Get In My Kindle: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Happy Tuesday, fellow readers! It’s time for what is one of my favorite features: Get in My Kindle! The books chosen for this feature aren’t out when they are featured, but are books to look forward to finding on your doorstep or in your kindle like an unexpected gift. Today’s pick is a fiction book from an author many readers are familiar with–Jodi Picoult. 

A Spark of LightTitle: A Spark of Light

Author: Jodi Picoult

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Description: The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: I’ve only read one other Jodi Picoult novel, The Pact. The Pact was a heart-wrenching book on a difficult topic, and Picoult handled it beautifully. The depth of her characters and her ability to wring every available emotion out of them in a way that readers can lose themselves in impressed me. There were plenty of moments I had to put the book down because what was happening felt that so real and present with me. Picoult brought the scenes she’d written to life.

When I first saw Jodi Picoult had a new book coming out, I looked at two things to determine if it was worth me pre-ordering it: the cast of characters and the situation they are placed in. Knowing Picoult’s ability to build and wield tension in fraught situations, to create characters you care about and understand even if you don’t agree with the choices they make, I was immediately intrigued by the description. I’m excited to see what she does with this premise and these characters.

Amazon Associate links: Hardcover: Kindle version:

Are you a Jodi Picoult fan? Excited for A Spark of Light? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

XOXO,

Erica

Review: Her Lost and Found Baby by Tara Taylor Quinn

On Tour with Prism Book Tours
Hello, fellow readers! Erica here. Today I have the pleasure of being part of a review tour for Tara Taylor Quinn’s newest release, her first with Special Edition, Her Lost and Found Baby. I’ve reviewed  TTQ before on tour, so when I saw the opportunity to review this one, I jumped at the chance. You can read my review of The Good Father here
Here’s the description for Her Lost and Found Baby:

Her Lost and Found Baby

By Tara Taylor Quinn

Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Paperback & ebook, 224 Pages

August 1st 2018 by Harlequin Special Edition

Friends. Without benefits. They both agreed.

Until she stole his heart.

Tabitha Jones will find her kidnapped toddler…even if it means searching every daycare in Southern California. So when her hunky, wealthy neighbor, Johnny Brubaker, offers a deal, Tabitha sees it as an ideal way to expand her search. In exchange for working his food truck, Johnny agrees to pose as Tabitha’s husband. It’s the perfect relationship…until Johnny realizes posing as a family man isn’t enough anymore.

My review: I first encountered Tara Taylor Quinn’s emotionally gripping work when she wrote for Harlequin Superromance. I followed her to Harlequin Heartwarming and was just as happy with her work there. I expected some things to change with the transition to the Special Edition line, but I hoped Quinn’s signature style would still be evident in the shorter format story.
When I began Her Lost and Found Baby, I wasn’t sure I was going to get my usual TTQ book. The beginning felt rushed, and it took me a couple chapters to get my head around the character of Tabitha. I attribute this to the shorter length of the book and the necessity to get the scenario set quickly. I felt like I was playing catch up on how we came to be at this point in the story. 
I had no trouble connecting with the character of Johnny Brubaker. He came across like a nice guy who was helping a woman through what had to be the toughest time of her life. I loved him immediately. 
After the initial jerky start, I really got into the story. The mystery of where Tabitha’s son Jackson was served as an interesting backdrop to the developing relationship between Tabitha and Johnny. The supporting characters were well developed and acted realistically for the situation they were placed in. Even though the book was considerably shorter than I’m used to from TTQ, the pace was well set and kept. The story progressed in ways that kept me invested in the outcome. 
Tara Taylor Quinn has written a touching story about two people who set out to help each other with their “life quests” and succeed far beyond their initial expectations. More than checking off goals, they build the possibility of love after tragedy. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an emotionally significant romance with a well-paced, well-developed plot, a hero any woman would love falling for her, and a strong heroine who will stop at nothing to find her son but still manages to care for others.
3.5/5 stars for compelling characters, a finely orchestrated plot, a perfectly paced romantic element, and good secondary characters. 
About the Author



