies and gentleman, it worked. Well, for the most part. I recovered some notes I took from my fantasy novel, mostly music, and a couple of other files. That wasn't my huge Eureka moment. My huge EUREKA moment happened when I recovered files off an old flash drive.

That's when the goods returned. I discovered old stories, poetry, notes, and other ides. This was a goldmine of creative writing. It's like a retrieved a part of myself.

My next task at hand is to print these stories out for safekeeping and for rewriting sake.

If you want to recover files of your own, in case you are curious, I used EaseUS Data Recovery for my flashdrive and Recuva for my laptop. Recuva gets installed on a flashdrive and you load it onto the computer from where you want files uncovered.

I can proudly say - Nicole: 1 Technology: 0.

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What Are You Thankful for This Thanksgiving?

November 27, 2014

I just wanted to take the time to wish everyone Happy Thanksgiving! Today, I am thankful for my family, a warm and safe place to call home, good books, strong coffee, and all of my blog readers who have stuck by with each and every post.

I hope you have a wonderful time with your loved ones today and have tasty food.

What are you thankful for today? 
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4 Books I've Read (And Don't Remember the Title)

November 23, 2014
Recently I recalled several books that left an impact on me and couldn't remember their titles.

The thing is I'm not very good at keeping track of book titles, even of ones I've liked! For me, it's the experience of the book I need and desire. To keep close track is too close to keeping a record book of every single experience I've had in my life down to the minute. After a while it just becomes a hassle and you enjoy less the experience and just love racking up numbers. I've only just recently accepted the idea of Good Reads.

So I thought I'd describe the books I've remembered and see if any of my fellow bookworms happen to know these books -

1) Young Adult Murder Mystery 

This was a book I read as a kid. I think it's from the 80's or early 90's. It isn't Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys or Boxcar Children. I'm fairly certain it's a series, but I'm not sure. It's about a coastal town or a lighthouse or area by the sea that the main character visits. The cover is dark and of a lighthouse or coast or something. I think the main character visits family or something. The thing is I remember that I hadn't wanted to read this at first, not thinking I'd be interested, but I read it and it was really good. Spooky. And kind of dark.

2) Vampire Story

I hate vampire novels. I only grabbed this at the library once on accident and got about a quarter way through before putting it down. The thing is there is a quote in this book that I loved. It starts out something like 'My name is Fate' and it says, 'Make a wish. Make sure, very sure. Because I'm going to make sure that's the one thing you'll never get.' I loved that quote. It was so creepy and chilling. This was a book some time in the early 2000s, late 90s.

3) Sci-Fi Novel

This is one I read over the last five years. The cover had a white unicorn with a blue horn standing in a white room. It was a science fiction novel about a guy waking up every day not knowing why he's n this room. And people come in one at a time trying to help him remember. I don't remember much else about it, though.

4) Literary Book Tour Assistant

I thought for CERTAIN this had been published by Joshua Ferris, but after several determined Google searches I know it wasn't. The main character would drive around authors, take them to their hotel, bring them to the bookstore they are presenting at, etc. Though, he wants to be an author himself, he has writer's block (and by the way, the author of this book was HIMSELF a book tour assistant (or whatever the job title is called)). Anyways, I'm a sucker for a book about the writing process.

Are there any books that you've read and enjoyed, but can't recall the title? Do you keep careful track of books you've read?
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A Writing Lesson I Learned from a Guy on a Skateboard

November 8, 2014
Yesterday, during my lunch break, I sat in front of a small bakery and I noticed a guy on a skateboard. I've noticed him before and he's fairly regular to this particular street. He went back and forth down the small street on his skateboard practicing various tricks.

In my mind, I almost wanted to cheer him on and say, "You can do it!" Each time he failed, and screwed up on the trick, he swore under his breath (and sometimes not under his breath) and started again. Sometimes a car came and he stood to the side, patiently waiting to start again. Finally, about a half hour after I sat down, he nailed the trick. (In my mind, I also wanted to say, "Yay! You did it!" Of course, I was silent). I didn't see him make a huge celebration, but I just sensed a silent victory. He went down a different road, maybe to try something else, or put it away for the day.

