Monday, December 30, 2013

Books Read in 2013

Stats: I read 122 books this year.

My “best of” in 2013 list:

The ones that had me laughing out loud the most:
The Best Man and The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins. Be prepared to CRINGE in the best way possible at some of the situations her characters find themselves in.
The Best Man (Blue Heron #1) The Perfect Match (Blue Her...

The book I cannot stop thinking about:
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. This is one of those books that devoured in two days and haven’t stopped thinking about since. A tough read, but very thought provoking.
The Storyteller

The book that made me feel smarter after reading:
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
The Power of Habit: Why We ...

The most beautiful language:
Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams
All The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
Waiting   All the Truth That's In Me   If You Find Me

The one that made me cry the most (seriously, I cried for like ¾ of this book):
Mile 21 by Sarah Dunster
Mile 21

My auto-buys of this year (meaning I bought before I even read the sample):
Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter,
Kristan Higgins's novels,
Drops of Gold by Sarah Eden,
Second Chances by Melanie Jacobson,
Working it Out by Rachael Anderson.
*I absolutely LOVED all of them, btw. They are auto-buys for a reason…*

Barefoot Summer (Chapel Spr...   The Perfect Match (Blue Her...   The Best Man (Blue Heron #1)   Drops of Gold (The Jonquil ...   Second Chances   Working It Out

SOME of my Favorites from 2013:
Inspirational fiction:
Mile 21 by Sarah Dunster
The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen
Mile 21   The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Falling For You   Out of the Easy

Middle Grade:
The False Prince by Jennifer Neilsen
The Epic Tales of a Misfit Hero by Matt Peterson
The False Prince (The Ascen...   The Epic Tales of a Misfit ...

Home to Whiskey Creek by Brenda Novak
The Best Man by Kristan Higgins
Home to Whiskey Creek (Whis...   The Best Man (Blue Heron #1)

The complete list of books I read:

Kaylee’s 2013 Books
*Books owned, + Whitney Eligible, RR- Reread

January (10)
*Her Good Name by Ruth Axtell
+*Reasons I Fell for the Funny Fat Friend by Becca Ann
*Wild Rose by Ruth Axtell Morren RR
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Indelible by Kristen Heitzmann
Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann
*Drops of Gold by Sara M. Eden
The Secret Diaries of Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn
*The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julia Klassen
Midnight Fear by Leslie Tentler

February (15)
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
*V is for Virgin by Kelly Oram
*Blindsided by Kyra Lennon
*Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
*The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The Epic Tales of a Misfit Hero by Matt Peterson
*The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson RR
A Match Made in High School by Kristin Chandler
*Epic Fail by Claire LeZebnik RR
+When Summer Comes by Brenda Novak
Case File 13: Zombie Kid by Jeff Savage
Of Grace and Chocolate by Krista L. Jensen
+*Do Over by Shannon Guymon
*A Trusting Heart by Shannon Guymon
Finding June by Shannen Crane Camp

March (11)
Feedback by Robison Wells
The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
Lady Outlaw by Stacie Henry
*Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson RR
The Maid of Fairbourn Hall by Julie Klassen
Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Kiss of an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Freakling by Lana Krumweide
After Hello by Lisa Mangum
*The Best Man by Kristin Higgins

April (8)
*My Long-term (and at one point illegal) Crush by Janette Rallison (novella)
Easy by Tammara Webber
+*Glitch by Amber Gilchrist
The Space between Us by Jessica Martinez
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Smart Move by Melanie Jacobson
*Montana Summer by Jeanette Miller

May (10)
The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah E. Ladd
A Noble Groom by Jodi Hedlund
The Trouble with Flirting by Claire LaZebnik
*Waiting for Summers Return by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein
*The Guy Next Door by Katie Palmer
*Obsession by Traci Ambramson Hunter
*Bound to the Warrior (Love Inspired) by Barbara Phinney
Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
Blue Smoke by Nora Roberts

June (10)
Six Years by Harlan Coben
*The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
*The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson
The Game Plan (WIP) by Ranee S. Clark
*A Lady and a Spy (novella) by Ranee S. Clark
*Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson
*Beauty and the Beast by Jenni James
*Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter

