Wanderlust: My July OwlCrate Unboxing

Do you know how hard it was for me? I was out of state for work and my July Owlcrate box was at my house. So. So. Far. Away.  Three weeks later, I am home, unpacked, and finally able to unbox! It was worth the wait. Click here to watch my Owlcrate Unboxing Video.

July’s theme was Wanderlust, perfect for travel and book lovers like me.

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First up, the monthly button, you can see it in the photo above. It ties in perfectly with the information (I call it the spoiler) card. I love the palm tree on this one.

Next, let’s talk about our sneak peek items. Owlcrate told us in the June box that we would be receiving a Fantastic Beasts and where to find them item. How cute is this Newt Schemander pop keychain?

I adore drawstring backpacks. They are functional and lightweight so I was thrilled to get this Lord Of The Rings inspired back pack that was created exclusively for Owlcrate. If you want to know what I use these type of bags for… watch the video!

That brings me to the next adorable and useful item. This pocket sized journal designed by Olly. There were 8 designs. I am pretty happy with the one I got. It is very small but I am going to use it to track my spending.

This months box has gone above and beyond on functional and bookish goodies! The next item is an owl shaped luggage tag.

This pocket sized mirror is beautiful and perfect for travel or stashing in your on- the- go makeup bag. I thought it was a magnet at first glance but the other side is a mirror.

The is months book is The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. The author letter was a bit different this month, but the fun art journal style of it fits perfectly with the type of art I have been doing.

As far as the book itself, it is not one I would have chosen to read on my own. That is part of the fun of Owlcrate. I get to own and read books that I might not choose and most of the time I end up loving them.

But, I am a book lover, not a book critic. It is harder for me to hate a book than it is for me to love a book.  I do try to find something to love about almost every book I read, even if it is not sort of book I prefer. Check out this map poster and map inspired art card.

Next months box theme is… Something wicked this way comes and will include the featured book and a second book! Now that is something to get excited about.

Get your owl owlcrate box here!

Book Love: Fairest Of Them All – A Tale Of the Wicked Queen

Are you or someone you know a bit obsessed with fairy tale villains? If so this quick, fun read won’t fail to delight. Let’s start with the cover. I have had my eye on the beautiful book covers in this series for some time now. Simply done but eye-catching.

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As you may have guessed, this is the story of the wicked queen from Snow White. It is written from her point of view, allowing you to follow her along on her journey as she transcends from a child with low self-esteem to a beloved queen and then to adoring stepmother to the wicked one.

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The story proceeds as expected but with details and insight into her past and the origins of the magic mirror and its role in her descent into wickedness. The three strange sister’s make an appearance bringing with them wicked mischief that sets the stage for Queen’s downfall to vanity and envy.

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Overall, this story was so much more than I expected and beautifully written. I read it in ebook form, which included a sneak peek into the next book in the series. The strange sisters play a role in that book linking the stories together in an interesting fashion.

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What I loved:

  • The origin of the mirror and the role it played.
  • Seeing the wicked queen as the loving protective woman she was before her slow fall into wickedness.
  • The twisted sister’s aspect of the story.
  • The ending. No spoilers in this review so that is all I can leave you with.
  • The way witchcraft is woven into the story.

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Who should read this?

  • Disney obsessed lovers of fairy tales
  • Anyone who is fascinated with villains
  •  Snow White fans
  • Anyone who wants to explore the darker side of fairy tales.

 

What is your take on fairy tale retelling and villains? Do you adore them like more or are you over it?

 

 

 

 

Confession: Book Grudge

As a book lover, I am ashamed to admit it, but I am guilty of having some pretty intense grudges against certain books. I am talking about long term grudges that result in a boycott of other books by that author.

First, let me be clear. Neither the books or the authors are bad. In both cases, these authors write best sellers and have huge fan bases. I loved prior books by these authors. I am not going to point out the authors or books in this post but you can watch the video  to get the low down.

I have a 7 year book grudge that has kept me from reading books from an author I loved

I have a book grudge.

So why the grudge?

I took the time to examine that question before making the video and writing about this.  It boils down to one thing. Not plot, character, or even writing style but expectations.  My expectations of the books and their respective authors were extremely high. This led to an intense emotional downfall when the books did not live up to my expectations. The end result is that I have no desire to read any more books by these authors because I don’t want to risk having another emotional disappointment.

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My expectations of these books and their respective authors were extremely high. This led to an intense emotional downfall when the books did not live up to my expectations. The end result is that I have no desire to read any more books by these authors because I don’t want to risk having another emotional disappointment.

