Monday, December 31, 2018

January 2019 Reading Challenge: An Acrostic Book List

Welcome to a new year of books!
My mind has been in word-puzzle-and-poetry mode for the last couple of months while creating new blackout poems, where I search for the right words in the right place on a book page and then add some pizzazz with a doodle drawing. Check out Sounds Complicated and Distance Between to see my latest compilation and publishing efforts.
Anyway, while dreaming up a good January reading challenge, I wondered how I could use the words in the book titles. Snap! Got it. You know that poem where you take the first word in each line to spell out a message. It's not alliteration and it's not anagram. What's the other "A" word in Poetry Land? Right! Acrostic. But what exactly does that mean? 
"An acrostic is a piece of writing in which a particular set of letters -- typically the first letter of each line, word, or paragraph -- spells out a word or phrase with special significance to the text. Acrostics are most commonly written as a form of poetry, but they can also be found in prose or used as word puzzles." 
~ Bergman, Bennet. "Acrostic." LitCharts.

Acrostic Title Challenge

It took some hunting and pecking to get the right titles lined up, but I finally pulled together a list of five that I'm excited about. Can't wait to dig into 2019 with these gems:

1.) Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

2.) One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus*

3.) Wish by Barbara O'Connor*

4.) Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver*

5.) Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

* A recommended read!


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Fabulous Five: Favorite Reads for 2018

Book piles, upon book piles! I'm surrounded, which is a good way to be :) Over the past year, I've perused 194 books, some read thoroughly, some skimmed, and some I did not finish (dnf).

I enjoy making lists, so below is my favorite, thoroughly-read reads during 2018:


My favorite book for 2018, hands-down, no contest is The Naked Mole-Rat Letters by Mary Amato (2007). I read this straight-through and out-loud to a sick kid, and let me tell you, laughter is the best medicine. This book cured the doldrums! I was hoarse from speaking for so many hours and from laughing. It's hilarious. Both boring covers do NOT do it justice; I never would have bothered with this one. But my daughter grabbed it off the school library shelf in a hurry, and--WOW!--what a treat it turned out to be.


I loved the characters in Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm (2018) so much that after I finished reading the library's copy, I went and bought my own...along with four other books by Jennifer Holm. New fan alert!


It must have been a year for middle grade books, because I have a long list of favorites in this genre. But I felt like I had to whittle it down to just a few and making the cut is The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies (2009) and read by the awesome Stina Nielsen. Perfect for a road trip.


Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (2013) was a book I put off reading for a long time since I'm not one for sad reads. However, I picked it up, read the first page, and fell into the story. When it was over, I couldn't stop thinking about it...a sign of a good read.


With so much hype, I wasn't sure The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2011) would be for me. But a worn copy showed up in my mailbox--a true surprise!--from a retired librarian friend with a note suggesting I give it a go. With reservation, I slowly cracked it open and immediately fell in love with the voice and characters. Shelf-worthy.

Want more? Here's my list of favorite reads for 2017. Enjoy!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Nevada: Sharing Books with Little Free Libraries

One House's Christmas Spirit

While sauntering the streets of Boulder City, Nevada one afternoon--Just some Seattlites soaking up much needed sunshine--we came across the house above and thought, "Whoa." Unlit, there's not much to see, but a gaudy display of electrical cords, bulbs, plastic and plywood. But when we returned that evening, it certainly packed a magical punch. "Wow!" Since our first discovery, we've returned at least six times to bask in the Christmas cheer. I was happy to read they made the news, winning a national competition, and earning $50K, which will probably go toward their electricity bill. Thank you to the Ryan/Musgrave family for sharing their unique talent and helping us to see the light, literally.

In keeping with the Christmas spirit, I shared copies of Sounds Complicated and Distance Between with the locals via Little Free Libraries in Boulder City and Henderson, Nevada. It was so much fun distributing books around Kalispell, MT last summer that I came prepared for the holidays.

Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!

Santa Claus and a Heart Cactus
Distance Between in Boulder City Free Little Library #1

Happy Holidays!
"I brake for Little Free Libraries."
Sounds Complicated in Boulder City and Henderson, NV

      "A book is a gift you can open again and again." ~ Garrison Keillor

Saturday, December 01, 2018

December 2018 Reading Challenge: Christmas Book Binge Reading

What do words like "December" and "binge" and "pile" have in common? That's right, they all have to do with reading Christmas books!