July (8)
The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
Ripple (WIP) by Jennifer Bryce
*Emma: A Latter Day Tale by Rebecca Jamison
*It Happened at the Fair by Deanne Gist
Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer
Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen
They That Mourn (WIP) by Chanda Simper

August (12)
The Heist by Janet Evanovich
Inferno by Dan Brown
+Longing for Home by Sarah Eden
Daddy’s Gone Hunting by Mary Higgins Clark
+*Second Chances by Melanie Jacobson
The Elite by Kierra Cass
The Prince (a novella) by Kierra Cass
+*Friday Night Alibi by Cassie Mae
+Home to Whiskey Creek by Brenda Novak
*A Stranger in Town by Brenda Novak
Not Quite Dating by Catherine Bybee
Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee

September (10)
Drift (WIP) by Jennifer Bryce
Room by Emma Donoghue
+Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson
The Walk by Richard Paul Evans
*Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans
Dare You To by Katie McGarry
Latent (WIP) by C. Michelle Jeffries
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
The Road to Grace by Richard Paul Evans
Return to Loan Oak by Amy Knupp

October (11)
*Surrounded by Strangers by Josi Kilpack RR
+*Mile 21 by Sarah Dunster
+*The Avery Shaw Experiment by Kathy Oram
+All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry
+Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
+*Unexpected by Karen Tufts
David and Goliath by Malcom Gladwell
*Tell Me No Lies by Rachel Branton
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
+A Step of Faith by Richard Paul Evans
Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn RR

November (5)
*The Power of Everyday Missionaries by Clayton Christensen
*The Perfect Match by Kristin Higgins
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
+Take me Home for Christmas by Brenda Novak
*A Family by Christmas by Brenda Novak

December (12)
+Safe Haven by Jean Holbrook Mathews
*+My Own Mr. Darcy by Karey White
*+Working it Out by Rachael Anderson
Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder
+Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams
The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
In Honor by Jessi Kirby
*Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Rule by Jay Crowther
Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
*On Writing by Stephen King

--Note: I don’t rate books because I just don’t J If it is on this list, I liked it enough to finish it. My DNF (did not finish) list is probably just as long as this one. Also, there are varying levels of content in a few of these books that some might find offensive (language, sex, violence) so if you are sensitive to any of that or want my thoughts on a specific book, send me a private message at kayleebaldwin at gmail.

First up on my 2014 TBR pile:
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (for book club)
Warbreaker (Warbreaker, #1)

What books should I add to my TBR pile for 2014?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Story Giveaway!

When Chase sees Clare during her brief Christmas visit to their hometown, he knows it's his chance to make things right between them. Considering he all but ignored her while on his mission, it's a tough task. 
After having her heart broken by him before, Clare is wary of a holiday romance. But a long-awaited goodnight kiss might change her mind.

Check out these blogs, featuring GOODNIGHT KISS this week:

And prizes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hope's Watch Cover Reveal

Cover reveal for Hope's Watch.

Click here for cover designer.
Elle Reinhardt loves people and has a gift for turning groups of strangers into friends. When she talks her best friend Lyn into taking a month-long Pacific cruise, Elle is in her element, gathering fellow passengers to her. But things go horribly wrong when a ship excursion ends in death and disaster at the hands of modern-day pirates. 

Filled with her own emotional wounds from the experience, Elle tries desperately to buoy up the grieving loved ones as they wait for news on those lost at sea. Malcolm Armstrong, friend of one of the missing men, arrives to act as family spokesman. Elle knows it’s unreasonable, but she resents his presence. When Mal offers the strength she so desperately needs, will she be able to let go of her animosity and accept his support? 

This ebook-exclusive short story includes special excerpts from both A Change of Plans and Torn Canvas (coming April 2014), books 1 and 2 of the Safe Harbors Series.
Coming January 16, 2014

A Change of Plans. Also available in audiobook.

Lyn wants to move on. She just doesn't realize it will take pirates, shipwreck, and an intriguing surgeon to do it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Writing Process Blog Tour

So, I've been tagged by Ranee' S. Clark for The Writing Process Blog Tour!

1. What am I working on?
I am working on two books right now, both romances. The one that I just wrote "The End" on (on Saturday!) is my book for the Ripples Effect Romance series and you can go here if you're interested in learning more about the series. It's called Silver Linings and I've had so much fun writing Drew and Eden. Next up for that is initial edits.

