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Author Goals 2020 Quarter One Wrap-Up and Q2 Goals

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

It has been an interesting couple of months! I hope that you are all doing well and staying healthy. I know that this spring looks a little different than we all imagined just a couple months ago. Today I wanted to check in on my Quarter One goals to let you know how I did and talk about my goals for Quarter Two.

Quarter One Goal Wrap-Up

Complete Review of Autumn Sunrise – (90% Met) While I didn’t hit this goal by March 30, I made a lot of progress and am happy to report that as of the drafting of this post, the initial read-through has been completed and the next step of revision work has begun.

Publish 18 Blog Posts – (94.5% Met) Unfortunately I missed this goal by one post as I only had 17 blog posts go up during Quarter One. That said, I am pretty happy that I almost hit that goal.

Continue the Habit of Writing Daily(100% Met) I am very proud of meeting this goal and excited to revisit these little exercises if I ever need an idea for a story.

Read (Almost) Only Books On My TBR List(100% Met) Reading only books that had been on my TBR list prior to January 1st (other than selections for my book clubs and my Lord of the Rings reread) was the hardest thing for me to do. That said, I’m happy that I made some progress on the early section of my TBR list.

Get the Home Office Cleaned and Set Up(100% Met) Honestly, had I not needed to transition to working remotely so quickly this probably would not have gotten done. That said, I am really happy with the setup I’ve got and excited to do more writing from my office.

Bonus – Meditate 3 Times a Week – (90% Met) There were two weeks that I meditated for less than three times. That said, I am really happy that I’ve started to build this habit and I’ve seen great improvement in my mood and energy levels from starting this practice

Bonus – Pass Business Law(100% Met) It was such a relief to see the passing grade when I completed my exam! To make things even better, I managed to get my best grade so far for a CPCU exam on this one.

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Quarter Two Author Goals

For this quarter, I want to focus my author goals on four specific items relating to my revision, blogging, social media, and continuing projects. I will still be reading voraciously, but I have not set a specific goal regarding how many books or what type of books I will read. This quarter is all about the writing life (and sharing more about it).

Goal Number One: Complete Preparation for Redrafting Autumn Sunrise

The goal for this quarter is to get all my review notes together, redevelop any plot points or characters that need to be changed, and get ready to redraft the novel. This revision may seem like it is taking a long time, however my intention is to do one big intense revision that results in a great second draft that requires only minimal revision.

The second draft definitely won’t be perfect, however the goal is to have something that’s really workable and able to get into the hands of beta readers for their review. It definitely won’t be perfect at that point, but it will hopefully be a fully focused and developed story with well-rounded characters and a clear setting. After a little bit of copyediting and light revision, the intention is to send it out to beta readers.

Goal Number Two: Publish 10 Blog Posts

I really enjoy blogging and sharing my writing life and tips. That’s not going to change this quarter, however with my main focus being on the revision for Autumn Sunrise I am intending to post a little bit less that I did last quarter (but definitely more than I posted last month!). I still intend to get at least one post up a week going forward. You can expect posts to go up bright and early every Monday morning. If I have a bonus post, it will go up on Thursday morning that week.

Goal Number Three: Post to Instagram Weekly

I really like Instagram, however I have not been posting there lately. For this quarter I am committing to posting at least once a week on my personal and author accounts. Hopefully there will be more than one post a week on all my social media accounts, but I’m committing to that small number so that I keep my focus where it’s needed.

If you want to follow me on Instagram, you can find me @kellie.katrin.writes.

Goal Number Four: Determine What Story to Draft After Serial News

This is a very exciting goal for me. I always like to have my next projects to look forward to all planned out so that I do not find myself stuck on one project continuously trying to achieve perfection and making no further progress in building my work. I’ve discussed that after this major revision of Autumn Sunrise is completed, I am really looking forward to drafting the project I refer to as Serial News. The intention is to draft that project while Autumn Sunrise is out with beta readers. If all goes well, the reviews will start to come back in as I am finishing the draft.

However, once I start that draft I want to make sure that I have the next project planned out so that I don’t get caught just bouncing back and forth between those two projects. I have found that having the next project to look forward to helps me at times when it feels like a project isn’t going right or maybe I find that I need to shelve a project for a while. I always want to have the next thing to move on to. I’m really looking forward to diving into my idea files to pick out the next project.

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I’d love to hear what goals you are working on this quarter!

Kellie Katrin

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Writing Life – The Planning Process (Part 1:The Quick-Reference Story Guide)

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

Today I wanted to begin a series diving into my planning process. As with my revision series, I do things my own individual way. I’ve always been fascinated by other authors’ planning processes so I wanted to share my own in case something I do could be helpful for another writer. My way may only work for me–it’s important that you find what works for you when it comes to your writing process.

The first thing that I do when I sit down to plan out a story is create what I call my “Quick-Reference” guide. It is basically a few pages long and gives a very big picture overview of the important elements of the story I am going to write. I do this step in a Word document and I keep it pretty simple. When I start this process, getting the document completed should take only a couple days to get through.

I always start with a pretty basic idea of my story and I use the Word document to flesh it out and focus the elements. This part is not a full-on map of the story, but it provides a little bit of guidance and focus for when the full-on plotting process starts. My document contains the following six sections:

Story

The first section consists of a one-paragraph summary of the story along with specification on the ending. It’s usually pretty rough, but it works to get my mind focused on the direction the story needs to go. I find that it is helpful to boil down the extensive ideas in my head into a single paragraph. Doing so gives me focus on the main storyline and helps me to not be distracted by shiny other ideas for the story that may not go.

The paragraph on the initial document is only in regard to the main storyline. I find that I rarely break down the B/C storylines for my thrillers at this point. Through my writing experiences, I have found that my B/C storylines change a lot through the drafting process. I find that it’s easier to let those storylines evolve as I write and focus/flesh them out with draft two pre-work.

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Find the Protagonist

In this section, I specify who my protagonist is and write a few sentences about that individual. I don’t do a full character study at this point, but I hit the major highlights and make sure that I am clear on their main motivations and struggles.

Write an Opening Line

In this section, I determine what the opening line to my first draft will be. This sentence rarely ever remains in future drafts, however it makes it easier to get into drafting if instead of having a blank page, I already have a sentence to put down and go with. I find that it helps with the momentum of starting the story. I love writing stories, but the beginning can often be a struggle!

Settings

In this section, I list out the physical locations that will appear in my novel, and write some very basic information about each place. On occasion I will also take time to do a quick sketch or two for locations that are extremely important to my story, but that’s not always necessary. This section is not intended to be a multi-paragraph affair – it is simply a starting point that allows me to have a quick reference when drafting.

I find that I work better if I fully develop the setting after the first draft. By that time, I’ve gotten the plot and characters really nailed down, which is my main focus with the first draft. My goal is always to have enough of an idea so that I don’t have a full-on “Blank White Room” issue going on but not so much that I’m trying to work a ton of details in before I have the characters and story mapped out.

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Characters

This section is actually pretty similar to the setting section. I list out all of the characters and write 1-2 paragraphs about them with the highlights of their background, interests, family members (if applicable), and any other big details that I want to remember about them as I am drafting.

This section is mainly intended to focus on my main and big recurring characters – not every character gets even a paragraph in this section. It’s not intended to be very long. My main goal with this prep sheet is to have a quick fact sheet to reference when I am writing.

Research Topics to Explore

This section does not often get filled out very thoroughly, however I like to have a place to put questions as I am prepping. This section is basically a bullet-point list of items that I think I need to research prior to plotting or drafting my story. As I work through the other sections of this reference guide, I will jot down anything that I feel needs to be researched.

For example, when writing Autumn Sunrise, I had a character that had taken the exam to become a Federal Agent and I wanted to research what that process would have been like and see if I could find experiences of people who had taken that exam and gone through the training. While this character will end up being cut from future drafts, it was fun to go through that research process. And who knows, maybe a future novel will utilize this knowledge!

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Once I have this reference guide, I am ready to start the scene breakdown part of the planning process.

