ready to rise from the ashes

Another crazy, busy year is hours away from ending (or has already ended, depending on where you are on the globe). In some ways, it feels like the past year has flown by, but in others, when I think back to some of the big decisions I made this year (like not returning to my full time position at Harlequin, or moving our family not only to a new house, but a new community), it feels as though they happened in another lifetime.

But the point of this post is not to reminisce, it's to look ahead--and there's so much great stuff to look forward to in 2016! I'm excited to announce this blog/website is on the move! In the coming weeks, I'll be migrating everything over to a brand new, sleeker, redesigned site, which will mark the beginning of a new era in what I want this space to be. As Baby H gets older, and I find myself in a position to give my writing career more of myself than ever before, I'm ready to jump back into this blog with some new features and some old favourites (admit it--you know you've missed my Friday5 posts). I have an idea for an interactive writing feature that I'm really hoping some of you will help me out with, whether you consider yourself a writer or not. We're all storytellers by nature and I'd love to see that side of anyone who's willing to go on a little adventure with me. I want this site to take on more of a community vibe if possible, but I need your help to do that. Yes, you in the back wearing the gorgeous ugly Christmas sweater! More details to come on that--and a few other features I have in mind. I can't wait to launch the new site and dive in!

As for my current WIP, which I kickstarted in November during NaNoWriMo, I'm also really looking forward to diving back into it after an extended break for the holidays. Hopefully I'll be in a position to share some bits and pieces of that with you as well. It's straight-up YA contemporary romance, and it's pretty swoon-worthy if I do say so myself ;)

I don't want this post to ramble on, so I'll keep it at that for now, but I wanted to write and say hi!, happy near year!, and let you know about the exciting things I have brewing for 2016. More details to come very soon!

Wishing each and every one of you all a peaceful, healthy, and truly joyful new year!

the dog's breakfast

Where did all these cookies come from? Photo credit: Zorik07
This post has gone through several incarnations--actually, I shouldn't even say it was a single post because at one point it was going to be three different posts, but as the title suggests, I've decided to throw up my hands and cobble them together into some sort of Frankenpost.

It's been about three months since my last update, and though most of the people reading this will probably have some idea of what's been going on with me because of Facebook, I figured I might as well post a rundown here for posterity's sake. And it being Friday and all, let's do this Friday5 style, shall we?

But only kinda.
1. I'm moving to the country (gonna eat a lot of peaches...does anybody even remember that song?) Yep. Let's get the biggie out of the way first. We all know how stressful and time consuming moving can be. Throw on top of that the fact that we weren't exactly planning on moving (until we suddenly fell in love with a house) and, well, let's just say everything is a bit chaotic at the moment. If I'm not chasing my children around (my actual full time job), I'm making lists and checking them twice--wait, that's not right--it's more like making spreadsheets and cross-referencing everything eight thousand times. And packing, and scheduling, and packing, and painting, and packing. I won't bore you with all the details, but on top of the usual moving stuff (and our family has doubled in size since we last moved), there's also all the getting our current house ready to sell in a timely manner stuff, because again, we weren't exactly planning on this happening...

2. Which brings me to update #2: because of the sudden decision to move out of the city, I've also made the extremely difficult decision to not return to my position as an assistant editor at Harlequin. I have A LOT of thoughts and feeling about this decision, but rather than wade too far into the deep end, I'll sum them up as best I can by saying this whole moving/not returning to work thing has been very bittersweet. I'm definitely excited about our new home and the opportunities it presents (see #3 below), but Harlequin (specifically MIRA, and then HQN) has been my home away from home for seven years and there aren't enough positive words in the dictionary to describe the amazing, talented people I'll no longer be working alongside. I'm going to miss them tremendously. So yeah, BITTERSWEET. 

3. The decision to make the above life changes has left me with the occasional sinking feeling this might end up being a huge mistake, but for the most part, something about it just feels right. Call it a gut feeling. Part of that has to do with us settling in a nice little community just as my daughter is about to start kindergarten, but it also has to do with the opportunity it presents regarding my ambition to build a career as an author. Writing has always been something I've dreamed I'd one day get to devote my primary (work) focus on, and now I have the chance to explore that. Is it a huge gamble? Definitely. But sometimes you have to take a chance, and bet on yourself. This next phase of our lives feels like the right time for me to do that and if it doesn't work out, it certainly won't be for lack of effort or drive. Please keep your fingers crossed for me :)

4. Speaking of writing, that brings me to my next update: my WIP, THIS HIDEOUS HEART is finished, and while I don't usually like to talk about the submission process on this blog, I'll just say that it's out in the world, looking for a home. I'm really happy with how this one turned out (not that I'm not happy with how all of them turned out) and I really, really hope I'll get the opportunity to share it with you some day soon! My next project is the one I'd been working on before the lightbulb that was THH went off, stealing all my attention away. It's a summer camp story--I was a HUGE fan of summer camp style stories as a kid (Baby-Sitters Club Super Specials anyone?) and I can't wait until the bulk of this moving stuff is out of the way so that I can dive in. It's a contemporary YA romance, with hints of mystery, humour and a lot of heart. The working title is, SUMMER CAMP SUCKS WHEN YOU'RE FAT, and it fits the tone of the story so well I don't plan on changing it anytime soon :) More updates on that to come. And in fact, more everything to come. Once this move is over, I'll be in the position to actually, truly, once and for all, get back to a regular blog schedule--another benefit of all these life changes.

