novels

End of Month Wrap-Up: April & March #amreading

April & May 2017 Reads
Hello, fellow book junkies! I miss all of you fabulous bloggers so much. If it’s any consolation, I haven’t had a lot of time for reading books lately either, so it’s me, not you!

Now on to reviews for books I read in April and March (two of which were two 5-star reads, by the way.)

Adult/YA fantasy crossover
A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab. Okay, so how do I put this? My favorite writer, Victoria Schwab, is EVERYTHING. In A Conjuring of Light, yes, the writing is great. So is the worldbuilding, the characters, and the plot but–as the final installment in trilogy–A Conjuring of Light did not sufficiently answer important plot questions I’ve been dying to know the answers to since book one. If you’ve read the series maybe you’ll agree. To avoid giving away even a smidgen of a spoiler, I won’t say more. 4/5 stars

YA contemporary
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon –audiobook. This was my Nicola Yoon book, and I loved it!! The Sun is Also a Star was beautifully written, moving, philosophical and featured features characters that I really grew to care about. Natasha and Daniel are so very different–a Jamaican girl with a passion for science and a Korean-American boy who’s a born poet–but somehow their love just seems meant to be. I am now officially a huge Nicola Yoon fan. 5/5 stars

MG fantasy
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson-audiobook Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians had a title I couldn’t pass up. Yeah, so then I was 1/3 of the way through the book before I realized it was the fourth book in a series I had never read! Oh, well, at least now I know how the series ends. Right? Nope, turns out book five comes out in 2018. Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians (book FOUR) was cute and kookily(?) magical. Sanderson–bold writer that he is–breaks the fourth wall and just seems to have a blast writing this book, I guess I’m just a tough customer to please when it comes to MG fantasy. Could be because I’m not an 11-year-old boy. There’s that. The part I enjoyed most was Alcatraz Smedry’s conflicted Evil Librarian mother. She was interesting. 3.25/5 stars

YA light horror
Wax by Gina Damico Orange Library. Entertaining, original, humorous. This is unlike any YA book I’ve read before, kind YA-lite meets Edgar Allan Poe. 3.5/5 stars

YA dystopian pirates
The Edge of the Abyss (The Abyss Surrounds Us #2) by Emily Skrutskie-Netgalley ARC. Why did I read book two of this series? Oh, right, because even though I didn’t get into the main character Cass in the first book, I appreciated Skrutskie’s unique worldbuilding, strong writing skills, and the fact that the story featured a YA lesbian (budding) relationship. So I continued the series and–surprise!–encountered the same frustrating issues I had with the first book. I did not care about the main character. Cass’ motivations were so haphazard and ingenuine that I may well have strained my eyeballs from rolling them so much. And yet I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading The Abyss Surrounds Us. It’s a unique book with a lot to offer. 3.25/5 stars

Adult contemporary literary-ish
Exit Ghost by Phillip Roth audiobook I don’t get to do this as often as I’d like, but I randomly picked this book off the library shelf one day. And I was sorry I did. Exit Ghost seemed intelligent and voice-y, had an intriguing title, and was written by an author I’ve heard of but never read. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bunch of navel-gazing. I didn’t care how many Depends adult diapers the 80 y.o. writer had to wear or find it at all endearing that he coveted his new friend’s young wife. Honestly, even if a protagonist and a reader are from completely different walks of life (as this protagonist and I are), a well-written story should get me to care. This didn’t. I DNF’ed halfway through. 2.75/5 stars

Children’s historical modern classic
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, written for readers ages 10 and up, works for all ages. It’s full of depth and moving portrayals of human decency. In fact, Number the Stars made me tear up. . . okay, cry, three times. This book restores your faith in the human race. A must-read. 5/5 stars

— Eve Messenger

January Reads – End of Month Wrap-Up #amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies! I’m afraid in January I only managed to read five books. It was kind of interesting, though, how my two favorite characters  both turned out to be animals. Sure, there were lots of interesting fae and human characters–like complex Rhysand from ACOTAR and saintly Joan of Arc from Mark Twain’s book–but the real stars of January were:

