Currently Reading: Red, White, & Royal Blue

CR - RWRB

I feel like I waited 84 years for this book to come out. I’ve been waiting to read it since the deal was announced and it. did. not. disappoint. I devoured this in a day. RED, WHITE, & ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston is a New Adult romance that follows Alex, the son of the first female president, and Henry, the prince of England. The two are privately sworn enemies, but when a very public fiasco forces them to work together. To save international relations, they fake a friendship for the tabloids. Only that fake friendship quickly turns into a secret relationship that they must hide from the tabloids or risk upending the monarchy and Alex’s mother’s reelection campaign.

This book is rife with millennial humor, and I have not laughed out loud at a book so much in years. The cast of characters is absolutely amazing, easy to fall in love with and keep you on the edge of your seat rooting for them to get their happy ending.

Pick up this book if you like: humor, romance, LGBT reads, NSFW romance, endearing characters, sibling dynamics, turkey-related situational humor, and a breath of fresh air.

Currently Reading: The Wicked King

CR - Wicked King

When I read CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black, I enjoyed it but wasn’t on the level of hype as everyone else until around the last third of the book. And then I read WICKED KING. I’m officially fully invested. Which is not to say that the first book isn’t good, I just really, really like all the court intrigue, conniving, and back-stabbing that takes place at the end of book one, which, to my immense delight, is the primary focus of book two.

Black’s world of faerie is dark and lavish and full of intricate details. The court machinations are such a joy to be surprised by. As someone who typically guesses plot twists before they happen, I’m always pleased when I’m surprised.

This is also a GREAT enemies-to-lovers trope. Jude is a mortal girl brought to live in faerie after a faerie kills her parents. In order to survive, Jude learns to play the game of court from a young age. The youngest prince of faerie, Cardan, torments Jude constantly to hide his feelings for her. (This is a little yikes, but bear with me.) Jude is awful. She is cunning and ruthless and will do anything to gain power for herself in a world that wants to give her none. Cardan is also awful. He is the youngest prince, will likely never rule, and he is spoiled and indulgent and the one thing he wants (Jude) he can’t have. The reason this works so well where other enemies-to-lovers fail is that neither of them is suddenly ‘forgiven’ for all their awfulness. They’re both still conniving, and they’re still enemies. Which makes for some very charged moments. And Black draws it out, makes you wait and long for them to just-kiss-already, and it’s so, so worth it.

Pick this up if you like: faeries, lush worlds, enemies-to-lovers, court intrigue, morally gray characters, and complex sibling dynamics.

Currently Reading: Wicked Saints

CR - Wicked Saints

WICKED SAINTS by Emily Duncan was one of my most anticipated reads of the read and it did not disappoint. The story follows Nadya and Serefin, who are on opposite sides of a holy war. Nadya is the last cleric to whom the gods speak and imbibe with their powers. Serefin is the High Prince of the neighboring country that practices blood magic, which is considered heresy by Nadya’s peoples. After Serefin hunts down Nadya and she narrowly escapes, Nadya joins forces with the enigmatic, can-we-really-trust-him Malachaisz, a blood mage who defected from his home country and is now determined to kill the king. There are so many ways anything and everything can go wrong with this plan, and the will-they wont-they chemistry between born enemies Nadya and Malachiasz sucks you in and keeps you reading to the very end.

Pick up this book if you like: theology, enemies-to-lovers, goth af magic, LGBT reads, Polish/Russian-based fantasy settings. You won’t be disappointed.

Looking Back

I’ve been posting gratuitously about #ThursdayAesthetic on here, but last week’s theme was a really cool learning experience for me. The theme was “past project”, and I decided to go all the way back to the first manuscript I ever completed: OF MONSTERS & WOMEN.

Now, this isn’t the first thing I ever wrote, and it’s best that my early days of Harry Potter fanfiction are lost to antiquated fan forums and dead hard drives, but finishing a full manuscript was a big hurdle for me. I started writing when I was around 13/14, and didn’t finish an entire story until I was 21.

I used to write out of order, simply writing whatever scenes I felt inspired to write. This ended up with a lot of half-finished stories, because once I ‘discovered’ the ending of a story, I didn’t have much motivation to go back and finish the journey. OM&W was the first story were I wrote chronologically, and I think that’s why I actually managed to finish. I’ve continued to write chronologically ever since.

Anyway, as prep for this week’s aesthetic challenge, I went back and revisited this manuscript. I braced myself for the worst, and surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Sure, there were lots of comma splices, run-on sentences, and paragraph-long dialogue tags. The fact that I could identfy these flaws, however, just shows how far I’ve come as writer since writing OM&W. The plot, however, was so much stronger than I remembered. The subplots were all necessary and subtly interwoven. There were far too many secondary characters, but I fell in love with the main characters all over again.

