The #TBR List — every reader has one. It may be a stack of print novels a combination of garage sales finds, library borrows, and new release splurges. Your TBR (to-be-read) list of books may be list on your Good Reads account or a digital pile waiting on your e-reader. Whatever form the TBR list takes, I personally like to take stock of mine a couple of times a year.
My personal TBR List is a combo of digital reads and print books I’ve bought over the last several months, both new releases and used-book store treasures (that’s how I found my hardback copy of Imzadi).
In no particular order, my current 2018 TBR List is:
The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
Hidden Figures by Margo Lee Shetterly
Zoo by James Patterson
Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig
House of Furies by Madeleine Roux
Safe by Dawn Husted
The Woodcutter by Kate Danley
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Imzadi (a Star Trek novel) by Peter David
Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray (book 3 of The Diviners)
The Library Jumpers series by Brenda Drake
Purple Hearts by Michael Grant (book 3 in the Front Lines series)
This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the books that I plan on reading (hopefully) in the next six months. I find that I’m happiest when I’m actively reading. It makes me a better writer and I actually take more joy in writing when I’m reading. Besides I love stories.
I’d also like to read more mythology this year. I love Greek mythology (Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed series is one of my favorite) but after recently reading Brenda Drake’s Thunderstruck with its Norse mythology, I’d like to learn a bit more about that. I’m going to add Norse Gods by Johan Egerkrans to my list as well.
Currently I’m reading Beyond the Edge of the Map (The Mapmaker Chronicles) by A.L. Tait. It’s the fourth book in this series, a series I highly recommend for mid-grade and YA readers. You can check out my thoughts on books 1, 2, and 3. — spoiler: I loved them all!
What are you reading? What’s your 2018 TBR List looking like so far?
If you’ve been following my book review posts since Christmas, you know I’ve been reading the Rick Yancey YA series The 5th Wave. I’ve already posted my thoughts and reviews about book 1 and book 2 — yes, I liked both.
Currently, I’m reading book three, The Last Star. I had hoped to finish it this morning, but instead found myself sucked in and watching the movie “Everything, Everything” which is based on the book of the same name by author Nicola Yoon. The story held my attention and I loved Maddy, played by actress Amandla Stenberg.
I have not read Nicola Yoon’s YA book Everything, Everything, but now I want to and I’m adding it to my 2018 TBR list.
Wait, what? You’ve not made a TBR list for this year yet? That’s okay! I’m still working on mine and will post it (or whatever I have of it) later this week.
So, I guess that leaves us today with two things:
Keep your eye out for my review of The Last Star by Rick Yancey, the last book in The 5th Wave trilogy.
Share with me your book recommendations for 2018 so I can add them to my TBR list. Pop your number one favorite recommendation in the comments. Thanks!
The Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge has just 21 days left (as of this writing).
Never heard of the Goodreads annual Reading Challenge? No worries. It’s pretty simple. It’s free and open to all Goodreads members. All you do is choose or “pledge” how many books you want to read for the year. It can be any amount.
According to the Goodreads Reading Challenge statistics, which I’ve posted above, the average number of books pledge is 45 or a little less than one book a week.
Seems doable, right? For many readers, absolutely!
For others, myself included. I opt for a lower number. And I feel no shame. Pledge whatever you want. Slow reader? Make your challenge 5 or 10 books for the year. If you make that easily, then increase the number in the next year.
My 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge was 25 books. I completed my challenge on November 30. You can see my list of completed books and their reviews here.
In looking over the list, I’ve been trying to decide which one would be my favorite read of the year. There are so many books that I read in the last year that I really, really liked. I’d have to say my absolute favorite on this list is “Silver Stars” by Michael Grant. It’s book two in his Front Lines series.
I also read a middle-grade series written by A.L. Tait, The Mapmaker Chronicles—all three of those books appear in my Goodreads Reading Challenge list. Loved this series and highly recommend it for your young readers.
So what am I reading right now? Well, I’m still working my way through the Harry Potter series. I’m on book two but am first going to finish up reading the new Nora Roberts book “Year One”. As soon as I have “Year One” finished, I’ll post a review—but I’ll tell you right now, I’m LOVING it!
Did you do the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge?
How many books did you pledge?
Did you make your goals or are you still in a race to finish before the clock chimes midnight on December 31?