  • Corr, the feral, ferocious mythical water horse from Maggie Stievfater’s The Scorpio Races (check out what he does at the end of the book–it’s amazing); and
  • Mischievous, smiley, long-suffering Rosie the elephant from Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

JANUARY FLASH REVIEWS

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas-YA Fantasy. I finally got around to discovering what a rich, fascinating, magical world Sarah J. Maas has created with this series. I found myself really liking protagonist Feyre Archeron for her bravery, hot temper, and resourcefulness at teaching herself the skills she needs to survive and keep her impoverished family alive. Oh, does Feyre hate the Fae, which of course makes for great drama when she is forced to live among them. I’m not sure if I loved the plot decision at the end, but I am definitely down to read book two. 4.5/5 stars

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, vol. I  by Mark Twain – This classic novel is the first of hopefully many more e-books I’ll be downloading for FREE from Project Gutenburg If you haven’t already, check out Project Gutenberg. You’ll find tons of old books that have fallen out of copyright and can be downloaded right onto your eReader. Apparently, of all of Mark Twain’s books, Recollections of Joan of Arc was his personal favorite. He spent twelve years researching it! Joan of Arc is, of course, an unforgettable character. In this fictionalized account of Joan’s life told from the POV of a childhood friend, Twain weaves in his trademark sarcasm and ingenious insights into human nature, as well as some of the best dialogue of any writer ever. We learn about elusive, earnest, mystical Joan of Arc, and shake our heads at the antics of her friends and countrymen who come to believe, like Joan does, that God means for the French–against all odds–to win against the English. 4.25/5 stars

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater-YA paranormal – The Scorpio Races is a song of a book that’s flowing and lyrical, and maybe just a touch slow-paced. The love story is enthralling because each person in the relationship is their own brave, utterly competent, strong-willed soul from an island that breeds them that way. The mythological water horses are haunting and memorable, especially Sean Kendrick’s mount, Corr. 4.25/5 stars

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick-audiobook – Cute, humorous, and unflinchingly honest, this autobiography was read by the author herself, Anna Kendrick, who reads really, really fast. 4/5 stars

The Abyss Surrounds Us (The Abyss Surrounds Us #1) by Emily Skrutskie – This YA post-apocalyptic pirate adventure is one of several YA books I’m reading that feature f/f and/or fem bi characters. I found myself much more drawn to pirate girl Swift than to the main character Cassandra Leung, probably because Cassandra’s motivations weren’t always believable. Still, there’s no doubt Emily Skrutskie is a skillful writer. The Abyss Surrounds Us is one of those debut novels that noticeably improves as it goes along, and I look forward to seeing what Skrustkie comes up with for the next installment in this series. 3.75/5 stars

–Eve Messenger

December Flash Reviews

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Hello, fellow book junkies! Well, here’s a recap of the final books I read in the year 2016. Each book was super unique and there were lots of YA speculative genres represented: fantasy, time travel, sci-fi, paranormal, f/f, dystopia0, horror. The flash reviews are listed by how much I liked each book, leading down to two fabulous five-star reads at the end.

The Dreamcatcher by Barrett – YA paranormal,  F/F relationship, WOC main character. Dark magic influenced by Indigenous folklore (maybe). Adorable romance, but the paranormal element missed the mark. I’m getting nervous about reading books by YA authors who only go by one name. (See review for The 52nd by Dela).  3.5/5 stars

Side Jobs, Short Stories from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher– This adult paranormal detective short story collection was recommended to me by my husband. Interesting concept. Funny, self-deprecating protagonist Harry Dresden is both a private detective and a warlock. The stories were entertaining until I lost interest about halfway through the book. Highlight: Murphy, the female non-magic police officer tiny in stature but with a big don’t-mess-with-me attitude. 3.75/5 stars

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter – Eloquent, nightmarish, Russian YA fairy tale retelling set in Brooklyn. Weird is good but not always great.3.75/5 stars

Railhead by Philip Reed– Off-the-hook world-building. Intriguing concepts. Reminiscent of Red Rising, but the characters could have been stronger. 4/5 stars