As a writer, I think we all are experiencing this type of routine. We're all on that same narrow street and going back and forth with our own skateboards trying to nail a trick. Our trick as writers is the story that we're trying to finish.  There's a lot of times we don't get it right. A lot of times where we're swearing because it just didn't work out - rejections, bad critiques, our writer's block.

Cars will get in the way. Maybe that for us is stress - money troubles, family troubles, day job troubles. It makes us stand to the side, away from our creative work, and just hope it's over soon.

Once we finally nail that trick, and this is something I learned recently, we have a quiet celebration, usually. We share the news, bashfully accept the congratulations of those we've shared our work with, and even boast a bit on our social networks. But we go back to the drawing board because the next trick awaits for us to conquer.

The thing is we must always go back. We must go back to that same narrow street and try to nail the trick. Even as the skateboard slides out from under us half way through trick and we land on our back.
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My Newest Video Poem!

November 3, 2014
Alongside writing stories, one of my favorite things to do is to create video poetry! I compile images and music alongside the poetry to enhance the message of the poem. My latest creation was inspired by a poem that my mom, Jackie Pontzious wrote entitled, "Whispering Reflections." I compiled the video and couldn't wait to share it with you all!

Feel free to share amongst your friends, if you would like! Also, if you have a poem you've written that you want developed into a video like this, let me know. I love creating things like this!

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Interview with Jeff Gunhus, Author of the Templar Chronicles and Night Terror

October 29, 2014
Yesterday I reviewed Jeff Gunhus' newest book Night Terror, about a young girl Sarah Tremont who is still recovering from being updated ten years later. Sarah and her parents and Joseph Lonetree must fight the evil still hunting for Sarah and others like her - as well as fighting the evil living inside of her. Make sure to check out my review - I know you will want to read it!    
But best of all, I had the chance to interview this amazing writer and get his insight into his writing process, find out what inspires him, and what he's working on next! 

The descriptions in the book Night Terror are vivid, terrifying, and more than occasionally grotesque. How did you get into the right mindset to write these scenes? 

I like to listen to film scores while I write so that really helps the atmospherics. I think the fun of writing is that when you're locked in and pounding away at the keyboard, the visual images at floating in front of you as if you were watching a movie. Once you're in that space, it's just play. However, for the more emotional scenes I try to imagine how I would react in a similar situation, especially if my own child was put in danger or harmed, and that's definitely draining. There is a father/daughter moment at the end of Night Terror that almost wiped me out. I also read in the genre I'm about to write to get into the right mindset. I had read Joe Hill's Horns right before writing this and felt liberated by it. Whenever I felt like I might have gone too far, I remembered Horns was way more gruesome.  

This book is the sequel to the book Night Chill. Did you intend to create this sequel?

I left the possibility open with the ending of Night Chill, but I wanted to gauge reaction to the book first. Night Chill is my bestselling book and readers seem to connect with it so the sequel seemed like a good idea. I was excited by it because I really enjoy the characters and I was curious what happened to them after the events of Night Chill. Now I know. 

I realized that while the book Night Terror is a sequel to Night Chill, Night Terror can pretty much stand by itself. How did you approach writing this book so that a reader who may not have read the first one, can still enjoy this second one? 

That is a challenge. Certainly I think the best experience is to read the books in order, but I tried to make it possible to jump in. Making that possible requires some dreaded exposition in the early chapters to get across the main history of the first book. The trick is to embed it and hide it the best you can. What you need to avoid is a character walking into a scene and spitting out a monologue of everything that's happened. It feels clunky and it can alienate readers of the first book who don't want to endure a summary. One technique is getting exposition out of the way during conflict which I use in Night Terror. 

Which authors influence your writing? 

In this genre, certainly Stephen King reigns as my greatest influence. Dean Koontz, Blake Crouch, Joe Hill.

What is your strangest writing habit? 

I have a ceramic steampunk skull on my desk that stares at me while a write. It's a reminder of my mortality, so I ask myself if I should be writing or if I should be spending time with my family. I tend to write before they get up for the day or once they are at school. On more than one occasion, I've heard my kids playing outside my home office, felt the stare of the skull and wrapped up for the day. 

What are you working on now? 

I'm working on the sequel to Killer Within, my thriller which is coming out from Thomas & Mercer in February. 

