As a writer, I consider watching quality (and sometimes not-so-quality) television as part of my job. Yes, I do it for fun, too, but great television shows can also fill the creative well and offer a lot of inspiration. That’s why I’m glad I live in the time of streaming TV. I love being able to focus on just a handful of shows and watch them in close enough succession to see the story and character arcs in all their glory.
However, sometimes I don’t know which show to pick. There are so many now! In fact, one of these shows was selected for me by my reader group The Fearless Romantics when I went to them for suggestions. (And they were totally spot on!) So in case you suffer from the same affliction, I’m sharing some of the ones I’ve been loving lately and who I think they’d be a good fit for.
If you’re like me and missed the Buffy the Vampire Slayer phenomenon…
This was the show that my reader group overwhelmingly voted to be my next binge watch. Now, I obviously was aware of the show and had probably seen a few episodes randomly here and there back in the day. But season 1 premiered in March of 1997. That was two months before I graduated high school. I had so much going on during that time that I wasn’t in a place to pick up new TV shows. So I missed the train.
However, I’m so glad that I’m no longer out of that loop. I started watching season one in October 2018 and got through all 144 episodes this past Wednesday. That is a LOT of episodes, y’all, especially considering I only watched TV at night because I was drafting a book at the same time. But once I started, I couldn’t stop. The characters, the humor, the horror, and romance were all like TV crack to me. I should’ve known. I’ve always appreciated a good vampire story. I loved the True Blood series and the first few seasons of The Vampire Diaries (I still have seasons to catch up with on that one.) But I didn’t expect to get through these that quickly and to grow so attached.
That’s why I got enormously excited this week when I was browsing in a Barnes and Noble and randomly spotted the new Kiersten White book Slayer, which just came out and takes place in the Buffy universe. That came home with me.
So most of you are probably like, wow, how have you never watched this before? But if you’re like me and missed it, it’s a good one to dive into if you like supernatural shows. Some seasons are stronger than others, and don’t judge it by the first short season. I don’t think Joss Whedon took more control until the very end of season one. Things picked up after that.
My favorite seasons were seasons 2 and 3. I really loved season 6, too, until late in the season when they had a scene with my favorite character, Spike, acting in a way that didn’t make since for his character or the story arc. That pissed me off. I still loved the season, but that put a damper on it. The last season was just meh for me but still worth watching.
I’m now moving onto Angel, the spinoff, which has five seasons for me to enjoy. :)
If you’re into snarky serial killers who think they’re in their own rom com movie…
The show YOU is based on a book of the same name by Caroline Kepnes, and I’m not sure how I first heard about it, but I’m glad I found it. Joe is a bookstore owner and seems to outsiders like an every day nice guy. He could be the Tom Hanks character in a rom com. That is, until you hear his inner thoughts, which are done voiceover style in the show, and he starts stalking a woman he’s interested in. Joe is a sociopath, but the beauty of this show/book is that he’s so snarky and smug (and kind to children), that he’s oddly likable. The female lead, on the other hand, isn’t all that likable so you kind of understand why Joe has issues with some of her actions. (Not that it justifies his behavior of course, lol.)
The show can be over the top and don’t watch with your kids nearby because it’s explicit, but it’s a compelling ride with a lot of tension and dark humor. I found that the middle of the season slowed a bit because it ventured a little too far into the over the top territory, but it picked up again toward the end. There will be a second season, but until then, I’ve picked up book 2 on audiobook.
Where to stream: I started watching YOU when it was streaming on Lifetime, but it has recently moved to Netflix, so it’s easy to access.
If you’re into edgy and smart yet endearing shows about the messiness of being a teenager…
Sex Education is a new show that just premiered on Netflix last week. I’ve already watched 6 of the 8 episode season if that tells you anything about how much I’m enjoying it. This is considered a “dramedy” and I’d say that’s an apt description but leans more to comedy. I’ve laughed out loud a lot for this one. It follows Otis, a teen whose mother is a sex therapist (played by Gillian Anderson.) He pairs up with the edgy outcast girl at his high school and they start charging other teens for sex therapy. Otis is awkward and adorable and earnest. You can’t help but be endeared. And his best friend and the female lead are equally as compelling. This kind of feels like if John Hughes movies had been explicit. It has that nostalgic quality, too, even though it’s set in present day. The show captures the awkwardness of being a teen full of hormones, insecurity, and angst. Warning: this show is explicit with nudity, sex, and language. Also, it’s British, so the accents can be a little bit of a challenge. My American ear needs to put on subtitles for this one to help. But I love this show and hope that it continues for many more seasons.
