Category Archives: Mind

Writing, books and organization.

NaNoWriMo Prep

November is one of my favorite times of the year for many reasons. The cold weather, the delicious foods, the cozy sweaters, and most importantly, National Novel Writing Month! Now, I know some writers like to dive right in on November 1 with no plan, no direction, just writing by the seat of their pants. And while I think that’s wonderful, it’s just not something I can pull off. My anxiety won’t allow it. I need a plan for literally everything and my writing is no exception. 

NaNoWriMo prep for me begins usually in the summer time as I mull over the different ideas I have for stand alone novels. I like to do stand alone stories during NaNo because it’s a fresh page and I enjoy starting new projects that I haven’t touched before. The reason I gravitate towards new stories is that I like the challenge of writing an entire novel’s worth in just thirty days. It’s like a super power that few people can pull off. That being said, writing and prepping are two totally different beasts. 

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Middle of October I usually have a concrete story idea picked out and this is when I prefer to sit down and get a loose plot outline together. This can be as detailed as you want it to be. Sometimes I find it useful to type out a description of how I picture an entire scene but other times a simple, “Main character goes to talk to a side character” is enough for the time being. Honestly, you’ll change your plot more than once during the writing process so sometimes detail is not your friend. The main thing I try to get down on paper for NaNo prep is who I’m writing about and what do they want. 

One of my favorite things for NaNo is a new notebook. Yes, you’ll be doing most, if not all, of your writing on your laptop and probably your plot too but there’s just something about the first blank page of a fresh notebook to really symbolize the new beginning that is your NaNo project. 

So the first thing to decide during your NaNo prep is, what do I want to write about? What interests me? Who’s voice do I want to share with my readers? Who is this person, and most importantly, what do they want? What are they willing to sacrifice to get it?

When you’re writing about 1700 words per day for a month straight, you want to have a vague answer for these questions before you sit down on November first and begin your journey. Especially if this is your first time participating in NaNo. It took me a few years before I dove into participating. I was in college, I was already working on a book in my free time. I thought between working full time, being a full time student and still wanting free time to be creative in other outlets filled up my plate pretty full. And to be honest, it was probably a smart decision for me. So the first semester I had after graduating college, I was so ready to be creative in November like so many other writers around the world. 

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Also, you want to make sure you have sufficient time throughout the day to sit down and write without distraction. If you’re a mom like me, you want to make sure you don’t have children climbing all over you or a significant other asking you questions while you’re trying to stay focused on the task at hand. Make sure you have snacks on hand, a nice cup of tea (or coffee or whatever you fancy), and a good pair of headphones. You want to be able to focus on and not get distracted. It’s hard to get lost in your own world, let alone create one, when you aren’t able to give it your all. 

Five Things I Can’t Live Without as a Writer

There’s a lot of fancy writing apps and calendars and pretty floral cover everything, but do we really need all of it? Totally. You invest in whatever is going to help you be more productive and creative. Everyone has their rituals that help them get into the groove for making art. A special pen. A specific corner of the room with the best lighting for sketching. The sun at the perfect angle in the sky. For me, there are five essential things I need as a writer. Things I can’t live without and go out of my way to make sure I have on hand. 

An external hard drive– for backups. DO NOT keep all your writing on this and only this. My hard drive shit out on me a while ago and while I lost some pictures, thankfully I had all my current projects saved on my computer as well. Always have your work saved in two or three places, as much as we love and utilize technology, it’s still very fragile. 

Photo by Amy Chandra from Pexels

Notebooks. I shop for notebooks like I’m a kid going back to school, old habits die hard. When I was attending college, I had notebooks for literally everything. While everyone else was typing away during lecture, I was scribbling. Attempting to keep up with my professors. Even though I can type much faster than I can write, there’s something about a pen on paper. I retain information easier that way. I feel more engaged that way. When I’m on a streak, typing is definitely my go to, but when it comes to plot and drafting out chapters, I am still an ink on paper kind of gal. 