5. Okay, this has nothing to do with me specifically beyond the fact that I'm totally hooked. Can we please talk about iZombie? Because I'm in love. I knew I would totally dig this show because, hello, Rob Thomas is a supercrazyawesome genius, but he has somehow surpassed my expectations, meshing the best elements of Veronica Mars with Warm Bodies. In true Rob Thomas style, season one ended with a bang, and I can not wait for season two. So good, you guys. SO GOOD.

Bonus TV-related bullet point: Yes, I'm loving PLL's #summerofanswers. The drama is at an all time high, and my Haleb shipper heart is giving Hot Caleb all the awards for best boyfriend ever. If I can manage it, I'll try to do a Pretty Little Recap or two in the coming weeks, especially if something truly explosive happens. But no guarantees. Seriously, you guys should see all the boxes and moving crap surrounding my desk right now....

So, that's all for now. I'll be back with more in the coming weeks/months/etc, hopefully with an update about SUMMER CAMP SUCKS's progress, and maybe a taste of THIS HIDEOUS HEART since I'm proud and want to share. Until then, I'll just shamelessly sign your yearbook with, "Have a great summer!" ;)

i'm not dead

I'm not. I swear. If I were dead, would I be able to type this? Probably not, but then again, do we even have a definitive answer on zombies retaining the typing skills they had in life? Maybe tackle that one next, Robert Kirkman.

Anyway, yeah, not dead, just busy.

With this:

Baby H is keeping me plenty busy as he develops fun, new skills!

And this:

It's hard to get things done when a doll has been put to bed and is snoring on the ottoman. And no, I can't move her. The daughter will know/throw a fit if I move her. 

And this:

New WIP: This Hideous Heart, a YA re-telling of Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart

So yeah, that's what I've been up to. And as a result of being busy with all that, I haven't had free time to blog, not even to do a Pretty Little Recap, though yes, I have been keeping up with the show and will probably make time to recap the finale. (Mini recap time! Hot Caleb was missing for too many episodes, but was awesome when he returned; wow, Spencer was really spicing things up in the UK; the scene with the guy suddenly rising up in the burn ward was freaky as hell and I'll have nightmares for weeks; Ali with no makeup in prison is refreshing and awesome; and holy crap, Hanna is in jail, and Hot Caleb is basically the fourth liar now. Whew!)

All of this is to say that I'm on a mini blog-hiatus while I get a few things sorted out. Primarily the first draft of my WIP, because the two kids? Not much to be sorted there. That's just life. But I'm very excited about the new book, THIS HIDEOUS HEART. It's coming along really well, and so far I'm mostly on track to meet my self-imposed first draft deadline of the end of March. But I need to neglect other things to stay the course, and yeah, blogs and recaps are part of that neglect because again, the kids can't be ;)

I will definitely share more about the new book once I have a synopsis to post, and in the meantime, I'll leave you with a bit of good news about another book of mine, Skin Deep, has been shortlisted for the the 2014 Dante Rossetti Awards! In an industry as challenging to break into as publishing is, it really is very exciting and such an honour to be recognized this way :)

S'all for now! xo

pretty little recap: bad ideAs across the board

5.19 Out, Damned Spot
This week's episode didn't just bring the drama, it was also full of life lessons. So grab a pencil and some paper cause you might just learn something from the liar's many mistakes...

Maybe don't give out free DNA samples when someone is trying to frame you? Photo credit: ABC Family

Pretty Little Highlights

1. One thing that wasn't a mistake in this episode was some honest-to-goodness continuity! Emily can't give blood because of her trip to Haiti. More than anything, that just gets me wondering if this was all planned and there's a very specific reason they needed Emily to be unable to give blood. I guess time will tell on that one...

2. My only other main highlight of the week was the scene between Ezra and Hanna regarding her Dad and going to college. I've said it before, but I'm really enjoying the different character interactions we're getting to see this season. This one made for a really touching scene.

Pretty Little Mistakes (a.k.a What Aria Did)

1. Let's get right into it cause there were a lot of mistakes this week--first and foremost: Girls, why are you giving blood when someone is trying to frame you for murder? That just seems like a seriously #badidea.