OF MONSTERS & WOMEN is about two girls:
Veronica: The dreamer. She hoped this was going to be a love story. Instead, she discovers she’s the last descendant in a long line of witches. As such, she is the only one who can break the curse placed on the pack of alpha wolves that now stalk her and her roommate.
Blake: The realist. With the werewolves go, hunters follow. Blake begins training with the hunters to protect herself and her roommate. When she stumbles upon lore of warrior women sworn to protect the witches, she realizes that her and Veronica’s fates might have been entwined all along–and it might be the very key to breaking the curse.
It’s a silly, tropey self-insert paranormal romance with more love insterests than you can shake a stick at, but it’s a fun read (if I may say so myself). I’d love to revisit/rewrite it one day and let these girls kick ass, take names, and get the guy in the end, too.

 

[AES] PAST PROJECT

top mid: veronica hale; bottom right: blake bennett

 

 

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Week In Review 1/26/18

!CW

aka Currently Bleeding Out Of My Eyes From Editing My Query Letter So Much. (insert forced smile here) This week was my WDU Query Letter Workshop with the lovely agents from New Leaf Literary. But because I must Hermione everything I do (and yes, Hermione is now a verb), I already had a year’s worth of query research under my belt and a few rough drafts of my query that I obsessed over for four days leading up to the actual workshop. And then proceeded to stare at my query and nitpick every. single. word. for the past three days. Thankfully, my query is due tomorrow and then it’s done! I can’t touch it anymore until I get my feedback. All this to say: it’s a lot easier to write a 94,000 word novel than it is to write a 250 word query. Also, DB got about 9,000 words longer during my edits. Ha!

!CL

I’ve been on a real throwback kick lately, jamming out to 90’s and 00’s hits, from DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat” to Real McCoy’s “Another Night, Another Dream” to Vengaboys’ “Boom Boom Boom Boom, I Want You In My Room”. I don’t know where this binge came from but they’re just so upbeat and happy. They have really carried me through this strange week of stressful writing and helped me keep my head above water.

!CLU

I wish I had something cool to update you guys on but my whole week has literally been staring at my query letter and the first five pages of DB. I’ve been spending a lot of time on QueryShark reading other queries and their critiques and trying to absorb and learn as much as I can. Anyone else in the query trenches? Any tips, tricks, useful resources?

OH! I almost forgot: The #bifflesquad #NashVegas2k18 trip is officially HAPPENING! My four best friends from high school are still my four best friends, but we all shot off to different parts of the country after graduating. Getting all of us together is difficult, and has only happened twice since high school. We managed a Friendsgiving two years ago, and of course made it to Lizz’s wedding in 2016. But we couldn’t wait until my Fall 2019 wedding to get the gang back together, thus: Nashville. The flights and the AirB&B are booked, and I. Cannot. WAIT. Moving away from home is cool and all, but also incredibly lonely sometimes and I miss cuddle puddles on the couch with my biffs. Never underestimate the importance of female friendships. That bond is invaluable.  Alright, I’m done being sappy.

!CD

Currently, as I write: Not drinking. But I’m about to be. Forcing myself to take a night off of query obsessing and going to one of my favorite restaurants that also happens to be an account both myself and the fiancé call on for work. They just put my favorite stout on tap, so we’re headed out to “thank them for their business”, aka drink all their beer. What stout you ask: New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk. It’s a bourbon barrel aged stout that’s super rich and dark, full of vanilla and dark chocolate notes. Dragon’s Milk and Ten Fidy (which I talked about in this post) are easily my two go-to stouts. Happy Friday, y’all!
Cheers,
Erin Connor

Week In Review 01/04/18

!CRAs I posted previously, to celebrate the end of the year and having a long weekend with no responsibilities, I bought The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I absolutely devoured them. Only took me four days to read all three books. I’m a huge fan of Bardugo’s writing and grey characterizations, but I’ll admit I was hesitant to pick them up. I’d heard mixed reviews about this series, particularly that it was “slow”. I must respectfully disagree. Granted, I read incredibly fast, but I never found myself bored.
My only critique would be that all three books begin and end with a “Before”/”After” prologue/epilogue that are told in Third Person Omniscient, and I found the switch to first person surprising when I delved into the first chapter, but I quickly got over it. I’ve noticed Bardugo tends to favor prologues told not from the main character’s point of view. And I’m not sure how I feel about it, to be honest.
The main character, Alina, is beautifully written and incredibly real. I hate the trope of fantasy characters that discover magical powers and immediately flourish, even though other characters spent lifetimes honing their abilities. This doesn’t happen in this book. So if that’s a pet peeve you share with me, you’re safe in this series.
This is probably one of the only series that I’ve ever read where I heard more fanfare about the villain than the main character. And boy oh boy was I excited to meet The Darkling. He absolutely lived up to the hype. He’s one of the best, most fleshed out villains I’ve ever read. So to everyone slighting this series because their ship didn’t sail: did we even read the same books? If you like fantasy and strong female protagonists, this is a Deathly Hallows-esque quest set in a world based upon 1800s Russia with well thought out political and magical systems. Please read it so we can discuss!!