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Evernote and Google Docs. The thing I love the most about these apps, you don’t have to transfer information. You can access your account on your computer and your phone, and what you change on one, you change on both. When I would be at work and have an idea, I would open up whatever doc I needed and jot down my idea. When I got home, there it was waiting to be utilized when I turned on my computer. Having all your goodies in the same place makes your life as a creative writer a million times easier. 

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A Day Planner. Again, old habits. There’s something about list making that makes productivity more magical. When I see it written that today I have to finish two chapters and do some laundry, I just don’t feel right until I check the boxes that I did those things. If I don’t write them down, then I feel like I’ll never get around to them. Organization is key, and this is how I stay organized. I also keep track of all my blog posts, bills, and my husband’s appointments as well. Let’s just say not a single day in that planner is blank. 

Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

Music. This may seem kind of cliche, but it’s so true. If you want to get in a mood to get some shit done, then all you need is the right playlist to inspire you. I have a playlist for every single project. Every story has its own soundtrack and when one of these songs comes on, I can’t help but feel the urge to get some work done. I went into more detail on this one a while back in a previous blog. (Insert blog link for inspirational music).

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Seeds, Core, and All

After watching the series Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu (based on the novel by Celeste Ng), I knew I had to read the book. Usually I don’t go in this order. If I know something is based on a book, I make sure to read it first but I figure I’d try something new. The series was amazing. Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon are amazing. If you haven’t seen it yet, do so. The book, on the other hand, was half exactly what I was expecting and half a complete surprise. 

First, what I liked about the novel was the writing style. It is a complete opposite of how I write, so it was interesting to see a different approach to storytelling. It’s told in third person, allowing the reader into the heads of not only the two main characters but their family members as well. A lot of times when writers do this, it can feel a bit chaotic but Ng pulled off switching narratives with such grace. It was the most natural flow of view points I’ve ever read. Like all the characters were running a marathon, passing the baton off to one another seamlessly. It was impressive.

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The parallels are anothing thing I admired about the plot. I’ll attempt to explain without spoilers, but Mia and Bebe’s story lines are so complex and similar. They really make you sit back and contemplate morality. What is right? What actions are truly justified? What makes a parent and what determines who is a good parent? Good books are ones that make you think, and this one definitely does that. As a mother, parts of this narrative struck really close to home. Sympathy for a character who suffered from half a dozen miscarriages turns to adoption only to have that threatened as well. The love that you feel for your children running so deep in your veins and having to accept the distance as they get older. The space they need to become their own person cracks your soul because cuddling them as infants becomes such a safe haven that slowly gets taken away. Safe havens, another parallel in the novel that isn’t what it seems on the outside. 

The town the novel is based, Shaker Heights, stuck out to me. Clashing of the social classes is nothing new, but it’s a theme in stories that I have always found very intriguing. How can someone feel they are more superior than someone else based on the square footage of their home? It’s something Ng did on purpose. No one can expose a town for what it truly is than someone who grew up there. Shaker Heights looks pristine on the outside. Progressive, idealistic, clean and crisp. In reality, it suffers the same issues that every other town in America does. Exclusiveness. Pretentious. White, very white. Although other races do reside in the town, it’s very much viewed as a privilege by many community members. “We don’t see color.” Is a common quote that comes up many, many times. It opens up a question that many people are pondering on today, what does not seeing color actually mean and what’s wrong with seeing people for who they are? Is seeing color the problem or is treating someone differently because of it the actual issue? It’s an important conversation and Ng does a fabulous job demonstrating the conflict some of her characters face with this particular topic. 

Photo by Igor Haritanovich from Pexels

All in all, it’s definitely a story I recommend, especially if you’ve seen the show. There are so many differences between the show and the book, naturally, but many of the changes I wonder why they did so. Other than attempting to make the show more edgy and dramatic, I didn’t see a need. Especially the ending. Completely changing who actually sets the fire that is introduced in the beginning of the novel really threw me off. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, yeah? 

