To DYI or not to DYI

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For Holiday gifts that you give to family and friends, I always find myself wondering if I should try and make something or if I should try and find a gift that either makes me think of them or off a list they give me.

For a few years just out of college when I was still trying to find a job some of the DYI was because I just couldn’t afford to purchase gifts for everyone I needed to – even five years ago things are expensive at times. However, I’m crafty enough and I enjoy doing it a lot, so making my gifts has been kind of fun over the years. I’ve made blankets, baked goods, and this year I decided to expand my scope a little and use an annual tradition with my one aunt and uncle.

Every year, I give my aunt and uncle an ornament for their tree. It goes back far enough I couldn’t even tell you what year I started doing it, because for as long as I can remember, it’s been part of my gift to them. This year, especially with all the painting I’ve been doing, I decided I wanted to try my hand at making an ornament for them.

Though, that lead to questioning what color I should be making the ornament in. Which prompted me to try out a few colors in my process – as well as testing out both glass ornaments and plastic ones. Overall, I think they came out really well. Though I’m still no closer to trying to choose which one to give them.

Do you like doing DYI gifts for family and friends? If so, what do you make for them? I’d love to know what other crafters enjoy making, especially as gifts.

Book Review: Caffeinated Calamity by Amanda M. Lee

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Author: Amanda M. Lee
Publisher: Amanda M. Lee
Series: A Two Broomsticks Gas & Grill Witch Cozy Mystery
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Cozy Mystery
Rating: 4 Stars

Can you tell that I’m enjoying the series already since we’re now on book two?

Yes, we’re back with Stormy Morgan, new witch in the small town of Shadow Hills, Michigan. Well, technically, make that only witch in Shadow Hills since her great-grandmother moved away to Florida years back. Which means that she’s navigating this new power all on her own, while she tries to keep it fairly quiet from her family, the town and her not-quite boyfriend, Hunter.

Overall, the writing is cute and I’m enjoying the characters and continuation of the story and what’s going on with Stormy. Book two actually opens up with a Prologue set in Hemlock Cove, a town over from Shadow Hills with Bay and Thistle Winchester. From reading other reviews, of the first book and this book I had already picked up that this was a series set in a much bigger universe from her other series. This prologue, for those who haven’t read any of her other series, pretty much confirms it. I did a little digging to link that the Winchesters are from her ‘Wicked Witches of the Midwest’ books, of which there are currently nineteen out. Something I might tackle later because I can’t say I’m not interested in reading Bay’s story from the beginning.

Spoilers weaved in and out of my review ahead, so read at your discretion.

I did like this book a little more than the first, though I think part of it is because while it’s frustrating Stormy, Hunter is trying to actually do the right thing by not just jumping into a relationship with Stormy so soon after his breakup with Monica. Stormy as a whole is worried that it’s because she’s not sure if it’s due to Hunter having second thoughts, but he does confirm it’s because he knows he was in the wrong with how he treated Monica and wanted to give it some time before the relationship was more or less rubbed into Monica’s face.

While the town might still be gossiping about them, I actually appreciate him trying to do the right thing and not give the town MORE to gossip about or throw in her face.

As well, Stormy is starting to come to terms with her being a witch, with her friend Sebastian dragging her off to Hemlock Cove to the Winchester’s store in an effort to get her to kind of feel out the family because it’s a well-known not-secret that they are in fact witches.

The speed at which the murders are happening in town since Stormy came back is a little concerning though. We’re only a few weeks after the conclusion of the first book, where someone was murdered behind the family restaurant when one drops dead as she’s leaving from breakfast – the ultimate conclusion for death being poisoned. So again, another murder. (And I’m already partway into book three, which takes place only a few weeks after this one, and again, a new murder) So we’re talking like, three murders in the span of like a month and a half – two months? That’s a LOT, especially for a small town. It asks for a lot of suspension of disbelief – it’s easier to believe the speed of murders were it in a larger town, because more people, but in a town where everyone knows everyone and the largest gossip outside of the murders is that Hunter’s truck was parked behind the restaurant so everyone knows he spent the night at Stormy’s apartment – it takes a decent amount of disbelief for ‘reading reasons’ to wonder why people haven’t fleed this town ages ago if this is how fast people are dropping.

The book had a similar feel of book one, where we’re focusing on Stormy and her magic, or Stormy and Hunter a lot and sometimes it does feel like the murder and the mystery of it get pushed back a little for the other things. I like that magic is starting to take a bigger roll in the books as Stormy is learning about it and of it, though I also feel like if there was a little more time between each book (and murder) there’s some hand waving, Stormy has been learning and so we can speed up the rate at which she’s learning to use it a little more. However, I do feel like we had a little more sleuthing about the murder and into why it happened than the first book, so the conclusion of the who, how, and why came a little more in flow with the rest of the book.