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On an intellectual level, I know this is ridiculous. Disliking one book so much that I don’t read another one by that author for over 7 years is extreme. As an author, I know that I should not judge an entire collection of works based one or two books that let me down. I have a passion for books. I read over 100 books a year. In most cases, I can dislike a book without having a book grudge.

 

So, why are the stakes so high for certain books and not others? Again, it is all about my personal expectations and my emotional response to the book not furfilling my needs.  All three of these book grudges were birthed because the plot didn’t sustain me and the ending failed to connect with my expecations. I kept reading and waiting for something to happen but I did not get the emotional impact I desired.

So, tell me. Do you have book grudges? Do you take it to the extreem like me and stop reading books by that author? I would like to know!

 

 

 

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Need writing motivation? Love kittens?

I found a fun website that combines writing motivation and kittens. I couldn’t resist filming a quick video to share it with you.  I came across the website, written kitten while searching for tangible writing rewards to help writers stay motivated.

Watch the video here

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I admit this isn’t exactly what I was looking for but it served its purpose. It motivated me to write. The moment I stumbled onto it  I jumped in and started writing and earned myself a couple of cute kittens.

Of course, they weren’t real kittens but the next best thing, adorable kitten photos! The website is simple to use.  Just set a word writing goal for yourself, type into the provided text box, and get rewarded with kitten photos when you hit your goal. You can select 100, 200, 500, or 1000 word goals.  The kitten photos are pulled from flicker.

Write words and get kittens!

Need writing motivation? Love Kittens?

Not a kitten fan? No worries, you can select puppies or bunnies for your reward.  Yes, this is a simple concept but if it helps you write it is certainly worth its weight in kittens. The best part? This is completely free. You write words, get kittens, and make progress on your writing.

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My Experience:

When I was finished earning kittens, I simply cut, copied, and pasted my writing into my Scrivener file. Unfortunately, you can’t take the kittens with you but you can come back anytime and write for more kittens.  I recommend this website if you enjoy baby animal photos and enjoy setting small goals with instant rewards.  I doubt I will be using this daily but it is a fun way to mix up your writing routine and rewards.

So, how about you? Do you love kittens, bunnies, or puppies? Have you tried written kitten? Did it work for you? Do you have any writing motivation tips to share? Let me know!

Book Love Review: The Sandcastle Empire.

This amazing book was the June Owlcrate selection.  Armed with a field guide to a mysterious island and a vial of her father’s blood and teeth Eden attempts to escape her war-torn world to find refuge and answers on the island.

Watch my video review

 

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What I loved about this book:

* It was a quick easy read.
* That it takes place on a mysterious jungle island that is more than it seems.
* The writing style is engaging and detailed without slowing the pace.

*  Chapters alternate between regular length and 1-2 pages.

*  Chapters alternate between regular length and 1-2 pages.
* The overall plot is interesting and it has a lot of neat world-building aspects.
* Excellent 1st chapter that grabs you and keeps you reading.

* Some details will stick with me forever. The Vial of blood and teeth. The beetles.

I rated this four stars instead of five for a few reasons that are a bit hard to pinpoint. There was nothing I disliked about this book but here a few reasons I didn’t rate it 5 stars.

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My Opinion:

* The world, although fascinating, didn’t work for me at first. After I started thinking of island in the terms of the tv series LOST instead of  I think of when I think of a Dystopian world it felt a little more realistic to me.
* The plot seemed to fall into place to EASY. There are many excellent setbacks and twists but something about it just felt off.  I never felt that the character was in grave danger even when she was in the midst of it but it was still interesting enough to keep me reading. Honestly, I think my expectations of what I thought the book was going to be was what caused me not to rate it five stars.  It was more sci-fi than I was anticipating.
* The end. I hope this is a series because the end left me hanging and not in a good way. I needed a little more resolution even if it is a series.

Want Owlcrate? Get it here.

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Overall, this is a fantastic book that is easy to dive into and get lost in. It has a lot of tech and sci-fi elements, suspense and  I can see this series blooming into something addictive.

Motivation Monday: 5 Tips to help you get and stay motivated.

Are you struggling to stay motivated? Procrastinating? You are in good company. I have been having those issues that last two weeks. It was beyond frustrating. It seemed that the more I focused on the problem the bigger it got.

I am the sort of person who likes to get to the root of the problem and fix it. I did some research, soul searching, and then came up with a plan to put into action. I wanted to share some of what I learned with you.

Watch my 5 Tips for Motivation Video

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What was causing my lag in motivation?