Kellie Katrin

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February 2020 Reading Log

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Hello Friends and Welcome!

Here we are almost fully through March! I hope that you are all staying safe and healthy during this crazy time. Today I wanted to come back to my reading life and share the books that I read in February along with my thoughts on what I liked about them. Overall, I really enjoyed the books that I read. I didn’t read as many books in February as I was gearing up to take my Business Law exam on March 13 and needed to prioritize that over reading. Luckily, I was able to take the exam before we had any confirmed cases of the virus around me. Now my entire state is under a shelter order – which is a good thing since we’ve got to stop the spread of this virus.

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One: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Every year I choose to reread through a series that I loved when I was younger and this year, I’m back to reading The Lord of the Rings series. As with my copy of The Hobbit, my copy of The Fellowship of the Ring is well-loved and highly underlined and highlighted. As with The Hobbit, it is hard to review this book. If a book is “bad” we can easily dwell on its flaws, however if a book is good it is almost impossible to give any recommendation equal to the book.

Why I love it: I find myself delighted more and more every time I read this book. I fall more in love with the characters. I find myself even more engaged in the journey. This most recent reading I really let myself enjoy some of the smaller moments that can sometimes get lost.

Two: The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

This was a book club pick for one of the book clubs that I belong to. The book is about how choosing to be happy and positive can give you an advantage in life. It’s pretty self-explanatory. It came highly recommended to me and I was happy to read it. There are a lot of people who really love this book.

Some favorite takeaways: Some of my favorite takeaways from this book were reminders of things that we hear often. I think the best reminder was: You can’t change reality, but you can change how you choose to process the world.

Three: P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

This was the pick for my other book club. I still have not seen the movie yet – and I’ve heard that it’s very different from the book. I tend to gravitate toward thrillers and fantasy books, so this was one that I didn’t really ever expect to pick up. Full disclosure, I was getting ready to DNF the book after about 70 pages and then I found myself drawn in. Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It just took me a minute to get settled in and caring for the characters!

What I liked about it: It was cute and heartwarming. It was a quick, easy read that I would recommend for anyone who likes romance novels.

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Four: Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

This book came highly recommended, and for good reason. The book takes on the formula of the Save the Cat method from the screenwriting world. Brody takes the tried and true methods and adapts them for the novelist. There aren’t many writing reference books that I would keep and read again- Stephen King’s On Writing is one and this book is another one.

What I liked about it: Brody did a fantastic job of breaking down a story into the 15 beats and then breaking down several novels across several genres to show how those beats are used by authors

Five: The Confession by John Grisham

I’ve enjoyed many Grisham books over the years. This was one that I purchased at my local library’s book sale a couple years ago that I had not yet gotten around to reading. Without giving too much more away than the synopsis, this book is about a race against time to stop the execution of an innocent young man. It’s heartbreaking to read because this really happens. As with many of Grisham’s books, I found myself drawn into the story very quickly and it was hard to put the book down to do other things.

What I liked about it: Grisham is a master at creating believable characters that I really find myself caring for. He also expertly handles juggling multiple points of view and storylines that converge at just the right moment. Grisham manages to throughly wrap up and complete each of his storylines in a very satisfactory way.

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I hope you are all staying safe and healthy out there. My thoughts are with everyone.

-Kellie Katrin

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Quarter One AMA – March 2020 Bonus Post

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

So if you’ve been following me for a little bit, you know that I work hard to post at least six blog posts a month – four writing posts and two reading posts. For the most part, I stick to publishing my writing posts on Monday and the reading posts every other Thursday (last week was an exception due to my Business Law exam -which I passed!).

Since March has seven Mondays, I thought it would be fun to do a little ask me anything type post. I’d like to maybe shoot for doing one of these quarterly – I took this quarter’s questions on my instagram story however you can feel free to leave any in a comment below, or shoot me a direct message. In the future I will put up a special promo post asking for questions as well.

One: What is your favorite book?

That’s an impossible question.

Some of my top favorites of all time are: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Angels and Demons by John Grisham, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (warning: controversial!), The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, and Dark Matter by Gillian Flynn.

Two: Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Wars. Definitely Star Wars. I enjoy Star Trek and would love to get into it more, but I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was eight years old. Fun fact: I named my cat Luke Skywhisker!

Three: Can you tell me about your novel [Autumn Sunrise] in five words?

Thrilling chase to stop injustice.

That’s the best I could come up with at this time. My five word pitch may change as I get further into editing and revision.

Four: Did you finish initial revision notes for Autumn Sunrise?

Ahhh…not quite! I posted on Instagram that I was really optimistic that I would complete the initial revision notes for Autumn Sunrise this past weekend and be ready to start putting the revised outline together for draft two. I ended up celebrating all evening Friday and was out with family for a spontaneous day on Saturday.

I anticipate finishing the notes within the next couple days – but it will be done by this upcoming weekend at the latest.

Five: Favorite Food?

Mac and Cheese! Specifically baked in the oven homemade mac and cheese like my mom makes. That said, I actually have to be careful about how much gluten and dairy I am consuming as neither one makes me feel super great so it has to be a very occasional treat.

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Six: What song describes your current mood?

“Chip on My Shoulder” from Legally Blonde: The Musical is currently the theme song for my life. I am currently very driven to get this CPCU designation and continue to write regularly. I have to be very driven to get to where I want to be.

Seven: Favorite Marvel Movie?

That’s easy! Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Eight: What planner do you use?

I use a Day Designer weekly planner to keep track of my appointments and top priorities and then I track all of my to-dos and projects in a project management system called ToDoist.

Nine: What is Luke Skywhisker up to right now?

At this moment, he’s busy turning on the faucet in the dressing room for a drink of nice fresh water. I’ll have to get up and turn it off in a few minutes because he hasn’t yet realized that he needs to turn the water off when he’s done.

Ten: When will Autumn Sunrise be beta read? And are you looking for betas?

Hopefully later this year! My plan is to complete the second draft and do some light revisions before sending it out to betas. Right now I am not currently looking for betas, but if that changes I will definitely let everyone know.

Eleven: What’s up next for you now that Business Law is over with?

CPCU Related – Business Finance! I’m a little nervous since I was an English major in college and keep claiming that math is not my strong suit (though I work in the financial services industry as my day job – so that’s not entirely true). My plan is to get this one knocked out before I head to the beach in May with my family.

Blog Related – Continuing to post on a regular schedule as much as I can. I have the posts for the rest of the quarter all planned out. Ideally I would like to at least get April’s posts planned if not even get some of May’s planned out.

Autumn Sunrise Related – Finishing up review notes and prepping to start draft two!

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Well, that’s it for today. Maybe you enjoyed this and maybe you didn’t. That’s okay! We’ll be back to regular reading and writing posts for a little bit. Let me know any questions you have that you’d be curious for me to answer in my next quarterly AMA.

-Kellie Katrin

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Writing Life: Behind-the-Scenes of Initial Revision (Part Two)

Hello Friends and Welcome Back.

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We’re diving back into a behind-the-scenes peek at my revision process. First things first, my initial revision process is very different from those I’ve seen of other authors. This is what works for me, however I highly encourage you to look up Susan Dennard’s revision series because she does an excellent job breaking down how she goes about revisions.

For part two we’re picking up with having completed the initial read-through. As a reminder, that read-through is completely without any note taking or marking up. The initial reading is for the purpose of seeing the story as a reader (not an editor or a writer). Once that is complete, I am able to decide if the story is one that I want to dedicate a large chunk of my writing time to for the foreseeable future.

Once I’ve decided that I am prepared to give the good part of the next year to molding and improving the story, I am ready to go with initial revisions!

My Round One Revision Necessities:

  • Printed Copy of my manuscript
  • Plenty of loose-leaf college-ruled notebook paper
  • Colorful pens (I use black, blue, pink, green, orange, and purple)

The first round of revisions is focused on the big picture items. I read through the novel scene by scene and do my best to focus on four big things and do my best to keep that focus to those four things only. On my loose-leaf paper I write “Scene 1:” at the top and make several color-coded notes about the scene in question and move forward to the next scene once I’ve finished review of that scene.