2. Aria cheating on a test. Oh Aria. When will you learn? A is almost definitely going to use anything stupid you do against you down the line. #badidea As a sidenote, can we talk about Andrew? That guy suddenly looks like he's 35! For a moment there I thought he was a student teacher or TA or something. I don't remember him looking that old the last time we saw him.

3. Talia is married. Oh Talia. What were you thinking? That is way too big a secret to try and keep from the girl you've been hitting on/kissing. The situation being complicated is all the more reason to tell Emily up front. Why drag her into something messed up when all Emily deserves is to have a nice, normal relationship for once. Is that really too much to ask? Keeping your marriage a secret is a #badidea Also, I don't buy "he's my BFF" as a reason for marrying a guy when you're a lesbian. Can't you just be BFFs?

4. Spencer and Jonny. This guy is clearly up to something, I just don't know what. I think the liars seriously need to stick to the tried and true guys in their lives. You know, the guys the show has already tried to convince us could be A and then proved weren't A, so they've basically been vetted for life. Between Andrew, Johnny and Talia, I think we can conclude that hanging out with someone new is a #badidea in Rosewood.

5. When a motorcycle is about to run you down, get off the road. Running in a straight line so the bike can continue to chase after you? You guessed it. It's a #badidea

6. BONUS Mistake: When Andrew says, "Do either of you drive stick?", Aria had a perfect window to say, "Well, Emily sure doesn't..." but she totally missed the mark. Dammit, Aria!

Pretty Little Mysteries

1. Not a lot of big reveals this week and not a lot of big questions, but I do find myself wondering why Hanna's extremely wealthy dad can't just pay for both girls to go to school. Cause seriously, he can afford it.

2. Where was Hot Caleb this week? Sure, I enjoyed seeing him in the short clip of video at the end, but that's just not enough Hot Caleb. #badidea giving him a week off, PLL.

3. What is Mike up to? As much as I hope he's truly up to no good, I'm starting to think that's not the case. Still, I feel like he's such a throwaway character. I want to see them go somewhere bold with him!


pretty little recap: double feAture

5.17 The Bin of Sin & 5.18 Oh, What Hard Luck Stories They All Hand Me
I'm finally at the point in my mat leave where I'm playing a bit of catch-up on appointments--haircuts, trips to the dentist, and more trips to the dentist after the x-ray revealed the beginning of a cavity and a wisdom tooth that needs to be pulled (at least it's my last one and I'll never have to go through it again!). But the most painful part is that I fell behind on my PLL viewings! But never fear, I'm all caught up and ready to recap the last two episodes in one! In honor of this PLR double digest, I'm changing up the format a bit--but only a bit--with a new section called, Pretty Little Mysteries. Now that it's here, I don't know how I've gone so long without it :)

The liars have perfected their suspicious glares. Photo credit: ABC Family

Pretty Little Highlights

1. Hooray! Aria has finally come clean about that stupid letter she wrote. And Ezra is... okay with it? No wait, he's broody. Oh Ezra, isn't it a little too late to be regretting your relationship with a highschooler now? She's almost in college. Maybe just leave things be? These two were this close to acting like a mature, adult couple for once, but then Ezra had to bring the drama.

2. The old, abandoned ice cream factory, where the major scare of the week goes down. Oh PLL, stay you. Stay you forever. Seriously, who comes up with these delicious twists?

3. Team Haleb. Seeing these two work together as such a strong duo is definitely a highlight, but I do have one reservation--there's so much A-related drama going on that we never get to see these two be fun-cute. Sure, they're continuing to express their love in terms of how far they'd go to protect each other, but I miss the days of shower hijinks and passionate Haleb makeouts. Can we have a few of those thrown in from time to time too? Or have things gotten so dire on this show that nobody has fun anymore?

4. Talia is (hopefully) not someone to worry about. With all these new mysterious characters showing up in Rosewood all the time, it's nice to see that someone might just be a legit love interest without any strings attached. That said, this is PLL, so things could change at any moment, but I'm definitely warming up to Talia. Maybe not as much as Em seems to be, but she hasn't tried to drown Em yet so I'm already a bigger fan of her than I was of Paige. Sidenote: is it just me, or does it seem like Emily takes more breaks at work (or wanders into the backroom, or messes around after hours) than she spends time actually working? I know we the viewers don't want to just watch her working, but that doesn't mean she isn't taking an exorbitant number of breaks...

Pretty Little Mistakes (a.k.a What Aria Did)

1. The flip-side of the Team Haleb coin is the Hanna's plan to begin with. Liars, repeat with me once more, tampering with evidence is never a good idea. And yet, they always try. I'm glad Hot Caleb decided to back Hanna up, because she was clearly going to go through with it either way, and at least he could help her to make fewer mistakes that she might have otherwise (love her, but this is Hanna we're talking about). I'm even happier that Copper Toby was on the scene to shut things down before Haleb could get themselves into trouble.