The author of more than 70 original novels, in twenty languages, Tara Taylor Quinn is a USA Today bestseller with over six million copies sold. A 2015 RITA finalist Tara appears frequently on bestseller lists, including #1 placement on Amazon lists, and multiple showings on the Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller list. She has appeared on national and local TV across the country, including CBS Sunday Morning.
Tara is a supporter of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. If you or someone you know might be a victim of domestic violence in the United States, please contact 1-800-799-7233.
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Reading Dilemmas: Gulp or Sip

Today’s post is a little different from my usual posts (though what is usual when you’ve been posting for less than a month?). I wanted to talk about one of the dilemmas I face as a reader. Like most readers, I have many, but this one came to me and I wondered how other people deal with it. So let’s dive in. 

Reading a good book is like eating an amazing dessert. You try to take your time and savor each bite. You want to stretch it out and make the experience last. You try to identify every note or hint of flavor. You take a small bite, spoonful, or forkful, closing your eyes so there’s one less sense to compete with your sense of taste. At least, you try to. Usually in this scenario, as much as I want to slowly savor every last bit of it, I find I can’t make it last nearly as long as I want to.

Similarly, sometimes I try to read a book slowly, but I can’t. I love the journey the story is taking me on and I don’t want it to end, yet I can’t stop turning the pages. Every time I put the book down, it calls me back. I will sit down, only intending to read a chapter or two, and look up hours later having devoured the whole thing in one sitting.

 (Note: One Good Man & The Marine Next Door are both the first books in compulsively readable mini-series by romantic suspense superwoman author, Julie Miller. I’m ADDICTED to the Precinct series and every mini-series within the series)

I’ve come to realize some books are gulp books; you drink deeply from them and finish them before you know it. Gulp books aren’t confined to a certain genre or a statement on the depth of the material–I’ve gulped down both books of substance and less stellar but equally compulsive reads. There are some books you just can’t stop reading until it’s finished.

Then there are the books you sip. Sip books are the ones where you read a sentence, paragraph, or page, sometimes a whole chapter, but then you have to stop and stare into space, take a walk, think deeply about your life choices. These are the books where Truth punches you in the chest and you need a moment to recover, where the beauty of the prose steals your breath and it takes you some time to catch it. It’s the book you close with a finger holding your spot as you try to put the pieces of your brain back together because “wow.” These are the books you have to stop reading and process before you go back in.
 (If you’re in the market for a truly beautiful memoir, the kindle version of The Prisoner’s Wife is currently $0.99! Click the book and grab it now!)

Some of the best books I’ve ever read find a way to combine both these disparate characteristics into one book. There a lines that cut deep and make you stop and think, and there are whole sections that won’t let you step away. Pages where you throw the book in frustration, then hurry over and flip back to your spot because “gah!” you have to know what happens next.

Now it’s your turn. Which type of book do you prefer–gulps, sips, or a blend of both? Feel free to share your top picks for each category in the comments below.

XOXO,

Erica

P.S. Don’t be surprised if you see posts about any of these titles in the future 😉

FOMO: Educated: A Memoir

FOMO posts are blog posts about the books that have been buzzed about, made the bestseller lists, won all the awards, are constantly cited as life-changing or industry shaping…and I haven’t read a word of them. These posts are my chance to explain why I haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, and your chance to tell me if I should. The book I’ve chosen for this inaugural post is one of the Top 20 Picks for Best Book of the Year so Far for 2018, a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and one that’s been mentioned everywhere since before its release in February. So why haven’t I picked it up?

I’m not one to jump on a lot of bandwagons. They’re usually full, and crowds make me nervous. A recent galivant through the land of the Enneagram personality test revealed that I am what’s known as The Loyalist, so apparently NOT jumping ship for the next hot thing is an important part of who I am.