I also have a full-length romance I'm working on that has been so much fun to work on. I am half-way through that one.

And, of course, I have a YA that I've started to outline and written the first few chapters and I REALLY WANT TO KEEP WRITING but I have to get these other projects done first because of commitments I've made to people.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
One of the ways my romances are different from other romances is that they are clean. That's probably the most obvious difference I guess. I've heard from readers who tell me that they LOVE romance, but they don't always want to read Inspirational romance and don't feel comfortable reading something that uses crude language or contains sex scenes. But, they still want emotional depth and swoon-worthy scenes.

I've listened to this, and my goal is to write deep, emotionally satisfying romances that can give my readers a few hours of escape from our stressful and hectic lives.

3. Why do I write what I do?
I write stories that I would love to read. My favorite genres to read are romance and contemporary YA, so that's where I'm drawn when I write.

4. How does your writing process work?
This is something that I'm still figuring out.

I'll tell you what's worked best for me.

1) I get an idea somehow. This can come from a television show, from a conversation I overheard, something from my life. Anywhere really. It starts out as just a concept: There is a girl who goes home for Christmas with her best friend and starts to fall in love with her best friend's brother (Six Days of Christmas).

2) I take that idea and keep asking: What if?
What if this girl isn't a big fan of Christmas because they never celebrated when she was a kid?
What if she has a huge project hanging over her head?
What if she's part of a power couple and her life seems planned out exactly the way she wants it?
What if her best friend's brother is a huge flirt (kind of annoying, totally cute)?
What if because he's annoyingly persistent, he's able wreck all of her carefully laid plans (would she like this eventually?)
What if, because she's not a fan of Christmas, she goes to BFF's house and they are Christmas CRAZY?

I go wild with the "What if's" Some don't make it anywhere near the book. (What if the BFF's brother broke up with his girl and then she shows up later?) <--- cut.="" got="" idea="" p="" this="">
I love to make my "What if's" put my characters in uncomfortable positions. I like things to be awkward and I love my characters to stretch. So I like brainstorming scenarios that are going to make them leave their comfort zone and venture into a place where they learn something new about themselves.

3) Then I try to put all these scenarios into a bare-bones outline. Very sparse. I just have to have a rough idea of where the story starts, the main conflict, what the climax is, and how it ends. (In a romance I would have something as simple for the end as: They get together.)

4) I start writing. I have to write several chapters (for me, around 10K words) before I feel like I really know my characters. I stop there.

5) Now that I know my characters better and know what they would/wouldn't do, I write a very detailed outline. Sometimes those first 10K words get thrown out (most of the time they do) because they are full of back-story. But they are invaluable to me, because they are kind of like my live get-to-know-you interviews for my characters. My detailed outline goes through scene by scene, separated by five acts usually (just because it helps my brain not get overwhelmed if I split my story into five parts). Then, depending on the length, I shoot for a certain amount of scenes per act. (In my ripples novella, I did five scenes per act, for a total of 25 scenes in the book).

*Note: Sometimes I do veer from what I had planned for a scene while writing. If I know that in a particular scene, I want to establish that the main character and her boyfriend are starting to have some friction in their relationship, I may veer from the planned scene to something different if a good idea strikes me, that still accomplishes what I need it to in order push my story forward. You can't let the outline rule you! What's the fun in writing if you can't play with the story now and then?

6) I write like crazy. I write my book from beginning to end, only skipping a scene if I need to do more research before I write it. First drafting is not the time for research (though outlining is. It's just small things like regional details, etc that I save for later)

7) After finishing the first draft, I go through it and fix all the places that I've marked for further research. If something developed later in the story that I hadn't anticipated, I also play with the beginning to make it consistent.

8) It's off to my mom and sisters. They are my first readers. They read it like anyone reads a book... not necessarily to edit, but to feel the flow. Does it drag? Are there characters you didn't like or didn't understand? Did you wish something had happened that didn't? Then I make plot revisions based on their feedback.

9)This is where my favorite part of writing happens... the art. I love to go through it at this point and play with my words, add description, ramp up the emotion, and do some in-depth revisions on the actual writing.