Why did you decide to self-publish your books initially? How was that process for you? 

I really enjoyed the creative control over every aspect of the process. I had published a non-fiction book with a traditional publisher and had not been happy with the cover selection and the editorial process. However, Thomas & Mercer acquired Killer Within recently and I've been having a great experience so far with their team. 

For aspiring authors, what advice can you pass along to them? 

Read Stephen King's book, On Writing. Part autobiography, part writing advice, pretty much every line of advice I give writers come from that book. My favorite is that to be a writer you have to read a lot and write a lot. Sounds basic, but ready every day and writing every day is essential. 

And one final non-writing question, what is your favorite amusement park ride? 

I like It's A Small World at Disneyland. I am a horror writer after all. What could be creepier than all those dolls staring at you, singing that song over and over. Yikes!

About the Author - Jeff Gunhus

Jeff Gunhus is the author of both adult thrillers and the Middle Grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His book Reaching Your Reluctant Reader has helped hundreds of parents create avid readers. As a father of five, he and his wife lead an active lifestyle simply trying to keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel.

His latest book is the thriller/horror novel, Night Terror.  Visit Jeff Gunhus online by checking out his website, and connecting with Jeff on Facebook and Twitter.
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Night Terror by Jeff Gunhus - Horrifyingly, Excellent Horror Story [Review] #AmReading

October 28, 2014
I had the honor of reviewing another book by Jeff Gunhus. Previously on this blog, if you happen to remember, I read and reviewed Jack Templar Monster Humnter (The Templar Chronicles Series) last year! I thoroughly enjoyed book one and I've heard so many good things about the rest of the books in the series.

The thing is...if you were a fan of the Templar Chronicles, don't walk into the latest book by Jeff Gunhus with the same mind frame. Jeff Gunhus' latest book, "Night of Terror" will send you under your covers with a flashlight. This book is freaky, vivid, and scary all the way through. The descriptions are incredible and as a writer, I could learn a thing or two.

About Night Terror by Jeff Gunhus

Ten years after her abduction and near-sacrifice to the Source, Sarah Tremont struggles to be a normal teenager. As much as she’s tried to suppress the power inside of her, it’s grown dangerously strong and has drawn the attention of those who want to possess her power for themselves.
The nightmare that she thought was long over starts again as powerful forces descend upon Prescott City to seek her out. With her parents and Joseph Lonetree’s help, Sarah must stand up to an evil much more powerful than the one she faced in the caves a decade earlier. But in the end, she discovers the greatest danger might come from the power living inside of her.

What I Thought

I'm usually a fan of reading a book in one sitting but I actually had to take a few breaks when reading this book! This will send your mind into some pretty dark places. The plot and the intensity of the main character, Sarah and the evil she is dealing with, pulls you right back in. I thought the characters were vivid and most of all, the descriptions just jumped off the page. It actually made my skin crawl a bit, so if you are on the squeamish side, take warning! If you aren't, this is the perfect book for you. Although this book is the second in the series, you don't have to read the first one to enjoy it. It can definitely be a stand alone book.

About the Author - Jeff Gunhus

Jeff Gunhus is the author of both adult thrillers and the Middle Grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His book Reaching Your Reluctant Reader has helped hundreds of parents create avid readers. As a father of five, he and his wife lead an active lifestyle simply trying to keep up with their kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel.

His latest book is the thriller/horror novel, Night Terror.  Visit Jeff Gunhus online by checking out his website, and connecting with Jeff on Facebook and Twitter.

Make sure you come back to my blog tomorrow, because I have an interview with Jeff Gunhus! He will be sharing his writing process, how he got into the right mindframe to get those descriptions as vivid as they are, and so much more!
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No NaNoWriMo for This Writer (And Here's Why)

October 24, 2014
In just about a week or so, writer's everywhere will be giving up showers, eating, and blissful reading time to hit the 50,000 word mark for their potential novel in honor of National Novel Writing Month.

I've tried NaNoWriMo in the past and it hasn't worked out for me. First of all, lately, I've gotten more interest and involved in writing short stories. They don't have the same all encompassing quality working on a novel does, which I do miss sometimes, but I love the tightened quality of a short story.