!CLThis is a fun one this week. My fiancé played me this remix of Pure Imagination from Charlie & The Chocolate factory, which led me to remixes of Dancing in the Moonlight and Mr. Sandman. Put it on autoplay and allow yourself some time to discover some fun remixes and reimagining of old classics.

!CWI’m done with my handwritten edits of Death Becoming! Now, just to type them all up. More importantly, I signed up for Writer’s Digest University Query Workshop. It’s being hosted by two agents from New Leaf Literary, which is basically my numero uno. The course includes an online tutorial on query do’s and dont’s. Then, you get two two-hour sessions to chat with your assigned agent mentor and ask questions about your query. Last, you submit your query and first five paged to your assigned agent. Three weeks later, they reply with critiques on your query! I’m super nervous but also very excited to tackle this step in my publishing journey. If anyone else has signed up, let me know! I’d love to have a buddy during the process.

!CLUHappy New Year everyone! I rang in the new year with a very low key evening full of Mario Kart and Uno, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Weather has been in the single digits or the negatives the past few days, so we’ve been holed up inside, buried beneath multiple blankets wearing multiple pairs of socks and drinking lots of hot tea.

!CDNo booze recommendations from me this week. I don’t know about you but I need a break after all the holiday festivities. And with all this cold weather, I’ve been drinking Rare Tea Cellar‘s jasmine tea like my life depends on it. I absolutely love jasmine tea, and I discovered Rare Tea Cellar through my local grocery store and I haven’t been able to get enough of it lately. If you can’t find it in stores, you can order online through their website.
As a side note, one of my most favorite things in the world of tea is Bingley’s Teas, a series of teas inspired by Jane Austen characters. My mother and I have drunk quite a few of them, and they’re all delicious. I highly recommend. If you’re not in the market for tea, but you’re a fan of Austen, read through the descriptions for each tea and why they’re associated with each character. They did an awesome job and it’s highly entertaining.

Cheers,
Erin Connor

 

Currently Reading: The Grisha Trilogy

After devouring Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone in one day yesterday, I’m now onto Siege and Storm! I fell in love with Bardugo’s writing in her Six of Crows duology earlier this year and have been itching to get my hands on her first series. I was worried about reading backwards and that her first series wouldn’t have as much finesse, but I’m absolutely enamored. Bardugo creates such well rounded characters, and I love the main character Alina. Her blunt manner of speaking is so refreshing in a heroine, and I love the ordinary-ness and effortlessness in her humor. Cannot wait to dive further into this second book.

Week in Review 12/22/17

Currently Listening:
This week I discovered the band Transviolet, and have been jamming to Night Vision, Bruises, and The Hamptons. Night Vision gives me all the Death Becoming vibes and is a great song to write to.

when the night gets heavy / lay your heaven on me / sparks illuminate us / i’ll find you in the dark // when the sky is falling / i’ll be your atlas holding / the world on my shoulders / i’ll find you in the dark

Currently Drinking:
To be honest, this weekly segment makes me feel like an alcoholic. But in my defense, I do this for a living, okay?! This week I got into the Christmas spirit with some help from Ayala Brut Majeur, which I lovingly refer to as Bollinger’s baby sister. 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier, Ayala is considered the “sleeping beauty of champagne”. It’s minerally and chalky with honey and biscuit notes, and one of my favorite bubbles to sip. Go getcha some.

[CLU] christmas

#TBT to Basil and Paprika’s first Christmas in 2015 💕

Current Life Update:
Things are ramping up for Christmas! This week I finally broke out my Christmas decorations. We didn’t do a tree this year. Instead, we decorated our seven foot tall rubber plant. I pulled out a few sentimental ornaments and scattered them around the house, and I’m definitely getting into the Christmas spirit. I spent three hours on Sunday writing Christmas cards while drinking tea and listening to the Yule Log on tv. (Yeah, I’m that person. No shame in my Christmas game.) I’ve also had Christmas cards and packages arriving in the mail for the past two weeks, which is super exciting. As per usual, I have disguised all of Lucas’s gifts in mysteriously sized and shaped boxes to keep him from guessing. My mother taught me the art of Christmas deception from an early age. She used to write my name on all my brother’s gifts and vice versa to keep us guessing.
PS: If you’ve sent me a gift or letter, I’m saving them all for Christmas day.