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee –  YA superheroes and f/f romance. Entertaining, sweet, unique, entertaining–especially if you’re into superheroes. 4/5 stars

Pretties (Uglies #2) by Scott Westerfeld – YA dystopian. There was hoverboarding, and gorgeous, stoic Zach is my new book boyfriend so, yes, I am perfectly content. 🙂 4/5 stars

Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs – Intriguing YA time travel/thriller featuring an amazing WOC main character who I rooted for like crazy.High on mystery/suspense, low on world-building. 4/5 stars

Ice Crypt (Mermaids of Erania Kwai #2) by Tiana Warner – YA paranormal filled with thrills and gills. Islander warrior girl befriends/falls in love with mermaid/sea demon warrior girl. Exciting, fascinating, adventurous. Loving this series. 5/5 stars

The Reader by Traci Chee – Officially one of my top eight favorite reads of 2016. This YA fantasy magic-adventure-fairy tale is engrossing and brilliantly structured with fantastic world-building, the kind of deliriously good book that whisks you away. Book two now, please. 5/5 stars

So long, books of 2016. Hello to all the new books to be read in 2017!

–Eve Messenger

2016: Favorite Cover & New Fictional Crush

Hello, fellow book junkies! In the merry month of December, I’m strolling down memory lane and reminiscing about the wonderful books I read in 2016. Today I’d like to share with you about my favorite cover of the year, plus my new fictional crush.

Favorite Book Cover of 2016

First, the nominees. . .

For feminine attitude and vivid artwork,  Shadowshapers and Captain Marvel are hard to beat.
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And, somehow, the cover of The Star-Touched Queen nearly manages to capture the ethereal beauty of Roshani Chokshi’s writing.
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The cover of This Savage Song is so eye-catching. I like the combination of black and red, and the best part is the font. Plus, seeing covers on the computer, it’s easy to miss the fine detail that goes into the artwork, but if you look closely at this cover, inside the violin is an image of an urban alleyway. Pretty cool.
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There’s something about The Graces cover that appeals to me–the symmetry, perhaps? Another thing about this book, I really liked it, but for some reason it has a low 3.23 on Goodreads. I disagree!
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And the winner is. . .

A Thousand Pieces of You. This cover is a genuine work of art. Look at those watercolors and that genius reflection. This is a cover for the ages.

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New Fictional Crush

And, lastly, a quick word about my new fictional crush. I know, I know, I’m several years behind on Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, but I am 24768
finally getting caught up and loving how adventuresome, stoic, and gorgeous Zane is in Pretties (Uglies #2). He will definitely give David a run for his money. I choose you, Zane!!

 

 

 

 

–Eve Messenger

The Bookish Scenarios Tag #amreading

Hello, fellow book junkies! I won’t lie; it was super challenging to narrow down each of these categories to just one book  (you know how it is, right, when you love so, so many books?). Everyone should try this book tag, though–it’s a fun one, so I hereby tag all of you! Thanks to Jess @ Blogging Everything Beautiful for telling me about it. 🙂

[1.] You have to get rid of all your books and you can only keep one from each of these genres – contemporary, fantasy, non-fiction and one other genre of your choosing. What books do you keep?

Contemporary: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Fantasy: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Non-Fiction: The Gypsies by Jan Yoors

Fantasy/Speculative: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

[2.] You’re at the bookstore and you hear a teenager telling their mom they don’t like to read, but their mom insists they pick something. You walk over and recommend a book you think is great for people who aren’t big on reading – what book is it?

I’d say, “Start easy with this amazingly awesome comic book, reluctant reader, and work your way up.”
Captain Marvel, vol. 1. by DeConnick and Lopez

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[3.] You’re not feeling yourself and need a pick me up. Which book do you read to put yourself in a great mood?

Uprooted by Naomi Novik. As scary as this novel gets at times, the main character Agnieszka is so full of love, there are great friendships, and the homespun (but very powerful) magic is a joy to read about.

[4.] You go back in time for a day to your childhood years. What book would you most likely have caught yourself reading?