There’s something in me that, when I see a bunch of readers heading for the cliff, makes me want to go in the opposite direction. I may find myself at the same stream eventually, but I like to take my own path sometimes.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover seems like a book that would be right up my alley. I love memoirs. I’m a fan of higher education. It’s a coming of age story about self-reinvention and family loyalty, which are themes right in my wheelhouse. Anyone who knows my criteria for a good memoir knows one of the top requirements is that the story is unique enough to be interesting, yet rendered universally enough for me to identify with the individual, and according to critics and lay readers, Westover has done just that. I should have been the first person in line to read this, especially since one of my favorite book recommenders, Anne Bogel, talked about it before its release on her show. So why wasn’t I?

First of all, February was busy. My book release had been pushed back and I was working like crazy to meet my new deadline. All that stress pushed me to binge on $.99 kindle romances in the evenings in between episodes of America’s Dumbest Criminals on Amazon Prime to rest my brain. I wasn’t interested in a “demanding” read.

Second, the book was a little too buzzed about. Many times when a book is so lauded early on, I’m skeptical. Was it really good advance marketing and a quirky spin on her story that garnered all this attention, or is the book actually good?

Third, I’m finicky when it comes to memoir or books that have an autobiographical component. I can read almost any romance as long as you can guarantee a man and a woman fall in love and have AT LEAST a happy for now ending that looks really promising, but when it comes to memoir, I need more than a good story. I have to connect with the person, their story, or their voice–and hopefully all three. I take less chances in this genre. I usually read memoirs of stories I heard about or people I’ve met online or in real life who I like. I know nothing about this Tara Westover, and while her story seems interesting enough, all I know of it is what’s been said about the book. As for her voice, I have no clue.

Four, and more or less important depending on how far I am from payday, is the price. The paperback price is listed at around $25, and the kindle is still $12.99 (the link above is to the hardcover and is $16.80). I’m not a world famous reviewer who gets Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) from major publishers regularly (yet!), so I have to at least pretend as if I’m minding my book budget. True, I could just check this one out of the library, but I imagine the hold requests on this are pretty up there (not that I’ve bothered to look–I’ll add this to future posts).

Instead of going round and round in my head, I’m putting it to a poll here on my blog. Do you think I should read Educated? Why or why not? I’m especially interested in the opinions of those who have read the book or heard the author speak. Once I get some feedback and make a decision, I’ll add it to the bottom of the post so you know what I decided (because I hate when I vote and I never find out the decision).

XOXO,

Erica

P.S. Eventually when I get more tech savvy, I’ll have an actual poll on these posts.

WW: Books that Will Change Your (Writing) Life

Happy writing Wednesday, Friends! Today, I’m sharing with you the books that can change how you write (and read). I tagged some of my best writing friends in a Facebook post, and we did a whip-round* to share some of the books that profoundly impacted our writing life. I see a few I need to put on my bookshelf or in my kindle.

Want these books for your collection. Simply click on the cover of the book you want to be taken to its paperback version on Amazon (except Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. I could only find the Kindle edition, and How to Write a Brilliant Romance, because the paperback cost was expensive). 

Here are the books that have impacted my writing the most thus far:

My original copy of this book doesn’t look like this. It has a cover that looks more like a piece of paper. I have no idea how I got this book, someone must have given it to me. I was so young when I read it the first time, I needed a dictionary with me to make sure I understood every word. This book is the foundation of what I know about writing fiction. I still return to the exercises in it.

I came across Anne Lamott on BookTV/C-Span in college, and immediately went out and got Bird by Bird. Anne’s illustrations and voice were so easy to follow, and she shared so much wisdom about writing and the writing life. There’s a reason this is a classic.

I read this book when I was creatively dry, and it helped revive my passion for the written word. I knew many of the things Liz shares, but I wasn’t acting on them. And what she says about how we (in Western culture especially) expect our creativity and art to support us made me stop and think about why I wrote and why I wanted to share what I wrote with the world in the first place. Writing for me is spiritual, and Liz taps into that idea. We agreed to disagree on just what and where that spirituality comes from (I edited every reference to the universe to match my personal beliefs and it was fine).