Summer. That’s my excuse and I am sticking to it. I adore summer. Hot weather, swimming, and not having to take the kids to school are all things that make me smile. I made the mistake of trying to do too many work related things. I felt like I was missing the summer fun and suddenly writing became a chore.

The next issue was that I did not have dedicated end time for my work day. I  was spending a lot of my evening time writing and working. All of that caught up with me and I found myself procrastinating about writing and then feeling guilty. On my research quest about I discovered a profound truth.

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Are you getting a bigger reward from NOT DOING the task than you are from finishing it?

Think about it. While procrastinating about writing I was doing things I enjoy. Reading, taking photos, playing around online, and swimming. I was rewarding myself for not doing the task. Even though I felt guilty about not writing I was still getting enjoyment from the things I was doing instead of writing.  The trick is to flip this. Reward yourself for finishing the task not putting it off.

5 Tips To Get & Stay Motivated:

  1. Make a list of Instant Gratification Rewards: Make a list of small but enjoyable things that you can reward yourself with immediately after finishing the task. Example: Write 30 minutes and then reward yourself by watching a funny video, reading a few pages, or having a treat.
  2. Use your rewards: Remember the key is that instant gratification. You want the rewards to keep you motivated. If you cheat yourself out of the reward you may find yourself lagging in motivation and rewarding yourself by procrastinating.
  3. Make a detailed schedule: Have a clear start and end time for the task. Don’t just plan to write 30 minutes today. Plan to write 30 minutes between blank time and blank time. Give yourself a deadline.
  4. Flexibility: Allow yourself some flexibility when things you can not control derail your plan. Don’t beat yourself up or feel guilty. This will only set you up for procrastination.
  5. Remove Distractions: When you have specific deadline and time set for the task set yourself up to succeed by removing all distractions.

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This week is already off to a great start. I took 3 days off from writing to research and enjoy life.  On Saturday morning I wrote 3000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo and it was amazing because my motivation was back.

What helps you stay motivated? What rewards to you rely on to stay motivated?

 

 

Writer Tool Kit: Is Skillshare worth it?

Is Skillshare worth the cost? Let’s take a look the pro’s, con’s, and my personal experience.

Writers Took Kit: Skillshare Video

Skillshare is an online learning community where anyone can discover, take, or even teach a class. They have over 15000 classes, 2 million students and payout over 5 million to teachers. The classes are presented in video format. In most cases,  the instructor provides optional assignments. You can post your work and communicate with the teacher. They have  free classes and premium classes that you pay a monthly (auto debit) fee for and are able take as many classes as you can cram into your schedule

 

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My experience:

  I was instantly intrigued by Skilshare. I love suck up knowledge. On my first search  I didn’t find any free classes that appealed to me. So,  I decided to activate the free trial for access to a wider variety of classes. I wasn’t in the mood to enter my credit/debit card information at the time. I intended to do it later.

And I forgot about it.

When a fellow writer recommended it, I decided to give it another try.  I am glad that I did. I have been a premium (paid) member for two months. One month was a free trial. I have taken at least 15 classes and for me it is worth the cost. The knowledge gained has been immediately helpful to me. The classes I selected were focused on marketing, promotion, and building an audience. I have not taken any of the writing classes that they offer.

The Pros:

  • Wide variety of classes and instructors to choose from.
  • You can take as many classes as you like.
  • Work at your own pace.
  • Skip head in a lesson or go back.
  • You can retake the same class if you wish.
  • Community learning environment
  • New classes are constantly being added.

The Cons:

  • Sifting through the many classes to find the best one can be time consuming.
  • The quality of the videos and instruction varies from class to class. Most are well done but I have found a few that were not worth my time.
  • The monthly billing.  They will not forget but you might! Not only the impending charge but that you have a multitude of classes at your disposal.

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Skill Share might be worth it for you if

  • You enjoy video based classes.
  • You like the flexibility of working at your own pace.
  • You love learning enough to fully utilize the classes that are available. In other words, are you just going to sign up, take a class or two and then forget about it? If so, the free trial might be perfect for you, as long as you don’t forget to cancel it.
  • If you can remember to cancel your subscription if you are not using it enough to justify the cost.

 

Free 60 day trial

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Tips for using Skillshare

  • Watch the intro video to each class. It can be tempting to skip but this will give you a good idea if the instructor and content is worth your time.
  • Do the assignments. Yes, they are optional, but you will get more out of it if you put more into it.
  • Decide what you want to learn before browsing the classes. This will help you stay focused on taking classes that fit your personal goals instead of being tempted by other classes.

What are your thoughts on Skillshare? Have you used it? Do you have a favorite class or instructor?