My Areas of Focus and the Color I Associate With Them:

  • Cut – words, sentences, scenes to cut (Orange)
  • Research – any item that should be verified or fleshed out (Green)
  • Add – any scenes that either need to be expanded or new scenes that need to be added between scenes (Blue)
  • Consistency – I surprise myself with how often a small detail is established in one scene and completely contradicted in another scene. (Pink)

My black pen is used for general notes about the scene. I’ve written things along the lines of “Oooh, suspense is building!” on a couple scenes. I saw another author made a point to write positive comments about her work and what she really liked. It’s so easy to pick apart my work but I’ve found that looking for positive aspects has helped me keep moving forward rather than throwing the manuscript away forever.

I use my purple pen to number the scenes in the novel as well as make notes to myself. It doesn’t get used a ton but I like using multiple colors.

After I have completed review of the novel and have both the manuscript as well as my notes in my hand, then it is time to re-outline the novel. I take the scenes already written, the scenes that I have envisioned adding, as well as the scenes that I might have planned in my original outline but never wrote and I put them all together in a brand new outline.

I actually outline in a spreadsheet so that I can manipulate it as needed. Once I have the full-story outline in front of me and have gone through to remove what might be unnecessary, I pick it apart by Plot A/B/C as well as main characters to make sure that all plot lines and characters have fully developed stories and arcs.

Once I’m happy with my new outline, I go back to the first draft and notate any scenes that I really liked and want to make sure to transfer into the next draft. Even if it was something as simple as really liking a particular setting’s description or one line a character spoke, I want to make sure that those make it into the next draft.

After that, it’s time to draft again. We’ll get to that process in the next installment!

Preview of Coming Attractions:

  • Brand New Blank Scrivener File
  • Writing Essentials for Drafting
  • Finding the Perfect Playlist
  • Deviating from the Plan (if it happens)

-Kellie Katrin

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Writing Process: Fast Drafting and Why I’m Not Against It

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Hello friends and welcome!

Today I wanted to dive into the drafting aspect of writing novels. If you are a part of the writing community, you may have noticed that there has been some recent backlash about the concept of fast drafting. I was a little taken aback when the conversation first started as I believe that every writer’s process is unique and no single process is “superior.” I think for the most part we all agree with that. I think the backlash comes from the idea that there are writers who throw words at a page and don’t spend a significant amount of time editing before shopping the manuscript around. There was an article by a literary agent that had seen a number of these in her slush pile.

Fast drafting is exactly what it sounds like. It is the process of writing your first draft as quickly as possible. For most writers who fast draft there is no hesitation, no self-editing as you go, and no excuses. The idea is to get the words on the page and then edit and revise to improve.

When I write, I fast draft. For Autumn Sunrise I was able to crank out 100,000 words in 27 days. I spend a significant amount of time in preparation for that initial draft. I have a very detailed spreadsheet with characters, locations, the A/B/C plots and how they all fit together, etc. By the time I sit down to draft, I essentially already have a “Zero Draft” that I’m working from. I’m able to draft quickly because I already have an extensive knowledge of my setting, characters, and plot. My feeling has always been that it’s best to get the words on the page so that I have something to mold to improve. The magic for me happens in the revision stage.

Some Pros of Fast Drafting

  • You have a completed draft in your hands within a short amount of time
  • You don’t waste time editing scenes that you’ll end up cutting after the first draft
  • You won’t get caught up in the loop of self-editing continuously and possibly not moving forward
  • It’s often easier to maintain writing momentum

Fast drafting is not the best technique for every writer. It works well for writers who have a detailed understanding of their story before beginning and find themselves able to crank out 1,000+ words per hour. Writers I’ve spoken with who do not fast draft tend to edit as they go, so that when they complete a draft it tends to need less revision and editing than the first draft of a fast drafter. That’s pretty cool as well!

For someone who is less of a planner, fast drafting may not work well–but it still can! In fact, since in the middle of drafting I ended up completely changing the ending of Autumn Sunrise, the last third or so of the novel was essentially written by the seat of my pants. And I still got it written in a very short amount of time!

That’s the beauty of writing; we all have our own individual processes. I don’t think any of us have the same exact process as another writer.

-Kellie Katrin

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Reading Life: Five Star Books of 2019

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Hello Friends and Welcome!

Today I thought that I’d share the list of books that I read last year and rated as five star reads on Goodreads. This list is solely comprised of books that I had read for the first time in 2019 so the Harry Potter books from my reread last year are not included on this list even though I rate four of them as five star reads.

Here are my seven five star reads from 2019:

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Unmarriageable is a charming retelling of Pride and Prejudice that takes place in Pakistan the early 2000’s. Soniah Kamal captures the essence of the original and at the same time creates something new by transporting the characters and the plot to modern day Pakistan. 

I adore this book. I really appreciated getting a peek into the lives of women in Pakistan in the early 2000s. Kamal’s writing shines when she takes on Pakistani culture.  She did a fair amount of research and it really shows. Kamal doesn’t mirror the plot of Pride and Prejudice exactly, instead she chooses to  retain enough of the original story while putting her own unique spin on it.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

A fire broke out in the Los Angeles Public Library on April 29, 1986. It took over seven hours for the fire to be extinguished, and during that time hundreds of thousands of books, reference material, artifacts, and other objects were burned, leaving nothing but ash in many cases. Hundreds of thousands of books were damaged. As someone who has loved and adored my local libraries, reading about the extensive damage was heartbreaking.

But it was heartwarming to read about the response of the community and other libraries in the days and months following the fire. Restaurants offered to make room in their freezers for books that might be able to be restored one day. Volunteers came out in droves to help with the cleanup and organization. People offered money to help in the restoration and books to refill the shelves when the library was restored.

The book reads as if the story of the fire and the time of recovery are being reported in real time. I found myself fascinated with the history of the library and the mystery of how the fire was set. Was it accidental? Was it set on purpose? The writing is engaging and the book is thoroughly enjoyable.

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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

I have been on a mission to read more Agatha Christie ever since I first read “And Then There Were None.” So far, I have not been disappointed. I greatly enjoyed this little mystery and was thrilled with the ending.

The Orient Express. The middle of the night. A MURDER! A train full of passengers that all have a connection to the murder victim. And all have a seemingly air-tight alibi for the time of the murder. Who committed murder? That’s what Hercule Poirot has to figure out. Christie crafted such fascinating characters and I was excitedly reading each chapter, hoping that I would figure out who had committed the murder. The resolution was extremely satisfying to me.

Ashes in the Snow by Ruta Septys

I was completely unaware of what had taken place in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia during World War II.

This is not a pretty book, but I have no regrets on reading it. The novel is well-written and well researched. It’s brutal what the people of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia went through during this time period. We learned so much about the atrocities committed by the Germans, but the Soviets committed many of the same atrocities. When the Soviets took over the countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, many of the people were taken from their homes. They were beaten, starved, assaulted, sold into slavery, and forced into Labor camps. Many were killed.

This book focuses greatly on the psychological and social ramifications of World War II. It is a heart-wrenching, emotional story. The story is fictional, the majority of the characters are fictional, but the events actually took place and over 20 million lives were lost in this piece of human history. 

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys

This book goes right along with Ashes in the Snow. The book tells the story of the little-known but single greatest maritime tragedy that was the January 30, 1945 sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner that was intended to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety away from the advancing Soviets. The ship was intended to carry approximately 1,800 people and was instead loaded with more than 10,500.

As with Ashes in the Snow, the characters are mostly fictional but the events depicted actually took place. Over 9,000 of the passengers on board the ship lost their lives. This portion of history that Septys depicts in these two books was tragic. This book was a fast read because Septys crafted very compelling characters and I found it easy to care about their story.

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The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient #2) by Helen Hoang

I picked this as my Book of the Month selection at some point last year on a whim. This book a a very cute, smutty romance which is not something that I typically find myself drawn to. However, I really enjoyed it. The characters are fully fleshed out and highly adorable. That itself is enough for me to have enjoyed the book.