I’d have to go with Fairy Tales from Around the World. It was a very old series I found in the far corner of our small-town school library. I haven’t run across it since, but in third grade I couldn’t get enough of it.

[5.] Your friend surprises you with a 4-day trip and you have 1 hour to pack. Which book do you bring to read on the way?

I’d pack my Kindle so I could choose from several books already loaded onto it: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Geir, and A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.

[6.] Your house has been robbed! Don’t worry – everyone is safe, but your bookshelf has been raided. What’s the book you really hope is safe?

A Darker Shade of Magic, signed by V.E. Schwab at my very first book signing.

[7.] Your friend borrows a book and returns it in awful condition. Do you a) Just pretend you haven’t noticed b) Ask them to repurchase it or c) Secretly do the same to something of theirs?

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or d) Wonder what the heck happened to me that I would go back on a promise to myself–after many, many unreturned books–to never loan out books unless I’m okay with giving them as a gift.

–Eve Messenger

NEW YA Book Review: We Are Still Tornadoes #amreading

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Newly out this month from St. Martin’s Griffin is a YA contemporary penned by co-authors Michael Kun and Susan Mullen called We Are Still Tornadoes–a quick, feel-good read.

Set in the 1980s, We Are Still Tornadoes takes us into the relationship between lifelong friends Cath and Scott through letters they write to one another after Cath moves away to college.

As someone who also grew up with a dear friend of the opposite sex (coincidentally, also named Scott), I appreciate how authentically Kun and Mullen capture the open, honest, sometimes goofy, sometimes flirtatious friendship between a girl and a boy.

Cath, Scott and their shared history are totally believable. Scott is very funny. Cath is more cerebral but can hold her own in the humor department. Both are genuinely good people navigating the turbulent seas of post-high school life. They make mistakes, deal with social faux pas, encounter tragedies, and through it all we root for them.

We Are Still Tornadoes’ only weakness is its ending, which would have benefited greatly from more of a build-up and a denouement. No joke, when I arrived at the last page of the story, I kept tapping my e-book screen thinking there had to be more–but nope. Despite the rushed ending, We Are Still Tornadoes is definitely worth the read and deserves a hearty four out of five stars.

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–Eve Messenger

“How a Book is Made” Tag

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Thanks to The Orang-utan Librarian for yet another interesting tag. In this post, I’ll be exploring all things writing, even including a link where you can test your typing speed–post results in the comments section if you dare. 😉

1. Should you participate in National Novel Writing Month to create a book?

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Every writer should participate in NaNoWriMo at least once in zir life. Thirty consecutive days of grinding out as many words as possible establishes consistent writing habits, gets you out of the house, helps you discover great local places to write, creates bonds with other writers, pushes you to allow your imagination run wild and maybe, just maybe, gets you to the point where you can write The End at the end of an actual first draft.

 2. Self-publishing or traditional publishing?

Traditional publishing is what I personally strive for, primarily because the idea of having to add a full-time job of promoting my own book to actually writing books, plus working a day job to make ends meet seems utterly daunting. I’d like to have a publisher who can at least explain to me how best to promote my books.

3. Write one idea at a time or write all the ideas at once?

Capture all ideas that come to you, always. That doesn’t mean you have to turn them into books right away.

4. What genre is the easiest to write?

I’m not sure if it’s the easiest, but the genre that comes most naturally to me is young-adult speculative fiction.

5. Where do you need to write to get the work done?

Wherever there aren’t interruptions, and I’ve been getting better at writing even in environments where there’s some noise.

6. Where do you find your inspiration?

In books! I’m inspired by the stories I read and the way they’re written. Of course, I’m also inspired by events from my life, my perspective on things, and my many interests.

7. What age do you start writing?

I vividly remember writing stories in 1st grade.

8. What’s easiest to write? Short stories, stand-alones, series, etc.

Stand-alones. The idea of planning out a series makes my brain explode.

9. Do you mill your books or take years to write a book?

I can whip out a first draft quickly, maybe in a month or two, but ultimately I think I need a year or two to finish a book.

10. How fast can you type?

According to TypingTest.com, I type 95 words a minute.

