Posted in Blog, Books I Love

Book Crush: ‘The Lazarus Kid,’ by Tim Farrington

the-lazarus-kidI am a huge fan of Tim Farrington, having discovered The Monk Downstairs a few years ago, followed by The Monk Upstairs, and then concluding with every other book Farrington has ever written before re-reading the Monk books again (and maybe again). So when I found out he had written another book, I got it and started reading immediately.

The follow-up to the first two Monk books, The Lazarus Kid does not disappoint. Farrington’s beautiful descriptive writing paints each scene, placing a microscope on some points or aspects of certain scenes, and panning way out for a broader view in others. Farrington has a way with believability, offering details that breathe so much life into each event, it’s almost as if you are right there inside the scene instead of just reading the story from a page.

The characters have evolved since the first two books. Mike is still contemplative and spiritual in both mind and mannerisms, but we now see him in a deeper role as a father and stepfather – even if much of his parenting is done at a distance due to chaos on the job. Rebecca is a better mom than I am of a precocious teen, handling infuriating circumstances with clenched fists and outward grace. And Mary Margaret is every bit the rebelling teen, though I never once found her character to be cliche. Rather, I saw my own teen daughter in her (hence, my awe at Rebecca’s skills of keeping a level head).

Of course, there’s so much more to the story, but I don’t want to offer any spoilers at all. Just know that when you read anything by Tim Farrington, you’ll never be disappointed. I can only hope that Mr. Farrington has more books up his sleeve very soon.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
PG for some adult language. Aimed at adults.

Posted in 5 Favorites, Blog

5 favorite things about autumn

It’s fall, y’all! I love this season so much. As I wait for the Indian Summer to make way for more autumn appropriate weather, here are 5 of my favorite things about this season. What are yours? Leave them in the comments.❤

  1. vineyard-kent
    Photo taken by Kent Sorensen.

    The changing leaves. In Northern California, we don’t go through the drastic fall colors that places like the midwest experience. However, we do get some glorious color changes of our own. My favorite is when the vineyards turn from green to gold. It hasn’t happened here yet, but any week now we’ll be seeing golden hillsides of vines. (The photo to the right is of a vineyard in Santa Rosa, taken by Kent Sorensen. I used it for the cover of The Road to Hope).

  2. fireplaceA burning fire in the fireplace. If I could, I’d use the fireplace every night, all year long. Of course, our weather on the North Coast is pretty warm most of the year. But once the cold weather comes, our fireplace is roaring and I’m sitting right in front of it. The only time we don’t have a fire is when we’re going through a Spare the Air Day (thanks, drought), or we’re experiencing a warm November night.
  3. My birthday! Now, my birthday is in December, but it’s on the 7th which is technically still autumn.
  4. 1-NaNoWriMoNaNoWriMo! November is National Novel Writing Month, and I’ve participated and one for the past 6 years. Now I’m eagerly anticipating year 7. Now that I’ve started school and I still work full-time, I’m trying to figure out how I can also write a novel at the same time. But I already have a plan in place (a sequel novel to The Road to Hope!), and I’m really excited to start writing it.
  5. soupSoup weather! I eat soup all year long, but I especially love it in the fall. Soup is the perfect meal, because you can make it out of pretty much anything. My favorites are pureed soup. I make a pretty mean Carrot Sweet Potato Soup, and my kids love when I make my Detox Veggie Soup (filled with so many vegetables!). Add some sausage or chicken (or don’t), and you’ve got a complete meal. (here’s my go-to recipe)

Things I don’t love: pumpkin everything – especially Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good pumpkin soup or pumpkin curry now and then. But I’m just not obsessed. And don’t get me started on PSLs. They’re just too sweet to drink. But then again, I’m a black coffee girl.

Posted in Blog, Writing, Weekend Recap

The introverted author and reading on stage

open-micThis past Saturday, I was one of the featured readers at the Redwood Writers Open Mic event at Gaia’s Garden in Santa Rosa. What’s cool about being the featured reader at this event is I get to read from my novel for 20 full minutes. What’s terrifying is I get to read from my novel for 20 full minutes.

20 minutes is a really, really long time to be on stage.

I’m no longer new to reading my books in front of a crowd. My first time reading was 3 years ago. I was reading from my very first published novel, A Symphony of Cicadas. And I was TERRIFIED. In fact, I downed a half bottle of wine before I began reading just to give me the courage to step up on that stage. It worked, somewhat. I got up there. And I read. And I hardly remember a thing about it because it went by so fast (and I was a little buzzed). One minute I opened my book to start reading. The next, I reached the very last page and people were clapping. The one thing I do remember is that they laughed at the appropriate times, and got quiet at the more serious moments. It was a relief to see that people were actually following along!