However as an additional fun aspect, Hoang states that the aspect of an uneducated Vietnamese immigrant woman coming to the United States, defying the odds, and clawing her way up from almost nothing is based loosely on her mother’s experiences.

The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie

Another one of Christie’s classics! This one is a slight departure from her other Hercule Poirot novels. Instead of a drawing-room style mystery we get a manhunt to stop a serial killer. I really enjoyed this story and was engaged in attempting to figure out who the A.B.C Killer was. Once again I was delighted when Poirot put all the clues together and we got the reveal of the killer. This one has been my favorite Christie novel so far.

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That’s it for today. Let me know if there were any five star books you read last year (or even this year)!

-Kellie Katrin

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Writing Life: Behind-the-Scenes of Initial Revision (Part One)

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Hello Friends and Welcome!

Today I wanted to dive into my writing process a little bit. I have often enjoyed when other authors reveal bits about their writing process so I thought I’d share a bit about mine. Since I am in the midst of the initial round of revisions for Autumn Sunrise, that’s the part of the process I’ll be documenting over the next month or so. Originally, my plan was to walk through my entire initial revision process in one post however I’ve realized that it’ll work more as a series of posts rather than one extremely long post. Today’s installment is all about the initial period that covers completion of the draft, initial read-through, and the decision to proceed with the project.

First things first, my initial revision process is very different from those I’ve seen of other authors. This is what works for me, however I highly encourage you to look up Susan Dennard’s revision series because she does an excellent job breaking down how she goes about revisions.

The Process Beginning

The first thing I do when I complete a draft is save it and convert it into both pdf and word document forms and email both versions to myself. After that’s completed, I will print off a copy of the manuscript and put it in a three-ring binder, avoiding reading the text as much as possible. Without referring to the draft, I will pull out some notebook paper and jot down any ideas that I have – if I want to pay special attention to certain characters or plot lines, if I have an idea for extra scenes that might work, if I have an idea of what I want the revision process to look like, etc. It is essentially a brain dump. There’s no set checklist or process other than getting thoughts out of my head. Those pages will go in the binder.

The important thing is, the draft is set aside for at least two weeks (which is definitely a struggle!). I’ve found that it is really helpful to work on another project during the time the current draft is set aside. With Autumn Sunrise, I took the time the draft was sitting to finish plotting the novel I have been calling Serial News as well as work on character development. I briefly thought about jumping right into drafting the project, however I also knew that I really wanted to keep moving forward with Autumn Sunrise.

After I have let the manuscript sit, I will then finally allow myself to read it. I always attempt to read through it in as few sittings as possible. It’s always my intention to complete the initial read-through in a day. During the initial reading, I have only the manuscript in front of me. I do not take notes or mark anything up at this stage. My intention is to read through it to see if it’s something that I would want to dedicate a good portion of the next year reworking and molding into a novel worthy of publication.

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There have been times where I’ve decided after that initial read-through that the project needs to be shelved, at least for a time. It’s not an easy decision, especially after I’ve invested a significant amount of time in the project between planning, plotting, and drafting. However if it turns out that the project isn’t one that I’m passionate about spending the next year or so focused on, then I make the decision to set it aside.

If I decide that I’m willing to spent the majority of the next year of my life working on the novel then I will dive into the first round of revisions. We’ll get into that process in the next installment of this series!

Preview of Coming Attractions:

  • Color-coded notes
  • Four Big Things I Look For
  • Organizing Notes for Maximum Efficiency
  • Re-plotting and Prepping for Draft 2

-Kellie Katrin

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Finding Time: Writing While Working Full-Time and Pursuing Higher Education

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

First off, if you’re reading this as the post goes live-thank you so much for your patience. I realize that my writing posts typically go up on Mondays and this is going up on Friday instead. Those of you who follow me on social media know that one of my close friends from college unexpectedly passed away over the weekend and it’s thrown me for a loop to say the least.

Today I wanted to talk about one of the struggles that many writers deal with, which is finding time to write when you have a lot going on in your life. As I am writing this I am working full-time, revising the novel I currently refer to as Autumn Sunrise, blogging, studying Business Law for my CPCU designation, and in the midst of the final week of preparation to Go-Live with a huge project that’s been taking up a large chunk of my time.

Right now, life is crazy, busy, and wonderful. I have no regrets about all that I’ve taken on. However, when you also factor in normal housekeeping duties as well as kitty playtimes (which Luke Skywhisker feels are most important) that doesn’t leave a ton of time for writing.

So with all of that going on, how do I manage to find time to keep up with everything and still get writing done?

I have a dedicated morning routine which includes a mini-writing session. My morning starts when my alarm goes off at 4:40 am. I get up, make my bed, check that Luke has water and food, and make coffee. While the water is heating up, I do my devotions for the day and typically finish by the time my coffee is ready. I will sit down and read at least 10 pages of nonfiction before I open up my computer and start working.

I take some time to draft and format blog posts to keep things moving along. After that is done, I will do a free writing session. This morning writing session rarely has anything to do with my current WIP. Instead, it is an opportunity for me to write short stories, get out scenes for new stories in my head, or even play around with poetry. I started this when I was studying creative writing in college and trying to make sure that I was building a habit of writing every day.

I don’t give myself any pressure about how much I write in the morning. I just open up a blank document and start typing. I am always surprised however, when I go back to revisit some of these morning writing sessions and discover that there’s some spark of an idea that could be explored. The novel I refer to as Autumn Sunrise was sparked by a series of these writing sessions.

I work in 30-45 minute blocks of time. In the evenings and on weekend days I tend to work in 30-45 minute blocks of time. I set a timer and get to work with whichever task I have decided to tackle, whether that’s cleaning, writing, or studying. I often surprise myself with how much I can accomplish in a short amount of time. After the time goes off, I get to a stopping point and take a small break. After my break, I will either go for another session of the task I was working on or I will move onto another task.

Of course, I also allow myself longer breaks to read – but I still set a timer most of the time. I mean, we have to right? Otherwise we’ll just sit there and read the entire book while accomplishing nothing else. Once the timer has gone off, I will finish the chapter/section that I’m in and move onto a task on my to-do list. If I’m satisfied with all the tasks I’ve accomplished by mid-afternoon, then I do not set a timer and will curl up with Luke for an untimed session of reading or watching a movie (lately it’s been Knives Out – anyone else obsessed with this movie? I keep finding new things every time I rewatch it!).

I’ve learned that for me, the timer keeps me on track. I can afford a little reading break, but I can’t afford to do nothing but read all day most weekends.

I plan for the week ahead. Every Sunday, I take a look at the week ahead and I plan out my workouts, my meals, and roughly what tasks I am committing to accomplishing each day. For example, if I plan to publish two blog posts, I plan to give each post three days: one to draft, one to edit and revise, and one to format. With my CPCU studies, I know that if I want to study two chapters a week I need to look ahead at the chapter and break down the reading over the days I will do the reading, I need to devote time to reviewing old material, I need to make flashcards for any terms or concepts that I’m unfamiliar with, and I need to take practice tests.

With my meals, I look at what I have in my fridge and cabinets and work out what meals I can create. Then I map out roughly when I am going to eat those meals and make my grocery list for any ingredients I still need. I meal prep on Sundays, chopping veggies at the very least.

I give myself grace. Some days things just do not go according to plan and that’s okay. Two weekends ago, the only thing I wanted to do one morning was watch some old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and that’s what I did. I didn’t beat myself up. I watched a few episodes and then got to work and managed to get my house cleaned and planned out my week. No one is perfect. No one can do only work or manage themselves constantly. I allow myself the freedom to take breaks and change my mind.

I’ve also forgotten to set the timer on occasion, mostly when I’m reading. I’ll realize that I’ve read a lot more pages than I had expected to read in half and hour. I don’t beat myself up. I just get back on track and move forward.