“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”
(“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J. K. Rowling)
As the Christmas holidays rapidly approach and the final days of 2017 wind down, I find myself wanting nothing more than to curl up with a good, familiar book. Maybe it’s the rush and hurry of the holiday season or the uncertainties that 2018 may bring. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I just know that I’m in the mood for something tried, true, and entertaining.
So I’m rereading the Harry Potter series.
I love to reread favorite books. It’s not uncommon for me to step up to my bookshelves and pull “Death on the Nile” by Agatha Christie or “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen just to plop down on the floor, opening the book to a random page and reading a chapter or two. Usually during December I reread a series (or two). Last year, I reread the Gone series by Michael Grant and the Starcrossed trilogy by Josephine Angelini. This year it will be Harry Potter.
It’s been about two years since I’ve read the full Harry Potter series. Currently, I’m at a little more than half way through “Sorcerer’s Stone.” I’m enjoying it so much. It’s amazing that after reading this series more than 10 times through that I still get just as much enjoyment as I did when each word, chapter, and book was brand new to me. Crazy, right?
Rereading the Harry Potter series won’t be the only books I open. I plan to reread “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson.
Yes, it’s a kids book.
Yes, I’ve read it too many times to count, including reading it aloud to my son when he was little.
It’s a GREAT Christmas book and I never tire of it. If you haven’t read it or shared it with your kids, maybe this is the year to do that. Here’s a handy link to Harper Collins if you want to check it out.
How about you? What are you reading this holiday season?
It’s been about a month since my last post and probably one of the longest periods I’ve been away from this blog. As a freelance writer, the tide of work ebbs and flows. When it’s ebbing, I find myself spending as much time chasing the work as I do completing the work. Clients come and go, that’s just the way it is and I much prefer this as a day job than other options.
Freelancing as a content creator allows me the flexibility to pursue the completion of my first book and prep for NaNo, which I’ll discuss in just a moment. After several drafts, professional editing, revisions, more editing, more revisions, rounds with beta readers and CPs, and more revisions, it’s reallllllllly close to query time. And while that’s slightly terrifying, I’m ready. Actually mentally ready. I’ve done my best and it’s time to see if I can convince an agent that they should take a chance on it and me. And really, they should because the book’s awesome and so am I, right? Right? Anyhoo . . .
So I’ve been writing during this time I’ve been away from sharing book reviews here on the blog. From many, many freelance words to additions/revisions on the book, and prep work for my NaNo project. Which is: drum roll please! YA Mystery!
I’m really looking forward to this project and can’t wait to dive in!
If you’re considering NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) head over to their site HERE. Be sure to click over to THIS PAGE to find out how it works. It’s super easy, free, and trust me, you’ll have a blast. It’s a great way to meet other writers, get in the habit of writing daily with no excuses, and crank out a first draft in 30 days.
Now about the time I’ve spent reading. Long before I was a writer, I was a reader. I can’t ever remember NOT being a reader. I only post a few of the books I read here, so even when I’m not posting book reviews, I am still reading several books. Since the beginning of the month I’ve been rereading Michael Grant’s GONE series in anticipation of his new book MONSTER that releases October 17. As this is one of my all-time favorite young adult series, I’m really looking forward to reading it! Keep your eyes out, I promise I will post a full review as soon as I can.
I’ve also been rereading “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie and YES, I do plan to go see the new movie in November. I own the 1974 version, and while I don’t favor it as much as “And Then There Were None” and “Death on the Nile” it does have its merits.
I’d love to hear from you! Comment below and share with me and other readers the new book releases you’re anxiously awaiting. I’m always looking to add to by TBR pile. If you’re an Agatha Christie fan like me, are you planning to see the new “Murder on the Orient Express” movie? Tell me in the comments.
So actually I wasn’t really gone, just away from the blog because of my freelance work and because I was doing a THING.
Very glad you asked.
I made the monumental decision (cue fluttery heartbeat) to enter Pitch Wars for the first time. If you’ve never heard of Pitch Wars it’s a THING, a huge thing. An amazing thing. With amazing people and truly one of the most supportive communities of writers.