First of all, this book is fascinated for the glimpse it gives into one successful writer’s life–where his ideas come from, how he got his start, what his writing routine looks like, etc. But more importantly, in the middle section, King gives some invaluable advice for writers on mechanics and style that I found really helpful. It’s full of examples and is simple to grasp. Even if you’re not a fan of the horror genre or have never read any of his books, this one is an invaluable tool to a writer. There is a language warning. King is a little coarse. But the writing is accessible and you can learn a lot from him.

I also own but still need to finish:

Started it, loved it, even follow Dani Shapiro online, but I got sidetracked. I promise I’ll finish this and let you know what I gained from it.

I’ve started it but haven’t finished it. I’m not currently working on memoir (it’s something in the back of my mind, and I love the genre and want to know more about it anyway), so it’s keeps getting pushed to the backburner. I heard Mary Karr on Fresh Air, an NPR podcast, and I loved her.

Now, on to the books my author friends chose:

By far, the most recommended book was Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. Nearly all my author friends chose this book. Here’s how one described it:

As a Harlequin author, I can tell you that the editors rely heavily on this book, and they’re really big on making sure the GMC works for the story. -D. F

Another that multiple authors recommend is Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron:

[Finding Water] especially helped me…when I was feeling quite down about my writing prospects. It reminded me that I can – and need to – enjoy the creative process not just the end result. -DG

Finding water is the third of three books by Cameron on in The Artist’s Way series.

 Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias was recommended for its focus on storytelling:

It’s about storytelling and not about *writing*. It gives lots of really great examples on what techniques you can use to produce emotional response… For instance: before that book, I didn’t really understand what Dramatic Irony was, or that there were different kinds of dramatic irony, and that the different kinds were good for specific situations. It’s a master class in storytelling, even though it’s a book on screenwriting. – A.B.

 Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle was also chosen as one writer’s most impactful book:

It’s absolutely the most impactful book that I re-read often because it reminds me of the kind of writer I want to be…Every writer needs to read this, IMO.

Finally, some made recommendations that speak for themselves…at least, the authors who suggested them seem to think so. Also suggested was anything by Michael Hauge (including his weekend intensive) and The Prescription for Plotting Workbook by Carolyn White Greene.

Did we forget your favorite book on writing? Share it below in the comments. 

XOXO,

Erica

*I’m a fan of the late, great Harlequin Romance writer Betty Neels. I discovered this delightful word, whip-round, which seems to mean everyone contributing to a gift, in her novels. This post is absolutely a whip-round, a group of people putting in a little something into a burgeoning writer’s gift basket. I hope you enjoyed it!

Get In My Kindle: Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

Hi, Friends! Get in My Kindle is fast becoming my favorite feature of this site. Today’s book is another I can’t wait to read when it releases. Unlike the previous book, an essay collection, this one is a memoir by author and writing teacher Dani Shapiro. 
Inheritance Dani ShapiroLike many aspiring authors, I have a copy of Still Writing on my writing craft book shelf, but I wouldn’t have called myself a Dani Shapiro fan until I started following her on social media. Instagram suggested her as someone I should follow when I first joined. Since then, I’ve been closely following her posts. I was interested in Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage, a memoir on marriage, but I decided to wait until the paperback version was available. Hourglass got lost in the flood of new books and suggestions, but I kept following Dani (I feel like I can call her Dani because her posts are so personal).

All authors and creators can learn a thing or two about creating investment and enticing readers from Dani Shapiro. She’s been posting throughout the process of writing her upcoming release Inheritance. Her followers have heard about the journey of this book, how what she discovered was changing her, how the writing of this story was changing her, and how it was changing everything she thought she knew about herself. We know this story was shocking and important, that it dealt with a family secret, but we didn’t know what this story was. I was hooked.

Finally, the wait is over, and the book is here! Here’s the description:

What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?
In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history–the life she had lived–crumbled beneath her.
Inheritance is a book about secrets–secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in–a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.
Timely and unforgettable, Dani Shapiro’s memoir is a gripping, gut-wrenching exploration of genealogy, paternity, and love.