But most of all, my biggest weakness right now isn't racing to finish a first draft. My biggest weakness is editing and rewriting. Getting critiqued and rewriting. Submitting, being rejected, and rewriting. Do you see a common thread here? I have the first draft part of things down. The huge chunk of finished, but not typed, short stories proves that.

So I will dedicate my November to not a first draft but to buckling down and actually getting stories typed, edited, submitted, rewritten, and repeat.

Will you be taking part in this year's NaNoWriMo? Or will you be pursuing a different challenge?  
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Read My Published Poem 'Immortality' - Featured on The Voices Project

October 18, 2014

I've had so much going on lately that I forget to share my published poem with you all! It was published about a month ago on The Voices Project. It was my first publishing success and I am happy to say that I've printed out the poem from their website and taped it to my bedroom wall next to a newly posted sign that says, "PUBLISHED." (You don't know how happy I am to have that on my wall now!)

Anyways, I want to invite you to read my poem and let me know what you think. Follow this link to read Immortality by Nicole Pyles.

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Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout - Learning About Emotions [Children's Book Review]

October 8, 2014

I purposely chose this book to review for the very subject that it handles. Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout by Peggy Krugertietz, Ph. D talks about emotions and what these emotions feel like and situations you may actually feel them.

About the Book:

Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid's Guide to Feelings is an essential guidebook for adults in steering children through the confusing behaviors that emotions evoke. When you understand the purpose of emotions, behavior becomes understandable. Each of the eight emotions is clearly defined thorough vignettes and illustrations, keeping both adult and child captivated, thus creating an opportune time for discussion. By recognizing that all humans experience these emotions throughout their lives, the book provides a true sense of comfort. Emotions are not to be shunned, but rather embraced and explained to provide a positive development environment for all children.

In My Opinion

My mom and I have talked a LOT about how important it is for kids to learn about emotions and learn how to handle them.  We both read this book and both of us agree that this should be in every single classroom. 

Dr. Peggy Kruger Tietz
What I enjoyed most about this book is that it truly doesn't make emotions too complicated or too scary. We all feel angry and sad and afraid sometimes, and discussing these emotions are so important!  This book will generate discussions in your home with your child about emotions. It will get you talking about "what do YOU do when you feel such-and-such an emotion." 

About the Author

Dr. Peggy Kruger Tietz is a licensed psychologist and maintains a private practice in Austin, Texas. She sees a wide range of children with normal developmental problems as well as children who have experienced trauma. Her Ph.D is in developmental psychology from Bryn Mawr College. Before entering private practice Dr. Tietz treated children in multiple settings, such as family service agencies and foster care. Dr. Tietz, trained at the Family Institute of Philadelphia, and then taught there. She specializes in seeing children individually, as well as, with their families. She has advanced training in Play Therapy as well as being a certified practitioner of EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, for children and adults). She has conducted workshops on parenting, sibling relationships, and emotional literacy.

Her latest book is the nonfiction/psychoeducational book, Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings.

For More Information about the Author

Visit Peggy Kruger Tietz’s website.
Connect with Peggy on Facebook and Twitter.
For More Information about the Book

Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings is available at Amazon.
Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
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Are You Open to the Power of Your Heart? #PoweroftheHeart [Book Review]

September 15, 2014
I recently received the book "Power of the Heart" by Baptist De Pape, which features content from the amazing spiritual leaders of our time. Featuring advice and reflection from Maya Angelou, Deepak Chopra, Jane Goodall, and so many more, this book will lead you back to the core, back to the heart of things, of who you are.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be writing posts and reflections about the book and my own discoveries and insight while reading this book. I highly recommend you pre-order your copy, which you can do by visiting this link here.

One of the exercises in the book is called, "CONTEMPLATION: Walking in Silence."

The exercise instructs you to take a walk somewhere, around your neighborhood or a nearby park, in order to quiet your mind and listen to your "heart's voice." 

Once you are ready, you ask your heart,  "What do you want me to know?"

As a writer, this type of contemplation is so important to the writing process. I find when I'm blocked or if I'm trying to figure out a direction for a character or I'm trying to understand meaning of a poem I've written, so I can revise better, allowing my own brain to shut down and searching my heart for a direction can be so enlightening. For me, this is most especially important with poetry as this writing carries an understanding that I can only truly know by connecting with my heart and find out what it knows. 

