Sunday, December 31, 2017

Fabulous Five: Favorite Reads During 2017

Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge

I don't read a lot of current books since I keep myself pretty busy mining into my ever-expanding book piles. I buy new (Amazon online, Barnes & Noble brick and mortar, and Scholastic Book Fairs) shop thrift stores, and utilize the King County Library System, so I'm *mostly* here to keep the backlists alive. I've decided to review the 126 books I read over the past year and pick out five of my ultimate faves, and wouldn't you know, a couple "hot and trending" reads slipped onto my reading radar. Here's the breakdown:

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht (2017)

My New Crush Gave To Me by Shani Petroff (2017)

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (2016)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (2015)

Super Structure by James Scott Bell (2015)

It was hard breaking the list down to merely five, but I feel pretty strongly about my choices! Definitely good reads. Here are the others I've read over the past year, nearly half of them being childrens picture books.

Goodbye to 2017! It's been a great year of reading.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Get Hooked from the First Sentence

Unfortunately, I had zero chance of earning a 2017 Goodreads "Best Book of the Year" title since 1.) I didn't publish one, 2.) I'm an indie author and not traditionally published, and 3.) I've only got a handful of reviews. But let's pretend otherwise, and let's also pretend that Goodreads had room for two more on its list. Here's my tribute:

by Stacia Leigh
Riding with the Hides of Hell*

"Whenever Will heard his mom's brusque voice in his head, it was time to crack open a cold one."

by Stacia Leigh
Dealing with Blue

"Everything was going along fine, which had Suzy relaxing against the vinyl booth cushion with a real smile tugging at her lips."

Did the first lines make you want to read more? I hope so, and if they did, you'll find the books at Amazon, Barnes & NobleEtsy, and for check out at the King County Library System.

* Riding with the Hides of Hell has a new title: Burnout!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

ESPIALdesign Shop on Holiday

Espial Design's Etsy shop is taking a holiday break until the beginning of the New Year. There will be skiing and sledding, reading and writing, and maybe even a little blackout poem-ing by the fireside. Please, check back in early January to see what's new.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on the uber-happy white baticorn...


Spin a meaningful look into a chance.


"Merry everything and a happy always." ~ Unknown

Monday, December 04, 2017

December 2017 Reading Challenge: Christmas Book Binge Reading

Being four days into December, I'm a little late to the Christmas themed reading party - nearly all the books I wanted to check out from the library had me on a waiting list! But, I pulled a couple off the shelves and as I read them, I'll update my post. Let's see how many holiday books I can read this month.

A Christmas Pile

I'm not one for writing book reviews, but I love making lists where I inserted links to my favorites reads. Here goes...

So favorite picture book, one with wonderful verse (not an easy task) and lovely illustrations, was 1.) Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht. It was a truly magical reading experience with amazing illustration by Jarvis. *sigh*

Other picture books I've read this month were:
2.) The Money We'll Save by Brock Cole - Frugal peeps enjoy the true meaning of Christmas

3.) The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen - a strange story with an abrupt ending
4.) The Little Red Elf - the hapless retelling of Little Red Hen
5.) The Kitchen God by Kim Xiong - a Chinese Lunar New Year legend
6.) Christmastime by Alison Jay - Fabulous illustrations with a search and find theme
7.) The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson - A lonely looking man waiting for his big day
8.) A Christmas for Bear by Bonny Becker - Presents are the most important thing
9.) Where Teddy Bears Come From by Mark Burgess - A tale hopping wolf with a simple question
10.) The Snowman by Raymond Briggs - No words so I read it as a horror story
11.) Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Their New Skates by Maj Lindman - Less classic and more relic
12.) The Longest Christmas List Ever by Gregg and Evan Spiridellis - Cute and original
13.) Santa Claus: The World's Number One Toy Expert by Marla Frazee - Heavy on the jollies
14.) The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry - A true classic!
15.) Jolly Old Santa Claus by Mary Jane Tonn - A wordy number with note-worthy illustrations
16.) Snowbear's Christmas Countdown by Theresa Smythe - A family favorite for the younger set
17.) The Night Before the Night Before Christmas by Natasha Wing - Funny and clever!
18.) Stranger in the Woods by Carl Sams and Jean Stoick - Original stuff
19.) The Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie dePaola - A big lead up without a big ending
20.) Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani - Had cultural potential but was constrained by verse
21.) Santa's Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki - Santa's story is all tell and not enough show
22.) The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg - Interesting


So favorite, and only middle grade read, was 23.) The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. It had a quick wit and moved along at a quick pace. It ended just right.