Direct from Brenda Drake’s site:
“Is it another contest? Oh, no, it’s so much better. Pitch Wars is a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents. The mentors also critique the writer’s pitch to get it ready for the agent round. Writers send applications (query and first chapter of manuscript) to four mentors who best fit their work. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the one writer they want to mentor for the next two months.”
Click here to read the full scoop and be sure to peep around Brenda’s site to learn even more cool stuff about Pitch Wars, Pitch Madness, and more.
So if you’re a writer with an unpublished manuscript, this may be just the THING for you, especially if you’re at the stage where you’re thinking about querying.
And in case you were wondering, I entered my YA fantasy, LIES & MAGIC. Fingers and other digits crossed in hopes of being chosen by a mentor, but, seriously, I learned so much from the process and have connected with so many amazing people. It’s a win just for all that!
Keep your eyes out for more book reviews as I get back on my normal schedule. I’m currently reading A.L. Tait’s second book in her “The Mapmaker Chronicles.” That review will be up soon.
This weekend I began “The Last of August” by Brittany Cavallaro, the sequel to “A Study in Charlotte” that features Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, teen descendants of the famous Holmes and Watson duo. If you haven’t read “A Study in Charlotte” and YA mystery is your thing — go grab a copy now and read it. You can read my review here. As for the second book, I’m about 100 pages in and it has my attention. Keep an eye for my review sometime later this week.
I also finished “The Firstborn” by Quenby Olson recently. My review is up on Goodreads and I’ll be posting it here on the blog as soon as the book officially releases. I had the awesome fortune to receive an ARC and thrilled that I was able to read it early. It’s releasing May 9, so if Regency romance makes your heart swoon, definitely mark your calendars and get a copy of “The Firstborn”. Visit author Quenby Olson at her website to see what else she’s been up to.
What else is on my #TBR list?
Star Wars AFTERMATH, Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig (bought and waiting for me to dive into)
The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (the paperback has been on my shelf for too long!)
Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah (again, bought and need to read soon)
Imzadi (Star Trek: The Next Generation) by Pete David (okay, so I’ve actually read this book three times but I’ve never owned it until now, which is why it’s on my current to-read list)
Cloak of Shadows by C.K. Dawn (on my Kindle app)
Like many of you, I have a few dozen more on my e-reader, including a few books on the writing craft. I’m setting time aside daily to catch up and keep up with the books I want to read. How’s your TBR list for 2017 going? Doing the Goodreads challenge?
World Book and Copyright Day — you may know it as World Book Day (although in the U.S. a World Book Day is celebrated in early March as well) or the International Day of the Book is April 23, 2017. Organized annually by UNESCO, this very special day celebrates books, reading, publishing, and the protection of the copyright.
Why April 23 each year for this event?
From UNESCO, the 23rd of April is “a symbolic date in remembrance of the deaths of two major authors: William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes.”
World Book and Copyright Day is celebrated across the globe. In the U.K., there’s also World Book Night on April 23. It’s organized by The Reading Agency and is an evening set aside to enjoy and celebrate reading and books of all types.
There’s no reason why you can’t have your own World Book Night here in the U.S. — grab your kids, your honey, your BFFs, and even your pets for a fun night of reading and sharing your favorite books and stories.
One of my all-time favorite YA series is GONE by Michael Grant. I can’t actually remember when I read the first book, but it was before the second one came out, so fairly early after its release. It was the first book by Grant that I had read and after the first chapter, I was hooked. I had been looking for something different and GONE delivered.
Since then, I’ve read and reread the full series about six or seven times because not only do I find the story interesting and yet disturbing — it’s all about the characters for me. Astrid, Sam, Edilio, Lana, Caine, Diana, little Pete, Orc, and the list goes on. While LIGHT concludes the series and ties up the story perfectly (if not bloodily) well, I was very excited to hear yesterday that MONSTER will release in October 2017, a book giving us GONE fans a bit more about what happens after LIGHT.
Below is the video of author Michael Grant reading from his soon-to-be-released book MONSTER. Please check it out and if you haven’t read the GONE series, now is the perfect time to start — you’ve plenty of time to get the series read before October.
So watch the video below and then go get GONE and read.
I’m very excited today to have author B.K. Boes guest posting. I had the privilege of meeting her last November at a writer’s conference and was blown away by her vision as an epic fantasy writer and her passion for writing. She agreed to sit down and share her process for writing, editing, and even how to find an illustrator. Regardless if you’re newer to this business of novel writing and publishing or more experienced, this post is chock full of great information!