Welcome to another Christmas Book Binge Reading challenge, where anything winter, snow, and holiday-related get read in mass quantities. Get ready! Get set!

Fa la la la la...

Ginormicorn from Unstable Unicorns

The Holiday Pile

Below is a mix of genres including romance, young adult, and childrens picture books. I said it last December, and I'll say it again...I'm not one for writing reviews, but I love making lists, so there's a big one to follow, a list of all the books I've read so far. If they passed my good-read meter, I inserted a link. Here goes...


1.) This Is Christmas by Tom Booth - Woodsy animals don't need any of the marketing hooey to know what Christmas is. A natural setting with beautiful illustrations, too.

2.) Santa Clauses: Short Poems form the North Pole by Bob Raczka - A daily dose of haiku poetry rich with sensory details. Illustrations were divine with one little nitpick...elves' noses. I'll just leave it at that.

3.) Allie, the Christmas Spider by Shirley Menendez
4.) Cork & Fuzz: Merry Merry Holly Holly by Dari Chaconas
5.) Just Right for Christmas by Birdie Black
6.) Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits
7.) How to Catch Santa by Jean Reagan
8.) A Unicorn Named Sparkle's First Christmas by Amy Young
9.) Dream Snow by Eric Carle
10.) Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas by Julia Rawlinson
11.) Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood
12.) Snow by Roy McKie and P.D. Eastman
13.) Snow by Uri Shulevitz
14.) Snow by Sam Usher
15.) Tacky's Christmas by Helen Lester
16.) Santa is Coming to Washington by Steve Smallman
17.) How to Catch an Elf by Adam Wallace & Andy Elkerton
18.) Olivia and the Christmas Present adapted by Farrah McDoogle
19.) Guess Who's Coming to Santa's for Dinner? by Tomi DePaola
20.) The Twelve Days of Christmas by Laurel Long
21.) Toot & Puddle: Let It Snow by Holly Hobbie
22.) Last Stop on the Reindeer Express by Maudie Powell-Tuck
23.) Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert E. Barry
24.) Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie
25.) Captain's Log: Snowbound by Erin Dionne - This one captured my imagination and made me want to seek out more information on the Shackleton/Endurance event. Of course, I was recently enamored with a cartoon called "Long Way North," so that could have something to do with it, too.

26.) Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes by Jennifer Holm
27.) Finding Christmas by Lezlie Evans

28.) BabyMouse: Skater Girl by Jennifer Holm

29.) Love on the Lifts by Rachel Hawthorne
30.) Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
31.) Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley

32.) Christmas at Gate 18 by Amy Matayo
33.) A Tall, Dark Cowboy Christmas by Maisey Yates
34.) Snowed in with the Cowboy by Maisey Yates
35.) Snowbound with the Boss by Maureen Child
36.) A Whyte Christmas by Michele Brouder

2018 Christmas good-read meter = 3 books to recommend.


Check out the 3 recommended Christmas/winter reads for 2022 here!
Check out the 8 recommended Christmas/winter reads for 2017 here!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Book Announcement: Blackout Poetry & Doodle Art

Hot off the Espial Design House press...twins! Please welcome my latest additions: two books compiling a selection of blackout poems and doodle art. Done! Uploaded! And available on Amazon in two versions: ebook and paperback.

Wow...that felt good to say, because it's been a long and convoluted journey, from holding an original poem in my hand to getting it scanned, sized, transferred, placed, saved, and ready for sharing. 

The little books are finally they are:

Blackout Poetry & Art

Blackout Poetry & Art

"Our family has grown by two...!"
Two books and one hundred twenty pages, that is.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Nanowrimo 2018

Here we go again, on the brink between All-Hallows Eve and All Saints Day, that place where writers sit poised for the strike of midnight. Once November hits, fingers will fly across the keyboard, adding one word at a time, until there are 50,000 or more. You guessed it...NanoWrimo season.

I'm starting a new book in a new genre: YA fantasy. I've got my title and cover all sorted out because The Nano-ists say having a good, solid start is key to staying motivated. True. I want to see this thing done! It's been on my mind for a year, and now I'm pushing a lumpy, old project to the side in favor of something exciting where cell phones in a contemporary world won't get in my way, only sea monsters and a brackish king...