One quote by Deepak Chopra from the book stood out to me -

"It's an old Indian story that God wanted to hide the truth and said, 'I want to make it interesting for people and the one place I want to put it in is their hearts, because they look everywhere else, only to discover later that the truth is in their hearts.'"

I'm only on page 50 and can't wait to share with you more about what I am reading. So far, I love the insights that Deepak Chopra gives throughout the book. 

To pre-order your copy visit the book's website Make sure to follow the book's Twitter page and like the book's Facebook page as well.

This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks and the Power of the Heart. 

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13 Literary Characters I'd Like to See on 'Dancing With the Stars'

September 4, 2014
We all know that the purpose of Dancing With the Stars is to turn around the career of a once-was celebrity or improve the career of a D-list celebrity. This means that you will have stars such as Sara Evans (a country singer I loved as a teenager, but never hear about anymore), Jerry Springer (think D-list), Joey Fatone (former boy band member), Rob Kardashian (D-lister),  and Melissa Gilbert (I used to love watching Touched by an Angel and Little House on the Prairie).

To be honest I don't think I've watched an entire season of this show, except I may have caught a few episodes at the gym, circa Kirstie Alley season. So, this made me think about the literary characters I'd like to see on Dancing With the Stars. I thought I would only choose five characters, but found out that Dancing with the Stars chooses 13 celebrities on their show. I figured it was only right I choose 13. So, ladies and gentleman, this is my dream cast of thirteen for our Literary Dancing With the Stars:

1) The Woman in Black

I chose this character because there is a Woman in Black 2 movie coming out soon and I figured what better way to improve the status of this character by casting her in a glitsy glammy television show! Although this may be troublesome for any of the kiddos watching.

2) Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.

I prefer the Colin Firth version of Mr. Darcy.

I really think putting this out-of-the-spotlight character into Dancing With the Stars may be the best thing to happen for faux literary television.  I wasn't a huge fan of this particular book, but I think I may find a new interest in Mr. Darcy if I could see him doing the tango.

3) Nurse from Romeo and Juliet

In Romeo and Juliet, the Nurse always seemed to cast a joyful light into the scenes, and I enjoyed it every time she appeared. Plus with the Woman in Black dancing around it may be a good idea to have someone with medical skills on hand.

4) Ford Prefect from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

If you haven't read this book, you must. I still keep meaning to read the second one. I think we need a bit of new blood into our Dancing With the Stars cast members and Ford Prefect, the hitchhiking alien from the book, would make a perfect (or prefect, hehe) addition.

5) Matilda 

I'm thinking we all need to see what this young, vibrant character is doing these days! So let's bring her back and have her work her magic on this literary season of Dancing With the Stars! Plus this is for nostalgic purposes as this was a book I read as a kid and I loved it!

6) Nancy Drew

I chose the book cover because I didn't like the actress who played her in the movie.

Just in case The Woman in Black goes after Matilda, I think Nancy Drew needs to be on the case and ready to investigate the mysterious happenings that could go on. Plus, I want to know if the girl can dance.

7) Allie from The Notebook

Casting Allie from The Notebook may be a fantastic idea, especially because I think that I could totally see her going for Mr. Darcy (hey, this is my daydream and if I want to see her and Mr. Darcy as a couple I can). Plus she's from that whole era of knowing all those fancy formal dance steps. She'd totally kick butt!

8) Aragorn from Lord of the Rings

I have a long running crush on this character, and if it was entirely up to me, I would have him fall in love with me while I was hanging out on the set of this literary Dancing With the Stars. Move over Elven queen, he's my man.

9) Carrie

Granted this may be an unfair casting choice, considering her ability to move things with her mind, but wouldn't that make this entire show that much more fun?

10) Hannibal Lecter

Another potentially bad choice, and what more awkward dance moves to see but with a guy that needs a mouth cage, but we all want to see what he can cook up on the dance floor, right?

11) Anne of Green Gables

Another childhood revival! Let's bring her career back to life and see what else this spunky redhead can do!

12)  Pennywise the Dancing Clown from It

I mean we don't want just ONE redhead on the set, right? Plus, Hannibal Lecter needs a friend and kindred terrifying spirit. I don't want anyone feeling left out.

