Book Review: Mario Coming of Age

Mario Coming of Age, by George Hatcher, follows a young man, Mario, growing up in East Los Angeles with his aunt in the 1960s. She works hard to provide a good life for her nephew and he does his best to stay in school and away from the gangs.

When Mario finds out his aunt can’t afford their apartment anymore, he decides it’s time to become a man and take care of his aunt. At 10 years old, he finds a job and learns he has a talent that could help people and make him a lot of money.

Hatcher weaves an intriguing tale of loyalty, love and betrayal, as we follow Mario through his struggles and successes, balancing expectations, school, work and friends. And while I thought there could be more to the story, I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more from Hatcher.

Book Review: Woman in Jeopardy

My goals for 2016 include focusing on other types of writing. When an opportunity came up to write a book review, I decided that would be a great way to start on this goal. In addition to posting book reviews to websites such as Amazon, Indigo and Goodreads, I’ve decided to share them with here as well. I hope you enjoy!

Woman in Jeopardy by George Hatcher is a gripping tale about a courageous woman fighting to protect her family.

Carmen lives with her sister, Elena, in a house that’s been in their family for generations, in the small town of Nogales. To support herself and Elena, she’s forced to work for Francisco, the local crime boss, at one of his factories. He’s an evil man who abuses and terrorizes his employees. And he always gets what he wants.

When Elena and Francisco fall in love and get married, Carmen is unable to protect her sister and soon finds herself running for her life.

Hatcher has weaved a suspenseful story with strong characters you love, and love to hate. A great read that keeps you captivated to the end.

Check it out on Amazon and Indigo.

Welcome to 2016!

With a new year comes new hope and dreams of what’s to come in the next 12 months. Many people set resolutions – work out more, spend more time with family, relax more etc… I’ve always found resolutions hard to keep. So this year I’m trying something new. Instead of resolutions, I’m setting goals. Five goals in writing, health and finances.

My 2016 Goals:

Writing
1. Publish my mystery novel
2. Focus on other types of writing such as flash fiction, short stories, freelancing etc. by working on at least two projects.

Health
1. Do yoga for at least 15 minutes 3 days or more a week by end of May
2. Meditate for 15 minutes 3 days or more a week by end of year

Finances
1. Reduce debt by 25% by the end of year

If I have something I can measure and keep track of, I’m hoping it will motivate me more to complete them.

Do you find resolutions easy or difficult to achieve? How do you keep yours? What are your goals or resolutions for 2016?

This week’s writing challenge

It’s Sunday afternoon. I have music playing in the background, one of those 2-Hours Epic Music Mixes on Youtube. Thor is snoring next to me, back paw draped over my left wrist. I stare at the computer screen, reading and re-reading scenes.

I spent several months revising key plot points, adding layers of story, rewriting passive sentences and deleting unnecessary action and description. I’m in phase 2 now, checking continuity, timing and flow, adding in missing scenes and weaving in additional information.

As I’m finishing chapters, I’m keeping a close eye on my word count. I cut so much fluff and filler from my novel it’s much too short now. It needs to be 55K to be a novel according to my editor. But online articles suggest the standard for mystery novels is between 70K and 90K. Oh dear.

I need over 6,500 words to meet the 55K word count. And over 26K words to meet the standard for a mystery novel. I have no idea how to add that much into the story and make each word count. Without adding in all the fluff and filler I cut before.

Sadly, here’s nothing more I can do today. It looks like I have homework for the week!

 

Have you ever been under your required word count? What did you do to meet it?

Sixteen months. That’s how long its taken to get this far. I’m working on my second major edit for the novel and its slow going.

After receiving feedback from only half of my beta readers, I decided I needed another opinion. Two responses, while excellent, wasn’t enough to satisfy me. I stumbled across my editor by chance on Twitter. A result of a retweet from one of the many writers I follow on the site. I took that as a sign and went for it.

Now 16 months after starting the novel, I’m slogging through her edits, revising the subplot, and expanding the story. It’s taking a long time and it’s challenging, but I’m happy with the results.

Honestly, I think it will take two years to publish the novel. I wanted to do it for the fall, but if I wait I can take my time finishing the novel and all the tasks leading up to publishing. I can research more on print options, save up money for a publishing package, and/or look at unique promotional materials. Too many benefits to ignore.

So, spring it is. As much as I want to get it out this year, it seems a smart move to wait. Another smart move would be to get back to working on the novel. I’m such a slave driver! 😀

Happy Anniversary

I can hardly believe it’s been a year. A year dedicated to an amazing journey. A year since I joined NaNoWriMo. An entire year spent writing a book. It still seems crazy to me. And so exciting.

