how feedback makes for a more delicious manuscript

A couple of weeks ago, I finally finished my revisions. 

Total time invested: over nine months. That's a lot of days at the computer, people. A whole lotta days. And the second I finished, I sent the manuscript to my Critique Partners and Beta Readers, and then settled into a fun Saturday night and relaxing Sunday. But, when Monday rolled around, it wasn't long before I found myself at odds with what to do.

So, naturally, I watched every episode of the current Big Brother Canada season, played all of my lives in Candy Crush, and then, when I got a little peckish, went out for a donut. Because that's what we Canadians do when we're bored. We eat donuts (stereotypes exist for a reason, people, haha). So, off to my local Tim Hortons I went, in search of sugary, circular pastries. And as I drooled over looked at all the donut options nestled behind the shiny glass case, I began the Which Donut Will I Get Decision Dance, which is kind of like the I Have To Pee Dance, but with less urgency.

Usually, my decision is easy, as I'm partial to the Vanilla Dip, but the sprinkles weren't colours that I liked and because aesthetics are important to my life, I was forced to reevaluate. You probably think I'm joking, but I'm not. Haha! And it was while I mulled over the other options that I noticed a sad little donut in corner of the case: the Old-Fashioned Plain.

"Now who the heck would every want to eat that?" I thought to myself. "No wonder it's in the bottom corner where you can hardly see it. It's dull, and small, and kind of sad. Especially when you compare it to what's next to it: the Honey Dip donut. They should probably just stop making those things all together because who the heck wants to eat a sad donut?" 

And because I was still accustomed to having to think about my manuscript ALL THE TIME, I  was suddenly hit with the realization that manuscripts are a lot like donuts and, although it was hard to admit, my very first draft was just like an Old-Fashioned Plain, which is when I got a big ole love surge for everyone who’s ever read my manuscripts because it was their feedback that inspired the revisions that got me out of the Old-Fashioned Plain zone. So, without further adieu, here's a delectable pictorial explanation of how reader feedback makes for a more delicious manuscript.

Keep reading and it'll make sense, I promise. Haha!

Going It Alone – Old-Fashioned Plain Donut

Yahoo! You sat down and managed to hack out a whole novel! All by yourself! There are words! And sentences! And paragraphs! Not only that but there are characters, plot arcs, and settings too—everything a book needs to have! You’ve even read through it a couple of times and it's ridiculous how good it is. You should just quit your job and write for the rest of your life! Why did you think it would be so hard? Writing is easy!!

But just like the honeymoon period of any new relationship, there’s a pretty good chance that you're unbelievably biased, and no matter how good you think your manuscript is, it's fairly likely that all you have is an Old-Fashioned Plain donut.

You see, the dough of the Old-Fashioned Plain donut is dense and there isn’t much pizzazz. It has the basic ingredients that all donuts need, but it’s a bit dry. Only kind of sweet. It has the potential to be amazing, but as it stands, it's just a sad donut in the corner that most people wouldn't look twice at. Let alone get psyched about. 

Now, if all you want to do is write novels for yourself, then who cares if your work stays like an Old-Fashioned Plain donut? Again, I stress that this is totally okay. Writing is something you do because you love it and nothing should ever deter you from doing what you love. But, if you want to put your Old-Fashioned Plain donut in a store for people to buy, there’s a distinct possibility that you’ll get overlooked in favor of…well…a more flavourful treat. Just like I did when I went out for donuts and hated pretty hard on the Old-Fashioned Plain. But in order for your manuscript to become a more flavourful treat, you need to branch out because you don't know what you don't know and unless someone tells you what you don't know, you'll never be able to fix it because you'll never know what to fix.

If you feel like Kim after reading the last bit, go back, read it again, and then we'll move on to how just a little bit of feedback can make your basic donut much tastier. Haha!