11. Do you write in the dark or in the light?

Both.

12. Handwritten or typed?

Typed, but I love those rare occasions when I hand-write because I think the writing flows more organically, and when I type out the handwritten words afterward I’m always surprised by how many more words there are than I expected.

13. Alone or with someone else?

Alone, but I’m open to trying out a collaboration. Why not?

14. Any typing hacks?

Practice a lot.

15. Are you already published?

I had a poem published in an anthology; that’s about it.

16. When did you first consider being an author?

I don’t remember ever not wanting to be an author.

17. How many books do you have in draft form?

Four and a half.

18. Do you outline or no?

Proper outlining is a skill I’ve not yet mastered–but I really want to!

19. What’s your favorite note-keeping strategy?

I keep notes in my smart phone, notebooks, and Google docs.

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20. What do you think about writing in different genres?

I love reading multiple genres but, ultimately, I’m most comfortable writing YA speculative. I am, however, totally enamored with the idea of experimenting with writing genre mash-ups.

–Eve Messenger

I Tag:

Rayne Adams
Melanie Noell Bernard
G.L. Jackson @ Dreaming in Character
Mackenzie Bates
Ida Auclond
Daisy in the Willows
Nicolette Elzie
Danielle @ The Caffeinated Writer

 

 

ARC Review: THE CUTAWAY by Christina Kovac #amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies! A Goodreads friend really liked The Cutaway by Christina Kovac, so I ventured out of my YA zone and, crossing my fingers, requested an ARC on Netgalley. I got a copy (yay!), and totally enjoyed it. 🙂

The Cutaway is a fast-paced, engrossing adult mystery whose biggest strengths are its top-notch writing, a noble protagonist, and the many fascinating insights Kovac (a career journalist) shares about the world of television journalism.

The setting is Washington, D.C., known as “The District,” the protagonist Virginia Knightly, a newswoman with a painful past and a near-photographic memory. When a young female lawyer goes missing, Virginia vaguely recalls cutaway footage of the woman from years before. As Virginia pursues the story on this missing person investigation and uncovers why the elusive footage is important, she enters dangerous territory, both professionally and personally. But Virginia is not a woman to be trifled with–if anyone can compile a top news story while maintaining her integrity, Virginia will.

Though I guessed the villain’s identity a little earlier than I’d hoped I would, overall, the plot was suspenseful and solidly constructed. I’m definitely open to reading more books by Christina Kovac, and I predict The Cutaway will do well when it comes out in March 2017.

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— Eve Messenger

Halloween Book Tag!

Hello, fellow book junkies. ‘Tis the season to be spooky, so I’m super thankful to thegrishalieutenant for this awesome Halloween Book Tag! 

CARVING PUMPKINS-What book would you carve up and light on fire?

I’m mad at The Bone Witch for being so darn aimless, especially after I’d looked so forward to reading it.

TRICK OR TREAT – What character is a trick? What character is a treat?

For this category I chose two different blond guys. . .

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Eli Cardale from V.E. Schwab’s Vicious. Every character in this book is as morally ambiguous as can be, but Eli Cardale is one of the biggest dicks tricks.

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Treat

Matthias Helvar from Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. This hunky blond from the icy north gives me the shivers in a good way.Definitely a treat.

CANDY CORN – What’s a book that’s always sweet?

Most books I read these days have somewhat of a dark edge, so I’ll have to reach way back into my reading history (and even farther back historically since this book was published in 1902!) for a riches to rags story I’ll never not be touched by: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

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GHOST – What character would you love to visit you as a ghost?

It might be interesting to be visited by the ghost of Karou from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. I think she’d show me interesting things.
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DRESSING UP IN COSTUME – What character would you want to be for a day?

I’d want to be Nimona from the graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson, because Nimona gives a total of zero f–ks, and I would like to know what that feels like.
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WIZARDS AND WITCHES – What is your favorite Harry Potter moment?

When Harry Potter first takes the train to Hogwarts on track nine and three quarters and meets Ron and Hermione. It’s just so darn magical.