Isn’t this description intriguing? I can’t wait to get this one! We’ll have to wait until January, but I think it might be worth it. It’s one of many releases I’m pre-ordering. If you’re interested, here are the pertinent details:

Title: Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

Author: Dani Shapiro

Release Date: January 15, 2019

My Amazon Associate links to pre-order your copy of Inheritance:

Hardcover pre-order: //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=ericadhearns-20&language=en_US&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=1524732710&asins=1524732710&linkId=4b53a1adc83e8e244cb57a78c81c87e3&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

Kindle pre-order://ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=ericadhearns-20&language=en_US&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B07DBRGMFB&asins=B07DBRGMFB&linkId=78458652e6226a7d820e356eb839f3fd&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

Will you be reading Inheritance? What book(s) are you looking forward to?

Review: Amish Country Ambush by Dana R. Lynn

Full disclosure: Dana R. Lynn is one of my oldest writing friends. We were matched together as critique buddies along with Christina Yother sometime after So You Think You Can Write 2013. The first manuscript of hers I critiqued became her first published book, Presumed Guilty, in April of 2015. I’m also a part of her Dream Team, which receives free copies of her releases to review. Despite this, my review is my honest opinion about this work. Enjoy!

Amish Country Ambush LynnPolice dispatcher Elise St. Clair is trying to start over in Lamar Pond after her sister’s murder. She is raising her nephew with the help of a nanny and cleaning lady. On a shift that started as routinely as any other, Elise receives a call that throws her into a panic: the Amish girl who cleans her home calls saying someone has broken into Elise’s home and attacked her nephew’s nanny…and the attacker might still be in the house.

Elise races to her home to find the nanny dead, her nephew and the cleaning lady missing, and herself face to face with her biggest nightmare: her sister’s killer, her murderous brother in law.

Police officer Ryan Parker responds to Elise’s home. He doesn’t know Elise well, but he’s immediately drawn to her plight. He wants to help find the missing child and the young Amish teenager they believe is trying to keep him hidden, but complications abound. The biggest complication is Elise’s claim her brother in law is involved–a brother in law police believe died in a car accident before Elise moved to Lamar Pond.

Ryan and Elise are racing against time and a would be kidnapper to bring Elise’s nephew and his protector back to their families. As they work together to unravel the tangled web of suspects and motives, the alliance between them feels less like a temporary partnership and more like a lifetime proposition. Can Ryan and Elise find the boy, protect the girl, and live to see the love growing between them blossom into forever?

Amish Country Ambush is part of the Amish Country Justice series and like Ms. Lynn’s previous works, is set in the fictional town of Lamar Pond in Pennsylvania. Most of the books thus far have centered around the police force in Lamar Pond, so if you’ve read the previous books, you are somewhat familiar with Ryan Parker. You might have even been waiting to learn more of his story and see him find love. You look forward to seeing characters you remember from previous books and if you’re like me, you hunt for clues as to who the next hero/heroine might be. All of this is wonderful fun for me, but don’t let the fact it’s in a series deter you. This book can be read as a standalone.

I liked this book. Ms. Lynn is skilled at creating and building suspense. The plot is complex and has enough twists and turns to keep the reader flipping the pages to see what else will happen to Elise, Ryan, her nephew and the cleaner. There are a few threads in this book that need to be wrapped up, and Ms. Lynn does this well without showing all the work that has to be involved in the undertaking. Overall, I enjoyed the journey this book took me on.

The element that makes or breaks a book to me, especially a romance, is character. If you don’t fall in love with or become invested in what happens to the characters, the book won’t work. In Ryan Parker, Ms. Lynn created a hero you could hang a story on. Ryan is efficient and capable. He’s also gentle and compassionate. The reader can easily identify with him struggling to stay professional and focused while growing more and more concerned about protecting the woman he’s starting to love. Ryan has an unexpected grit to him; he refuses to give up or back down. He makes a swoon-worthy hero.