Behind the Scenes of an Epic Fantasywith B.K. Boes
In today’s world, especially in the independent publishing crowd, you’re going to hear a lot of advice about writing fast. And I mean super speed. I’ve met people who can crank out a romance novel or space opera first draft in three days. And that’s awesome. But it’s not me, and that’s okay.
Here’s the advice I’d give you: write the first draft as fast as you can. Take into account your life circumstances and priorities. I’m a homeschooling mom. I work part-time online. My husband is a minister in a local church, which means I host people in my home many evenings. I run a local writer’s group, and I teach a homeschool high school creative writing class. I’m also working on building my writing career.
I simply can’t pump out books like a full-time author. Or even a part-time author with no kids in the picture. And, again, that’s okay.
So, here I am, a busy woman with a full life trying to write an epic fantasy series. In the last five years, I’ve written the first drafts of five books in this series, plus a spin-off book or two. Currently, I’ve brought the first book in the series, Mother of Rebellion, almost to the end of its production.
My Process Start to Finish
Since I’m independently publishing my series (the benefits of which and my choice to do so could be another post all together), my process of bringing a book from conception to publication looks different than traditional publication. It will also look different from other indie publishers. It’s tailored to who I am. But, maybe you can find something helpful in it, so here it is:
Idea forms. Write a few short stories with the main characters as protagonists. Do a crap ton of world-building. This step can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months.
Plot out basic plot points, probably using The Hero’s Journey. This shouldn’t take more than a day or two. It’s not carved in stone. You can change it later.
Write the first draft. This shouldn’t take forever. In fact, I suggest trying to get the first draft finished in less than two months. Why? 1) Your first draft will probably suck no matter how long it takes you to write it. 2) Your first draft will probably change. A lot. 3) Laboring over words/themes/pacing is better done in revision. So, give yourself permission to write a bad first draft. Just accept the fact that it won’t be close to perfect, turn off your internal editor, write the draft, and move on to revisions.
If major changes took place between plotting out my book and finishing the first draft, sometimes I will take a day to replot my new story direction to make sure that I’m hitting all the correct markers.
Write the second draft. For me, I have to fill out the story a lot. I write bare bones on first draft and then add in on revisions. Some writers overwrite on the first draft and have to cut a lot of material in revisions. This will just depend on who you are as a writer. It would be a good idea to start getting some feedback at this point via a writer’s group. Complete the second draft as fast as you
Alpha readers. These are other writers or very critically thinking readers who can tear your story apart and help you put it back together in a better way. This will, of course, depend on how fast your alpha readers are. I have two, and it took them about a month. In the meantime, I took a step back from that story and wrote a first draft of another book.
Third draft changes based on alpha reader comments. I look for consistency, pacing, world-building (enough/too little?), story timeline, character distinction, etc., and I bring the book up to the best quality I can on my own. The third draft for me might take a couple of passes. I might separate out the multiple point of view characters into their own word documents and edit one character at a time.
At this point I would hire a developmental editor. More on that later.
Fourth draft based on comments of developmental editor.
Send off to a line editor. More on that later.
Fifth draft based on comments by line editor.
Send off to a proofreader.
Sixth draft based off of proofreading.
At this point, I’d send off to beta readers. These guys are going to read through your book and give you a reader’s perspective. They should be able to catch any last minute, smaller changes that need to be made.
During the last few stages, I’d hire a cover designer and map illustrator. More on that later.
Seventh draft based off of anything beta readers caught.
Once I have my illustrations and cover, it’s time to send it off to a professional formatter for the print version of the book. You can also hire for the ebook version, but you can also do it yourself on Vellum (Mac) or Jutoh (PC).
Finally! It’s time to publish!
Now let’s talk about some of the leg work involved in hiring professionals to help you make your book top notch.
How to Find an Editor
There are three types of editors I recommend.
Developmental Editor. This is big picture editing. They’ll look at the structure of your book, plot holes, find inconsistencies or unbelievable moments, check for character development and consistency, comment on pacing, and look for overall themes. This is the most expensive type of editing. You can probably get away with not hiring a developmental editor if you absolutely cannot afford one. However, if you decide not to hire a developmental editor, make sure you have super smart and capable Alpha readers and get as many of them as you can.