13) Rosemary's Baby

No, the actual baby. I mean, I'm sure the little one has grown up by now. Wouldn't it be charming to see him dance?

14) Oliver Twist

It's time for our childhood's favorite literary orphan to show off his footwork! Cast the older version of this character and see what quick footwork he can come up with - possibly that quick footwork might be him running in fear because these casting choices are turning a bit weird, right?

15) Mary Poppins

I think Mary Poppins would round out this cast nicely. Plus, she's a nice contrast to The Woman in Black and she'll probably be able to keep It and Hannibal Lecter in line.

That's my star cast! Which literary character would you like to see on Dancing With the Stars?
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5 Things That Make me Re-Read a Book (And One Bonus Reason!) #AmReading

August 28, 2014
I'm re-reading a book right now for the third (yes, third) time. It's called "And Then We Came to the End" by Joshua Ferris. The main reason for the third round of reading is because I haven't stopped at the library for a new batch and want something - ANYTHING - to read.

There's more to it than that though. I have an overflowing bookshelf filled with books that I've read and some I probably haven't. So why this book? It made me wonder the reasons behind why I choose certain books to read twice (even three times) and others I don't ever crack open the spine to bother with again.

Mind you, this is a rarity itself. I almost never re-read a book.

So here's my top five reasons why I will re-read a book (with one bonus reason thrown in there too) -

1) I love the characters.

This is the reason I'm re-reading 'And Then We Came to the End.' I love the characters in this book so much that reading this book makes them come alive for me all over again. Their lovable and hate-able all at the same time. For that reason, I will probably read this book a fourth time in the future.

So if a book has vivid, memorable characters, I will more than likely return and revisit them again. That's partially why I love books that are series related because these characters DO come back to you!

2) I love the setting.

I personally love the office setting in this book I'm re-reading. Not enough authors use that setting. It's so real to me and fun that I can almost walk up to the water cooler myself and gossip with the characters. Also, another book I plan to re-read soon is "The Man in the Picture" by Susan Hill who uses the winter setting and the desolation that surrounds her characters to enhance the creepiness of her stories.

Another setting I love is a school or college setting. And one writer who does this effectively is Will Lavender! These are mysteries, but I just love the setting and this may be the exception to "not re-reading whodunit books," (see number 3) because the use of the college setting just takes me away.

3) There is more to the story than "whodunit" (once you know whodunit, what's the point?).

I hope to be proved wrong, but part of the thrill of reading murder mysteries and other books like that is the excitement in figuring out who the killer is. This may not always be the case, but the book I'm re-reading now doesn't have a big mystery to solve. This helps keep the entertainment fresh every time I return to it.

The exception here is if the book has other intriguing factors that draws me back in again! So far I haven't re-read a "whodunit" type of book yet, but there's always a first for everything!

4) Short story collections.

Another book that I've read a couple of times is "Twice Upon a Time" by Denise Little. I love the variety of short story collections and usually my first time around reading it, I don't read every story. So the second (or even third) I'll get something new out of it!

5) Seeing the movie.

Sometimes seeing the movie for a book I know I've read inspires me to re-read it. Because the second round of reading will let me compare the book from the movie! And I can learn why books are always better than the movie all over again (not all the time, but most times anyway!).

One book I've read before and now I really want to re-read is Amityville Horror! I saw the movie again recently and it's so creepy! Creepier this time around! So now I want to re-read the book.

6) BONUS REASON: Five or so years go by, and I still remember the book. Or I own it and have forgotten I read it.

I recently remembered the title "The Phantom Tollbooth" which is a book I read as a kid. I don't really remember a lot of the books I finished and I'm not too great about keeping track of them, so if a book stays with me over the years, I plan on going back at least once and re-reading it, just to refresh my memory!

Or if I'm browsing through my own bookshelf, if I spot a book that I can't remember reading, it may have a shot on getting in re-read VIP list. 