2. Emily, Emily, Emily. You call that an attempt to rescue you friends from freezing to death? She was behaving as though she somehow knew everything was going to work out. If I was Aria or Spencer I would be pretty pissed at Em's weak attempts to get that door open. Maybe give it a little more elbow grease next time, Em.

3. Okay, we need to talk about the hairy elephant in the room. Hot Caleb's teenstache has reached a point where it's no longer acceptable. It needed to be gone like two episodes ago. I love you to death, HC, but seriously it's time to shave the lip toupee.

4. Quick Pretty Little Mistake shoutout to Aria's leopard print chiffon dress (see above pic). Love the silhouette, hate the material. Aria, you are not welcome to the jungle.

5. Let's take a quick moment to address Spencer's college dilemma and I'll make it real simple: Spence, your mom is right. Go to college. Cause here's the thing: even when you don't know what you're going to do with your life, you don't stand to lose anything by going to college. If you change your mind later and decide to do something else with your life, you can very easily do that, but at least you will also have a college degree in your back pocket. The one thing you can't do down the line is suddenly have a college degree when you didn't go. See? Simple. Everything to gain, and nothing to lose. Just go to college.

6. Hanna may be a rebel, but she was really taking a risk when she got out of her car after the cop stop. If it'd been me, I'd have driven off when the officer appeared to have disappeared, but no, Hanna heads out into the dark with her (lead pipe?) and confronts the threat. Risky behaviour, even if she eventually come off as a bit of a badass.

Pretty Little Mysteries

1. Is Mona really in the barrel? Unless I missed something, we still don't know for sure. But Copper Toby does. Copper Toby, it's your by-the-book new career in law enforcement that first started to endear you to me, but come on, share your secrets!

2. Mona's friend, Lesli. Do you trust her? I definitely don't. There's no way Mona had a good friend that she never, not even once, mentioned to former-BFF Hanna. No way. Plus, could she have been any quicker to throw Mike under the bus?

3. Speaking of Mike (and his trick or treats--???), we once again witness the true magic of PLL--being able to take your viewer from not being sure who to suspect to definitely, absolutely, positively suspecting that Mike is not only up to something, but is definitely, absolutely, positively working with Ali. But that doesn't make him one of A's minions if you, like me, don't think Ali is A. So that's a bit of a snag in this plot, but here's what I love about the possibility that Mike is up to no good: unlike when the finger was pointed at then-Creeper Toby and Ezra, the show could actually go there with Mike. He's a minor enough character that they could make him bad without back-paddling down the road. I, for one, would love to see this happen. But again, him seeing Ali makes me think something else is happening here. I just don't know what.

4. And finally, Johnny. Oh Johnny, what the hell is up with you and your wacky inventions? This guy might as well be named plot device at this point, but here's the real mystery: since when did The Brew turn into a makeshift community centre were random weirdos can just solder away on their latest hobby project? Johnny has access to the Hastings' barn--why doesn't he just do his work there? I simply don't understand. Did Ezra sign off on this? I'm so confused.


the writer's arsenal: shiny new idea syndrome

One question people like to ask authors is, "where do you get your ideas from?", and the answer, as it should be, is usually some variation of, "where does anybody get any of their thoughts from?" Because really, ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes they're directly inspired by something we observe, and sometimes, they just form in our brains, either while we're asleep (the "I had this crazy dream..." starting point) or they just appear out of the blue. I personally find that ideas often come to me while I'm already working on another book; something I write, or some plot twist I decide not to use, ends up inspiring a whole new story. The only problem with that is, when the new idea appears, it's suddenly all I can think about (and they always seem to come to me when I hit a creative lull and my brain is looking for something flashy and easy to divert to). When that happens, I usually force myself to jot down everything about the new idea and file it away in my idea folder before returning to my WIP. The new idea can wait its turn. (Sidebar: the word "idea" is starting to lose all meaning as a result of this first paragraph.)

Usually, I can get over the new idea hump, but sometimes, the new idea isn't just a distraction, there's something about it that really clicks, and even if my WIP isn't in a creative lull, the new idea embeds itself deep inside my brain and demands attention. That's what's happening to me right now.  It's hard because part of me is very focussed on a first this, then that mentality--I know the vital importance of staying on task while writing--but I can also look at the situation rationally and see that my WIP could wait (it is, after all, about summer camp, a topic perhaps best saved for when there isn't snow swirling outside my window). And this new idea? There's something timely about it. Unlike other new ideas I've had, I worry this one might fizzle too much if I don't breathe life into it now.