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions? What are you most looking forward to as 2017 comes to a close?

Cheers,
Erin

Week In Review 12/08/17

Current Life Update:
Remember Claire Laminen, whose book I read & posted about a few weeks back? Well, she’s not only an amazing author, but a dear friend of mine. She lives in Ventura with her husband, and I’m sure you’ve all heard of the fires currently ravaging California. They had enough of a heads up to get out safely, but their house was lost to the fire. You may or may not know Claire, but if you have the means, we’ve set up a youcaring for donations to help them restart and rebuild their life. They’re absolutely wonderful people, and I’m completely devastated that this has happened to them, especially so close to the holidays, Claire’s favorite time of the year. Also, there is a gofundme for the town of Ventura and helping the citizens rebuild after the fires, if you’d feel more comfortable donating to that. If you aren’t able to donate, please keep the people of California in your thoughts and prayers. I know this is a heavy way to start off the post, but sometimes life is heavy and this is an issue very near and dear to my heart. Mother Nature has not been kind in 2017, and those of us who have been fortunate enough to make it through unscathed should give thanks and lend a helping hand to those in need in whatever capacity we can.

Currently Editing:
I’m still deep in the trenches with my DB edits, but I’m happy to say I’m two-thirds of the way through my edits. I’ve hit a snag on a bit of foreshadowing, but I think I’ve solved it. Work (and life in general) has been crazy busy so I haven’t had time to sit down and work on it, but I’m excited to get back to it.

Currently Listening:
Lucas was fortunate enough to get free tickets to the WKQX The Nights We Stole Christmas concert last Friday, where we got to see Sir Sly, Cold War Kids, and Foster The People. So I’ve been jamming to FtP’s new album Sacred Hearts Club. All three bands were fantastic live, and Sir Sly has a serious showman for a lead singer.

Currently Drinking:
Now that it’s cold at last, I’ve been sipping on my fave: Bourbon. More specifically, an Old Fashioned. I finally got my hands on a jar of Copper & Kings Cocktail Cherries and they are delicious. Copper & Kings are primarily known for their brandy, but what you need to know about them is their love of music, and how they use subwoofers in their cellars to age their spirits via pulses from the jams they jam down there. And if that’s not cool as hell, I don’t know what is. (“Ah, yes, this brandy has subtle notes of DaRude’s Sandstorm, do you get that on the mid-palate as well, good sir?”)

Week In Review 11/24/17 & 12/01/17

Okay, I have to come clean. I meant to update last week, honest! But in the excitement of the holiday I completely forgot to sit down and queue anything up, so I’m going to combine highlights from the last two weeks, and boy were they fun.

Currently Reading/Writing EDITING:

IMG_6205

Overhauling these two categories this week as I took the plunge and printed out the behemoth that is Death Becoming. I’m *loosely* following Susan Dennard’s editing process I mentioned in my earlier post, and I’m loving it. Color coordination galore which pleases my OCD tendencies, and forcing myself to sit down and read DB from front to back has made me feel more in control of the manuscript than I’ve felt in a long time. Feels good, guys, feels real good.

Currently Listening:

HP Symphony

Fangirl Time: I attended the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s production of Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone and I’ve had the score stuck in my head since last Saturday. It was absolutely phenomenal. I knew John Willams (Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, the list goes on…) was an amazing composer, but hearing it live took my breath away and gave me chills on numerous occasions. Who knew quidditch could be so intense? Also, whoever plays the xylophone must have thought Christmas had come early when they announced this project. The amount of times the iconic Harry Potter jingle is interwoven throughout the film kept them very busy, haha.

[CD] JG Bluegray

Currently Drinking:

Juan Gil Estates Orowines, 2014 BlueGray: Named for the color of the slate soils, this Priorat is 45% Garnacha, 30% Carinena, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 12mo in French Oak. Medium body, firm tannins, lots of bright red fruit on the front followed by ample amounts of yummy autumnal spice and chew. I recommend anything from the Juan Gil portfolio, always. Go to your local Spanish wine section and look for anything with “gfe: gil family estates” on the back label and you’re in for a treat that overdelivers for the price.

Current Life Update:

The past two weeks have been full of family & friends, editing, and LOTS of jasmine tea. My obsession with tea is making its yearly revival, and it’s safe to say I’m roughly 50% tea at all times. Except for on Thanksgiving, when I was 50% mashed potatoes. No shame.

Thanks to Cyber Monday, all my holiday shopping is complete, and I’m excited to sit down with a mug of tea and write out my cards. I have a tendency to get way too into it and make numerous terrible puns that I know will elicit groans from the recipients, but hey, it’s me: What do you expect?

What is your favorite holiday tradition? What are you looking forward to the most in the coming weeks?