Each time I read in front of people gets a bit easier. I’ve never died from reading in public. I’ve never forgotten the words (they’re written right in front of me!). I’ve never fainted or thrown up. People have never booed me off stage. The worst that’s happened is that people are talking while I’m reading. When that happens, I’ve learned to just tune them out and keep going so that the people who are listening aren’t distracted.

When I read on Saturday, the butterflies managed to keep away. In fact, I was so excited to read from Loving the Wind, that I volunteered to go first – something I never do! But I wanted to be able to read right away, and then enjoy the other people’s readings without mulling over my own. So I barrelled forward, taking that first time slot, and stepping on to the stage to kick off the event. My nerves remained intact, and I smiled at the modest crowd of 13 listeners. And then I began to share my story.

openmic2That was the moment that my tongue decided I hadn’t had enough to drink. It dried out completely, replacing itself with a wad of cotton. I had brought a drink on stage with me, but it was just out of reach. So I powered through, licking my lips every now and then to try and turn my cotton tongue back to normal. I was aware of every word that came out of my mouth, sure that people could hear the garbled texture of my words as they spilled out over my cotton tongue.

Eventually, my normal tongue found itself. I began enjoying the words I was reading, feeding off the way the room had silenced as people listened to my words. No one was talking, which is a great sign. It means they were paying attention. A few quick glances out into the audience, and I could see it was true. It was good to be first. It meant the crowd was fresh and ready for a story.

Fifteen minutes in, and I was reaching the most dramatic point of the scene. And that’s when I felt the tickle in my throat. There was no pushing it aside. I had to pause.

“Bravo!” the MC clapped as I stopped reading and reached for my drink. She thought I was done.

“Oh, there’s more,” I promised. For a brief moment, I second guessed myself. Was the audience done listening? Were they ready for me to be done so that the next reader could come up? I banned these thoughts from my head, took a swig of my drink, then stepped back up to the microphone.

“…here’s the secret about pixie dust…” I continued, feeling all eyes light up as I went on with Tiger Lily’s story of Neverland.

The reading ended, and the crowd clapped. And the show went on.

I will probably never get over being nervous before readings. I no longer need liquid courage to get up on stage, but the butterflies or cotton tongue will likely accompany me in the spotlight. But that’s okay. It’s only because it means so much to me to stare out at a crowd of people and share stories with them that I wrote from the heart.

Cotton tongue and butterflies can’t stop me from doing it again, and again.

Posted in Blog, Books I Love

10 fairy tale retellings you’ve never read (but should)

fairy-tale-retellings

Fairy tale retellings are nothing new. Don’t believe me? Think of “Hook” with Robin Williams, “Snow White and the Huntsman” with Charlize Theron, “Ella Enchanted” with Anne Hathaway, and many, many more. And with the next season of “Once Upon a Time” starting this Sunday (can’t wait!), fairy tale retellings are even more popular right now.

The book world is no exception. Marissa Meyer made it big with The Lunar Chronicles, a series of books that started with Cinder (for Cinderella), then Scarlett (for Red Riding Hood), and so on. Then there’s Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry.

These are books that many fans of fairy tale retellings know. But there are so many more great books out there! Here are 10 fairy tale retellings you’ve probably never read, but should.

Cinderella Dreams of Fire, by Casey Lane. What if Cinderella wasn’t some nice young girl forced to the bidding of her stepmother, but lives a secret life? In Casey Lane’s version of this epic fairy tale, Cinderella is no ordinary girl. By day, she does her stepmother’s bidding. By night, Cinderella is a thief with no match. But a chance encounter with the prince complicates her mission. Worse, he wants to join her in her lawlessness.

Gaslight & Grimm: Steampunk Faerie Tales, an anthology. Originally backed by a successful Kickstarter, this collection of short stories mixes (mostly) Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Steampunk-styled stories. Imagine steam-powered technology in stories like The Three Little Pigs, Red Riding Hood, and Cinderella.

Kissing Midnight, by Laura Bradley Rede. A modern day retelling of Blackbeard, the immortal Deveraux Renard must make a girl fall in love with him every New Year’s Eve, or he dies. Her kiss will allow him to live one more year. It will also end her life. This year, his life is in the lips of Saintly, a girl who is crazy about her new boyfriend. But Saintly has a secret – she sees dead people. And one dead girl has a secret she’s dying to share.

Queen of Hearts, by Colleen Oakes. Before Alice fell down the rabbit hole, there was Princess Dinah. As the future queen of Wonderland, Dinah dreams of approval from her father and a future with the boy she loves. But a betrayal breaks her heart, threatening her path to the throne, and sending her toward her dark future as the Red Queen.