If you need something that the whole family can enjoy…
My son and I always pick one or two sitcoms to watch together. It’s our thing. We started with The Goldbergs about two years ago, and when we caught up, we needed another one to binge together. It’s surprisingly hard to find sitcoms that are appropriate for an 11-year old and are also not “kid” shows that I won’t be into. The Middle has been the perfect choice post-Goldbergs. I missed this show during it’s regular run, but kidlet and I have been working our way through the seasons over the past year and we’ve reached the final season. We’re still in the beginning of season 9, but already I’m feeling sad that we’re getting to the end. This show has stayed consistently good through nine seasons, and you really do grow attached to the family. So if you’re looking for something the whole family can enjoy, this is a funny and heartwarming show that hits the spot.
Where to stream: Unfortunately this one isn’t on any subscription streaming service, though I think you can get some on ABC’s website.. You can set up to record reruns which I believe play on Freeform. But we ended up buying most of the seasons on Amazon. For some reason, Amazon didn’t have the last season so we had to buy it on VUDU.
So, that’s what I’m watching. What have you watched lately that you’d recommend? Anyone else watching any of the above?
I’m celebrating a new year and a new book! The One You Fight For, book 3 in my The Ones Who Got Away series, is out today!
I’m really excited to share this one with you. It was the hardest book I’ve ever had to write, but I’m really proud of this story. You don’t have to have read the previous two books to jump in here but reading them in order can enhance the experience.
I wrote this one because I really wanted to explore the school shooting tragedy from an angle I (and I think a lot of other people) don’t often think about. What happens to the people in the perpetrators family? How do they go on with their lives after their loved one did something so horrible and so public?
The hero, Shaw Miller, is the older brother of one of the shooters. Taryn, the heroine, survived the shooting but lost her sister in the tragedy. Bringing the two of these two people together was an emotional journey, but I hope you’ll go along with them and see them through to their happy ending.
Here are the official details about the book:
How hard would you fight for the one you love?
Taryn Landry was there that awful night fourteen years ago when Long Acre changed from the name of a town to the title of a national tragedy. Everyone knows she lost her younger sister. No one knows it was her fault. Since then, psychology professor Taryn has dedicated her life’s work to preventing something like that from ever happening again. Falling in love was never part of the plan…
Shaw Miller has spent more than a decade dealing with the fallout of his brother’s horrific actions. After losing everything—his chance at Olympic gold, his family, almost his sanity—he’s changed his name, his look, and he’s finally starting a new life. As long as he keeps a low profile and his identity secret, everything will be okay, right?
When the world and everyone you know defines you by one catastrophic tragedy…
First, before we get into the nitty gritty of all the planner goodness this year, I just want to remind everyone that The One You Fight For, book 3 in The Ones Who Got Away series, is out New Year’s Day! You don’t have to have read the first two to understand this one, though that will enrich the experience. I’m so excited to share this book with y’all. This one was a tough one to write because Taryn lost her sister in the school shooting fourteen years ago and Shaw, the hero, is the older brother of one of the shooters. This may be the most emotional romance I’ve ever written, but I promise you there’s a happy ending. ;)
So if you want to grab your copy now to have it on your doorstep this week, here are all the links. And right now the paperback is cheaper than the ebook, so you can get a copy for your shelf on the cheap!
If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know that I’m obsessed with planners and journals. In a lot of ways, it’s my hobby, but they have the added bonus of actually being functional and making me more productive as well.
I’ve shown some pictures on Instagram of a few of my planners and journals for the year, but I had a number of people ask to explain what each one is and how I use it. So, ask and you shall receive! Let’s dive in.
My Every Day Hub - The Day Designer
This will be my third year using the Day Designer. Sometimes I stray, but this is the planner I keep coming back to for the day to day To Dos and scheduling. Beyond the pretty cover, this is not a colorful planner, which is a plus for me. I find that when I buy planners with color schemes, I get tired of the schemes pretty quickly. Day Designer’s white pages with gray print are perfect. I can keep them clean or I can decorate the hell out of them.