I pick a specific focus. I do not try to do everything at once. Daily, I do make time to read, write, and study. However, I’m not reading 200 pages, writing five chapters, and trying to study 50 pages of my textbook on the same day. There’s a lot that I do, but I don’t do it all every day. I choose one area to focus on. If Monday my focus is revising the next chapters of my novel, I will read a few pages and focus on reviewing class material but spend most of my dedicated evening work time on the revisions.

I also focus on one thing at a time. If this 30 minute block is for drafting a blog post, I do my best to get the words on the screen. I’m not focused on editing at this point. I’m also not getting concerned with the other items on my to-do list. As soon as I’ve finished the task, I can move on if there’s still time left. But for this block of time, I am focused on this blog post and until I’ve finished drafting it, I will stay in my seat with Luke on my shoulders, unless he chooses to get up and go zoom through the apartment.

How do you manage to make progress on everything you have going on? I’d love to know!

– Kellie Katrin

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January 2020 Reading Log

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

I cannot believe that we are already almost halfway through February. Today I wanted to come back to my reading life and share the books that I read in January along with my thoughts on what I liked about them. Overall, I really enjoyed the books that I read last month.

One: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

If you read my post on the ten books I could reread over and over again, you are aware that I love this delightful book. Every year I choose to reread through a series that I loved as a child and this year I am rereading through the Lord of the Rings. My copy is now extremely well loved, with lines highlighted and underlined. Some books are almost impossible to review. If a book is bad, we can easily dwell on its flaws, but if the book is good, how do you give any recommendation that is equal the book?

What I love about this book: The whimsey, the magic, the charming adventure story, the fact that the hero is not a strong Hercules-type hero but a simple hobbit who, as with the majority of the hobbits, values the simple things in life. As Thorin says to Bilbo, “There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Two: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This one has been on my TBR list for quite some time. I’m not sure exactly when I first officially added to the list, but I do know that when I first got my Kindle back in 2010 that this book was free in the Kindle Library and I downloaded it. This book is a classic, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s an interesting and engaging exploration of shallowness, superficiality, morality, and the flaws of humanity.

What I like about it: The writing is so beautiful, eloquent, and rich. The dialogue is witty and humorous. I really enjoyed how engaging the story Wilde told is. To me, one of the biggest things that stands out is the idea that terrible monstrosity can lie underneath a beautiful exterior. We can look upon beauty and be fooled into never asking what lies beneath that beauty.

Three: Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

This book was the January selection for one of the book clubs I belong to. This was the second Gretchen Rubin book that I’ve read. I read The Happiness Project a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Our book club always selects a non-fiction read for January and this one came highly recommended to us.

What I liked about it: This read was quick and light. There was a lot of white space on the pages and each tip took up only about 1-3 pages so it was great if I wanted to get a few pages in as a quick break. This book is unlike the rest of Rubin’s books, which have more content. This was a great read for kickstarting my new year organization spree and I think it will be a great resource to have on hand to reread again in the future.

Four: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

So this one has been on my TBR list ever since I saw the movie and fell in love with the story. I bought the book a few years ago and just kept putting it off. I am so glad I finally picked up the book, because it is just delightful.

What I loved about this book: The entire thing! I fully enjoyed this and it was my favorite book that I read in January. It’s a love story, a friendship story and so much more. There’s survival against the odds, murder, and absolute hilarity. I could not keep from laughing when lines that I loved in the movie were right on the page.

Five: Two Girls Down (Alice Vega #1) by Louisa Luna

This was a Book of the Month pick from back in 2018 that I had chosen but never gotten around to reading. I finally decided to pick it up and read it in January. This book was hard to put down. I read it over the course of a couple days and really enjoyed it.

What I liked about this book: It was fast-paced and well written. If I hadn’t had my full-time job to go to, I wouldn’t have put the book down. I would have read straight through in the first sitting. I really enjoyed speculating about who abducted the girls and never being sure if I was right. I definitely will pick up more of Luna’s books in the future as she knocked it out of the park with this one!

Six: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

This one was another book club pick for January and this is a book that I’ve read three times now. I always pick something new up each time I read it. If you’ve never read the book and only heard about Allen’s GTD approach to productivity, the book may seem overwhelming at first. However, once you get into it the method does not seem as overwhelming.

What I like about this book: Allen has a very realistic approach. He explains, “…most people are so embroiled in commitments on a day-to-day level that their ability to focus successfully on the larger horizon is seriously impaired. Consequently, a bottom-up approach is usually more effective.” The book is very straightforward and focused on implementation of a management system to handle all of the various tasks we face each day. Also, while I have read the book cover to cover, you do not have to do so. The first few chapters give you enough information to be able to understand and implement your own GTD system.

Seven: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Last summer, a good majority of my friends read this book and would not stop raving about it. My library hold on this book lasted about seven months-and would have lasted longer but one of my coworkers decided to buy the book in December and she was kind enough to lend it to me in January. As someone that tends to gravitate toward thrillers and fantasy this wasn’t the type of book that I might have chosen to pick up if it hadn’t been so highly recommended.

What I like about this book: This story has a lot of elements that I love. There’s a murder mystery, a likable character that pulls on your heartstrings, and a great story of resiliency.

Eight: The Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Betrayal. Murder. by Evan Ratliff

This was a Book of the Month pick from 2019 that I saw sitting on my shelf when I still had about a week left in January. The book tells the incredible true story of a decade-long struggle to discover and bring down Paul Le Roux, the creator of a powerful internet-enabled cartel. The story is an example of when the truth is crazier than any fiction that could be made up.

What I liked about it: Ratliffe spent a lot of time tracking down former members of Le Roux’s cartel (and other related operations) as well as international law enforcement. There’s a lot that still isn’t known as many people are still afraid of repercussions for speaking out. The book reads like fiction, resembling the plot of a best-selling thriller.

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Did you have any favorite books you read in January? Let me know!

-Kellie Katrin

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On Distraction and Shiny New Ideas

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

Today I wanted to discuss one of the struggles that many authors deal with, which is staying faithful to your current work when new stories enter your consciousness. It’s often hard, especially in the midst of a tough round of revisions or what feels like an endless cycle of edits to stay faithful to your current project.

New ideas have promise, right? When you get a shiny new idea it’s hard to not toss your current manuscript to the side in favor of the promise of a blank page and the hope that maybe this new story will be The One. I know that when I’m slogging through the first round of revisions, the temptation to forget about the current project and move onto a new one is especially strong.

However, I also know that if I keep pushing through revisions that I will eventually end up with a better story and that the next round will involve my story being at least a little bit better. If I’m passionate about the story I’m telling and feel that it is worth sharing, then I better keep working in order to get it completed and out into the world.

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That is not to say that I have never shelved a story. Some stories you write for the fun of it and realize that you may not want to dedicate at least the next year of your life to working on improving it. Or maybe you do want to work to get it ready for publication, but that the project may need to sit for a longer time while you focus on other things. I’ve mentioned before that I publish fantasy novels under a different name. I have a fantasy epic that I’ve been working on since around 2007 that I decided to set the current book to the side for this year because I wanted a bit of a break from working on it. I may pick it back up later this year, however I have decided to not put that expectation on myself.

So what do I do when I’m in the middle of revising and a brand new story pops into my head? I get out a blank piece of paper or open a blank Word document on my computer and start to just brain dump anything that’s come to mind about the potential story. And then I go back to the current project.

If there is a scene that just won’t let go, I will actually write that scene just to get it out of my head. This is actually how Autumn Sunrise came into being – I was working on another project and the idea would not let go. I was in a creative writing class and so every morning when I would do twenty minutes of free writing I would write out scenes that came to mind for this story. Many of the scenes did end up in the outline – however I never referred to the actual writing I did during the time I was drafting.

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Now, with Autumn Sunrise in revisions and Serial News about to start the drafting phase, I have been obsessed with a brand new shiny idea that I’m really excited about. So I’m following my prior process – I keep my focus on Autumn Sunrise and if the new shiny idea keeps popping up I jot down whatever ideas I have and go back to revising Autumn Sunrise.

That’s it for today. How do you deal with balancing new shiny ideas while working on your current project? Let me know!