I’d definitely still recommend it if you’re looking for a cute, cozy mystery to read with a hint of paranormal/witchy flare. And I will say with the cameos from the Winchester family, I am curious to read their story from their perspective – or well, Bay’s perspective mostly. Their appearance makes me wish I knew of them before picking up this book, and you can tell there’s a large family dynamic going on among them, but at the same time, I think they were handled well in that I don’t feel that I was missing anything from not reading their books that affected how they interacted with Stormy and her story as a whole.

Book Review: Sinfully Delicious by Amanda M. Lee

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Author: Amanda M. Lee
Publisher: Amanda M. Lee
Series: A Two Broomsticks Gas & Grill Witch Cozy Mystery
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Cozy Mystery
Rating: 4 Stars

Sinfully Delicious is a Cozy Mystery that follows our main character, Stormy Morgan, as she tries to settle back into her hometown of Shadow Hills, Michigan after having left it for several years. We learn quickly that she left Shadow Hills for college and to become a writer, which she was successful with for the first book.

With the failure of her second book, her publisher canceled her contract and with no prospects at the moment, and little to her name or cash in her bank account, she finds herself back in her hometown.

Overall, Sinfully Delicious was a cute start to a new series. I haven’t read any of Amanda Lee’s books before now, so this is my entrance into her as an author as well and overall I do like what I see. I can confirm I’m already eight chapters into the second book for this series, because I liked it enough to want to continue and see where this story goes with the main character Stormy, as well as her grandfather and her ex.

Spoilers weaved in and out of my review ahead, so read at your discretion.

Stormy is an interesting character, and while she does come off a little whiny at life and her lot in it with having to find herself back in her hometown, living above her family’s restaurant by the grace of her grandfather’s working with her on the rent to lease the place, if you really think about it wouldn’t you be a little whiny if you were in her shoes too? No one expects to make it, break it, and find themselves back at home after college. I will say, I would have liked to see her pull her bootstraps up a little bit more than she did as a whole with being an adult that’s almost thirty, but to be fair and realistic, I’ve seen this attitude first hand so I can’t say it’s not wrong or inaccurate with how people are sometimes either.

Her grandfather is possibly one of my favorite characters in the book. Especially with his disappearing acts whenever Hunter, local cop and Stormy’s ex-boyfriend, comes around to try and talk to him. Especially when he pops back up after Hunter leaves like he’d been at the counter cooking the entire time she’d been looking for him and Hunter was there.

I do have to say I wasn’t thrilled with Hunter as a whole, more with how he was using his current girlfriend throughout the book. It’s both said about him from a friend, as well as he does more or less outright say he knew that it was never going to work with Monica, but he kept her around because he wanted to have a wall or shield against having Stormy come back so he could have a super easy way of keeping Stormy at arm’s length. Which is 100% not fair to Monica to be strung along for almost a month just because he was scared of how it might go between him and his ex-girlfriend. While I didn’t like Monica, I do sympathize with her a little because she was, in effect, a pawn to Hunter when she thought he actually cared about her.

Sinfully Delicious is sold as a Witch Cozy Mystery, and while like I did say I’m into book 2 already, the first book doesn’t do a lot for bringing in the paranormal to the book to tag the first book a witch book. We slowly learn, with Stormy, that she has powers that she accidentally unlocked one night while playing with a Ouija board. By the end of the book it’s clear she has powers and comes from a witch line on her grandfather’s side – and honestly with the way her grandfather seems to be able to pop in and out of sight at the drop of a hat I wouldn’t be surprised if later on in the series we find out that he does have at least a small bit of magic he keeps to himself. But as a whole I wish for a WITCH cozy mystery there’d been a little more WITCH to it.

As well, while there is a death and a mystery, I did find myself feeling like the mystery aspect of it took a large backseat to the romance aspect with the push and pull of Stormy and Hunter as they tried to navigate their feelings for each other.

Maybe I’m just used to the cozy mysteries where the main character has her nose in EVERYTHING when it comes to trying to sniff out the who dun it, with the story focusing on the mystery and the romance being the secondary plot so having it almost flipped left me a little disappointed with the mystery as a whole. But it felt like the wrap-up of the mystery was a little rushed in this book. As a whole, the mystery was wrapped up decently well and it all made sense to the story and plot, it just felt a little like we realized we had gotten to the end of the book and needed to wrap it up so let’s get on that, kind of ending.

But at the end of the day, it’s also a cozy mystery, and it was a cute and cozy read.

Windycon Wednesday

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So, this last weekend in the Windy City known as Chicago (and believe me it was super windy this weekend. We had trouble opening the hotel doors a lot of the time we were in and out) every November we have Windycon. A Science Fiction and Fantasy convention that hosts a dealer’s room, an art show, and guests of honor. As well as a host of panels to attend.

