After countless NaNoWriMos, something has become clear to me: Once you pass 10,000 words, writing quality can quickly go downhill. This isn’t to say that the quality cannot be improved. It just takes a lot of work.

Lately I’ve read a lot of books that suffer from this problem. For all the writers out there struggling once you hit 10,000 words, here are some tips for creating an engaging middle:

6 Ways- Engaging Middle

Ii‘m officially a quarter of the way through the year. Here’s my monthly progress report:

  1. Write 5 days a week: This month was the same as the previous 2 months. I have created a new tracking system, though, which will help me to stay motivated this month.
  2. Read 100 books: to date, I have read 18 books. I’m trending about 4-5 books behind schedule. To checkout what I’ve been reading, follow me on Goodreads
  3. Read more nonfiction: I read 1.5 nonfiction books this month.
  4. Take at least 1 writing class: no progress to report
  5. Attend 1 writing conference: no progress to report
  6. Write shorter form articles: no progress to report
  7. Get at least 1 freelance article published: no progress to report
  8. Increase my vocabulary: I’m continuing to try to use a bigger variety of words in my daily interactions. I also started a new job this month editing health content, so this should help keep my vocabulary in tip-top shape.
  9. 1 short story a month: My progress is the same as it was last month. I definitely need to work on this one.
  10. Finish my WIP: I made a lot of progress on both additional research and getting through some tricky chapters, so I’m feeling very good about my progress this month.

Come back next month for another update.

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Megan has
read 8 books toward her goal of 100 books.

Ii recently finished rereading Megan McCafferty‘s Bumped, and reading Thumped for the first time. The series follows two twins, Melody and Harmony, who are separated at birth. The twins live in a dystopian world where a virus renders humans infertile after their 18th birthday. Teenage females are prized for their ovaries, and teenage males are only as good as their genes.

In reading this series, I couldn’t help but find connections to our own world and the attention the media places on women’s fertility and sexuality. As the He for She movement continues to gain momentum, and as celebrities are increasingly more public about the sexism they encounter from the media (e.g. #askhermore campaign), sexuality and sexism are taking center stage in a big way.

But are we doing enough, or are we headed for a world similar to the one McCafferty has created?

Certainly McCafferty has taken this theme to the extreme, but is she really so far off from where we are today? Naturally, this starts to enter dangerous territory. Who am I to say that teenage girls should not reveal themselves online (snapchat, etc.) or act promiscuous? Ultimately, it is their decision, as it is the decision of any female to show her body in whatever way she wants. But as a society, are we teaching girls that their worth is measured only by their sexuality? Are young girls made to feel that, to be likable, they have to bare it all?

Personal Brands

McCafferty uses the concept of brand to refer to her characters’ clout on social media. Members of this society are constantly looking for ways to improve their brand – for some this involves attending sex-parties. For others, like Melody, remaining a virgin is part of her brand, but only until she is sold off to a compatible “donor.” In a world where we are constantly looking for the next great selfie, or obsessively checking our social sites to see how many like we can get, personal brand is as alive in the real world as it is McCafferty’s world.

Are we losing a part of ourselves in our race for more likes? Have we become nothing more than our social profiles?

I feel like we are at a pivotal point in time – if we do not make a stand about the portrayal of women and the dominance of social media in defining who we are (problems that I see as being interrelated), I fear we are on our way towards making McCafferty’s word a reality.

While Bumped and Thumped are works of fiction, they teach very real, very applicable values.

Ttwo months down, 10 more to go. Here’s my monthly progress report:

  1. Write 5 days a week: This month went about the same way January did. This just gives me extra motivation to work harder to meet this goal in March.
  2. Read 100 books: to date, I have read 12 books. To checkout what I’ve been reading, follow me on Goodreads
  3. Read more nonfiction: this month, I only read half of a nonfiction book, but then, it was a short month.
  4. Take at least 1 writing class: no progress to report
  5. Attend 1 writing conference: no progress to report
  6. Write shorter form articles: no progress to report
  7. Get at least 1 freelance article published: no progress to report
  8. Increase my vocabulary: I made an effort to read some books with more advanced word choices this month, including The Word Exchange, which made use of a lot of less common usages of words. I noticed an improvement in the words I used in conversation and in my writing this month. I’m attributing it to my reading choices.
  9. 1 short story a month: My progress is the same as it was last month. I will need to kick it into overdrive in March.
  10. Finish my WIP: no progress to report, though I am feeling good about the progress I made this month.