I also like that it’s one day per page. I find this helps me focus on just that day and not get distracted by the things coming up in the week.
Sometimes I use the time side to track my time. Other times I just use it to mark down if I have an appointment. But I use the To Do side daily. I also mark my daily word count in the “dollars” box. It’s a flexible system that I can change around as needed.
A clean page vs. decorated page:
My Done Planner
I went into the details of what a “done” planner is in this post, but basically, this is where I record what I’ve actually done in a week separated out by area of my life or business. I use a Happy Planner Teacher Planner and label the different areas of my life where teachers would label the different classes that they teach.
When I do something in the day, I mark down what I did in this planner. Is this necessary? Of course not. But I’ve found that it gives me a sense of accomplishment AND it also shows me how evenly (or not) I’ve distributed my time in a week. Have I ignored health stuff? Did I let my interaction with readers slip? It’s a good overview of where my time is actually going.
Goal Setting Planner: Powersheets & The HB90 Method
The Powersheets are not a traditional planner. There is no calendar in it. This is strictly a goal setting planner that guides you through a process to pick up to 10 goals for the year. You have the opportunity to update them quarterly. Then it also gives you a process each month to go through to set monthly, weekly, and daily goals. I have used this planner for two years and have one ready to go for this year. I tend to keep the tending sheet open on my desk so I can always see what goals I set for the month.
This year I also added author Sarra Cannon’s HB90 method of quarterly planning for authors and entrepreneurs. The Powersheets contain both work and personal goals. The HB90 system is strictly focused on three main work/business goals for the quarter. I have used this method for the last 5 months of this year (including the kanban board that she teaches you about in her class) and it’s been ridiculously effective for me. Sarra has a quarterly planner you can buy from Etsy and print out yourself. Her system walks you through everything to get you started. I keep these pages in my Done planner pictured above.
Honestly, I’m going to see how it goes this year, but Sarra’s system may make my Powersheets less necessary. I like that it gives me such a laser focus. However, I’ve already bought the Powersheets and still need a place to have personal/home goals, so we’ll see. I’ll report back later in the year if I’m keeping up with both of them.
This is a new addition for me. I have kept a list of movies I’ve watched and TV series I’ve completed in my reading journal for the past two years. But the simple list doesn’t tell me much. So this year, I’m dedicating a separate journal to record movie reviews, TV show reviews, and to mark down memories of the concerts I attend (because we attend a lot!) I haven’t worked out all the details of how I want to do this yet. I like the idea of writing down the names of my favorite episodes of a TV series for example. Or maybe writing down quotes. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll report back once I have a fully working system. :) But for now, I’ll be using this pretty dot grid journal that I received as a Christmas gift.
My Daily Memory Journal
This will also be a new addition this year. And y’all keep your fingers crossed for me. I’ve tried this before and haven’t been able to stick with it, so we’ll see. But I would like to keep a Hobonichi style journal, where I jot down memories or thoughts from the day and then either draw or put stickers in it. This isn’t going to be a deep contemplative journal. I already know I don’t do well with keeping up with those. This is more of a memory keeper, a simpler version of a scrapbook.
For this journal, I chose a Stalogy notebook because it’s about half the price of a Hobonichi Cousin and has similar paper. I’m keeping it in this notebook keeper since it has a soft cover.
The I-Bought-Them-On-Sale-and-Haven’t-Decided-Yet Planners
I’m weak in the face of 60% off. I haven’t decided what these beauties are for yet. One might become a planner for the family. The dark blue one may be pulled apart and merged with the Done planner since they are the same size. I got them so cheap that I don’t mind cannibalizing them to merge them into another. These are both from Happy Planner which you can buy online or at craft stores like Michael’s and JoAnn’s.
I would say “that’s it!” but that’s an understatement, I know. : ) I have a lot of planners. It works for me. I hope you found something in the mix that may work for you!
So what are you using for 2019? Anyone journaling?
So that got my to thinking that it was time to do my own Best Books of 2018 list. As many of you know, I keep a reading journal and record my thoughts about everything I read each year. That makes it easy at the end of they year (and after reading almost 75 books so far) to easily flip back and see which books received a 5-star rating from me.