In romance, I have to fall in love with the hero and identify with the heroine. I have to be able to place myself in her shoes at any given time. Elise St. Clair is a woman who’s frantic at the disappearance of the nephew she raises like her own son. She wants nothing more than to find him. She’s strong and stubborn, refusing to be shut out of what’s happening or treated like any other victim. While I ended up loving Elise, it took me a while to get there. In the beginning, she was a little too frantic and acted without thinking too many times. It showed the state of mind of a woman in her situation, but it seemed to take her too long to find her feet and decide to work with the police. This stuck with me because she works with the police department as a dispatcher. She has only been there a year or so, keeps to herself, and has trust issues, but I expected her to know be willing to accept help to find her nephew a little quicker. Again, in the end, I grew to like Elise just as much as Ryan, but it was touch and go in the beginning.

I would recommend Amish Country Ambush to anyone who loves their romance with a strong faith and suspense threads, a man in uniform, a self-reliant, stubborn heroine, and a dash of Amish culture.

3 1/2 */ B

Writing Wednesday: The Art of the Solo Retreat for Writers/Readers

July 8-11, I took a solo writing retreat to the beautiful city of St. Augustine, FL.

DSCF5153

I decided to go on a solo writing retreat partly because my schedule couldn’t accommodate the retreat with a small group I wanted to go on. Although it wasn’t my first choice, I ended up falling in love with the idea, planning and executing a fabulous trip that was restful and productive. If you would like to take a solo trip to dig in to your book(s), here are a few tips and tricks I tried or learned during my solo retreat:

  1. Pick a place you love and have been to before. I say this for several reasons: a) you won’t waste as much time being lost if you know how to navigate the city/area well with a little GPS help. b) If you’ve been there before, you won’t get caught up playing tourist instead of working as easily. c) I chose a place I loved, I place I felt like I could breathe in. It’s an unquantifiable feeling that good things were waiting for me there. I’d only been to St. Augustine a couple times, but every time it felt like a place I knew intimately.
  2. Pick your project(s) and set your goals ahead of time. Make sure your goals are realistic to the time period you have and the way you work. I chose one manuscript I wanted to edit and revise. I am a morning writer, so I chose to outline and write new scenes in the mornings and edit the existing parts of the manuscript in the evening. I gave myself the goal to work through edits to six chapter and outline or write three new scenes. I had Sunday night and Monday through Wednesday to accomplish this, which wasn’t crazy.
  3. Build in relaxation/rest. The point of retreating is to focus on your work, yes, but for me, I also needed to pull away and rest. Working full-time and working freelance for other writers while seeing to my personal responsibilities and trying to write wore me down. I needed rest. So I built in time after my morning writing and before my evening editing to explore the city. So I wouldn’t spend too much time away from my project or get overwhelmed with activities, I chose one activity or place to explore per day along with dinner out to balance productivity with fun.
  4. Be flexible. I thought I would work in my hotel room, explore for a bit, return to my hotel room and work, eat dinner, then watch a movie or read a book. I found that I was much more productive editing in restaurants at a table for one than in my room. I wish I’d found a few good coffeeshops to work in or a public library to have in my pocket in case the work wasn’t flowing in my designated working space.
  5. Try something new. If you usually set a word count goal, try writing for a specific amount of time instead, and vice versa. If you’re stuck on a particular scene or chapter, try another section to see if the words are hiding out there. If you usually work inside, try outside. If you always work on the computer, try to work on paper. If you were at a retreat with other people, they might have timed writing, give you exercises to work on, have you critique someone else’s work, or do something else that’s new to  you. Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from doing things a different way.
  6. My rule of one. I planned this trip based around the rule of 1. I wanted to start reading one new book, go to one new place, eat at one new restaurant, and learn one new thing. I went on one activity or excursion a day, had one morning session and one evening session a day, and gave myself one set amount I could spend each day. I’m a creature of habit, and by deciding ahead of time what 1 new thing I would read, see, do, or eat at any given time, I got to have a ton of new experience while keeping to a predictable schedule.
  7. View it all as a bonus. This one can be difficult if you’re retreating to push out the final chapters of a first draft, to finish and send in revisions to an agent or publisher, or go through your book for the last time before it goes to the printer, but see this retreat for the gift it is. Every word I wrote, every passage I made better, every meander down an interesting street were all privileges others don’t get to enjoy, words I might not have otherwise gotten down, and sunshine I never would have had soaking in to my skin. Every new thing seen or heard was something to be filed away for future reference in this work or another.