Candy Crush meets Lord of the Flies

This year's official Nanowrimo banner is cute, and I would have used it if I didn't already have one. But part of my "get motivated" event prep is to create a banner. This time I was inspired by my blackout poem called, Love Connection. It's the cover image of a compilation I'm going to publish soon. More on that later!

Official NaNoWriMo Banner

The ESPIALdesign Participation Banner, 2018

For now, focus! And good luck to all the participating writers out there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Currently: Inspired by Grandma's Bookshelf

Two years ago, I hung the hardware and had boards cut for a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in the basement, something similar to what my grandma had in her loft. A place to hold board games, toys, and more importantly, a collection of books: travel, classics, sci-fi, young adult, etc...

When I was a kid, I would spend hours perusing my grandma's bookshelf. She was a teacher in Montana who taught multiple grades in a one-room school house. She had all kinds of books...old miniature ones bound in leather with wispy thin paper. Books about music, history, teaching. In front of her bookshelf, tucked away in the loft, always seemed like a magical place. No matter how often I was there, scanning book spines, reading and studying the pictures, playing with the old toys--relics from my dad's, my aunt, and my uncles' past--I always managed to find something new. I would ask myself, How long has this been here? Why didn't I notice it before?

For no particular reason, other than the summer weather, I finally got around to the task of making the pine shelves shiny and new with sand paper, stain, gloss, and a bit of elbow grease. I put my books in a semblance of genre order as best I could and made room for all those Legos...

Sand Job

Stained, Glossed, Stocked and Loaded

Middle Grade Shelf

When all was said and done, I stood back to admire my handiwork and was transported to a magical place once again. Those shelves not only hold my books and toys, but part of my grandma's, too, along with her memories. Her stuff is old and funny...and just weird. I think my aunt's doll says it all...

"I'm happy!"

"I mean, I'm sad."

"Wait, I'm confused."
The third face is peacefully asleep, thank goodness.

Little and Leather-Bound
Grandma's tiny address book, her mom's bible (1892), and a dictionary (1914)

"Work, Dick. Work, work."
The good ol' days when learning to read was funny, but not fun.


 "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." ~ C.S. Lewis

Friday, August 31, 2018

September Reading Challenge: The PBS Book List

The Public Broadcast System (PBS) created a list called "America's 100 Most-Loved Books" and were asking readers to vote for favorites. I perused their page and counted thirty-eight that I've read, listened to, or even watched and found several that were on my TBR pile. Guess now's as good a time as any to push those to the top for September's Reading Challenge: The PBS Book List

Great American Reads
September Reading Challenge: The PBS Book List

1.) I'm not much for sci-fi stories, except for the occasional movie, even though we have a shelf full of Le Guin, Asimov, Herbert and more. That's my husband's genre, and he'll cry tears of joy when he sees me open up this book: Dune by Frank Herbert

2.) A librarian friend sent me The Help by Kathryn Stockett* with a note tucked inside. It said, "I thoroughly enjoyed this book."

3.) Lots of people raved about the plot twist in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and even with a movie out and 44,000 reviews on Amazon, I'm still in the dark. Perhaps that will change this month.

4.) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was referenced frequently at a writing conference I attended a couple years ago as an example of good writing. Color me curious.

5.) I've read two of John Green's books and am hoping I can get through a third. I'm sorry to admit, the struggle is real. Hopefully, Looking for Alaska by John Green will change all that, especially since it's a Printz Award winner, hosting a big gold sticker. *bling-bling*

* A recommended read!


"So many books, so little time!"

Friday, August 10, 2018

Busting Out of My Writing Funk

For two and a half years I've been thinking about, making notes on, and writing Book #3. I can't believe it's been so long, and I STILL haven't written the ending. I'm currently three or four chapters from calling it a done draft, but with so many changes and edits weighing on my mind it's hard to push forward. I feel like I don't know what my characters want anymore. I've lost sight of the story and where it needs to go from here.

I consulted the Magic 8 ball on wether I should set the story aside and start something new--but what if I never finish it?--or push, push, push to get it written. It gave me the Reply Hazy routine...again. Then, my neighbor stopped by to see how everything was going and suggested I forget about the manuscript for awhile. Was she telling me what the universe wanted me to know? But I'm so close! Just three measly chapters...

I should be able to do this, right? Yes, because I read You're a Badass, by Jen Sincero, and she said so. Ha!