Now, I will preface this list by saying that I am VERY stingy with my 5-star ratings. Most books I read get about 3 stars (liked it but didn’t love it). I have a decent number of 4-stars (thoroughly enjoyed). But 5-stars are reserved for books that wow me.
Wowing me can mean that the book leaves me in awe of the author’s talent. Wowing can mean that the book pulled real emotion from me and got me deeply attached to the characters. Wowing can mean that a book was addictive like candy and made me want to read everything else the author has written. Wowing can also mean that I’ve learned something fascinating that I will carry with me. But most of all, it usually means that at the end of the year, even with all the reading I’ve done and my crappy memory, these books have stayed with me. I don’t have to remind myself what they were about. They’ve imprinted on my brain.
So, this year, 10 books of the 73 I’ve read have reached that 5-Star status.
This one gutted me, y’all. It covers a touchy subject matter that I won’t reveal because spoilers, but if you’re afraid of triggers, google it and you’ll find what you need. This book handled the issue with such a deft hand and worked in a romance as well. After reading this, I wanted to go pick up everything else Colleen had ever written. My original review.
I’ve told y’all that I’m on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer binge lately, and this has brought my old love of vampire romance roaring back from the grave (yeah, I went there.) So when I was looking to start a vampire romance series I missed, I picked up the first book in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series. It fit the bill perfectly. And though I loved Halfway to the Grave (book one), the second book is the one that got me fully hooked. Lots of action, very steamy, and a couple I can’t get enough of.
I’ve professed my love for Reid’s books all over the place, but my favorite of hers I read this year was Maybe In Another Life. The story follows the heroine down two separate timelines based on which decision she makes in one scene early in the book. If she goes home with this guy, this is where her life will go. If she doesn’t, this is where it will go. I loved the structure and loved how it explored the concept of soulmates. Her books always leave me thinking. My original review.
This one deals with some heavy topics, but it was also so delightful. I loved the characters and the author’s voice. If you’re afraid of books with illness in them (like I am), this one gives you a happy ending, so don’t fear.
This is a gut-wrencher, y’all. But also hopeful. The characters and setting in this book will stick with me for a long time. The writing was beautiful and so immersive. The whole thing had a very epic feel. Trigger warnings for domestic violence. My original review.
This is a tough read because the crimes were very real. Also, going in, you know the author passed away while finishing this book. But this book was so well-written, interesting, and had such heart to it. Also, it helped find the killer because when McNamara wrote this, the guy was still unknown. She never got to see him caught, but her book had a hand in it. This is true crime writing at its best. My original review.
At the heart of the body positive movement and health at every size, this book focuses on diet culture, the myths we’ve been told, and how to combat the negative dieting culture that surrounds us. As someone who’s done all the diets for many decades, this was an eye-opening book. This is not a diet book. It’s a an anti-diet book.
This one is probably going to be more a fit for my fellow writers, artists, or other business owners, but Holiday’s focus on putting your best work forward, giving that work the time it needs, and developing perennial sellers was chock full of great tidbits. I marked so many passages in this one that it probably weighs an extra half pound from all the book darts.
That’s my list! A top 10 without even trying for a nice round number like 10 makes me happy. : ) So I’d love to hear from you. What were your 5-star reads this year?
If you’ve followed me for a while, you might know that I started off in this bloggy world with a website for writers called Fiction Groupie. Once I landed a book deal and was published, I had to switch things up and didn’t have the time to maintain that website. But I’ve never lost my love for teaching and sharing what I’ve learned with other writers.
In the past few years, I’ve given many in-person workshops throughout the country and have truly enjoyed that experience. I can’t do it as much as I would like because travel is tough, especially when you have a kiddo, and the majority of my time has to be spent on writing my books. However, with all the new platforms for presenting classes online, I realized that I could provide these classes without having to leave the house (introvert dream, yes?). So, in 2019, I plan to launch Rock that Romance Novel classes that you take from the comfort of your very own home.
I don’t have all the details to give you yet because right now I have to focus on finishing book 4 in The Ones Who Got Away series and need to hammer out a few more things, but my goal is to launch the first class in Spring 2019. My plan is to offer classes for new and aspiring writers and also some for the more experienced writers who want to amp up their writing skills. Classes will mostly focus on the craft of writing, but there may be occasional classes about other writing-related topics (focus, organizing, etc.) if there’s interest.