The BFF Reader Donut – Honey Dip

So you’ve decided that you want to take your Old-Fashioned Plain donut manuscript to the next level! Yay! The good news is that means your manuscript is about to get better. The bad news is that you actually have to let someone read it. Haha! I know when I was starting out and needed a reader, the first thing I thought was: Hey! My BFF loves the kinds of books I write! In fact, she was the one who told me that I should write a book in the first place! I’ll get her to read it! YAY FOR FEEDBACK FROM MY BFF!

So, I gave it to her and then stared from the corner as she read it waited very patiently for her to finish.

And you know what? She loved it! More than loved it, actually. She said it was the greatest book she’s ever read! There were a few things she was confused about, and she found some problems in my timeline, but aside from that, it was perfect! Yay!!

So, armed with the minor feedback from my BFF, I made some revisions and then began to query my manuscript,  CONVINCED that I was three seconds away from getting a six-figure book advance and becoming close personal friends with Jennifer Weiner. But soon, my confidence began to wane. Apparently, although my BFF loved my manuscript, agents didn't, which was demonstrated by the vast amount of form rejections that clogged up my inbox. I got a few non-form rejections with horrifically vague comments like: non-sympaethic protagonist and editorial work needed, which is when I realized that although I'd made a few changes to my manuscript, tweaks here and there, not much had changed. Just like the jump from an Old-Fashioned Plain donut to a Honey Dip. 

The dough of my manuscript was fluffier because I'd kneaded it more (I don’t know if this is actually true for donut dough but it works for me here, so it says, ha) and the thin coat of glaze made it shine, but it was still pretty plain. It was better than what I started with, but there was still major work to do.   

The lesson I learned? Feedback from a BFF or equivalent is an absolutely natural first step for a budding writer, but it's not the kind of feedback you need in order to produce a really great manuscript. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule. Like, for instance, if your BFF is Jennifer Weiner. Or Martina Cole. Or Marian Keyes. (I think you see my point here, so I’ll stop.) But if that's not the case and you want to write for publication, you need to seek out a more unbiased opinion. 

Side Note: The manuscript I referred to here has been shelved. Indefinitely. Because it was my first and not very good. But thanks for all the encouragement, BFF! LOVEYOURFACE!

The Beta Reader Donut  Chocolate Dip

So now you’re ready for the next step and have trolled the internet or your local writing community to wrestle up a Beta Reader because it’s time to get some totally honest feedback about the thing that you’ve worked on for longer than anything else in your life, aka your manuscript. (Spoiler Alert: that won’t be the case after you get notes from your Beta Readers—the real work is to come. Errr…sorry? Haha!)

Rest assured that giving your work to a Beta Reader is a scary, scary thing, but if you’re lucky enough to get a good Beta Reader (or two) then the payoff is worth the sleepless nights fear. The good news is that you’ll hopefully get an idea of how your manuscript stacks up to the BIG names, because your Beta Readers will be fans of books in your genre. The bad news is that you’ll probably get an idea of how your manuscript stacks up to the BIG names because your Beta Readers are familiar with your genre. Haha! But seriously, it’s a double-edged sword and a good chunk of a Beta Reader’s feedback will probably break your heart, which is why it’s so different than feedback you would get from a BFF because a Beta Reader doesn’t have to worry about what will happen when you sit across the table from each other the next time you have a birthday. But if you can suffer through the pain absorb the feedback meant to strengthen your work, and revise accordingly, when you're finished, your manuscript will be just like a delicious, Chocolate Dip donut.

It will be light and fluffy like the Honey Dip donut, due to the extra kneading, but there’s an extra layer of goodness: chocolate. A lot of people love chocolate, you know. In fact, some people even live for chocolate. And in a lot of cases, chocolate would be enough to attract, and then satisfy someone's craving. After all, it's chocolate on a donut. But…there’s still some potential to produce an even more delicious donut. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but it's true. Which is exactly the same thing when it comes to Beta Reader feedback. It's far more helpful than BFF Reader feedback, and can create a tasty manuscript but there's another type of feedback that can make your manuscript downright delicious.