Come back next month for another update.

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Megan has
read 8 books toward her goal of 100 books.

Llast year, the sale of print books improved in comparison to previous years, with some bookstores reporting 2014 as their most profitable year. This is great news for bookstores, but not so great news for ebook enthusiasts who have become too familiar with e-readers and forgotten how to read printed books.

This may sound like something out of a dystopian, and I know I’ve come across this theme in a few, but having recently come into possession of a couple paperbacks, I realized a hard truth: my years of book-reading cheats, once second-nature, had gone out the window.

For all of you who have become a bit too dependent on your e-reader, here are some print book reading tips to reintroduce you to the world of printed books.

5 Tips for Reading a Printed Book

1. Books do not come with an illuminated screen. Sure, we all know this, but there’s a difference in knowing this and in experiencing it first hand when you go to lie down at night to read, only to realize you have to keep the light on to get in a few chapters. The lack of light also creates problems when you wake up in the middle of the night. A further challenge is early morning reading. I used to know the exact level of dawn light needed to read in the early morning. Warning – this is something you forget when it’s been a while, and results in a lot of trial and error.

2. Bookmarks are a printed book’s best friend. I’ve gotten a bit too reliant on my e-readers ability to always keep my place. I’m become so reliant that while reading a print book, I closed the cover without even thinking to look at my page number or insert a bookmark. I’m sure you can image the frustration that ensued. Luckily, bookmarks come in many forms. My go-to is a rubber band inserted between my pages, but any sheaf of paper (receipts, napkins, etc) works too.

3. Print books do not have a built-in dictionary. I like words. If you enjoy reading, you probably also enjoy words. In my opinion, a good writer is someone who can take words and use them in interesting ways. Because of this, I rely pretty heavily on my e-reader’s built-in dictionary (though after reading The Word Exchange I am rethinking this). I like to see a word’s full meaning so that I can identify why an author chose an interesting pairing. When reading print books, looking up words requires a lot more effort. My advise – keep a dictionary beside you at all times.

4. Hands-free reading is a bit more challenging when reading a print book. This is probably a good thing – it makes multitasking more difficult, which forces you to focus more on what you are reading. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a contributing factor in why print book readers absorb more than ebook readers.

5. Always have a second book on hand. E-readers solved a very important problem – the ability to always have a backup book ready to go. When reading a print book, you need to always anticipate that you may finish the book. This means traveling with a second book at all times. Which means anticipating what you will want to read next. Print books make us better planners.

I hope these tips prove useful when you next find yourself in the possession of a printed book. If you have any other tips, please share: I’d love to add them to the list.

Aa month has passed, and I happy to report the progress I’ve made with my goals.

  1. Write 5 days a week: Sadly, I fell off the wagon with this one, but I have high hopes that I will be more successful in February
  2. Read 100 books: to date, I have read 7 books. To checkout what I’ve been reading, follow me on Goodreads
  3. Read more nonfiction: this month, I read 3 nonfiction books.
  4. Take at least 1 writing class: no progress to report
  5. Attend 1 writing conference: no progress to report
  6. Write shorter form articles: no progress to report
  7. Get at least 1 freelance article published: no progress to report
  8. Increase my vocabulary: checkout my list of new words/phrases I’ve picked up this month
  9. 1 short story a month: I’m not quite done with this month’s short story, but I am hoping to finish it within the week.
  10. Finish my WIP: no progress to report

Not as great as I was hoping, but all-in-all, not bad progress for my first month. How are your 2015 goals progressing?

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Megan has
read 8 books toward her goal of 100 books.

Aa new year is here, and with it, a new set of literary goals. Last year, I was lost in writer’s block and work stress, amounting to a little reading and even less writing. While not one to make New Year’s Resolutions (I prefer to make them on my birthday, instead), when looking back at 2014, I figured it might be time to step out of my norm and post some resolutions.