Shiny, new ideas can be dangerous. They're often the death of WIPs. A lot of writers struggle to finish writing anything because they can't stay focussed, and I'd say that 99% of the time, it's best to file new ideas away and stay on task. But the other 1% of the time, when you can't shake the shiny, new idea no matter how hard you try, it might be best to make an exception and let the new idea cut in line. I'm nervous to make the jump, because I don't want to put my WIP in jeopardy of never being finished, but I think the fact that I feel that way is a pretty good indicator that its time will come. With four novels under my belt, I'm at a point where I know I'm capable of reaching the finish line. I think I've earned a little side trip for book number five. Plus, this new idea? It's dark and devastating. Perfect for winter writing :)

Do you find you fall victim to shiny new idea syndrome? Does it keep you from finishing anything or can you set new ideas aside and stay on task?

pretty little recap: a bArrel of fun

5.16 Over a Barrel
One of the things I love about PLL is how, for an ABC Family show, they aren't afraid to push the boundaries of all things creepy and sometimes downright horrific. It's gonna be a while before I stop envisioning Mona sludge... let's recap!

Haleb can handle the drama. I hope. Photo credit: ABC Family

Pretty Little Highlights

1. Hot Caleb the Hacker is always amazing, but Hot Caleb the MacGyver is on a whole other level! If loving someone more because they can pick a lock with a soda can is wrong, then I don't want to be right. Is there anything this boy can't do?

2. Team Spencer and Hot Caleb. Again, I don't want to see Hot Caleb linked romantically to anyone but Hanna, but I am definitely loving the fact that we're getting to see him interact with some of the other liars in interesting ways. This particular pairing is all win when it comes to detective work, but seriously, let's keep it to that, cause I don't wanna see the love quadrangle drama/fallout that would result from a Spencer/Hot Caleb hook-up. 

3. Hanna standing up for her man! It's nice to see Hanna have a solid reason for some of the not-so-wise things she does. Who can argue with a girl driven to protect her hottie boyfriend from being framed? Hanna is often portrayed as so flighty (which we love about her) so it's nice to see her acting strong here, both with protecting Hot Caleb and dealing with her Mom (which we'll discuss below...).

4. I hesitate to include this, but okay, Copper Toby and Spencer are actually kinda cute playing Scrabble. Until they start fighting.Which I'd have been loving a year ago. Oh, this show...

Pretty Little Mistakes (a.k.a What Aria Did)

1. Said it before and will said it again, the liars need to stop committing incriminating acts in writing. Yes, Aria really shouldn't have written that letter, but am I the only one who thinks the whole receipt thing was a little too ridiculous? I mean, this show constantly knocks against the limit of suspending your disbelief, but am I really supposed to believe that A somehow hacked into what appears to be a fairly basic, probably not too customizable, cash resister and programmed it to print out that receipt at the exact moment Aria was there waiting to be devastated by it? Yeah, that's a bit of a stretch. Even for PLL.

2. Okay, let's talk about the adulterous elephant in the room. Pastor Ted is back. Did you guys conveniently forget about him too? Cause I definitely did when Ashley and Jason hooked up last week, but yeah, now we're in a bit of a mess. Ashley, what were you thinking? I realized this week that she and Hanna have a bit of a Lorelai-Rory dynamic going on sometimes--except that Hanna has very little in common with Rory and Ashley isn't nearly as funny as Lorelai. Cause there's nothing funny about cheating on your boyfriend and then keeping him dangling on the line after he proposes, Ashley. Nothing funny about that at all.

3. I like Emily, I really do, but her storylines are sometimes the worst. This new chick at The Brew is beyond weird, which isn't helping Emily's case, but can we please get Emily back into an interesting storyline? We finally got rid of Paige (at least for now), so now is the time for her to get out there and do something exciting! Please, PLL, give her some juicy secret from her past or SOMETHING.

4. Why are the liars continuing to assume Ali is behind everything when she'd clearly be so limited from prison? At the very lease they should be assuming she has a network of people doing her dirty work for her, and in that case, why aren't they doing more to track these people down? Hacking into cash registers? Planting incriminating evidence? If Ali is doing all this from prison, the correctional facility she's in really needs to tighten their restrictions... 

5. Johnny. Yeah, what's up with that dude. I don't know what else to say about him yet--but was he hitting on Spencer? I don't like assuming that any opposite-sex pairing on this show (or same-sex in Emily's case) spells potential love interest, but that's how these shows seem to always go. I see Spencer with Hot Caleb and I think, "hells no!"I see Spencer with Johnny and I think, "what is going on here?" So yeah, what is going on here, Johnny? I don't trust you and your delightful homemade paints!

Pretty Little ZOMG WTF?!

1. Okay, that scene in the storage locker was tense. I could immediately tell the hazmat suit was empty, but Tyler Blackburn's delivery of the line about there being someone in there with them had me convinced there was someone there. Maybe it's just that part of my brain that convinces me someone is chasing me up the basement stairs at night, or is looking back in at me through a darkened window (ahh!), but the whole "there's someone inside the house!" thing totally freaks me out every time. Well played, PLL

2. Is Mona in the barrel? I don't know if I believe it.  Or maybe I just don't want to, but I know PLL would go there. "Should we open it?" No. No, you don't open barrels that might have sludge bodies in them. How would anybody be better off if you did that? Thankfully, Spencer and Hot Caleb, private eyes, decided to leave the barrel as is, but reporting it to the police is starting to not look like an option because...