The Critique Partner Donut – Vanilla Dip

From my experience, a Critique Partner is different from a Beta Reader because they are often another writer who…well…critiques your work. It’s a partnership—a close relationship that’s cultivated in the trenches of writing warfare where you band together and drink all the wine create epic fiction. So, it should be no surprise that it’s hard to find a good CP. Like, really hard. But once you do (and I swear that you will, eventually) this is where the real magic happens. 

With feedback from a Critique Partner, you'll have the soft, fluffy dough from the BFF Reader Donut, the icing from the Beta Reader Donut (in this case though, vanilla instead of chocolate) and then the sprinkles, which are the little something extra. Why? Because a CP won't let you do good work, but will push you to do your awesomest work. And although your CP loves you like a BFF, they know that constructive criticism is the best way to show that love. For instance, I like to say to mine: If you love me, you WILL FIND THINGS THAT DO NOT WORK IN HERE

I get that sounds somewhat twisted but the only way to become a better writer is to be challenged. And since a CP will have seen the progression of your manuscript, they know where you've been, where you want to go, and they will help you get there when you can't see the forest for the trees. (Or, the dough for the flour, in this case? Mixing metaphors is hard, guys. Haha!)

The good news is that after your CP gives you the horrific suggestion that you may need to remove a secondary character that you love because they're ruining everything, which would require an entire rewrite that you don't want to do even though you know your CP is right, the feeling you get after you accept that fact, make revisions, and then give it to your CP who says YOU NAILED THIS, is comparable to the feeling one would get after running a marathon, blindfolded, only way WAY WAY WAY better! Probably, anyway. And do you know how I know that? Because it's happened to me. More than once (Thanks, Scott and Gina!).

Also, there's the added bonus that you get to critique your CP's manuscript, which always ends up pointing out things you need to adjust in your own work. A double-score, that little bit is. Sort of like getting a donut and a Timbit at the same time. THE SAME TIME, people. And who doesn't want more donut? Not this gal. Of that, you can be sure.

So there you have it: my interpretation of how getting reader feedback makes for a more delicious manuscript. In particular, Beta Reader and Critique Partner feedback have been invaluable for me and it was through their insightful comments/concerns/suggestions that I was able to stretch myself and grow, therefore upgrading my Old-Fashioned Plain manuscript all the way to Vanilla Dip status. And I will be forever grateful to them because, really, which one of these would you want to eat first? 

Note: If you pick Old-Fashioned Plain, I'm not sure we can be friends anymore. Haha!

There are lots of places online where you can look for a Beta Reader or a Critique Partner, so if you're interested, start looking around! Or find a local group in your area! I promise, it’s worth the effort. And, just for the record, although BFF Reader feedback probably won't take your manuscript to Vanilla Dip level, it's not the worst idea to let them read your stuff. Every writer needs a cheerleader. ;)

Also, I understand that you may be thinking: Hey Jennie, how come the donut’s names are Honey Dip, Chocolate Dip and Vanilla Dip but they're all way different? Shouldn’t it be Honey Glazed and/or Vanilla Dip With Sprinkles? Well, I agree. But I don’t make the names. Go talk to Timmies. They’re the ones in charge. Ha!

 So writers, what do you think about this? Do my delicious examples ring true? Where do you get your best feedback from?


the nail files: making a move at the gavin degraw concert

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On Wednesday of this week, I went to a Gavin DeGraw concert and to sum it up in one word, it would be: thebestconcertever. Haha! It has been YEARS since I've been able to go to a concert and because I was so freaking excited I could barely function, I did a tribute mani. Because, you know, it gave me something to focus on instead of staring at the clock all day, waiting for 8:00pm. (We all know I'm not kidding about this, right? haha!)

What I used:

"Make A Move" is the name of Gavin's current album.