  1. Write 5 days a week – I chose 5 instead of 7 because, knowing my schedule, 5 is more realistic, especially while in the midst of ski season.
  2. Read 100 books – this is a lofty goal, I know. To date, my highest achievement was reading 78 books in 1 year, and at the time, I remember feeling like I didn’t retain the information from the books. But, my to-read list is lengthy and a writer should read a lot, so I’m going to shoot for 100.
  3. Read more nonfiction – I am guilty of reading almost nothing but fiction. I read to escape, so popular fiction is my genre of choice. I also blame my time aversion to nonfiction on my time in graduate school, as my studies left little time for the reading of fiction. To make myself a more rounded writer, I need to expand my knowledge base. My goal is 15 nonfiction books.
  4. Take at least 1 writing class.
  5. Attend 1 writing conference.
  6. Write articles – As a student, I wrote a lot of nonfiction articles, and I really enjoyed it. Since leaving school several years ago, I haven’t written very many articles; instead, my focus has been on writing fiction.
  7. Get at least 1 freelance article published – If I can get more published, all the better. Not only will this help my credibility as a writer, but it will also be a big boon to my confidence.
  8. Increase my vocabulary – Being out of school, and since I’ve avoided reading nonfiction, I feel my vocabulary is not what it used to be. I often struggle to find the right word, which slows down the writing process and, in my day-to-day, makes me feel less articulate around colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. To help me with this goal, I have ordered 2 word a day calendars: 1 with archaic words and another with modern words. I love the history of language, so the archaic one will be fun and entertaining, while the modern one will be more practical in my day-to-day.
  9. Write at least 1 short story a month, and publish to my blog – this is something I’ve been thinking about over the past couple of months. I think it will be a good outlet when I’m feeling bogged down by my WIP.
  10. Finish my WIP.

Come back in a month for an update on my progress.

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Megan has
read 2 books toward her goal of 100 books.

Fear is death for writers. Fear cripples and keeps thoughts at bay. Or keeps them from being shared, which is just as bad.

But as an artist, and no matter what type of writing you do, you are an artist, it is hard to get beyond the fear. Every time you publish a piece, you are putting it out there for the world to judge, and, let’s face it, the internet has made it very easy for people to post hurtful critiques – it’s easy to forget that there are real people at the receiving end of those comments.

Lately I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I know that to feel satisfied, i need to write. But I’ve let the fear conquer me. And this fear doesn’t just keep me from publishing things to my blog. It keeps me from writing period.

I used to write any and everything. And I enjoyed it. I enjoyed researching and writing nonfiction. I enjoyed playing with my imagination and crafting works of fiction. But then something happened. I started applying for writing jobs and each job I applied for seemed like a shoe in, until I submitted my writing sample. And then, silence.

I began to doubt myself, and, in doing so, my craft. Every time I sat down to write, a voice in my head kept asking “is this good enough?” I was paralyzed.

Overcoming Fear

So how do you overcome the fear once it has sunk in?

The first step, as with any problem, is to admit that there is a problem.

The second step is figuring out what to do about the problem, because choosing to not do something just because someone might think you did it poorly is sad.

For me, I found solace in hearing people critique well-known, highly successful writers, specifically J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer. Here are 2 women who have sold millions of copies of their works and who’s stories touched readers enough to justify turning them into movies. Regardless of what critics say about writing quality or storytelling abilities, there are millions of people who have found something to love about these writers. Pleasing everyone is never going to happen. And as a reader who has found something to love in the works of both of these authors, and in the works that exist because of the changes Harry Potter and Twilight wrought on the MG & YA genres, thank goodness they didn’t listen to the naysayers.

The moral is, there will always be naysayers. I think, sad as it is, that this is just part of human nature. Sure, my book review or my piece on Harry Potter World may not be the most informative, well-written thing. But the next review or the next article I write will expand upon the things I learned. And if people criticize my work, well those critiques are things that I can add into my future work.

No one starts out perfectly, but if they did, how much fun would that be?

Today I’m participating in the Echoes of Memories blog tour!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Echoes of Memories is the second book in the Nepherium Novella Series. Set in the year 2452, Echoes of Memories is set in a future where Nepherium and Humans coexist, though the relationship is riddled with distrust and fear. Elsa is still struggling to regain all of the memories she lost in a transporter accident, both as a means of discovering who she is, and in hopes of clearing her name of treason and uncovering the events that led to her accident.

Echoes of Memories picks up where the 1st Novella, Made to Forget, left off. As a whole, this was an enjoyable, quick read that kept me guessing and wanting to know more. This was truly a page turner.

One of my favorite things about the series is the main character, Elsa. Told in 1st person, Elsa maintains a badass persona without coming across as fake or overly tough. Her emotions, actions, and dialogue feel real. Noah is another plus, and makes for a refreshing love interest. He is not overly sappy, nor is too brooding. As we learn more about him through the conversations between Elsa and her team, his is shown to have depth, though for more insight into his character, you have to read the deleted scenes at the end.