How I Use Pinterest to Write

Much like my previous blog post, using music as a writing inspiration (link). Pinterest is another great resource for writers in need of some visual aid. While most of the time we can set the stage and describe a character based on the image in our mind, it’s nice to look at an example right in front of you. You never know when you can forget little details like the freckles on a secondary character’s nose or the tiny hairs on a butterfly’s body. 

My favorite way to utilize Pinterest for writing is a character’s physical description. I’ll save several photos on boards designated for each project. This girl’s hair with this other girl’s jaw line combined with this third girl’s eye color. It sounds tedious but I thoroughly enjoy spending an afternoon scrolling looking for inspiration. Sometimes I even find a photo of an actor or a model and think, “Oooh that’s how I pictured so-and-so would look!” And it helps bring the people living inside my head to paper. 

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Another great way to use Pinterest as a tool is for scenery. Maybe you’re writing a scene that takes place in the desert but you’ve never been to Arizona. Maybe you’ve only been to the coast a few times but your characters are having an intimate conversation at the beach? It’s always great to have a visual. When I travel, I always take photos of the landscapes and save them just in case I want to look at the lush forests of Western Oregon while I sit in desolate southern Texas. Even though I grew up in the mountains and I remember the feeling well, it’s never a bad idea to give yourself some extra inspiration. 

Not only does Pinterest have great visuals, there are also loads of construction tools and writing inspiration. Looking for a blog post to help you develop an underwhelming villain? Interested in finding a list of items you may not have thought of while building your own world? I guarantee there’s something on that website that can help you out. There’s also a lot of great information and tips when it comes to publishing as well! Submitting to a publisher or literary agent for the first time can be overwhelming, self publishing even more so. I found Pinterest was one of my best sources for seeing how other writers went about the publishing process and what they would have done differently. 

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc from Pexels

Personally, I use Pins for everything listed above. I go above and beyond and I have a separate account solely for my YA fantasy series so that it doesn’t get mixed in with the other stories. I do this because with five books plotted out, there’s a lot of different boards to keep things organized. But for my stand alone projects, I use one account for them all with just one board for each story line. Since Pinterest added categories to each board a while ago, it’s even easier to stay organized and keep your visuals from getting all mixed together. 

Musical Inspiration for Writing

Music and writing are the two branches of the artistic oak tree that stand the strongest in my life. While I love and admire all forms of creativity, those two are my heart and soul. Even though writing and music are two very different entities, they really do go hand in hand. The poetry of lyrics along with harmonies and tempos are one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to creative writing, and I’m just one of many, many writers who use music to grow and develop our craft. 

Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

Spotify is one of the best writing tools I have in my arsenal. It’s extremely user friendly and you can make a playlist for all of your projects, moods, pretty much anything you want. All art is emotional and music is no exception. With the help of an epic orchestra piece, you feel ready to fight (or write about) a glorious battle. Music can also help you connect to emotions you aren’t experiencing in your everyday life, but have to convey on paper. An angsty rock song can help you connect to a character who is feeling angry or a heartfelt love song can give you insight into how a character’s heart is soaring or breaking. 

I have a playlist for the three main projects I’ve worked on, two of which are stand alone novels I’m preparing for self publication and the other is for my YA fantasy series that is still in progress (Yes, the one I’ve been writing forever lol). Within these playlists are songs that not only describe the moods in particular scenes but my characters. I make sure to have at least one song that fits the personality and mindsets of my main characters and my lead secondary characters. Not only does this help me get into their heads, but it also gives me an outlet to put another element of my style into the writing. 

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Nothing gives me a stronger motivation to write than when I’m driving in the car or I have a playlist on shuffle at home and a song that is linked to one of my projects comes on. I’m instantly transported to another world and I want nothing more than to sit down and connect with the characters. 