Do you ever re-read books? What reasons do you have for giving a book the second go around?
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Dark Hope by Monica McGurk #DarkHopeBook #AmReading [Book Review + Giveaway]

August 25, 2014

Author: Monica McGurk

About the Book
(read complete synopsis on Monica McGurk's website)

Years following a bizarre child abduction, Hope Carmichael lived a sheltered life with her father. Now as a teenager, Hope returns to her mother in Atlanta, Georgia to start her life as a "regular teen."  Not everything is quite what it seems, though. After getting hassled by a guy named Lucas, Hope meets an attractive rebel named Michael. He becomes her savior in more ways than one, beginning with an offer to drive her home, saving her from the bus bullies making her life hell. Things change once Hope starts working with class partner - and new friend - on a class assignment about human trafficking and discovers this cruel, criminal business is close to home. From the streets of Atlanta to the gritty glimmer of Las Vegas, Dark Hope by Monica McGurk "introduces The Archangel Prophecies, a saga of extraordinary love, vast mythological scope, and great moral urgency."

My Review

I was immediately taken with the high school world the author created. Although I never really took the bus as a kid, the few times I did in high school - usually during field trips - were awful and I felt Hope's isolating pain as she was picked on by a few selective bus bullies. One in particular named Lucas stands out and he never really goes away throughout the book. Another guy gets close to Hope, a rebel named Michael who stands between her and the hassles of Lucas and his minions.

All of these initial events have much more meaning as the book goes on, and I thought the book picked up speed once she gets the assignment to work with a partner on a topic of their choice. That's when Hope meets Tabitha, a goth preacher's daughter, who encourages the topic of human trafficking. This hits close to home for Hope and despite her reluctance, she accepts the topic. This sends the book into high speed and what was once just traditional high school hell becomes much more.

I did spot a few holes in the initial part of the book, but this didn't prevent me from enjoying myself. This book was quite a ride and I admittedly read this in one day. Also, there were biblical references throughout the book, if you aren't familiar with them, don't worry. They don't distract from the story and they certainly don't distract from the exciting and intense plot line. Either way, you will want to finish this (probably in one day, like I did!) I loved the character Michael especially and thought he was such a vividly written character (and especially enjoyed it when Tabitha came on the scene!).

I can't wait to read the second book and find out what happens to Hope, Michael, and everyone else that is impacted by the events surrounding her story.  Dark Hope is the first book in the Archangel Prophecies triology.

Visit this link to purchase your copy of Dark Hope by Monica McGurk.

Also, Monica McGurk is on social media! So, make sure to follow her on Twitter,  Facebook, and Pinterest.

And best of all, I get to giveaway a copy of Dark Hope by Monica McGurk! Enter via Rafflecopter below. This giveaway ends on 9/5.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own. I received compensation and a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
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4 Complaints about Writing in the Summer

August 16, 2014
writing in the summer

My best motivation comes from writing during the cold seasons. It hasn't helped that since the beginning of July, it's been close to 90 and above nearly everyday here in Portland.

And as mid-August roles on by and September peeks it's ahead around the corner, I'm looking forward to the colder fall and winter seasons.

Since I'm about to bid adieu to the long, hot days of summer, I'd like to tell you my five biggest complaints about writing during the summertime -

1) The laptop heats up like a fireplace whenever I use it.

The fact that I don't have air conditioning at home (can't afford it) makes my laptop the enemy in the summertime. The ideal is that I trek to the local Starbucks/bookstore/library to borrow their air conditioning, but that isn't always possible (or all that fun).

2) That feeling of restlessness doesn't go away even though I no longer have summers off.

I absolutely hated having all that time off during the summer as a kid, but now as an adult I wish I had those days back. Even now, I tend to be more restless during the summer. Although that DOES lead me towards writing new stories (I have a wonderful collection of short stories written out because of that), it doesn't inspire me to settle and edit (all of those stories are still handwritten).

3) Things just seem scarier in the winter than the summer.

Blame my enjoyment of the dark and cold winter days, but it's tough to get into the mood of horror and other paranormal stories when it's a glorious sunshining day with kids laughing and playing outside and conversations of barbecues and picnics all around.

4) Winter allows me to slow down and become introspective (or so confirms Psychology Today).

I'm sort of agreeing with the logic that I found on Psychology Today about winter time and it's affects on creativity (especially for "winter people" like me). For me, there aren't too many "winter blues" to deal with, but the burrowing feeling of hibernation and wanting to shut the world away.