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin

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Author Goals – 2020 Quarter One

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

I hope that you’ve been having a great year so far. I can’t believe that it’s already February! In today’s post, I wanted to discuss my writing goals for the first quarter of this year. Originally this was going to be a yearly goal overview post, but I decided instead to really focus on the projects going on this quarter as even over the last month my plan for the year has shifted.

Goal Number One: Complete Review of the First Draft of Autumn Sunrise

If you’ve been following me on social media, you probably are aware that I am in the middle of reviewing my first draft of Autumn Sunrise. Revisions are a slow and somewhat difficult process. There’s a lot of cutting things out, changing things around, and just making a mess of the manuscript. It’s necessary in order to tell the story in a coherent and cohesive manner. Originally, I thought I’d do a quick pass through the manuscript, review and revise my outline, and get the second draft completed by the end of this quarter.

However, that’s no longer the plan. I am realistic enough to know that this book needs more time spent on revisions than some of my previous work. I can’t produce the best second draft possible if I were to rush through the manuscript. So instead, this quarter is focused on really diving into the manuscript, spending the necessary time to figure out what is great and what is not so great, and getting the plan for the second draft in place. I’m hopeful that maybe I’ll be ready to start draft two in April, but I’m not going to pressure myself.

Goal Number Two: Publish 18 Blog Posts

My plan for this quarter at least is to publish six posts a month – four writing posts and two reading posts. This allows me to continue to release new content and build this blog without taking a ton of time away from my creative writing – which is the real priority. I am so excited to share bits of my reading and writing life with you, but I know that in order to call myself a writer, I need to be writing. There’s only so much time we have and that time is precious, especially when working a full-time job and pursuing graduate degrees in addition to continuing to write.

There may be more than eighteen posts over the quarter, however setting the bar at 1-2 posts a week keeps me from feeling stressed over everything I have to do. I’m all about keeping things manageable at this stage in my life.

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Goal Number Three: Continue the Habit of Writing Daily

My goal is continue the habit of taking at least few minutes each morning to write. There’s no plan or intention set out as I am not working on a new draft, but I want to keep up the habit of creating every day. This last week, a new story has emerged in my mind and I’ve taken the mornings to write a few little one-page scenes. Two years ago when I was writing each morning I started coming up for ideas of Autumn Sunrise from doing these daily exercises.

I allow myself complete freedom to write whatever comes to mind each morning as the important thing is to keep writing something. Once I have completed revisions for Autumn Sunrise, I will begin to draft the project I am referring to as Serial News. I already have that plotted out and will be ready to roll once I get Autumn Sunrise’s next draft completed and set aside.

Goal Number Four: Read Almost Only Books off My Current TBR List

My Goodreads TBR list is up over 1,000 currently. There are so many books that I want to read and new books just keep coming out! For this quarter, I wanted to get back to that list and start knocking some of those books off the list. The few books that are not on the TBR list but that I am reading would be the selections for my book clubs and The Lord of Rings, which is the series I have chosen to reread this year.

Other than those two exceptions, I am not allowed to ready anything that was not on my TBR list prior to January 1st this year. I am always adding books to the TBR list, however I am doing my best to work through getting some of the first ones off the list — though I’m not sticking to only the beginning.

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Goal Number Five: Get My Home Office Cleaned Out and Set Up

My home office is a complete disaster. It has boxes stacked in it from when I first moved into my apartment back in 2018 and has bookshelves stuffed full with piles surrounding the shelves. The desk is piled high with random items and the closed is full of old business supplies. Ideally, I would love to be able to crank out this project in a weekend but it’s going to take a little bit.

I want to get the office set up as a great writing space with a clear desk with lots of room for notes (and Luke-he’s a velcro kitty!). I want it to be a room that I enjoy stepping into and getting work done in. Right now I work out of my dining room and living room and while it works for me right now, it’s not my ideal set up.

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Bonus Goals (Personal/Professional)

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Bonus Goal 1: Complete and Pass Business Law

Right now I am in the midst of pursuing the CPCU designation, which stands
for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter. It is a very prestigious
designation in the insurance industry – about 4% of professionals hold the
designation and it is essentially a Master’s in Insurance. It is rigorous, but
it is a really valuable education to have. For right now, I really enjoy my job
as an insurance underwriter. I love writing creatively and I have no plans to
stop, however I am dedicated to my career in the insurance industry as well.

For this quarter, I am focused on completing and passing CPCU 530 – Business
Law which is one of the two most beastly exams that are required for the CPCU
designation. The other one is Business Finance-which I intend to tackle during
quarter two of the year.

Bonus Goal 2: Meditate at Least Three Times a Week

Recently I finally downloaded the Calm app and have really enjoyed starting
to build a meditation practice. Ideally, I would love to build a habit where I
am meditating for half and hour every day, however that is not possible at this
point in my life. From the time constraints of a full-time job, an intense
round of revisions, studying Business Law, and trying to keep up with all my
household tasks I just don’t have that time right now. I also haven’t built a
habit of meditating yet. I have to crawl before I can walk. I have to walk
before I can run.

I am committed to doing the 10 minute Daily Calm meditation at least three
times a week to start that habit. Hopefully I will begin to do it more
regularly as I have already seen a difference in my stress level from taking
the few precious minutes to get quiet and focus on my breath. I anticipate that
this is a practice that I will make a regular habit in my life.

That’s it for today! Thank you so much for hanging in here with me. What
goals are you working on this quarter? I’d love to hear.

Signing Off,

Kellie Katrin

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My Five Writing Essentials – Winter 2020

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

Today I wanted to share a few of my favorite writing tools. Every single person is different and we all prefer different tools to write with. Throughout my life, my favorite tools have changed as my writing process has changed. When I was in middle school, I loved to take composition books and hand write everything. When I was in high school, I liked to use an old desktop computer to compose on. In college I used my MacBook Pro. As life has changed, my writing process has changed and evolved.

One: A Spiral Notebook (Or Several)

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I enjoy writing by hand on occasion. I use my notebooks to jot down ideas, flesh out outlines, take notes on things that I think are useful, and even start short compositions. I like using a cute notebook because it looks pretty, but I find it useful to put my phone and computer away and have my writing be my sole focus. To me, there is freedom in a blank sheet of paper that a blank screen doesn’t give me. I can scribble away without worrying about format or if it looks “right.” Many people prefer to compose and take notes digitally. I prefer having something that I can take anywhere with me without worrying about losing power or damaging it when I drop it.

Two: My MacBook Air

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While I like being able to scribble and fill notebooks up, I do the bulk of my writing on a computer. I am a very fast typist, so I am able to compose my words much faster on the computer than I can by hand. It also allows me to easily save multiple copies of my work (for example I save to my desktop, I save a copy to the cloud, and I email a copy to myself).  It’s much easier to cut and paste to move words and ideas around on a computer. I like my MackBook Air because it is so lightweight and the perfect size to fit in my purse with a large enough screen that I can have multiple documents open side by side, which is great when setting up my draft with the plot outline next to it for easy reference or during rewrites if there is specific wording in the prior draft that I really loved.

Three: Scrivener

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Scrivener is the word processing program that I personally use to write my novels. I just started using it last year and have been extremely happy with it. The first draft of Autumn Sunrise was written entirely in the Scrivener program and I plan to use it to write the draft of Serial News. The program is able to manage notes, documents, concepts, and research all in one program. Scrivener offers templates for screenplays, fiction, and non-fiction manuscripts. Once you’ve completed your draft, it is very easy to export it to a Word document or PDF. It will even compile it into a document that conforms to publisher’s standards. There are so many awesome things that the program can do and I am excited to continue learning as I continue to go through the different stages of the writing processes with my work.