For the base, I sploged (technical nail term--not really) Immortal, You Don't Know Jacques!, and Black Expressionism on a makeup sponge and, similar to a gradient technique, dabbed all over my nail. I wanted to make a cool, non-solid background, and I'm happy with how it turned out. In total, I did three sploging coats to get opaque coverage. 

Once that was dry, I used the medium detailing brush to write "Make A Move" and the music notes. For the sparkle dots, I used Gilded Chrome and a medium dotting tool, and for the notes, I also used Gilded Chrome, only with the medium detailing brush.

One of my favourite songs by Gavin is "Dancing Shoes," so that explains the shoes. Haha!

For the shoes, I stared with two coats of Billie Jean. Then, I painted the top third with Paper Mache (not pictured because I forgot). Once that was dry, I did the criss-crosses with Stripe Rite in White, using the brush that comes with the bottle. The shoelace "holes" were made with one medium dot of white and then a smaller dot of black in the middle. For the finishing touch, I did a half-circle with the medium detailing brush and Billie Jean. 

Please note that the half-circle was the hardest part. I tried to use a paper reinforcement as a guide but it didn't create a straight line. Or maybe it was because of my shaky left hand and insanely curved nail beds, but for whatever reason, I'm not too jazzed about how the line turned out. I mean, I don't think the line looks REALLY bad, but it could certainly look better. Ah well! Guess I better practice more! 

*remembers the insane amount of time two little lines took*

 *develops a twitch* 

Or maybe I won't practice. Whatever. Haha!

I hope that everyone has an amazing weekend! YAY FOR WEEKENDS! And don't forget to link up and show off your pretties!


5 tips on how to avoid scaring the crap out of yourself while home alone

My handsome hubby, The Remix, got a little promotion at work last month. YAY! It meant he had to go away for a week for training, though, which resulted in me spending spending an extended amount of time alone in our new house.

And you know what I found out? This house is scary at night. Probably because we're in the countray. Yes, the italics and additional "a" are completely appropriate on the latter part of country. We're nestled in between farms. On a dirt road. That literally has more horses on it than cars. In short, our home would be an excellent set for an episode of Criminal Minds, because it's so isolated. 

Luckily, though, over the last week, I figured out how to make it less scary for myself and in the interest of scary-free houses everywhere, I humbly offer the following tips.

1. Do not hang towels on door frames. In the glorious daylight, a towel hanging on a door frame looks…well…just like a towel hanging on the door. But at night? That towel turns into a ghost. A scary ghost. The scariest ghost in the history of the world, in fact, because it's not only watching you sleep and attempting to murder you by inciting a heart attack, but because it's directly in front of your escape route. Namely, the door. Not only that, but the murderous ghost is next to the light switch and at three in the morning, when you drag yourself to the bathroom and your heart stops because there's a hovering ghost blocking your way, there is no other choice but to close your eyes and launch yourself in the general direction of the light switch. Yes, the sudden brightness will blind you, but the payoff is that the ghost turns back into a towel and you can go pee. So, to avoid the cycle of blinding night-terror, keep all towels off all door frames. 

2. Close all drapes and blinds. At first, I thought that living in the country meant that I'd never have to close the curtains again because aside from this pervert, there's nobody around. But, on the first night of being alone, I realized that all scary movies have a scene where someone comes up behind you, and you only see them when it's too late, making you super scared directly before, and then during your murder. Frankly, I'd rather just be surprise-murdered instead of scared and then murdered because the confusion would cancel out the pain. Hopefully. 

Upon rereading the first part of this tip, I feel that I should note my ideal situation would be for no murder to occur at all. BY NO MEANS IS THIS A MURDER INVITATION.