Do you like writing during the summer? Or does the restless, stifling heat get to you after a while? What season is your best writing self?

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Addictive Reading Habits - The Best Worst Times to Read #AmReading

August 1, 2014

I just finished reading the book, "The Woman in Black" by Susan Hill. She's one of the few authors I've read regularly (I've read about four or five of her books!) and although I hate to use the word favorite about any author or book (I don't want anyone to get jealous), she comes pretty close. The stories she writes are creepy and the settings are so vivid.

And once I started reading this book, I could barely put it down, it was that addictive. It made me wonder though about everyone else's reading habits. I had started this book over the weekend and I usually bring a book to work so I can read it on my way home. But I almost didn't have the patience with this one, I was so tempted to sneak it into a trip to the bathroom and read it in the stall!

I didn't, of course. I worried that someone would assume I was going # 2 and we wouldn't want that.

I decided to ask around to some other bookworms and see where their reading obsessions have taken them!

"I used to read while I was breastfeeding at night but they certainly weren't addictive books, they were all rubbish but my brain was mush and all I could cope with! I did see a woman walking along the street reading a book the other day - I thought to myself that must be a good book!"
-Clara W.

"Most awkward time? Probably at work and having my manager walk into my office and seeing me with book and bookmark in hand!"
-Michael L. 

"At a religious ceremony. I was 15 and was dying to see how this romance novel I was reading would end. I covered it up really well. Bad right? Lol. Sorry."
-Omi J. M. 

"I started a book then I had to take it to an awards dinner because I couldn't put it down."
-Gabrielle P. 

"When I've been stuck on hold waiting for a company to answer the phone... "You are tenth in the queue..." - time to read and stick phone on speaker phone while I wait!"
-Chrissie P. 

"I started a book on a trip to Italy. Arrived in Italy and stayed up all night to read it. Then I was too exhausted to appreciate the sights of Venice."
-Wendy J. 

"I discovered the Harry Potter books while working as an AV tech at the University of North Texas. I walked all over campus as part of the job, and so I just walked around campus carrying the books in front of my face and reading straight through, even reading while I did maintenance, etc., on the equipment. I may or may not have even read some while driving. I actually read through the first five books in a week."
-S. Kyle D.

"A wedding. I had my book in the car, and every little lull in activity I would duck out for 5 minutes for book time. I think people started thinking I was a closet smoker." -Jamie Jordan

I found these stories hilarious! Makes me feel a bit better about my reading habits!

This post contains an affiliate link for which I receive small compensation if a purchase is made.
Do you have any weird reading habits? What is the most awkward time you've pulled out a book to read it? 
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The Point by G. Nykanen [Book Blast] (And Win a $25 Gift Card) #AmReading

July 18, 2014

dark journey through madness...

Publication Date: May 30, 2014
Genre: Psychological Thriller

Befuddled by her current relationship woes, Nora Reynolds leaves college at semester’s end to drive north of nowhere to her hometown of Iron Bay. Vulnerable and on the rebound, she is the perfect prey for fledgling felon Dane Buchman. Dane takes advantage of the unaware young woman, feeding his appetite for mischief until a rather violent shift in their relationship reveals to him what he’s really been craving. Driven by his new found hunger, Dane feels unstoppable, until former high school rival and town deputy, Doug Sanders, navigates the trail of Dane’s destruction.

The Point is a dark thriller that will allow you to witness a truly dangerous sociopath wander through madness guided by a treasured family heirloom, and a pensive young woman find her way after discovering, that which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. With echoes of the Coen brothers’ Fargo, the folksy town of Iron Bay and the nearby north-woods community of Deer Lake are the destinations for Mr. Buchman’s many misdeeds.

G. Nykanen was born and raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This small, rural land mass seems to cultivate a wide variety of colorful characters who provide a plethora of inspiration. The Point, Nykanen’s first novel, is filled with nuances of these local characters and the landscapes one might find in the north woods. 

Well traveled thanks to her husband’s government career, she has lived in Europe and many of our United States over the last twenty years. She has recently returned home, moving back to her beloved Upper Peninsula where she resides with her husband and three children.

With The Point now completed, she will continue working on her next novel, Accumulation, along with continuing to develop other stories in the works.

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