I set a goal of completing the novel within a year. And even though its not done yet, its very close. I completed the latest draft yesterday. My Hubby is going to take a quick look at it and then I’ll send it over to my group of reviewers for their feedback. The end is near, and I’m only off schedule by a few months.

And while people are reviewing the novel?

I have plans; lots of plans. I need to promote it. Post more about the novel on social media, maybe get a website going. And the drive to keep writing is strong. I’m going to work on a short story or two before delving into the second novel.

Yes, a second novel. I already have ideas perculating in my head. I’ve caught the writing bug and I’m never letting go.

So here’s to the journey over the past year, the journey now, and to the journey yet to come. Happy Anniversary.

Freedom

A tranquil breeze blows,
the trees gently sway
and the green water caresses the shore.
A cottage sits on a hill far away
still possessing the scars of days of yore.
The bullfrogs croak and the birds sing their songs
while perched on the branches of a young tree.
Here you could forget all your rights and wrongs
like a bird, soaring high and free.

The luscious forest and bay do surround
the peaceful property like a crown.
The cottage is supported by a mound
that meets the water after it slopes down.

Where the hill meets the water a dock sleeps,
growing beside it, an old willow weeps.

The Road Ahead

When I first started working in an office environment I had no idea what I was doing. I was young and just out of food service. A blank slate ready to be moulded. I was eager to please and quick to learn, and it didn’t take me long to excel at my job.

Employee numbers grew and reduced to almost nothing during the time I was there. Work shifted over to the few who were still there and the fun was gone. At the end I was stressed, bitter and angry. I didn’t want to go to work anymore. I was frustrated at how things were going and determined to move on to something better. So I did.

With my second job, I had more responsibility, higher pay and I was at an organization that could afford to provide summer barbecues and Christmas parties for the staff. I gained confidence, and learned to fight for what I believed in. It was great for the first few years until I started to get bored. I was doing more overtime than I wanted. There was nothing new to learn in my job and the processes were slowing me down. I wasn’t able to work at the speed I wanted to work and I wasn’t satisfied anymore. I saw the things that were wrong and came up with ways to change them. I thought I could improve things for the team and the organization. But a lot of it didn’t happen – recommendations didn’t work out for everyone, there was push back from some and others were ignored, and I got frustrated. Things were just moving too slow for me.

I was desperate to make a change. So I started writing a novel. Got involved with editing an eNewsletter for a colleague. I was steering myslef towards a writing career that would eventually lead me to working at home for myself. But to do that required another few years of working full time and I knew I couldn’t last that where I was. And so when an opportunity to switch careers with another organization came up I jumped at it.

And here I am at my third office job. I’m happy right now, learning about the position, the team and the organization. I’m learning a lot about myself as a result of taking the Myers-Briggs personality test and a leadership test to determine what my leadership skills are. Its also helping me understand why I was unhappy in my previous two jobs and what led to my boredom. Its helping me grow further as a person.

I still think about some of the negative things I went through at the previous two jobs. Its really hard not to sometimes. But I don’t regret my decision to work at those places. I matured during those years, learned some good lessons, gained experience and best of all met some wonderful people.

The past year has been difficult. But I’m back on the path I want to be on. I’m going to finish my novel and publish it this year. I’m going to keep writing in my spare time while I devote myself to mastering my current position. I’m going to grow my social media network and expand my skills. And I know I’m going to enjoy the road ahead.

I, Foodie

Food has taken over my life. I eat five times a day; I obsess over how much water I drink; I mourn the loss of dairy and gluten and fight against my cravings to devour them; and I obsess about getting a gluten-free recipe to work that tastes good.

The other night I tried making a Quinoa Garlic “Bread” recipe I found online. I was hoping it would work well as a pizza crust so I could have homemade pizza again. It was horrible. It took an hour to make and turned out very bland. Which seems to be an on-going theme with the majority of gluten-free recipes.

Last night we had friends over. We had planned for homemade pizza and at the time I had hoped the quinoa crust would be my new pizza dough. But after the garlic bread disaster I scrapped that idea and decided to just sub out the all purpose flour in my recipe with the gluten free version.

I love the pizza dough recipe I have. Its quick and easy and it rises very nicely. The dough is fluffy and chewy and very delicious. So I made four pizza doughs – three regulars for Mike and our two friends and one gluten-free. I kept my fingers crossed for mine.

When I pulled it out of the oven it was browned nicely but flat and really dense. When I cut it I was really worried it hadn’t turned out. And then I took a deep breath and took a bite. And it was edible. Edible! It wasn’t wonderful but I could actually eat it. Finally, I had made a gluten-free recipe that wasn’t absolutely disgusting. And now I have hope. Hope that I can make delicious gluten-free food from scratch. And hope, that in time, I’ll be just an average, regular foodie again.