10) Then I send it to the beta readers. I have several rounds of people this goes to. I prefer to have about 3-4 people read through and edit my story because everyone has different perspective and pet-peeves. Ranee is usually my last reader because hopefully by the time it gets to her, all the obvious plot/mechanical problems are worked through and she can do an in-depth critique of what I think is the best I can do. Then we make it even better.

11) I print it off and make sure I didn't make any more mistakes while correcting mistakes (it happens.) I go through with a fine-tooth comb and try to make it as strong as I can.

12) Sumbit.

*At this point, I've read my story probably 10-15 times, and I'd be happy to never, ever have to read it again. :)

Okay! If you actually read all of that, you deserve an award. So, Celeste Cox and Beckie Carlson.... TAG, you're it! :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Finding Joy In Hard Things Is Not Cruel

I read an article last night that really upset me. Not so much what was in the article itself (which in itself was very arrogant and tragic), but in the comments that followed.

This woman blames herself for her son’s autism. Really, she blames a myriad of doctors and nurses, but in the end, she feels guilty for a bunch of things she did THAT MOST PEOPLE DO and believes that those things caused her son’s autism.

And her son’s autism is the worst thing that ever could have happened to her.

Later in the comments when people try to point out that she is so focused on blame and tragedy that she can’t see the joy and blessing of a child with autism, she calls them cruel. How can she find joy in her son’s pain? How can she find joy in a situation that will make him different than everyone else and forever dependent on her? How can she find joy in such a flaw?

I had to stop reading the comments at this point and really wish I hadn’t read this article at all.  My heart hurts. It hurts for this woman who can’t let go of what could have been and embrace what IS. It hurts for her son who might grow up thinking that he’s flawed. It hurts for millions of people out there who might also feel this way: Am I to blame? What could I have done differently? How will my child thrive in a society like ours when s/he is so different from everyone else?

Then there’s the fear. There is this great amount of fear surrounding the idea of having a child with autism. Of having a child with a disability. It’s the fear of your child being bullied. Of never having friends. Of never getting married. Of never experiencing the same kind of life as other people around them. The fear of the “other.”

I have been here. I have sat in a doctor’s office while a doctor told me that my son would have Down syndrome.

 (And, here, some of you might say: Kaylee, autism is completely different than Down syndrome. You have no idea what it’s like to see your child go from normal-developing to just not. You have no idea what it’s like to have a child who looks like everyone else around them but struggles or just can’t function in society. You have no idea what it's like to have a child who can't look you in the eye or let you touch him. To this I say: You’re right.  But I know ALL ABOUT shattered expectations, about guilt and comparisons, about a child who can’t communicate, who can’t eat because of sensory issues, who panics in crowds, who can be overcome with anxiety in very public places, and the heartbreak of accepting over and over and over again that your child’s path is different (and more difficult) than most. So this is where I am coming from.)

I was twenty-one and married for less than a year when I found out my son would have Down syndrome. Every doctor’s appointment seemed to bring more and more bad news until I cried before every appointment. I didn’t want to go and learn that he’d have to have surgery hours after being born or he’d die. I didn’t want to know that they were concerned about his heart. I didn’t want to defend to two different specialists my decision to not learn more about abortion time-tables and options.

This was not how I envisioned my life. Or the life of my son.

I would lie awake at night and worry. I was so filled up with worry, sometimes I don’t know how it didn’t spill over from me and onto every around me. Maybe it did. I was in a bubble. A grief-filled bubble where no one even told me “congratulations” on my pregnancy anymore. It all felt like one, big tragedy.

I sat in the doctor’s office as he told us there was a 95% chance that our child would have Down syndrome, and I asked the question that I’m sure has been asked hundreds of thousands of times in doctor’s offices all over the world: “Why did this happen? Was it something I did?”

So, quick and super simplified lesson (since I recently learned that some people have no idea was Ds really is). Down syndrome is also known as trisomy 21. It means that the child has an extra 21st chromosome. I’d done some research online after our initial tests came back saying he might have Down syndrome and I was horrified. I had done so many things that people claimed could cause Down Syndrome—most offensive being that I had a chest x-ray done before I knew I was pregnant.