Good, so with that cleared up, back to the drapes and why you need to close them. Haha! It's because when it's dark outside and you have the lights on inside, a window becomes a reflective surface. But not a perfect one. It's more of a ghostly reflection, and those are way scarier. So close those curtains people! And if you can't, for reasons like this one…

in which a big-ass window with no drape is directly at the bottom of the staircase that leads to the bedrooms, then it's very important to never look directly at said big-ass window when you scamper up to bed. Yes, it will take practice but you can do it. I believe in you.

3. Don't look in any mirror. All the reasons I stated in #2 are applicable for mirrors as well, but since I understand that it may be challenging to wash off your makeup without some mirror face-time, I offer the following suggestions. First, make sure that all the lights are on and don't ever close your eyes. Ever. Eyes open, people. ALWAYS. And you must maintain eye contact with yourself for the duration. If you look away, even for a second, you can't look back. Why? Because when you do, the killer from I Know What You Did Last Summer will probably appear behind you with a long, shiny scythe. So just like Eminem in 8 Mile, you've only got one shot. And if you don't manage to succeed in maintaining direct eye contact with yourself, just leave the bathroom and wipe whatever product is left on your face with a pair of jeans from your laundry hamper. 

4. Change your text ringtone. Because hearing Will Ferrell screaming "We're going streaking!" is startling when you know you're home by yourself, in the middle of nowhere. A soothing double tone, or perhaps an uplifting pixie-ish tune are far better options. 

5. Do not accidentally begin watching American Horror Story, Coven. Pretty much everyone watches television when they're alone. Maybe not for a long time, but most likely, some television is involved. Now, I don't really watch television, as much as I'm on my computer or phone while glancing up at it from time to time. But it was that carelessness that led to The Night I Hardly Slept, otherwise known as last Tuesday, because I didn't see the show change on the channel where I had previously been watching something funny (as that's what I watch, almost exclusively). The story seemed interesting, though, which made me put my computer away and start watching for real. And for the first seven minutes, it was a very engaging story but at minute eight, ten thousand terrifying things happened at once and I'm pretty sure that I've been scarred for life. So be aware of what's coming up next on your television station of choice, people!

The Remix is home now, thank freaking goodness, so I can change my ringtone back to the hilarious Will Ferrell but the next time I'm home alone, I'll be making sure to implement the above-mentioned tips as soon as the sun begins to set. Haha!!

Do you have any tips for me to add to my list? How do you not scare the crap out of yourself when you're home alone?


the nail files: two of my favourite little lovebirds (alternate title: he liked it so he put a ring on it)

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Last weekend, two of my favourite little lovebirds decided to get hitched. So, to celebrate, I did a tribute mani. You know, because that's how I mark important events.

No, I'm not kidding. That's really what I do. Haha!

There's a chance I got carried away so I'm going to do things a little differently and show you a picture of the finished product first before going through the steps.

Are you ready?

Then scroll on down!

*cue harp*

As you can see, it ended up being a bit of an ambitious design, so bear with me while I break it down for you. 

Polish used:

Tools used:

To start, I did a gradient with Blu, Snowcone, and Margritte's Masterpiece. To watch my gradient tutorial, click here.

When that was dry, I drew a thin line with the long striping brush and You Don't Know Jacques!, trying to keep it as straight as possible. Please note that this didn't really happen. Haha! But that's why I started with a thin line, because I knew I wouldn't be able to do it on the first try. Gradually, I increased the thickness of the line and when I thought it was wide/straight enough, I painted the additional branches for leaves and used the medium detail brush with Mackenzie to make the leaves.

Next up were the birds. With the medium dotting tool, I used Tart-y For The Party and Charged up, starting with the bottom dot and gently swirling the tool in a circle to make a wider dot. I didn't want to use a larger dotting tool because my very round nail beds don't make for an even circle that way. (If you have flatter nails, you could totally use a larger dotting tool and just "dot" instead of "swirl.") For the top of the bird, I did another, slightly smaller dot, also with the medium dotting tool and a bit of swirling. Then, I used a small dotting tool with Sun Worshiper to make the beaks and Black Expressionism for the eyes. I waited until the very end to do the hearts, and used the medium dotting tool and Pool Party.