3. The storage locker is in Hanna's name. And based on her reaction, she had nothing to do with it (which, I think we knew). Another plot by A to frame the liars? Or something else entirely? The safeguards on Mona's laptop have me wondering what else Miss Vanderwaal set up prior to her death. I have a feeling we're going to be hearing from Mona from beyond the grave for a while to come...


pretty little recap: i guess they rAn out of stuffing...

5.15 Fresh Meat
This week's episode flew by. Lots of action and lots to talk about! Plus, a major nickname change has finally happened..... 

It was never my intention to like you, Toby... but ah geez... Photo credit: ABC Family

Pretty Little Highlights 

1. Copper Toby. That's right, he's officially made the jump from Creeper. What can I say? I dig that Toby has a semi-noble purpose now. Plus, the guy gets points anytime he's in a BFF scene with Hot Caleb. He's tipped the scale...for now. Don't do anything creepy, Toby. I've got my eye on you.

2. "You're a really good liar." Heh. I love little nods like that. But what is up with this new Johnny dude who will be conveniently renting Melissa's old room? I'm immediately suspicious. Besides, didn't The OC teach us to not trust randos named Johnny? 

3. Lots of Hot Caleb time. Even if he is messed up in this murder weapon business (see below), I love it when Hot Caleb gets involved in the main plot instead of just being Hanna's main squeeze (not that I mind him being TV's hottest boyfriend either). Much like his scenes with Aria last week, I totally dug his scenes with Spencer and Copper Toby. Hot Caleb has good chemistry with anyone. I probably shouldn't be surprised.

Pretty Little Mistakes (a.k.a What Aria Did)

1. Okay, let's talk murder weapons. Obviously, there's whats right, and then there's what's best for the liars (and the plot!), but any plan that puts Hot Caleb's life in danger is not good in my books! Hot Caleb is not meant to be a literal! Also, how long can the liars possibly go on messing with evidence before they get into serious trouble?

2. Emilly randomly deciding to be a catering business. What a strange plotline. One minute she's convincing Ezra to let her do it and the next she's in the kitchen surrounded by vegetables. Am I the only one who is picturing the missing scene of her at the grocery store just throwing everything she sees into the cart with no plan as to what she's actually going to cook? And then she acts all hard done by. And then all offended. Are we supposed to be on Emily's side with this? Because I'm not. She's being a total B. And Paige is so not worth it.  

3. Aria's letter to Jackie, the super convenient admissions board member. Aria has been doing pretty decently in my books lately, but this college stuff is making her crazy. I get it, she's freaked, but desperation rarely leads to wise decisions and this one was downright stupid. Why haven't the liars collectively learned that anything they write down can and will be used against them in a court of A? How many times does that have to happen before they get it??

4. Spencer and Copper Toby fighting. I wasn't sure where to put this. Previously, when Copper Toby was still Creeper Toby, it definitely would have been a pretty little highlight, but now that's he's made the transformation to Copper Toby? He's a lot worthier of Spencer's time and affection than he was before. So stop fighting guys, okay?   

Pretty Little ZOMG WTF?!

1. Stuffed animals filled with...meat? Need I say more? What is even happening here? Why does the most effed up stuff always happen to Hanna when she's alone? In related news, all of the liars should definitely be in therapy. 

2. Jason and Ashley WHAT??? Granted, I started to get vibes early on in the episode, but really, who can say they saw this coming? Clearly not Hanna. 

P.S. I'm still 100% convinced that Ali didn't kill Mona and isn't A. I highly doubt anyone out there buys that theory, especially after she received that note in her OrangeistheNewBlack jumpsuit.


the writer's arsenal: bookmark these now, thank me later

I've talked a lot about the importance of getting yourself organized when you're setting out to write a book and today I want to give a shoutout to the top five tools I personally use and have come to rely on during my writing process (all of which I'm recommending of my own free will--no product placements here, folks!).


Oh, Trello. There are days when I still can't believe you're real. I've tried a lot--A LOT--of different outlining tools over the years. I don't think I could ever possibly list them all. But none have met my needs the way Trello has. It allows you to create these things called Trello boards, which are basically giant bulletin boards where you can pin cards under different columns. I used to only use it for laying out chapter breakdowns, but now I use it for everything. Cause why not? It's so much easier when you have everything you need in one place. I create a board for each book I'm working on, then within the board, I create character lists, chapter breakdowns, a place for snippets of text (cause sometimes you think of perfect dialogue before you've written a scene), and any other things I need to keep handy (locations, facts, timelines, continuity checks, etc). I also use it for new book ideas, marketing ideas, home renovation projects (yes, that is unrelated, but that's just how diverse this tool is! I can even share the home reno stuff with the husband so we can collab on it together!)