Surely I had caused my son’s Down syndrome.

My doctor assured me that a chromosomal disorder like this was determined when sperm met egg. There was nothing I did to cause it, nothing I could have done to prevent it. Also, in our particular case, it wasn’t genetic (determined by blood testing after my son was born). Still, it niggled—still sometimes niggles—in the back of my mind. That’s the way we’re built, I think. I’ve never met a mom who didn’t carry a heavy load of Mommy guilt on their backs at all times.

Where did that leave me?

With a choice.

1--I could choose to continue to blame myself and the doctors and everyone around me. I could get angry at God for not sending me my ideal child and letting this happen to him and me. I could stay wrapped up in my bubble forever, shut people out, and continue to mourn my son. Because that’s what I was doing. It’s hard to understand unless you’ve been there, but you mourn the future you thought you’d have. And the future you thought your child would have.

2-- I could accept it and try to make the best of it. Once I accepted it, I could start to heal and form a new future based on not just making the most of what I had—but finding joy in it as well.

I don’t know what I would have chosen without Gina Johnson. She runs Sharing Down Syndrome in Arizona, and my doctor asked my permission to share my contact information with her. Within days she called me and we set up an appointment.

I opened my door on a warm spring morning to this enthusiastic, vibrant woman who immediately pulled me into her arms, hugged me so, so tight, and told me: “Congratulations. You’ve been give the greatest gift you’ll ever get in your life.”

We spoke for hours. Then again on the phone. Then I went to her house and we spoke some more. I spent so much time with Gina and other people she introduced me to, that slowly my attitude started to change. What if I could look at this as a gift? What if this was a blessing and not the tragedy I’d believed?

My son is eight years old, now. He’s had twenty-one surgeries with two more coming up. Some of those surgeries have been planned, some emergency. He spent over eight weeks in the hospital in his first year of life, and I’ve lost track of the weeks since then, but it’s enough that the pediatric nurses at our closest hospital know our names.

He is in chronic stomach pain. There is nothing the doctors can do. We’ve had surgery after surgery. Loads of medicine and new medicines. He’s on adult doses of certain meds and still in pain. We’ve seen specialist after specialist trying to find something, anything to help relieve the constant pain he’s in. We’re still looking.

My heart still hurts for the things he’s missed and will miss. I am a very religious person (most of you know that I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and it’s a big deal in our church that our kids can choose to be baptized when they turn eight. Because of a volunteer position I have in my church of working with the 8-11 year old girls, I was asked to go to the baptisms for all the children in our stake the first Saturday in August. When they asked me to go, I don’t think they knew that it was the Saturday my son would have been baptized if things were different. He could be baptized, and after prayerfully considering it and talking with our bishop, we felt that Spencer wouldn’t understand what we were doing, that the crowds might cause him to act up, and that being lowered into water on his back would cause anxiety on his part.

Still, even after praying about it and knowing that we needed to wait until he understood, even knowing that he would never have to be baptized and that would be okay for him, I did not want to go to that baptism. I could have said something, but I didn’t. I went. Maybe part of me wanted to go and mourn.

And I did. I watched these beautiful children, all my son’s age, get baptized. They talked to their parents, they had friends, they could stand in front of a crowd of people and sit still when appropriate. They didn't run around the room knocking things over and throwing things, or bolt out the door for their parents to hopefully catch before they got outside to the street. They were preparing for a future that would lead to missions and marriage and families and children of their own. All things my son may never experience in this life.

So, I understand the heartbreak of difference. I understand of the hurt of seeing your child hurt. I understand the helplessness a mother feels when there’s nothing you can do but sit by your child’s hospital bed and pray. I understand the glares and judging comments from people when your child acts out in public. I understand what it feels to have people watch you struggle and do nothing to help.

But, he’s still a blessing. He’s still a joy. And I absolutely love my life. Yes, it’s hard and I’ve spent many nights crying myself to sleep because of stress and frustration, but I would not trade it for the future I thought I wanted back when I first got pregnant. 

I would not change who I have become because of him. I am a better person. More compassionate than I was. More able to see the light in dark things. I am strong.

It is not cruel to find joy in hard things.
It is merciful.
It is beautiful.

It is love.

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