I've always had a problem with procrastination, being a sloth, and tinkering with a million other projects, that I'm my own worst enemy, getting in the way of my own priorities. After reading, The Road Back to You, an Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, I found out my personality type is straight-up a #9, The Peacemaker. Wow. Sort of hard to ignore my bad habits when this book puts them right there on the page in black on white.


I have to prevail! It's in me to finish this thing no matter what people say or what obstacles I put in my own way (a kitchen update, painting shelves, weeding my yard, making up reading challenges, organizing my camper, designing new business cards, blackout poems, and on and on...)'s my latest attempt to keep myself on track: a visual motivator! During the year I'll see how much writing I've been doing, and being a list-maker and a box-checker, I'll be poised and ready with my pink marker. 

Visual Motivation!

August had a sloth-like start, but the visual motivator is working! I was tired of all the purple squares (zero words written), so I put my butt in the chair and pumped out about five hundred words of crap today, but it's something! It's forward motion. Getting the writing done early in the morning leaves plenty of time for all the other distractions. Now I just need to keep up the good work.

Go me!

"I don't want to fall back on anything. If I'm going to fall, I want to fall forward." ~ Denzel Washington 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

August Reading Challenge: Summer Camp

The Camping TBR Pile

I know, I know! I'll never get through all these books in a month, but I couldn't stop at my usual list of five. Every back blurb about summer camp I read, I fell in love with; it's one of my favorite tropes. So, while my own kids are off enjoying themselves, weaving beads onto necklaces, swimming, tromping through the woods, and making new summer friends, I'll be picking through my towering book pile and delving into some fun of my own.

I consider myself an avid romance reader, and even I can't comprehend how I've never picked up a Debbie Macomber book. Here goes with:

1.) Almost Paradise by Debbie Macomber - Romance

I bought the next two books at Costco and am going to buddy read, then swap with one of my kids. She reads fast; I read slow. Should be interesting.

2.) Lions & Liars by Kate Beasley - Middle Grade

3.) Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder - Middle Grade

A while ago, I picked up a book called Camp Dorks, only to realize it was the second in a series. So now, I have to read this so I can read the other. Oh, what a complicated book world this is!

4.) Pack of Dorks (Pack of Dorks #1) by Beth Vrabel - Middle Grade

Okay, so I did a search on "summer camp" and discovered there are not five, not ten, not even twenty...but twenty-five books in this series! Prolific much?

5.) Natalie's Secret (Camp Confidential #1) by Melissa J. Morgan - Middle Grade

I'm done staring at this awesome cover from afar. Went in for the kill, library-style.

6.) When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon - Young Adult

I love camping! I love summer! I love this cover!

7.) The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane - Young Adult

Cute cover and over a hundred five-star reviews on Amazon. Okay, I'll bite.

8.) Sleepaway Girls (Whispering Pines #1) by Jen Calonita - Young Adult

Summer camp for adults? Yes, please. Now try saying "Firefly Falls" three times fast. Not sure how the alliteration came to pass, but I found these ebooks free on Amazon and thought they rounded out the pile nicely.

9.) Once Upon a Camp Fire (Camp Firefly Falls "Meet Cute") by Kait Nolan - Romance

Firefly Falls...flier fry falls...friar fly

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Camping Creatively

The Creative Pile

Whenever I'm out and about, I always carry something from my creative stash shown above, wether it's my computer, a journal and a pen, or my blackout poetry bag. When the creative mood strikes, I want to be ready, and it keeps me being one happy camper. Sometimes I look forward to the oil change taking a little longer than expected, or a friend who's consistently late to coffee. My time isn't being wasted, it's still my own because I've got my stuff.

Currently, we're gearing up for a week of lakeside camping and part of my packing routine is to cobble the pile shown above into a nice, neat little package to stow in the trailer. Stuff meet the Tetris Queen.


1.) Writing - computer and journal
2.) Story time - audio books for the road trip, paperbacks, and my Kindle in case of insomnia 
3.) Blackout poetry - old book pages, colored pencils, sharpener, and an eraser
4.) Rock painting - acrylic paints, Mod Podge, and paint brushes
5.) Heart book marks - paper, glue, and scissors
6.) Editing - critiques from writing partners 

Portable Magic

Too bad the sewing machine doesn't fit! Lol. Regardless...if there is a burst of creative energy, I'm ready.

"You can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will." ~ Stephen King