Four: A Big Mug of Tea

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I have found that I really enjoy writing with a mug of tea by my side. In the morning I will write with a mug of English Breakfast tea and then in the evening I will switch over to either Peppermint or Sleepytime tea. I also have some great loose-leaf teas that I enjoy making on occasion – these I will make on Saturdays when I have more time to write. Many writers believe that tea helps boost creativity, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Five: Pilot G-2 07 Gel Pens

We all have our favorite brand of pens and mine happen to be the Pilot G-2 pens. I love the way that these pens write, I love how bold the colors are, and for me I enjoy how thin they can write as I tend to make a lot of notes on my work and prefer to keep my lines and letters thin. For me, these pens write smoothly and handle beautifully. I tend to use the blue, red, and green colors the most when it comes to my writing.

Bonus: The “Elephant” Technique

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Have you ever found yourself unable to recollect the word you need? So often, I will be in the middle of writing and find that while I know that there is one word I want to use, I cannot for the life of me remember it in that moment. The “Elephant” Technique is something that I learned about from one of the writers in my creative writing class in undergrad. Instead of sitting there racking your brain or going into the rabbit hole of internet searches, you simply write “ELEPHANT” and move on. Once you’ve completed your writing, use the search and find resource to find all the ELEPHANTs in your writing.  Usually, once you read back those sentences you will be able to recall the word you need or you will be able to take the time to search for the word without the pressure of having to get a complete draft done.

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These are some of my favorite writing tools (and the bonus technique) that I really enjoy right now. I’d love to hear what some of your favorite tools are!

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin

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Reading Life: 10 Books I Could Read Over and Over

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Hello Friends and welcome.

Today we are diving back into my reading life. I wanted to share with you ten books that I could continue to read over and over again without becoming bored. There are more than ten books that I will happily read multiple times, but I thought a top ten list (which may actually contain 16 books) would be fun. It’s amazing to find a book that enchants and delights you continuously and through numerous readings. As much as I love reading new books, I really enjoy getting to revisit books that I loved in the past.

Here are ten books I could read over and over again:

Number One: The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

I’m already cheating with the “top ten books” classification by including an entire series in this list. But is that any surprise? I adore this series and the world that Rowling created. I am always amazed at the level of detail that she used when planning the series and the number of small things that show in the first books that pay off in big ways in the latter books. The world is enchanting and magical. There is a reason that these books are beloved by so many readers. For me, it’s impossible to pick a favorite for the series.

Number Two: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

I actually reread this one again earlier this month since this year I am rereading the Lord of the Rings series. The Hobbit is a charming adventure story that works as a perfect gateway to Tolkien’s amazing world of Middle Earth and the story of The Lord of the Rings. It provides an introduction to Tolkien’s world, storytelling, and mythology without the sometimes intimidating detail and complexity of the Lord of the Rings novels. It’s an enjoyable, entertaining story containing adventure, a map to treasure, treasure, a secret entrance that requires solving a riddle to gain entry, a spooky forest, foolishness and greed, a huge battle, and also something about a secret, powerful ring that can make its wearer invisible. This book was written prior to Tolkien’s ambitious Lord of the Rings and while there are many references to the classic lore of Middle Earth, this is a Young Adult book that is easy to read, and read aloud. I hope that one day I get to read this book to my children at bedtime.

Number Three: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

I randomly bought this book at Target one summer afternoon back in 2016. I had heard that Moriarty’s books were highly recommended and I choose this one because the cover was colorful and the plot sounded interesting. This book quickly became one of my favorites. In the book Moriarty crafts a story with a complex plot weaving together four story lines that leave you guessing until the very end. I could not put this book down until I had finished it and I was left wanting more of the story.

Number Four: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Ever time I reread this novel I love it more and more. The witty banter, the romance, the high society…I adore it so much. Austen’s characters are believably human in their concerns, vanities, failings and quirks. The plot serves largely to showcase their interaction and thus, her observations of human nature, which are pointed, accurate, and hysterical. Austen’s technical skill as a writer also shows in the novel’s tight plotting and economical casting; there are no superfluous characters or wasted chapters. Pride and Prejudice is a relatively smooth and lively read. We learn about events and characters as much from what they say to each other as from what Austen narrates to us.

Number Five: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables is probably one of my most favorite books, right up with Pride and Prejudice. I love getting to revisit Anne’s world of Prince Edward Island and the goings-on of Avonlea. I empathize with Anne because I also have a very active imagination, though perhaps not quite as active as she does. The story has always been extremely pleasant and enchanting. Gilbert Blythe was my first literary crush, and the years have not made him any less attractive.

Number Six: Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

This is without a doubt my favorite Dan Brown book. In fact, it is the only one that I have ever reread, though I have plans to revisit the others in the future. Every time the action picked up in this book, I had a serious adrenaline rush. My heart raced, my eyes frantically read line after line, and I could not put the book down. I was completely engrossed in the story. I was hooked along for the ride, and even though some readers might find the twists predictable and possibly unbelievable, I found myself completely absorbed. I appreciate the facts throughout the story that were presented to the reader about the Illuminati, Vatican City, etc. and I love the feeling of being on the inside of solving a puzzle while racing against time.

Number Seven: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

This book deals with some very tough topics, which make this one a hard one to read for me. However, Rivers’ novel is well-written and the story is enhanced by the tough parts. This book came highly recommended by several of the girls on my dorm during college. It is heart-wrenching. The novel is religious fiction, based on the bible story of Hosea and Gomer and it deals with some very heartbreaking and horrible things (though not in explicit terms). There is so much heartbreak in the situations the characters have to deal with, but there is also such a beautiful romance and an amazing story of redemption, unconditional love, faith, and hope.

Number Eight: The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien

The first part of the epic fantasy The Lord of Rings introduces us to an amazing cast of characters. The series helped bring the fantasy genre into mainstream literature conversation. The story is rich. The world is detailed. Tolkien spent a lot of time developing the mythology and languages of Middle Earth and that time shows in his writing. He provided a rich world for readers to enter. His epic tale is a slow burn, but it’s so worth it. If you are a fan of the fantasy genre, I highly recommend reading the series at least once.

Number Nine: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

This is such an adorably cute YA novel and a great first installment in the series. It’s definitely a quick read but it’s so adorable. Jenny Han created several characters that I absolutely adore. While this is a love story, there is a huge focus on the relationships between the characters and their families. I really enjoy this book and was so glad that when I read it the first sequel had already been published so I wasn’t left waiting. One warning: the ending is very abrupt so you might want to have the sequels with you when you finish so that you can continue on in the story.

Number Ten: The Firm by John Grisham

This was the very first Grisham novel I read, and it has remained my favorite so far out of his numerous well-crafted stories. This is another of the “can’t put it down” books that I enjoy so much. The story line is gripping; you won’t want to stop until you’ve reached the end. The characters are developed well, in part because Grisham succeeds in writing great, down-to-earth dialogue that forms his characters into real people. The plot is crafted by an author who is clearly a master storyteller. And every time I revisit this book I find myself drawn back in again.

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What books do you love so much that you find yourself rereading over and over again? Let me know!

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin

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Pen Names-My Personal Choice

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

Today I wanted to share a little bit about pens names and why I chose to use one. As some of you may know, I have chosen to write my thriller and horror novels under a pen name rather than under my personal legal name. There are a number of reasons that I have chosen to do this, but the primary reason is that I have chosen to provide separation between my professional corporate life and my writing life.

I am proud of the work that I present to the world and would not be embarrassed to publish my work under my own name, however, I feel that it is best to keep my writing life separate from my corporate life. I do not want the people I come into contact with in my professional life to have preconceived notions about myself or the company that I work for.

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Authors use pen names for a variety of reasons.

  1. Cross Genre Writing – Many authors will have a couple pens names if they write in different genres. In the age of Amazon recommendation algorithms it is a smart move to write books in separate genres under different names in order to better present your work and have it show up in Amazon’s “Also Bought” section for novels of the same genre. Also, if you write hard-boiled detective novels and then suddenly publish a chick lit novel, some of your fans might be frustrated or perplexed when they pick up your new novel expecting one thing and getting something completely different.
  2. Same Name as Another Individual – It is entirely possible that an author may share a name with an already-famous or established individual. There are actually quite a few Dan Browns in the world, for example.
  3. Potential Overexposure – This is more applicable to writers of articles, but there are some writers that write under a few pen names in order to avoid overuse if they publish various pieces in the same publication. Rather than have their name listed the same on every piece, they will often publish under different names to avoid overexposing themselves to the readers.
  4. Need for Anonymity – Sometimes an author may write an exposé or need to remain anonymous for professional reasons.