Here's a pared down sample of what my story boards look like:

So yeah, it's awesome. Plus, once you set up an account, you can use it via your web browser, your phone, or your tablet (it's even on Kindle!) and everything syncs seamlessly. Oh, and it's free! They do have a paid service called Trello Gold, which I'm sure is a really powerful tool for businesses that require lots of people to collaborate on massive projects, but for writers who want a space to map out their thoughts, the free version is all you need.


I'm not using Werdsmith as much these days now that I've migrated almost everything to Trello, but sometimes I still want a space where I can do some writing on the fly. For me, Werdsmith has risen above the rest when it comes to writing apps because it's clean, simple, and it works. I can write something on my iPhone while out shopping (cause sometimes you think of brilliant plot twists in the middle of the cereal aisle) and it's there on my iPad when I get home. A few extras that put this app above the rest include word count goals and an idea-to-project-based structure that makes Werdsmith a good place to brainstorm and then run with your brilliance when you're ready.


Don't even try to tell me you don't use more than one cloud service. I know you do. We all do. Sometimes because it's forced upon us (Google, Apple, etc) and sometimes because we want to stick to the free version of each and then run out of space. And that's not even to mention that some cloud services just plain old function differently than others, and meet certain needs better than others. If that sounds even remotely familiar than you should probably start using Multcloud, an online tool that lets you manage all most of your cloud services in one place. Need to move files from one cloud to another? Multcloud makes that super easy. Want to backup your novel to more than once location? Save it to one of your cloud services and then easily drop copies anywhere you want to keep a backup.


There isn't much to say about this website beyond the fact that it provides really good creative white noise. Do you enjoy working to the dull roar of a busy coffee house? Are you inspired by the sound of rain and gentle thunder? Rainy Cafe provides either (or both at the same time!). If you, like me, concentrate better with a little something to block out your actual environment (and find music only helps when you're writing certain scenes), then Rainy Cafe is probably the answer to your concentration woes. Check it out.


Yes, I know I've already covered cloud storage with my shoutout to Multcloud, but I have to give an honourable mention to Tresorit, which I've mentioned before, because unlike the cloud services you can sync with Multcloud, Tresorit is super secure cloud storage done right. I like to keep anything I consider to be highly sensitive material in Tresorit, including an extra backup of each of my novels. It has fantastic encryption and is perfect for those files you really want to lock up tight. Just don't forget your password. Just kidding. I think there's way to deal with that... I think.

So there they are--my top five writing tools! Do you have any specific tools/resources you've come to depend on during your writing (or working) process? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

pretty little recap: the glass is dArker on the other side

5.14 Through A Glass, Darkly
A Very Vanderwaal Funeral. Photo credit: ABC Family
It really hasn't been that long thanks to that wicked fun Christmas special, but PLL is back for season 5B and I am super stoked about its return! I love the way this show breaks up its seasons. The hiatus never feels too long and whenever a half season starts up, I always get this feeling of, "More new episodes already? HOORAY!" It's also kind of necessary because let's face it, the more tangled the lies get, the more complicated the backstories, the more none of us would be able to remotely remember what's going on if there were really long breaks between half seasons.

Pretty Little Highlights 

1. Mrs. Mona's Mom freaking out on Ali and smacking her good. Yeah, I don't buy into the idea that Ali killed Mona cause that would be too easy, but I do think Ali needed a good smack so win?

2. Creeper Toby as a cop. I never thought the day would come when I could get behind anything Creeper Toby, but I actually kinda dig him as a cop. Maybe it's the uniform and haircut. But probably it's just the fact that the liars finally have someone "on the inside". Regardless, I'm this close to calling him Copper Toby instead of Creeper Toby. But let's not get ahead of ourselves..  

3. Hot Caleb and Aria: The Master and The Hot Mess. I have no good reason to like this pair together (not like, together together, cause team Haleb all the way), but Aria as Hot Caleb's hacker apprentice is actually kind of amusing. It's entirely possible this was a one-off scene, but with Aria asking for Hot Caleb's help regarding college rejections, it sounds like a B-plot to me!

4. The charges against Spencer being dropped. Thank goodness that's over. I'm not a huge fan of storylines I definitely know aren't going to play out for the worst. It feels like a waste of time. Spencer was never going to actually go down for murder. (Ali probably won't either, but there's at least a better chance of something bad happening to her than to Spence.)

5. "They don't allow fireworks in prison." Classic Hanna. Welcome back.

Pretty Little Mistakes (a.k.a What Aria Did)

1. Bringing in Old Lady Ravenswood. Hanna, I know you don't always make the best choices, but come on, that woman isn't even secretly creepy. She's full-on, outwardly going-to-get-you-abducted-by-a-religious-cult creepy. I know you're desperate to find out what really happened to Mona, but how about some good old fashioned liar-style detective work?