Swan Lake, by K.M. Shea. This author, by the way, is pretty prolific when it comes to fairy tale retellings. Swan Lake is just her latest in the 7-book Timeless Fairy Tales series. In this story, Odette is cursed to be a swan by day, and the guide to smugglers at night. There seems to be no way out. But when a handsome prince finds his way into her heart, Odette not only finds hope, but must make a choice between fulfilling her responsibilities or fighting beside the man she loves.

Peter: The Untold True Story, by Christopher Mechling. More a historical novel than a retelling, Christopher Mechling shares the possible inspiration behind Peter Pan, describing the adventures of a real wild boy who came to London, and the people who cared for him. While no magic exists in this story, the story is magical all the same.

Littlefoot Part One, by M.L. Millard. What if Cinderella never wanted to go to the ball? In this fairy tale novella, M.L. Millard offers a comical take on stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and more in this first book of an upcoming series. As a devoted follower of her blog, I’ve fast become a fan of Millard’s writing style.

Zombie Fairy Tales, by Kevin Richey. What could make fairy tales better? Zombies, obviously. Fairy tales take a dark and twisted turn in this 12-story collection of your favorite characters who come back from the dead.

The Ugly Stepsister, by Aya Ling. After ripping up a childhood book, Kat is accidentally transported into the story of Cinderella. Worse, she’s one of the stepsisters! To leave, she’ll have to complete the story to its original happily ever after. But when the prince turns his attentions toward her, her HEA may never come.

Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan, by Crissi Langwell. A must-read for Peter Pan fans, written by yours truly! Neverland is seen through the eyes of Tiger Lily, sharing about her life as the chief’s daughter, her dreams of being a warrior, her battles with the pirates, and the moment she meets the legendary Peter Pan and learns he’s nothing like the stories she’s heard. But soon she discovers his true story, and a secret that could end Neverland forever.

Do you have a favorite fairy tale retelling? Share in the comments!

Posted in 5 Favorites, Blog

5 favorite ways to unplug

My life is pretty much spent in front of a computer. My full-time job is being the online content producer for my local newspaper. This means hours and hours of sitting on my duff, perusing the Internet, chatting on social media, and collecting news stories. When I’m not at work, I’m writing, or I’m reading my Kindle, or I’m staring at my phone, or I’m…going crazy.

Too much screen time makes for a cranky Crissi. Therefore, here are 5 ways that I temporarily unplug from the world so that I can maintain my sanity.

  1. Go to the ocean. I’m lucky enough to live near Bodega Bay, the coldest and most beautiful ocean in the world. just a 45-minute drive away, and I’m suddenly breathing in salt air and organic peace. I don’t know if I could ever live in a place far away from the coast. The ocean is just home to me. As Isak Dinesen is quoted as saying, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” It’s also a great place for the soul.img_5860
  2. Pitching a tent. There are a few ways I love to camp. The first is the spa retreat my husband and I escape to every few months. Something about hot springs in the middle of a forest brings healing to the soul. The second is actual camping, complete with campfires, smores, and stories. The third is the summer camp my kids and I attend every year, where we sleep on planks under the stars and are separate from the world for a whole week. There’s always a slight adjustment period when we re-enter civilization.
  3. Take a hike. I’m not naturally prone to exercise. Sure, I go to the gym (and actually like it). But if given the choice of staying in bed all day or hiking up hills, I’d choose bed every time. However, once I’m on the trail, I realize that this is the true right choice. There’s something magic about putting the phone away, working muscles that haven’t been worked in a while, and taking in the scenery. One of the favorite hikes I’ve taken is on the Cascades Trail in Marin County. The trail goes along all these waterfalls, and is among tall trees, sprouting mushrooms, and fresh air. It’s definitely good for the soul.
  4. Doing yoga. It always amazes me how much a few stretches can help me exhale when I didn’t even know I was holding my breath. My favorite pose is One Legged King Pigeon with Forward Fold, where you fold one leg in front of you and have one leg behind, and then fold your body over your front leg. It’s a great hip opener, and an incredible release as you breath into the stretch.
  5. Reading a good book. When the world is crazy and I just need to hide out, there’s nothing like curling up in bed with a good book. I’m a re-reader, so if I’m feeling particularly crappy, I’ll pull out an old favorite. The authors who fall into my re-read list are Colleen Hoover (because no one can write about falling in love like Colleen can), Liz Gilbert (I’ve read Eat. Pray. Love at least 3 times), and Paolo Coelho (I swear my soul expands every time I read any word that man writes).

How do you unplug when you’re feeling stressed?