It’s a lot of fun, and I know that well because I’ve grown up attending it, as well as a few other cons around the area. My dad used to sell at cons when I was little, so I’m not kidding about growing up attending the conventions. I learned to handle room issues, like the tv not working, when I was small enough I couldn’t be seen over the hotel front desk. I’ve corralled the kids at the conventions to make sure no one was left out when we had fun. And as a teen, I learned how to use the gopher option to my advantage so I could get half my registration back as dealer’s room spending money by doing a few hours of badge check work at the door without my parents’ knowing that I got half the reg they paid back to spend on that artwork or book I walked out of the dealer’s room with.

If you haven’t attended a SciFi /Fantasy Con and you read the genres? You should totally try to see if there’s one in your area to attend. Hearing people’s takes on why fantasy is the way it is, or the history of urban fantasy is always an interesting panel to take in. The Dealer’s room itself always has some incredible finds – this year there was a person selling handmade pottery (his stuff is beautiful) and another person had handmade wood pieces like dice trays and towers.

Most of my time was spent in the Dealer’s Room this year because I was pushing the book I wrote with my co-author. The table just couldn’t be considered complete without a plushie to represent a lot of people’s favorite character from the novel – the black cat, Ada. =)

But I also had some of my art on the table for sale as well because I do paintings, necklaces (though someone did suggest trying to do earrings in a similar fashion that I need to look into), and inspired by the book – handmade and painted rune sets and individual rune keychains.

I will say that attending the Convention as a full-fledged dealer is a lot different than attending as just an attendee. Mainly because as an attendee you have the ease to flit from place to place and see all the things, attending all the panels, and you aren’t really tied down to anything. As a dealer, you want to be at your table so you can sell your wares, talk to people who might be interested in them, and meet new people that way.

I really enjoyed talking to the people I met as a dealer. We had some interesting conversations about covers, about paint (because of my paintings), and about crafting as a whole. Plus I made a few new contacts that also do book things, so that was really cool. I can’t wait to be able to jot the dates down on the vacation schedule for next year once Windycon releases the 2022 dates and snag a dealer’s table again.

Do you attend conventions in your area? Are they big or small? Did you before the pandemic that you’re hoping to get back to but just haven’t yet? Let me know down in the comments!

Week 1 – NaNoWriMo and the quest for the Words

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So, we’re a week into November (it’s a week and one day, but I am not counting today just yet because I still have 12 hours to get some words in between and after my work day today.

Are you participating in NaNo this year? (Let me know down in the comments!)

My first week has been fairly good as a whole. I had one day where work got to be too much so I just rolled crashed after a couple hundred words – but I was able to keep my check-ins every day going at least.

Currently, I’m pretty sure my word count would make a really good rollercoaster ride. I’m also trying to figure out a way to help me keep this fairly consistent momentum through and after NaNo – because if I can keep this up as a whole I could get a little more done with things.

More done would be great because I have:

  • a book that just needs editing
  • a book that technically just needs a final two chapters, though reflecting back on some of it I’m considering a semi-full rewrite. Maybe.
  • A novella that’s half done and the other half is semi-outlined I just need to flush it out and finish it
  • and more story ideas than I can count.

Plot bunnies abound, really. Which is also why I’m working on creating a Story Idea Journal because I’m tired of losing some of my ideas when I jot them down in a notebook that’s for something else, or in my planner than I then don’t look at for two years.

Do you have a good way of keeping your story ideas centralized and easily accessed when you get one? Or are yours like me, kind of all over the house?

Hardback Abound

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There is just something incredibly adorable about being able to have my cat in any of the photos that I take either on purpose or on accident. I set the books down to grab a shot of them and he just flopped right down next to them. He also tried to chew on one and catch one of the keychains as well.

I almost had the perfect shot lined up, but my mom opened the door and it ended up getting him distracted and this was the only shot I was able to capture of him. But that’s also the joy of trying to photograph pets, they never completely do what you want them to do.

The books were supposed to look a little more whole in the shot. Like the below.

This shot came out well too. All to show off the beautiful new Hardbacks of Hotel Fen. It came out lovely in the hardback matte finish. So yes, it’s now available in hardback on Amazon as well! While the photo is of the proofs, because the proofs came out lovely, they’ve been pushed through to publication.

Do you have any pets? Any cute photos with them? I always love seeing other people’s pets.

#WIPWednesday – Art Edition

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So while I am an author and I could probably go on for days about the different novellas, novels, and shorts that I have tucked away in my box of plot bunnies (something that continues to breed as it sits.

Today I’m going to feature some of the art I’m working on. Because when not writing I enjoy spending time painting, making jewelry, and resin work.