Five Favorite Writing Locations

  1. Bodies of water. There’s something magical about the water. Whether you’re sitting in the sand next to the roaring ocean waves or in the pebbles next to a cobalt blue lake, it’s definitely a religious experience. If I could be anywhere in the world to write, it would either be on Ocean Beach in San Francisco or in the trees overlooking Lake Tahoe. Watching the ripples of the tide brings instant inspiration, like a creative cleanse. Us humans are 60% water after all, so it only makes sense that we are naturally drawn to bodies of water. Gravitational forces lead us around for a purpose, so we might as well create some art on the journey.
Photo by Manu from Pexels

2. My home office. I love my office. I love it so much I wrote an entire blog post about it (https://mysticquill.com/2020/06/10/create-the-perfect-space/). There’s something special about a space that’s designed just for you, decorated by you FOR you. It’s the little things that help drive us to create. Whether it be a unique painting on the wall or a motivational quote you write for yourself, there’s no place like home.

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3. Coffee shops. Coffee shops are poetic. The smell of roasted coffee beans grinding up to make the perfect little shot of espresso. The single person table shoved in the corner of the room, right next to an outlet. The dimmed lighting. It’s literally the perfect setting for an intimate conversation with a friend and to read (or write) an amazing book. I can spend hours at a local coffee shop or cafe with my headphones plugged in, typing away as fast as my fingers will carry me. I always have a cup of caffeination next to me while I work anyway, and as much as I love working from home, it’s always nice to have a change of scenery.

Photo by Igor Starkov from Pexels

4. The park. There’s no comparison for fresh air and the park is the perfect place to step out of your comfort zone. When I was in college, I did all my studying in the library and all my writing in the park. Nestled up under the shade of a massive oak tree, a light breeze blowing through the leaves overhead creating a soft lullaby. Friendly squirrels coming up to say hello, watching dogs chase after balls, couples strolling down the walking paths hand in hand. Can you think of anything more romantic?

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5. In bed. This is my go to when my husband has friends over on a weekend night, but I still have work to get done. Since my office is right off the living room (and I get easily distracted), it’s easier to hide away in my bedroom when that pesky daily word count has yet to be made. Our beds are one of the coziest and safest places in the world, and the perfect location to make our dreams come true. After all, that is where we create them, so why not go back to the source to manifest them!

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Create the Perfect Space

Having your own space in any home is pivotal. Everyone needs their own bedroom, their own sanctuary to escape to. Having an office, or a designated place to focus, is a must for anyone who is serious about getting some work done. Before I had my own office set up, I would grab my laptop and get comfortable on the couch. It wasn’t so bad unless I had Netflix on (which was always) or my phone would call out my name (which was always). It was so easy to get distracted and even though I was comfy under a soft blanket, my writing suffered because of it.

So when we moved into a bigger house, I knew exactly what the unused space would be perfect for. My home office. It was as if this space was made for me. Right off of the kitchen, close to the coffee pot. My desk fits perfectly in front of the window, allowing in natural light and a beautiful view of the green backyard. Baby gates already blocked the doorways leading into the room keeping my little Princess from doing her favorite thing in the world, which is moving things from one place to another. It was meant to be.

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Picture it, waking up refreshed on a. overcast Sunday morning. A fresh cup of warm coffee waiting for you on the kitchen counter in your favorite mug. Rain sprinkles down on the windows, creating the perfect rhythmic pattern to patch your fingers typing against the keys. Your favorite inspirational playlist on Spotify plays quietly in the background as you express yourself, only having to type “synonyms for ….” into google once or twice. I’m a simple human, that’s all I want. 

Decorating this space in my home was a real treat and even though I’m not quite finished, it already feels so warm and inspirational. I covered the walls with tapestry and banners I’ve had since high school, others I found on Amazon. A white board where I can keep track of the things I need to get done that day, or the occasional inspirational quote to keep me motivated. Even though I have a planner at my desk, it helps me reidorate my tasks when I write them on the white board. Maybe it’s from all my years in the education system.

I found my desk at Target and was amazed at how inexpensive their selection was. Not only was it sturdy and solid but simple to put together. The little shelf off to the side of the desk is perfect for a desk lamp, your coffee mug, whatever your heart desires. While I was at Target, I browsed the clearance section because, let’s be honest who can just walk past that gold mine. I found this little triangle shelf and I knew instantly I wanted to use it to display my crystals and stones. I carefully selected the gems I did to help bring protection and balance to my office space and having them up on the wall right next to me where I can feel their energies really ties the office together.