Before my trip, I pictured this excursion of me sitting in a serviceable hotel room banging out a better version of the story I was putting on paper. In the end, this trip was me breathing deep, heart and eyes open to what was around me, being grounded and present in a moment that mattered, and remembering why I love writing. It’s a memory I cling to while I trudge through this on the days it’s harder to remember I choose to do this work.

Would you go on a solo writing retreat? Have you gone? What was your experience? Have any questions about creating your own retreat?

XOXO,

Erica

Get in My Kindle: I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

Get in My Kindle selections are the books I can’t wait to get my hands on. They’re the books I want to start a conversation around RIGHT NOW, whether or not they’re already in my Kindle, on my nightstand, or placed on pre-order to show up like a random gift to myself after I’d forgotten I ordered it. 😉 All the details about the book, including where you can purchase it, can be found at the end of the post. 

If you’re an avid reader, you should know who Anne Bogel is. She’s a fellow book lover who has the jobs most book lovers want. She shares about all things books and reading on her website, Modern Mrs. Darcy, and does “a little literary matchmaking” on her weekly podcast “What Should I Read Next?” Anne is also the author of the book Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, a champion of independent bookstores, and the lovely voice in my ear that helps me find book related podcasts, events, subscription services, and gifts. In short, she’s the reader I want to be.

I’m not a personality test junkie (I was strongly encouraged into taking the Enneagram by a job application asking me for my number), so I didn’t pick up reading people. However, when I heard about her new release coming out September 4, 2018, I started looking for the pre-order to go up so I could hit the buy button.

I'd Rather Be Reading Pre-Order

Full disclosure: I applied to be a part of the launch team for this book. I wanted to be among the first to know everything about it and share it abroad. Alas, I wasn’t chosen for the launch team, but I received a lovely email inviting me to be a part of the street team which included the introduction and first chapter. This little sneak peek into the book did nothing but make me that more impatient to have it in my hot little hands.

I’d Rather Be Reading explores the personal nature of the reading life, discussing things like how to choose good books, how to deal with the pain of choosing a bad one, and why we connect so deeply with some books. It also promises to give readers a peek into other readers’ lives, which is one of the many reasons I listen to Anne’s podcast. This book promises to be a fun one, and I for one can’t wait to read it.

If this sounds like a title you would be interested in, here are all the necessary details:

Title: I’d Rather be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life

Author: Anne Bogel

Release Date: September 4, 2018

My Amazon Associate Link to pre-order the book:
Paperback: //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=ericadhearns-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0801072921&asins=0801072921&linkId=4455959bcc9ea79d2120159eff75e8bc&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true                 Kindle Version //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=ericadhearns-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B07D6XW2CH&asins=B07D6XW2CH&linkId=92a004edbab44ea9bd46599c530877a5&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

Pre-Order Goodies: A full list of pre-order goodies and pre-order links to other retailers can be found on the book’s official page here.

Are you looking forward to I’d Rather Be Reading? What book(s) are you eagerly anticipating? 

This isn’t my first “Get in My Kindle” rodeo. I also wrote this post about how I can’t wait to read Butterface, Avery Flynn’s new romantic comedy. All others going forward can be found under the category Get in My Kindle, including the one about the juicy memoir that promises to be an amazing read, coming up on the next installment. Any guesses on what book that might be?

XOXO,

Erica

Welcome to By Her Shelf!