2. Emily's plan to leave Ali's hair at the crime scene to save Spencer. Em, your heart is in the right place, but your plan is terrible. And illegal. Kids, just say no to planting evidence. 

3. Aria not even trying to fight back against A and his/her nail gun. If your life is on the line, you don't just say, "please don't do this", you struggle and try your damnedest to escape. You kinda deserve to die, Aria. Plus, did I miss something or was there no follow-up to this scene? 

4. Em and Paige. I'm so bored with this couple. How many times have they sat around being sad together? I'm over it. Can we please move on? Em deserves better.

5. Ali not just darting around the liars' blockade while trying to escape. They're not a brick wall, Ali. Put a little more effort into your getaway next time.

Pretty Little ZOMG WTF?!

1. Is it just me or does Jason look really different now? (And I don't mean different actor different.) Jason's hair is still super pouffy--classic J-pouf--but something (the facial hair?) about his face looked totally off to me. Like, beyond the facial hair. I didn't recognize him at first. Maybe he just looks older? I just don't know. 

2. The video of Mona being attacked. Again, I don't think it's Ali on the tape, even if her alibi isn't real, but it's still brutal to watch cause it's Mona and we love/hated her. 

3. Ali actually being arrested for Mona's murder. This isn't really that much of a ZOMG WTF moment cause I think we all know she'll be out in no time, but I'm a little surprised the show went there during the first episode back. Are we going to get an Orange is the New Black-esque storyline this season? :)

4. Mike having emotions. Could Aria Jr. actually be evolving into a multi-dimensional character with... feelings? Colour me shocked.

Bring on the new season!


plans, both master and fledgling

Photo credit:

I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions--at least not in the traditional, eat whatever you want in December cause the diet starts in January sense. I think they set us up to fail more often than not. And who needs to start the year off feeling like they've failed before the snow even melts? Part of the problem with sudden, all-in resolutions is that most people can't make real changes in their lives simply because some (kinda arbitrary) date rolls around. We don't switch on like that.

With that in mind, I do understand the appeal in using the new year to set goals. I just think it's wise to keep some perspective. If you use the new year to organize the goals you've already been thinking about and working toward, you'll be more likely to accomplish something.

I have some baby weight to lose, but realistically, I'm not going to join a gym. First off, I hate gyms. But even if I didn't, I don't have time for them in my life. So what then? Am I going to get up and go for a run every morning? In an ideal world, I would. But no, it's freezing cold winter. And I have a nursing baby at home. It's not realistic. So then what about eating healthier? That's something I can do. But it would be ridiculous to pledge to eat only healthy food from here on out. Diets like that always fail. I know that. And I enjoy unhealthy foods too much to do that. So instead, I'm taking small steps to work toward eating healthier on a regular basis. Less takeout, more home-cooked meals. I love cooking and now that Baby H is sleeping more, I have a lot more capacity to manage it. So as far as that goes, I resolve to take the baby steps I need to take to start eating more healthy, home-cooked meals on a regular basis. I know for me, the key to doing that is actually quite simple--I need to make a meal plan for every week, one that allows for occasional takeout meals and treats, but primarily focusses on eating healthy, home-cooked meals and ensuring I have the ingredients on hand to do so. It isn't a huge change. It doesn't require a ton of effort like going to the gym or forcing myself to count calories would. But it's enough of a change that over time, it'll start to make a difference. And that's good enough for me.

I've talked about the usefulness of getting organized while writing before and I can't help but make the comparison now. Life changes, like writing books, aren't sprints. They take time. We need to prep our brains for them, ease into them. Sometimes we're super keen (daily word count surpassed!) and sometimes we're lagging (feeling uninspired and Netflixy, which yes, I've decided is an adjective), but the key is to keep going at a pace we can manage. That's not to say you shouldn't push yourself from time to time. Realistically, I may only finish writing one book in 2015, but that doesn't mean I won't try to write two, maybe even three. I just won't set that as a hard, punish myself if I don't achieve it goal. It's an ambition, not a resolution.

So what other plans do I have for 2015? Well, aside from meal planning and writing (cause, of course there will be writing!), I am going to keep going on a goal I started a few years back (with the birth of Baby E), slowly cleansing our home of chemical products and unnecessary clutter. I recently discovered an awesome organic grocery store nearby and I plan to start buying more produce and other products from there (knowing I'll still rely on my old grocery store for a lot of things), and while I've removed almost all chemical cleaners/detergents/etc from our home, I still have some work to do with regards to switching to better personal care products, make-up, etc.

So yeah, those are my goals for the year--well, those and keeping my family healthy and happy. But that's just business as usual :)

What are your goals for 2015? Do you like to make hard and fast resolutions or do you prefer to use this time of year for more achievable planning?

If you're like me and want to make some changes to the products you use in your home, I highly recommend you check out the products you're currently using via the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep searchable database. I've been using it to chose better products for a few months now and it's really making a difference.

Happy New Year!!