Half way through set up, while my office was still a HOT MESS.

I wasn’t completely sold on the cubby storage unit when I bought it (also at Target. Yes, I know, I have a problem). But they fit within my budget and provided the space I needed to stay organized and also have a few spare cubbies for my husband to use for his college books. Now, I’m so pleased with them. The cubbies were simple to put together and, for the price, are holding together quite well. 

This setup is perfect for those on a budget. One of my favorite places to get interior design inspiration is Pinterest, like any millennial woman, and in my searches I noticed that everything looked the same. Big desk, big beautiful chair. All the stationary and pens are matching with the perfect shades of blush and rose gold. And as stunning as that is, it’s just not in my budget. So this is what I came up with, simple and sweet. 

Finished product!

My office/meditation room/indoor herb garden is the perfect combination of all my needs and interests. Which is the whole point of putting together a creative space, making it perfect for you! Not only will you feel accomplished after finishing your home office, but you’ll be able to get an exceptional amount of work done. Whether you’re writing, painting, or playing music, having a space with purified energy will help make or break your progress. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much you put into your art if you aren’t inspired. 

my Secret to time management

This current shelter in place has taught us many things, good and bad, but one major thing that has been brought to light is the idea that we don’t do many things we intend to because we simply don’t have time? That’s a total lie, and that’s okay! There’s only so many hours in the day, every day isn’t going to be perfect or awful. It’s a roller coaster ride of balancing out the good and the bad. A healthy heart rate beeping on a monitor. When I first decided to shelter in place at home (like two months ago), I thought about all the things I was going to get done. Excitedly, I made a list of all the things in the house I was going to clean. All the writing I was going to get done. All the projects I’d catch up on. It’s comical looking back on it, seeing how many of my to do lists still sit half finished, and normally that would make me feel like an unproductive failure. When I sat down and really thought about what was keeping me from getting all the things I want done, I realized my problem was time management. 

Every other job has a daily schedule. Specific hours in the day that you tell yourself you’ll be productive. The juggle is, as artists, we can’t always flip a switch and turn our inspiration on and off. My compromise, a daily schedule that is strict enough to get some work done but loose enough that I am allowed some wiggle room. To begin, I made a list of things I absolutely wanted to get done each day in order of priority and some ideas to fill those time slots. Not every item on this list is a must do every single day, but just ideas on what I can do to fill the time I have set aside for each category. Don’t get over ambitious here. If your list is only three items long, that’s perfectly fine. The last thing I wanted to do was create things that I could live without just to fill up a schedule but end up overwhelming myself and not getting anything done. My main topics of interest were writing, blogging and my family. 

Photo by Александар Цветановић from Pexels

To do list:

Writing:

Character profiles

Background/Plot 

Meet word count for the day (700-1,000?)

Blogging:

Write/edit future blog posts

Check on analysys views and comments

Post on social media

Pick up around the house

Laundry

Take kids outside to play

Prep for dinner

SCHEDULE

MON-FRI

8 AM: Wake up. Breakfast. Kid’s screen time

9-Noon: Pick up house, laundry. Take kids outside to play. Dinner prep

Noon-12:30 PM: Kid’s name time. Mom’s meditation. 

12:30-3:30 PM: Write/Blogging

3:30 PM: Husband gets home

4-6 PM: Family time and dinner

6-7 PM: Exercise. Go for a walk

7:30 PM: Shower

8-11 PM: Write/Blogging

Writing/Blogging hours: 6

Total: 30 hours

SAT-SUN

Set aside two hours to write/blog. More relaxation and downtime. 