24.) Winterfrost by Michelle Houts - Slower than winter's molasses but cute

So favorite young adult book was 25.) My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff. Brilliant! I'm fangirling over My New Crush, which turned out to be my December Reading Challenge fave!

 26.) The Ex Games by Jennifer Echols was very high on my list. A love-hate romcom (one of my favorite tropes) where a snowboarding star takes on a bet with her competitor, her ex-boyfriend. It was funny, sweet, and had a great snowy setting...made me wish I was there. Not Christmas themed but hits the winter fun right on the head.

27.) The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Catherine Hapka - Main character called herself a devious psycho. Agreed.
28.) Sun-Kissed Christmas by Katherine Applegate - The middle was a good place to be
29.) Secret Santa by Sabrina James - An antiquated feel sprinkled with exclamation points!

I think it'll be difficult to surpass my favorite holiday romance by Rachel Gibson called Truly, Madly Yours. It's a good winter frolic, but I'm willing to make some room for others. How about...

30.) Unwrapped by Katie Lane - Unstable heroine stranded with a night crawler
31.) Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz - My favorite thing about this book is the title.
32.) A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas - I was left asking the big story question, how are these two going to get together? A sign of a good read.

2017 Christmas good-read meter = 8 books to recommend.


Check out the 3 recommended Christmas/winter reads for 2022 here!
Check out the recommended Christmas/winter reads for 2018 here!

Friday, November 24, 2017

New Stuff in the Shop!

I've posted new stuff on Etsy! I'm busy, busy in my little workshop these days, making notecards--now 25% off on Etsy until December 1st--and BIG heart-shaped corner bookmarks. They'll make great accessories for the book lovers in your life or really cute gift tags.

"I Love Coffee"

Inside and Out

Set of Six

Even though I made this blackout poem a month or so ago, it's new on Etsy and ready for a new home. It has a "good vibe" message sure to inspire!

Under his feet,
The trail grew plentiful
With vision.

"It's not happy people who are thankful. 
It's thankful people who are happy!" ~ Alex DaPiata

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Fabulous Five: Things to Do Instead of Writing

It's week one of Nanowrimo! How're we all doing out there? Writing too much and need a distraction? Prefer to procrastinate? I hear that! It's why I've decided to mention a few things you could be doing instead:

1.) Get out of the writing cave and replace the office chair with your couch. Invite your family and friends over, and get ready to play an awesome co-op video game called OvercookedStressed out and flipping burgers in an ill-designed kitchen equals immediate fun!


"You don't truly know a person until they've screamed bloody murder at you for failing to add a slice of tomato to a virtual burger bun." ~ Mark Walton with Ars Technica

2.) Instead of putting words onto paper, try covering them with a sharpie marker. Creating a blackout poem can be calming and therapeutic, especially when you should be writing.

They help themselves to the open pocket.
Then hide behind the bounty.

3.) Create a November book reading challenge for yourself. How about pulling books off your shelf that have numbers in the title? 

November "Count Down" Reading Challenge
1. Five Ways to Fall by K.A. Tucker*- New Adult
2. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan - Middle Grade
3. Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage - Middle Grade
4. Boy 21 by Matthew Quick - Young Adult
5. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson* - Middle Grade
4.) Speaking of reading, maybe you should spend some quality time crafting a decent bookmark. I highly recommend one for the corner, because it marks the actual page you're reading and when you pick up your book too fast, it flies out like a ninja throwing star. Cool, right? You can even make them shaped like hearts.

No, I Mean Ninja Throwing Star.

5.) Cook something tasty and treat yourself, but do it in a super adorable and time consuming way that will drive everyone around you crazy...sort of like Tiny Kitchen.

Tiny Donuts by Tiny Kitchen

When you get all that out of your system, you might be ready to visit Joanna Penn's blog post called Productivity for Writers: Five Ways to Become More Productive. Then, of course, go back to your office chair and write, write, write.

* A recommended read!

"Don't get it right, get it written." ~ Ally Carter, Author

Monday, November 06, 2017

Comfortable Enough to Write

How awesome is this article: Everything You Need to Create Your Perfect NaNoWriMo Writing Nook? Especially since I contributed a little something to it. That's thing I always have near me is a dog bed or two for my writing companions, Tilly and Tango. It needs to be thick and cozy and well off the cold basement floor.

Writing Nook: Down the Chute and Hang a Right

We're Fine! Keep Writing...

The article had some other great suggestions, like the sound of silence! I would love to give these portable acoustic panels a try. My other favorite was the Ikea cat cube, a great place to tuck a lazy chihuahua. The article was written by fellow NaNoWriMo participant, Miranda Benson, so go check out her other great ideas and maybe leave a comment with some of your own.