BLOOD AND GORE- What book was so creepy you had to take a break from it?

It’s a tie between these two books because the idea of pure, cold evil terrifies me like nothing else.

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Happy Halloween!

XOXO, Eve Messenger

I tag:
Jesalin @ –Blogging Everything Beautiful
Amy @ Every Book You Need to Read and More
Britt @ Geronimo Reads
Orang-utan Librarian
Emma the Book Lover
Caitlyn @ Rhodes of Reading
Amanda @ Cover2CoverMom
Alyssa @ Alyssa is Reading
Cinderzena @ Cinderzena Blogs
Jessica @ The Mud and Stars Book Blog

Eleven Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write

Dreaming up stories and watching them come to life on the page is pure magic. It really is. I love being a writer. So why is it that some days facing my manuscript is the hardest thing to do in the world?

Because writing good books is HARD.
lisa-simpson-writing.gifWriting and editing can feel like wading through quicksand. Life’s distractions can pull so hard away from the writing desk that it feels impossible to muster the mental energy to write.

That’s when I pull out the big guns.
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When my writing resistance is at its highest, I take out my writing motivation checklist. If I’m lucky, I’ll only need to do a couple of items before I feel pumped enough to write. Other times–when writing-resistant inner me throws a particularly nasty tantrum–I might need to hit all ten items on the darn list.

Ultimately, the list helps me overcome resistance to writing. Maybe it will help you, too. And if you’ve discovered other effective ways to motivate yourself to write, I’d love to hear about them in the comments! 🙂 — Eve Messenger

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CHECKLIST FOR MOTIVATING YOURSELF TO WRITE
by Eve Messenger

#1 Breathe.
So simple yet so effective. You’d be amazed how much the simple act of focused breathing can perk you up to write.

#2 Get your energy up.
-Listen to a song that gets you pumped.
-Do jumping jacks.
-Flap your hands.
-Dance.

#3 Make sure your physical needs are met–hunger, thirst, room temperature, etc.
I’ll admit, sometimes I’m not that self-aware. I might think I’m resisting writing but am actually hungry, so I grab a quick bite and then I’m good to go.

#4 Acknowledge your emotions.
We’re writers; we get down about things, but we can’t let that hold us back from our dreams. If emotions are dragging you down, acknowledge them, call a friend for a quick “attagirl,” then move on.

#5 Set a specific time to write.
Make sure it’s a block of time that works reasonably within your schedule. When the clock strikes that hour, sit your bottom down in a chair and write. No matter what.

#6 Give yourself a goal to work toward.
For example:
-write 500 words
-edit for one hour
-edit X number of manuscript pages.

#7 Promise yourself a reward.
A bowl of ice cream, a nap, Netflix (and chill?), a new pair of shoes, even a sticker will do. Give yourself something special to look forward to after you’ve tackled your writing goal.

#8 Reassure yourself it’s okay to write badly.
As John Greene puts it: “I give myself permission to suck.” What a freeing notion! Even if your first pass at a daunting writing task turns out to be weak, at least you’ve managed it, and more often than not, your efforts won’t turn out badly at all.

#9 “Sprint it out.”
Tell yourself all you have to do is blaze through as many words as you can during a five-minute word sprint.  Even if all you get out are those words, you’ve accomplished writing for the day. More often than not, you’ll find that once the momentum has started, more writing will come.

#10 Block distractions. 
-Block social media.
-Shut off your cell phone.
-Turn off the TV.
-In a noisy environment, use earplugs or noise blocking headphones.
-If your home is one big distraction (AKA kids, chores, bills), get thee to a library or coffee shop. If you can afford it, trains are a super fun place to write. Writing in different locales reduces distractions and can add adventure to the writing process.

#11 Visualize your ultimate goal.
If your passion is to get your stories out into the world, then visualize fans tweeting and emailing to say how much they enjoy your writing. If your dream is to have a successful writing career, see yourself as a successful, published author. Remind yourself you’re worthy of happiness and success. Say your affirmation out loud. Then sidle up to that computer and write your dreams into reality.

Happy writing!

Eve Messenger

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