Total writing/blogging hours: 4 hours 

Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

When I first looked over my daily schedule, I thought, “Wow, I don’t have any time during the day to write.” But in reality, there’s six hours in the day set aside to work on whatever is currently inspiring me, and four hours on the weekend. In reality, that’s a full time job. 36 hours a week. And if I end up only being able to do three or four hours instead of six during the week, at least I’m getting work done! I am incredibly fortunate to be able to have this time to set aside for myself as a mother. I talk to so many women who don’t have a free moment during the day to think, let alone be creative at home. When my husband gets home from work, he immediately switches over from soldier to father, without even thinking twice about it. He has been at work all day and understands that I need that time to get my work done, just like he has been able to do. It’s a true partnership and while not impossible, it would be difficult to get anything done writing wise if I was in this alone. 

The reality is, everyone’s situation differs with varying needs. The point isn’t to take someone else’s priorities and schedule as your own, but to use it as inspiration to create your own timeline that fits your personal needs and lifestyle. The best thing about making your own schedule for being productive at home, if you need a mental day off to veg in front of the television, then take it! Not every single day of your life needs to be measured in what work you did that day. Americans take less vacation time than any other country in the world. We already overwork ourselves to the bone, but how we are feeling is just as important as what we are doing. It all begins with a positive and inspired mindset! 

Aligned af

Aligned AF. I don’t know about you, but I tend to go the extra mile making sure my soul is aligned and I am centered in my own energy. Alas, I’m a human and sometimes I fall short. In those cases, AF stands for anxiety and forgiveness. Two of the things I struggle with the most. 

Mental health has a huge stigma behind it, and even in this current social climate where we are being as open and honest as ever, we still get judged for the chemicals our brain is releasing. Like we have any control over it. I’ve had anxiety my entire existence. Stories of how I would stress myself out so badly I’d get sick has sprinkled my childhood. Most of those stories are told with humor rather than thinking I could ever be anything other than what was perceived as “normal.” I’ve been called emotional, mean, and controlling all because of my anxiety. The times where my anxiety has literally caused me to shut down and internally panic, I’ve been called spoiled and lazy. Pretty much every negative adjective you can think of, all because I’ve been constantly stressed. It’s a struggle to balance out what my brain perceives as reality and what is just me overthinking everything. What people’s actual intentions are over what I assume they are doing. As a Libra, balance is EVERYTHING. It’s enough to make a person go insane, and because of all of this confusion and stress, some sticky situations have arisen. That brings up the next big issue in staying aligned AF. Forgiveness. 

Photo by Tina Nord on Pexels

Forgiveness is tricky. Sometimes we have to accept that in life there will be times that we will have to forgive and move on, even when an apology isn’t offered. Not because those who wronged us deserve forgiveness, some of them genuinely don’t. But that doesn’t mean that we deserve to carry about hate in our hearts. All it does is keep us awake at night while the people who hurt us probably sleep soundly. Wrapped up in a blanket with the fan on, nice and comfortable while they dream of who cares. So why don’t we deserve to sleep soundly, cozy and safe on our mattresses? Why do we get hurt, but carry the weight of that on our shoulders when we didn’t ask for it? We may not be the ones who put the burden there, but we are the ones holding onto it. And sometimes we need to, we cling to it like a shackle, waiting for the cut to scab over. But long after the scar tissue has set in, we still hold onto those boulders. We act like songbirds trapped in a cage, but the door is wide open. All we have to do is step out. All we have to do is drop the boulder and stretch out our poor, overworked muscles. It’s amazing to see how much better we can breathe when we aren’t hunched over. But that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, especially when it comes to freedom. 

The reality of anxiety and forgiveness that I have come to is, I’m not responsible for other people. Not how they act. Not how they interpret my good intentions. Not how they perceive my life choices. None of it. And I’m not here to impress them anyway. At the end of it all, what truly matters is that I am happy with myself and my family. What matters is that my relationship is strong and healthy, and that my children are happy and healthy. Everything else is just background noise. And yes sometimes the background noise gets way too loud, but the good thing about that is, we hold the remote. We can turn down the volume. Distance ourselves from the bullshit, get some noise cancelling headphones, whatever you need to do to align yourself. 