The concept is also interesting. I love how the reader uncovers bits of Elsa’s memory right alongside her. That being said, I did feel that some of the revelations were incomplete. There were times that it felt like Elsa uncovered something, but didn’t fully share what she had uncovered – instead she jumped to new thoughts/feelings as though they were second nature to her. I wish the reader had been taken further along this journey of discovery, as this sometimes made me feel momentarily lost.

Another area I would have loved to see more of is the building of the world. LaFantasie gives the reader glimpses into the history and workings of the world, but, as someone who loves world building, there is still more I want to understand. I did enjoy that she didn’t bury the reader in tons of futuristic elements, but I would have liked more information on the Vanguard and the history of the relationship between the Nepherium and Humans. I can only hope that as the series continues and Elsa uncovers more of her memories, the reader will uncover more about the workings of this future world.

If you have not read the first book in the series, being as these are novellas, running just under 100 pages each, it is easy to catch up, and you won’t be sorry you did. Fantasy and paranormal lovers, and readers of Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels’ Series, or adult readers who have enjoyed Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments Series should add Echoes of Memories  to their to-read list.

For more on Echoes of Memories, and for details on the blog tour giveaway, please keep reading below.

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Title: Echoes of Memories

Author: Samantha LaFantasie

SeriesNepherium Series #2

Genre: Adult, Fantasy

Traitor. Liar. That’s what they call me. No one believes me. Not even my team. I know it’s up to me to get the answers. To stop the corruption and unlock my memories. I’ll do anything to get them back. Even if my hands will be covered in blood.

Elsa’s every move is scrutinized. She’s labeled a traitor by those she sought for protection, and kept from her family and team. Regaining memories has been a slow process. Too slow for the Council’s liking, taking matters into their own hands.

The new captain has history with Elsa and operates with a hidden agenda. Even Elsa’s team reacts differently toward her. If only she could unlock her memories. Everything is playing right into Alexander’s hand, even amassing an army with unconventional methods, designed to annihilate the Nepherium—starting with Noah. Elsa will do anything to stop Alexander … even kill.


Amazon | B&N | Kobo
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About Samantha
A Kansas native, Samantha LaFantasie spends her free time with her husband and three kids. Writing has always been a passion of hers, forgoing all other desires to devote to this one obsession, even though she often finds herself arguing with her characters through much of the process. She’s primarily a fantasy writer but often feels pulled to genres such as sci-fi, romance, and others.
Among her writing credentials, a member of the Kansas Writer’s Association and has authored works such as Heart Song (her debut novel) and Made to Forget.
Samantha loves to take time to enjoy other activities such as photography and playing her favorite game of all time, Guild Wars 2.
Want more from Samantha? Keep up with her at any of her digital hangouts.
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Starters Cover

Starters, by Lissa Price

Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: Callie is left to care for her brother after the Spore Wars killed off the Middles, the middle-aged members of society. The only survirors were the weak – the children and the elderly, who had been vacinated at the start of the War. Unclaimed Starters, children without living grandparents, are left to fend for themselves on the streets, or suffer in the Institutions set up to “care” for the unclaimed Starters. With laws in place to keep teens from working, Callie is left with one option to help care for her brother – signing up with Prime Destinations, and underground corporation that allows Enders to rent out the bodies of Starters. When Callie’s chip malfunctions, she realizes that her renter is looking to get more out of the arrangement than a few nights of youth. As Callie fights to maintain control and save her life, she begins to suspect that Prime Destinations isn’t what it seems. Can she stop them before it’s too late?

I first read Starters in 2013, but in preparation for the reading the sequel, Enders, I decided to reread Starters. I have to say, on my second reading, I was blown away. The first time I read it, I focused on the plot and character development – the plot remains, in my mind, a wonderful addition to the dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre. The characterization, similar to my initial assessment, is a little lacking. You can find my original review on Goodreads.

On my second read, it was Price’s writing skill that drew me in and left me wanting more. Her pacing was spot on, with little waste. The idea seems well-thought out, and her world building was believable and engaging. She sucks you in and holds you captive until the end, similar to the Ender’s hold over the donor teens.

As a writer, works like this excite me. Too often I read books with amazing worlds, but poorly developed plots, or engaging plots, but poor writing. Price has the full-package. For any writer looking for help with their pacing, Starters is a must-read.