Line Editor. This is line by line editing. They’ll look for smaller scale craft of writing issues such as structure on a chapter, paragraph and/or sentence level. They will suggest better, smoother prose. They’ll help you make your voice consistent, and make sure that nothing is confusing for the reader.
Proofreader. This is purely technical. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, mistyped words, missing words, and things like that.
Now, when I was looking for editors, I took it very, very seriously. I believe that if I am going to pay for these services, it better be worth it. The last thing I want is to get back my manuscript and find that I wasted my money.
Making a list of editors
Word of mouth recommendations is very valuable. Network with other authors. Ask for their recommendations, and follow up if they give you an editor’s information. Begin forming a list of editors you wish to query.
Research editors who specialize in your genre. Google is your friend. Legitimate editors normally have websites with testimonials, rates, guidelines, and lists of books they’ve edited. Add those that interest you to your list. Query them to ask for recommendations from past clients.
Take a look at your favorite indie books in your genre. Often times they will credit their editor on the copyright page or in their acknowledgments. Add these names to your list and find their contact information.
Gather a large list of editors. Really do your research. I had more than 3 dozen editors on my original list.
Whittle Down Your List
Are they not affordable? Then mark them off the list.
Do they offer a sample edit? If not, mark them off the list.
When you look at the books they’ve edited on amazon/goodreads/etc, do you see a lot of comments in the lower rated reviews that specifically comment on editing? Mark them off the list. Don’t skip this step. This is how you confirm their track record.
Send out samples for them to edit based on their individual guidelines. Are they unprofessional? Mark them off the list. Do they fail to respect you as the author in their edits? Mark them off the list. Do you have the feeling you won’t work well together as you communicate? Mark them off. Do they try to rewrite your story? Mark them off. Do they have hateful comments instead of constructive ones? Mark them off.
Whittle your list down to less than 5 editors that you would be glad to work with and you think you can afford.
Which One to Hire?
This is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. I whittled my 36+ list of editors down to three or four, and I chose the cheapest one in the end. Your decision might be based off of something else, and that’s fine.
How to find an Illustrator
There are two ways to get a cover. You can hire an artist to create original artwork (which is often times expensive), or you can hire a company like Deranged Doctor Designs to make you a cover out of stock photos. This is definitely the more affordable option.
But original art may still be needed for other things. I hired an artist to create my cover illustration, and I’ve hired NA Studio Designs to give me unique chapter headings for each of my point of view characters, create maps for my book, and create some promotional materials.
The process of finding an illustrator is similar to finding an editor. The steps for making a list of illustrators or cover designers is the same, except you can add this: Search websites like DeviantArt and Carbon Made and even Fiverr. For maps, you can also check out The Cartographer’s Guild. These sites enable you to contact artists individually. You might have to query to find out if they even create artwork for book covers, but these are the places you can find some really great artists.
Tips for Working with Illustrators and Cover Designers
If working with stock, it is VERY important that you make sure they have the licenses to use said stock photos. Also, I like to run a Google image search when considering buying a premade book cover to see if the image has already been used in my genre in a similar way on a book cover.
If the artist isn’t professional and timely, don’t work with them. It’s a huge headache. And often times it falls through anyway. Your best bet is using someone with a track record and business already up and running.
When hiring for map illustrations, you’ll have to give them a rough sketch up front. Research map making. Model your map after real world places so that the geography makes sense. Have a rough sketch ready to go before you query.
Ask for recommendations from artists, just as you would for editors. Talk to previous clients about how smooth or not smooth the process was for them. You can find out a lot by just talking to people.
There is a lot to learn when planning to independently publish your book, but it is totally possible. And you can make your book indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. So, I encourage you to go. Write awesome stories. Produce top quality, professionally edited books. Put together beautiful eBooks and print books, and be proud of the product you’ve made.
Good luck, and remember, your process is yours. Not mine. Not anyone else’s. So find out what works for you and own it.
B.K. Boes is an epic fantasy writer, working on publishing her first novel, Mother of Rebellion, the first book in the Leyumin Divided Saga. She is a wife, and mother of two. Writing has always been a part of her life, but within the last four to five years has she begun to take it more seriously. Since then, she’s written six books, and her first is nearly ready to publish.