So, if you’re interested in being the first to know about the classes and to have the chance at beta prices (AKA discounted) for the initial classes, sign up for the mailing list below.
Here’s the official pitch in which I talk about myself in third person. :-p
Sign up for updates about the launch of Rock That Romance Novel classes
Ready to take the leap and learn how to write that novel you've always wanted to write "someday"? Or maybe you're already writing but you want to raise the bar from "good enough" to "top shelf" writing and need to hone your craft. Either way, New York Times bestselling and two-time RITA-award winning romance author Roni Loren is here to help you get there. This email list is for those who are interested in hearing about Roni's online writing workshops when they launch (tentative launch date: spring 2019). In the future, this list also may include newsletters about helpful writing tips and topics.
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I can’t believe it’s November already. October went by in a whirlwind. Maybe that was because I was reading reading reading like a maniac. I had set a goal to read two books in October because I knew it was going to be a busy month, but I ended up reading NINE. All in between writing 30k words on my new book, so October was a month of lots of words for me!
But that’s good news for you because that means I have book recommendations. :-) And because I’m working on my Read Wide reading challenge, the recs fall across various genres and are pretty different from each other. So I thought it’d be fun to give recs based on the reading mood you might be in.
Ready? Let’s go!
1. I am overwhelmed, and I need an easy, page-turning read that will not stress me out and will give me the warm and fuzzy romance feeling.
This story of two teen boys falling for each other, one a Mormon, is a sweet, moving story of young love. I adored the fun voice of the main character, and it had the right amount of angst to make you worry for them.
3. I am in a really good place and can handle a beautiful, epic read that’s going to rip my heart out and (kind of) put it back together again. (Or I’m in need of a good, hard cry.)
Okay, y’all. ALL the warnings here. If you are in any way feeling down or depressed, don’t pick up this book yet. It’s an emotional wringer. I’m glad I read it on a sunny vacation in Phoenix to offset the heartbreaking story. Having said that, it was a beautiful, amazing story. And the setting of the Alaska in the 1970s was so well drawn that I felt like I was there. It’s one of those books that I’m happy I read but that I couldn’t read again, if that makes sense. It gutted me. The ending is hopeful. I wouldn’t recommend one with a completely tragic ending, but don’t go in looking for an “Ahh” feeling happily ever after. (Also trigger warnings for domestic violence.)
4. I’m looking for something totally different, and I have time to listen to a story during a commute or during chores.
Dead Air by Gwenda Bond, Carrie Ryan, and Rachel Caine
Now for something a little different…Dead Air is on the new platform/app for serial stories Serial Box. The story is told in episodes and has full sound effects and such, so it’s different from a straight up audiobook.
I was curious about the format so I started listening to Dead Air while I was washing dishes and driving. I got hooked after probably two episodes, and that’s saying something because, though I listen to a lot of non-fiction in audio, I have yet to get into fiction audiobooks. This one held my attention. And I didn’t figure out the mystery ahead of time. There’s also a new adult romance mixed into the story. I believe you can try the first episode free if you want to see what it’s like. If you like it, you can buy the whole season for the price of a book.
5. I’m already missing Halloween, and I’m looking for a scary book that will have me peeking out my windows to check that no one’s out there.
I happened to be reading this book the same week that I saw the new Halloween movie. This book and that movie have a lot in common. It’s about a survivor (or survivors) going up against a human monster that ruined their lives in a tragic way when they were teens. In this case, two women who survived a sorority row slaying are being hunted again by the killer (or are they?) This is a thriller, but it also has a strong horror feel to me. There is a minor romance in it as well.
(This one is free in Kindle Unlimited if that’s your jam.)
I got this in audiobook from my library, and I found it really eye-opening. If you ever wonder why those tops at the store can be sold for five dollars (or wonder if they should be that cheap) and why pretty much any clothing you buy these days falls apart after a few washes, this book will answer those questions. Be warned, it’s one of those topics you can’t “unsee” once you know about it. It’s made me look at clothes shopping through a whole new lens. Also, if you get this in audiobook, the narrator takes a little getting used to.
All right, those are the six picks I have for you today. What have you read lately that you loved? Are you a mood reader?