Choosing to use a pen name is a personal choice and there is no right or wrong answer, truly (though if you do write that exposé, think about it!). Likely I will publish my fantasy epic under my own legal name. My pen name, Kellie Katrin, was chosen based on a couple of unrelated events and a google search to verify it was unique.

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin

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The Dream of a Young Writer

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

Today I wanted to share the background on my dream to be a writer. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer. I adored reading everything I could and I loved making up stories. In third grade I decided that I would write a children’s book about a rabbit holding a birthday party. I called it “Rabbit’s Birthday Party” and I spent hours playing around in Microsoft Paint creating art to illustrate the book. I never finished that book, but I may one day decide to revisit and write it.

Nothing captured me like a fantasy story, though. I read all seven of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia books during quiet reading time in fourth grade. I adored Narnia and the world that Lewis had created. Later on, I would discover Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Those three series of books really engaged my attention and presented such rich worlds to visit when I read. I enjoy those books and regularly re-read them often. I dreamed of creating a world of my own and telling stories set in that world.

In fact, I actually have a fantasy series somewhat planned out with hand-drawn maps of the geography, pages of notes on some of the characters, and even some fully-fleshed out chapters. I do plan to write the series one day, however I am still working on creating some languages for the creatures in the series. Once I feel that the I have everything prepared, I am really excited to be able to focus on it and write it out. The series will not be written under the Kellie Katrin name but will instead be written under one of my other names.

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When I was in college, I got the opportunity to take a creative writing class. It was so scary at first to share the words I had written, but it was one of my favorite experiences. It allowed me to write regularly and to not fear trying new things in my writing and experimenting.

For as long as I’ve been reading and writing, I have been fascinated with other writers’ processes for creating their works. I have read countless biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, and just articles about writers. I’ve always been fascinated by J.K. Rowling’s handwritten spreadsheet for Order of the Phoenix where she would have the scenes listed on the left side of the paper and across the top were all the different character groups and subplots so she could organize what was going on at with each group and event as the story moved along.

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I am personally still developing my process, but I am so excited to share with you as my process evolves and changes as I progress in my writing life. I have two projects I’m currently working on under the Kellie Katrin name, Autumn Sunrise which is a completed draft ready for the first round of revision and Serial News which is a thriller novel that I have plotted and prepped and is now ready for the drafting stage.

That’s all for today. Thanks for joining me friends!

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin

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Curating My 2020 Reading List

Hello Friends and Welcome Back.

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One of my favorite traditions at the end of each year is creating a reading list for the next year. I started this four years ago, and it has been really fun. I use Goodreads to organize what I’m planning on reading. I create a reading list for the next year and then I start to review some of my other lists to see what I might want to add. I have lists that were recommended by friends, a book-to-screen list, the 30 Books to Read Before You Turn 30 list (I’ve read 4 on the list at this point in my life), 12 Essential Books Every Woman Should Read, and several other lists.

I belong to two books clubs, so when those lists are released, I will add the books to my reading list for the next year. At that point, I will review all my other lists to see what I might want to read. I try to keep a good mix of fiction and non-fiction in order to keep myself learning and entertained. As the year progresses, my list will usually change. Some books I intended to read might fall off the list as other new books replace them. I belong to Book of the Month and I often trade books with my coworkers. So if someone lends me a book, I will often work it in quickly so that I can finish it and pass it on to the next person.

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I keep an eye on books that will be released in the next year to see if there are any that I absolutely want to read that year. I also like to reread old favorites, so I will review my “Read” shelf to see if there is anything I intentionally want to revisit. For 2020, I’ll be rereading the Lord of the Rings series (again). Last year I reread the Harry Potter series and next year I will likely reread The Chronicles of Narnia.

After I’ve gotten my list put together, I will reorganize it by deciding what order to read all of the books in. Then I get super nerdy and make an Excel workbook with a worksheet for each month. I list the title, the page count, the genre so I can make sure I’m keeping my reading list varied, if it is part of any book clubs or list, and if I already own the book or can borrow it through Kindle Unlimited so that I stay within my budget.

Each month’s spreadsheet is only fully filled out the last week of the month prior. At the end of the month, any titles that I didn’t finish will roll forward to the next month, be postponed for a couple months, or be dropped completely off my yearly reading list if I decide that there are way more books I would rather read. My To-Read list is quite long and I will never finish it as it continues to grow.

When I sit down to plan out my next month, I take a look at the page counts for the books I plan to read. I total up the pages and then figure out how many pages I need to read a day to stay on track. Sometimes I realize that with everything going on in my life that the number of pages I want to read is really too much and I will remove a title or two to make more room so that I can enjoy what I’m reading. I also take into account that any nonfiction book will read much slower than a fiction book.

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I read very fast, and in previous years I always set my intention to read at least 150 books a year. I love to read, but I would often find myself falling behind schedule and then choosing quick “bubble-gum” books that I could speed through so I could accomplish my reading challenge. For 2019, I am setting the intention that my list will be smaller and much more well-rounded than the lists I created in previous years. I will choose books I want to read or books that will improve my mindset, health, spiritual life, etc.

What books are you looking forward to reading in 2020? What books do you absolutely love and recommend? Let me know because I might just add them to my 2020 Reading List!

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin

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A Snapshot of My Writing Life

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

For my first official post, I wanted to share a little bit about my writing life and a snapshot of what it looks like in this crazy season of life I’m currently in. During 2020, I am in a place where I am working to build my author platform, working a full-time job, pursuing my CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter) designation, working on getting my first novel revised, and drafting my second novel. It’s going to be a busy year, but I am so excited for what is to come.

I am a morning person, and I often wake up at 4:45 a.m. in order to get things done before going off to my full-time job. I drink a cup of coffee while doing some reading and journaling. I will often review my flash cards and notes for my CPCU class (currently Business Law) and then go into my email before starting work on plotting and planning my current novel. I do not often do a ton of writing in the morning, but I will write for about 20 minutes or so before getting ready for the day.

The majority of my writing is done in the evening after I have completed my other work for the day. When I am drafting, I work very hard to get at least an hour of writing in each night with more time on the weekend. Each Sunday night, I participate in a virtual write-in with other writers where we chat for a little bit in between sprints of 20-25 minutes of writing.

There are two projects I am currently working on as of January 2020. They are as follows:

  1. Autumn Sunrise – a thriller novel that has been drafted as of November 30. This novel is in revision right now. During the next week, I will be reading my draft and deciding on my plan for the first revision. There is a lot of work that will need to be done but I’m really excited to dive into revising and getting the novel moved along for publication.
  2. Serial News – the first installment in my serial killer series. This novel has been plotted and will move into the drafting stage later this month. I’m really excited to write this and have done a lot of prep work on this and feel ready to tell this story.

I am so excited that you’ve chosen to come along with me on this journey and I’m excited to share more with you in the months and years to come.

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin

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Welcome to My Blog!

Hello Friends and Welcome!

I’m so excited to share my life and my thoughts with you! For those of you who do not know me, I am Kellie. I’m a writer, an editor, and an extremely voracious reader. I have a passion for the written word as well as a passion for helping to make other’s lives better.

I have a degree in English Language and Literature. In addition to my own writing, I love to use my skills to help other writers edit their own work. I have experience editing business marketing materials, academic papers, and creative fiction.

I read voraciously across all genres of literature and write primarily in the thriller and fantasy genres. My fantasy novels are published under my own name, whereas my thrillers are published under the Kellie Katrin name.

I’m so excited to get to share my love of the written word with you. I’m primarily going to be sharing my writing and reading journey, but there will be plenty of sparkle and joy sprinkled in. Stick with me and we’ll go through this crazy journey called life together!