Photo by Benjamin Suton on Pexels

It’s taken me a long time to get here and some people never do, because it takes an immense amount of energy and work to get to this milestone. Hard work isn’t for everyone, but good news is, you are a gem. You are a unique snowflake with a design that never has and never will be repeated again. You are not like everyone else, and thank the universe for that. Being your own shade of rich color is one of life’s greatest blessings. Once you see your own worth, a whole new color pallet opens up. Imagine what beautiful portraits you can create with an array of hues designed just for you. 

history, huh?

Every year I set a New Year’s Resolution and by February I’m thinking, why did I do this to myself? So instead of falling into the pattern of basic and unattainable goals, I decided to be sweet and simple this year: Read more books. 

I’ve actually had people tell me that as a mother who writes from home, I should have plenty of free time on my hands but contrary to that belief, I don’t. No one has free time on their hands these days. We are so busy with our jobs, our families, our friends, our houses, and on top of all that there’s the self care hurtle. It’s overwhelming. But I’m a firm believer that a good writer is a good reader. The best way to become a more balanced writer is to write and read a lot. A LOT. Every single day. 

I started off with some books from my shelves that I hadn’t gotten to yet. An older YA vampire series from my younger days. The last three books of the series sat there and whimpered to be loved for far too long, so I loved them. They were wonderful. But it wasn’t until I flew back home to California for a long weekend a few months ago that I turned to GoodReads to see what I was going to download and read next. As I skimmed through the lists of the best books of 2019, one really stood out to me. 

I’m a sucker for a good romance novel. As a hopeless romantic, there’s nothing my heart swells over more than two people who defy all odds and obstacles to be with one another. It’s been a long time since I read a book with such a unique plot or two characters that I would die for, but Red White and Royal Blue but Casey McQuiston just floored me. 

If you have been searching for a refreshingly new love story and haven’t read this book yet, you need to. I first picked it up back in February and I’ve already reread it about five different times. No shame. 

Alex Claremont-Diaz is the biracial son of the first female President of the United States (woot woot!). He is passionate to better his country and he’s completely relatable on a personal level, especially to anyone who has gone to college. Up until four o’clock in the morning. Color coded binders and notes. Constantly pushing yourself to be better. It’s like someone was spying on me back in my university days. 

Henry Wales is a Prince of England, a seemingly unimpressed and bland heir to the throne. If you ask Alex, Henry is completely insufferable. He hates him. He can’t stand the way he presents himself, or how tall he is, or how dreamy his ocean blue eyes are. 

The two start off as nemeses who go from talking shit to each other to causing dramatic public scenes which forces them to mend the bridge between their two countries by pretending to be friends. And shockingly, the more time they spend together, the more tolerable they find out the other one is. A little too tolerable when, much to Alex’s surprise, he realized he isn’t quite as straight as he had spent his life convincing himself he was. 

My heart literally melted the deeper I got into this story, as the layers of each character were pulled back to reveal how raw the pain was that both of them had buried deep in their souls. Not only do they fully accept one another for who they are and their baggage, but they also inspire the other to be better versions of themselves for themselves. And if that isn’t the kind of relationship we all strive to be part of and see our loved ones in, what kind of human being are you?

Not only does Red White and Royal Blue have two of the sweetest protagonists, but the secondary characters are just as loving and supportive with their own colorful stories all woven together in a thick tapestry of new adult relatability. The book touches on relevant political issues and conflicts within the way the people running our country maneuver through politics to meet their agenda, both for the good of their people and, unfortunately, the good of themselves. 

It’s the debut novel writers like me dream about publishing and I couldn’t be more proud of McQuiston for the success and creativity she shows. It’s easy to get competitive as authors when we see others succeed, but as artists we have to celebrate one another for our accomplishments and support each other in our stumbles. At the end of the day, all any of us want to do is write great books that people can relate to and escape from their troubles. This was a hundred percent one of those books for me. 

Check it out for yourself: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41150487-red-white-royal-blue

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Book and Coffee Cup photo by fotografierende on Pexels.

RWRB Cover art photo from Spectrum South