A couple of paintings I did recently – they’re on 8-inch by 8-inch canvases. I did several blues with a little white and some lavender that didn’t really show up too well. A lavender and silver with a hint of pink. And a blue, lavender and pink with white – which is still really wet as you can tell in the lower left corner of the picture.

And then a shot of the resin keychains that I’m mailing by co-author, but I’m looking to make more to sell. As well, I have rune sets that look identical but are for divination purposes.

What do you do for fun when you’re not writing? Let me know!

Manic Monday

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I know that Monday tends to be a very large sigh of not again when we all start a new week (Somehow Sunday never feels like the start of a week despite though that’s likely just me because I work a Monday through Friday job).

Despite the very Monday feel to today, I hope that everyone reading this has or had a wonderful Monday. That it brought you something good, something that was able to make you smile, or at least something that wasn’t adding to your stress.

My Monday has been going a little everywhere – and by that, I mostly mean my brain. I have several things on my awareness that I want to do and I’m having a hard time trying to focus on one because all of them want my attention. So here I sit working on this blog post instead.

The Monday’est of Mondays.

 

Since my last blog post what have I been doing?
That’s a very good question honestly.

The boring answer is work. Work. And, more work. (My 9-5 has been eating a decent amount of my brain). However, that’s not ALL I’ve been doing either.

My co-author and I have been working on Book 2 for our Nine Universe, sequel to Hotel Fen and middle book of the Ragnarok Trilogy.
– We created a Wiki for the series. Super fun as a whole, not going to lie.
– Officially settled on the title for Book 2 – Monster Ridge – with the book slated for release July 23, 2022.
– And of course, we can’t write a book without an Outline, so we have spent the last month or so outlining the book. We finished it a little while back, the outline. The plan is to NaNo the book like we did for Hotel Fen. It worked really well as a whole for book one, so here’s hoping it works well for book two!

As well, my co-author has been sliding me short story competitions for magazines and things and when my brain can get around their theme, it’s been fun trying to write a few shorts for those.

We currently have a joint submission we wrote over a weekend pending decision.

As well, I submitted to FloraFiction.com’s Fall Haunting theme. You can find their website here: florafiction.com and you can find my submission “Lingering Ice” within its pages (page 16 to be specific) but you should definitely check out the magazine as a whole because there were a lot of good shorts, poems, and art/photography in the issue.

I have plans to overhaul my website a little more, make it a little more clean as a whole. So watch out for that in the coming months too!

Before I go though, how did your September go? Any hopes or plans for October to make spooky season fun? Let me know in the comments!

Pre-Order is Live!

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So back last October my friend and I were talking and we decided to write a book for NaNo. I am pretty sure I’ve both talked about it here and referred to it lovingly as Project Norse. We were able to finish the draft by the first of March – leaving it for a month or so while we dealt with work things and live things.

And then the editing happened. And while we were slow some months, we worked hard in others. Coupled with our amazing support team to help us, we have made it to the finish line!

I’m proud to present Hotel Fen!

It’s now live to pre-order from the following eBook stores:
Kindle
Apple Book
Barnes & Noble Nook
Kobo

Releasing Aug 24!

The paperback edition will be coming soon via Amazon as well, but unfortunately they don’t allow print copies up for pre-order. But I do have it set up in the KDP area to submit soon with the hopes that it will be reviewed relatively quick and won’t be too far behind the eBook release.

Also to go along with the beautiful cover and the fact that we’re releasing so very soon! Another incredible item to share is that my talented co-author actually wrote a song for our book too. (we’re actually working on a few more since we love how this one turned out)

It’s Live on Spotify now!
Listen here!

For those wondering, but what is the book about?
Don’t worry! I wouldnt’ leave you without a synopsis to read and hopefully tickle your interest!

Synopsis

Are you ready for the vacation of a lifetime?

Victor has always had a passion for Norse history and mythology, but after hitting a dead end with his book on valkyries, not even that passion is enough to move him forward. Just when he’s ready to abandon the project, he receives an email: he’s won a free trip to Hotel Fen, a remote vintage resort in the Scandinavian Mountains.

Silje has always felt that her life was fairly unremarkable. She cares deeply about people and that has led her to find her purpose at a nursing home in Oslo. When a resident dies and leaves her an all-expense paid vacation package to Hotel Fen, however, she takes the opportunity to experience something different.

It all starts innocently enough, with a little meet-cute in the hotel elevator that takes forever to arrive on their floor. But the longer Victor and Silje remain together, the more dangerous the hotel becomes, and the more they question where reality ends and the impossible begins.

And, just a reminder that Hotel Fen now live to pre-order from the following eBook stores:
Kindle
Apple Book
Barnes & Noble Nook
Kobo

Print Copy Coming Soon!