Q: Like, Where's My Coffee?
A: It's one step outside your comfort zone, plus another fifty! Down the hall, up the stairs, and in the farthest corner of the kitchen.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Currently: Nanowrimo-ing

It's that time of year again where everyone around the world has the opportunity to share in an experience of writing full throttle for a month straight. November is National Novel Writing Month and if you're a writer like me--one who's motivated by challenges--it's time to put your butt in a comfortable chair and pump out 50,000 words. Not an easy task.

Last year I was behind schedule almost the entire time and right up until midnight on the last day, I couldn't type fast enough to get 'er done. This year, I will win, win, WIN! I've been working on this same story for a year now and have muddled my way to chapter eleven. With Nanowrimo 2017 on deck, I plan to write the last ten chapters, finishing off that bad boy, and then starting on a new story for a solid victory. Yes!

To help me get in the mood, not only did I create my book cover for the Nanowrimo site...

Hello, Again.

...but I created my own Facebook banner as well. Last year's theme was space, this year is...pens?

Official Nanowrimo 2017 Banner

Cute, love the color, but this time around, I found my inspiration in my grandmother's Underwood Portable typewriter that she purchased in 1934. She gave it to me as a kid in the eighties so I could learn to type, and I remember having to hammer on those keys to get the ink imprinted on the paper. I can't even imagine trying to write a book on this thing. But it's a beauty to look at and reminds me of how good I've got it...thanks, Mac!

The Underwood Portable, 1934

The EspialDesign Participation Banner, 2017

Planning to participate and want some company? Feel free to add me to your writing buddy list (handle: EspialDesign) on the Nanowrimo site and follow me on Facebook, too. I could definitely use the accountability, because I want to get my current book done, start a new one, and win, win, WIN!

Good luck to everyone around the world...whoever and wherever you are!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Blackout Poems on the Fly

Thanks to Etsy, the interesting duo below are getting prepped and ready to make their journey to Australia where their new owner awaits. Both blackout poems were made in Bulgaria this last summer, so they're getting quite a bit of travel in.


I like to sleep and
imagine a world carried away.


A strong connection was a deep root
all tangled inside.

Half the proceeds will be going to the American Heart Association. You can see the tally here.


Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” ~ Anita Desai

Thursday, October 19, 2017

CURRENTLY: Writing Buddies

It's no secret to anyone that I love critters. As a kid growing up in rural Montana, we always had pets in the house, in the barn, all around. They were snuggly, scaly, creepy, crawly, but always cute. We had dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, chameleons, fish, turtles, guinea pigs, frogs, rabbits, ducks, ponies, and cows. Some at the same time, some not.

Romeo and His Bubble Nest

Currently, I have two rescue mutts and a new fascination with betta fish and snails. I went from zero last year to having four after a neighbor brought over her betta buddy in a cup. She asked me to fish sit and said I didn't have to return him, and if I wanted to name him...that worked, too. (Day 23) I'm such a sucker! So began my entry into the aquarium world.

Tilly Bean, Lazy Queen

So, that is four bettas (Trixie, Joel, Romeo and Molly), three snails (Shelby, Rocky, and Lollipop), and two dogs (Tilly and Tango) that keep me company while I write. I love that we're a big, happy and healthy family, who enjoy seeing each other during writing breaks, whether it's for a cup of coffee and a stretch, a quick belly rub or a scratch behind the ear, or even a crunchy blood worm here and there. We're all good :)

Trixie the Veil Tail

Tango Fett

Marvin the Mystery Snail


"I ask my pets, What should I do? and they reply, It's up to you."
~ Stacia Leigh on asking writing buddies about writer's block

Friday, September 29, 2017

October Reading Challenge: Thin Mints

Once again, October is rolling around, and I'm behind on my Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge. So I thought I'd bring back the "Skinny Books Reading Challenge". I pulled together a nice stash of books that will help put a dent in my "completed" pile. Some were from the library, some I bought, some were sitting dusty on my shelf, and some were recommended by my children. I'll take *almost* anything; variety is the spice of life.

Last October I read 4.75", so this year I decided to bump it up to a solid 5". My reading pile consists of childrens books, classics, humor, writing wisdom, middle grade, and inspirational.

The Thinner The Better

Here's the breakdown:
3.) Tex by S.E. Hinton* - Young Adult Classic
5.) Yiddish Wisdom Compiled by Chronicle Books - Humor and Inspiration
8.) Itty Bitty Animals by Joan Emerson* - Early Reader
9.) Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt* - Middle Grade Classic
12.) Super Structure by James Scott Bell* - Writing Wisdom

* A recommended read!


"Between the pages of a book is a lovely place to be." ~ Unknown