Hi there, fellow readers! I’m Erica, the lady behind By Her Shelf. I’m an author and life long reader living in the Sunshine State. By day, I manage a group home. By night, I read and write.

I’m a natural book reviewer and recommender. All my life, I’ve had a passion for books and a burning desire to tell people all about the books I’ve loved, am currently reading, or am waiting with bated breath to get my hands on. In fact, I regularly relate entire books to friends and family on phone calls, and I buy and send my favorite reads to the ones I think will love them as much as did. I haven’t found a paid position as a book reviewer, but I’ve managed to keep my book purchases down to only slightly hair raising levels by taking advantage of book reviewing opportunities with Harlequin Junkie, Prism Book Tours, Entangled Publishing ARCs, NetGalley, and book launch teams of various writers. I’ve review books I’ve gotten from all of the above, as well as the books of writer friends and those I buy and read for my own enjoyment. I work as a freelance formatter and editor, which means I get to read many awesome books before they’re available.

With so many books to read and review, I needed a space to share book related goodness–what I’m reading, new books by my favorite authors, author interviews, cover reveals, what you need to pre-order, trends in books, and book related rants. I also wanted a space to share what I’m writing and get feedback on what readers want to read but aren’t finding. By Her Shelf is that place.

Why By Her Shelf?

I tried a million other book related words and phrases before settling on By Her Shelf. Most were taken or didn’t encompass my varied reading and writing life. My reading tastes are all over the place. You probably can’t get an accurate picture of me based on the books on my bookshelf (real or digital). Yet how many times have I glanced at a reader and judged them based on their book choices? How many reading related blogs and shops do I follow because they have an affinity for books and characters I love? I started out thinking we shouldn’t judge a reader by her shelf anymore than we should a book by its cover, but honestly, I want the women (and men! Hey guys!) who read this blog to be the ones who love the kind of books I read and want to know more about them. So feel free to judge this reader by her shelf.

What kinds of books and book related posts will be featured?

You’ll see posts about romances, thrillers, women’s fiction, “literary fiction,” horror (mostly just Stephen King), memoir, humor, and non-fiction. I’m Christian, so some of my choices have inspirational elements, but not all.  The romances I read come with a wide range of “heat levels.” My capacity for gore and thrills varies from book to book. Every now and then, I’ll pick up a book that is so outside my wheelhouse it’s a triangle, but I’ll post about it because it absolutely blew me away. I can’t say there are any genres I won’t post about, but I don’t read books about politics and can’t imagine posting a political book here. There are genres I rarely read, but if the premise is strong and the quality of writing is strong, I will make exceptions.

What kinds of posts can you expect about this plethora of book genres? I’ll post reviews, author interviews, author spotlights, cover reveals, excerpts, shelfies, giveaways, recommendations, and themed posts. I’ll post about upcoming book conferences I’m dying over. I’ll also post on Wednesdays and Sundays about writing–updates, meditations on the writing life, guest posts from authors, and interesting behind the book tidbits–where a book was written or set, something about the author’s process or personal life, etc.

Will only traditionally published books be featured?

No. If I like it, I’ll recommend or feature it. If a book is well-written, has a great plot or compelling characters but just wasn’t for me, I might still review it for the readers it will be right for.

Can writers submit books/content to be featured on By Her Shelf?

Yes. Authors can submit a book review request via my contact me page or direct email (submission page coming soon!). Please send your name, book title, a brief blurb, and what type of post you’d like me to consider–review, cover reveal, interview, excerpt, etc.–to me at mz[dot]zeyzey2[at]gmail[dot]com.

I’d love to feature your book-related sites, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels. Please send information about your book related project to me at mz[dot]zeyzey2[at]gmail[dot]com.

One last thing. I’m an Amazon Associate. I earn money from qualifying purchases if you use my links. It’s another way to feed my book fund and introduce you to your new favorite read. I won’t provide links to books I’m not interested in or think you may be interested in. I provide links to support the books and authors I like, and to live my dream of being paid to recommend books in a small way.

What do you like to read? Have any questions for me?