For my thumb, I used You Don't Know Jacques and the medium detail brush to write the initials. To add some dimension, I opted to use three different pinks for the hearts: Pool Party, Flip Flop Fantasy, and La Vida Loca, and both the medium and the small dotting tool.

And yes, because I know you're just dying to know (or maybe not, haha) I did my other hand as well. BUT because I'm not a glutton for punishment, I only did hearts, randomly placed and randomly sized with the same colours and technique as my thumb feature.

So there you have it: my little lovebird tribute mani. It was a very labour intensive mani that took a while but I just HAD to do it because I'm so EXCITED!



I hope you all have an amazing weekend filled with springtime weather! And make sure to link up and make the rounds! There's pretty manis to be seen!


chai canada cake

My Mum spends a big chunk of the year in Scotland, with her husband, and last Saturday was her goodbye dinner. So that, combined with having time since finishing my revisions, meant that it was fancy cake time! YAY FOR FANCY CAKE TIME!

And for her trip this time, my Mum got herself some new luggage, which served as my inspiration because it was so freaking awesome.

I mean, how super cute is this design, eh? Haha!! YAY CANADA!

So with the design plan done, it was time to decide on flavours, and because my Mum has a more sophisticated palate, I knew that a standard chocolate or butter pecan wouldn't do it. So, off to my recipe books I went. In the end, I chose to make a chai tea cake with lemon cream cheese icing. It sounds weird, I know, but it turned out to be delicious, spicy, and zesty, all at the same time, so I thought I'd share the recipe! You're welcome. Haha!

What you'll need:

For the cake:
2 cups - self-raising flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp. chai tea powder
1/4 cup sweet butter (I used unsweetened)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (I used dark brown)
2 egg whites
2/3 cup buttermilk

For the frosting:
1 cup cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

And here's how to make it!:

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and chai tea in a medium bowl.

 Beat butter and sugar until smooth.

Add the egg whites slowly, beating well.

Slowly add the flour mixture, and then add buttermilk. You're going to have to scrape the sides a lot, so have a spatula ready for this step.

Pour cake into greased pans (for these two cakes, I had to make two batches of batter. If you were making cupcakes, one batch of batter would make a dozen). My batter was thick, so I used my fingers to spread it around. 

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes (20 minutes for cupcakes).

After removing from the oven, wait five minutes and then move the cake from the pan and let cool, completely. While you're waiting, you can make the frosting.

For the frosting (which I didn't take pictures of): Beat the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until soft and light. Add the lemon and vanilla and then beat until smooth. Easy peasy!

After the cake was cooled and the frosting was ready, I got out my cake decorating kit and got to work rolling out and colouring fondant.

And here's what the finished cake looked like!

And finally, the inside.
Mmmm… cake…Haha!

The lemon cream cheese frosting was an excellent pairing to the chai tea, as the citrus cut the spice just a bit. Don't get me wrong, it was still pretty spicy, and lingered on your tongue but it was a good kind of lingering. Ha! The cake was very dense, similar to a coffee cake, and it smelt absolutely fabulous while baking. To be honest, it's probably the best smelling cake I've ever made. Someone call Glade because I've got a great new plug-in scent for them! Haha!

So if your cake tastes are more unconventional, of if you're just up for a change, give the chai tea cake a try! It's worth the effort!


the nail files: peas in a pod

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Funny story: this mani was a total accident. Isn't that so fun when that happens (mostly because the majority of the time, accident manis are a hot mess)? Of course it is! Haha!!

What I used:

The mani!

To start, I did two coats of Paper Mache. Once that was dry, I used Aquadelic and a medium length brush to make the stems. Then, with the small dotting tool, I did three dots with Celtic Sun somewhere along the top of the stem, followed by two dots with You Don't Know Jacques! on the bottom of the stem, on the opposite side as the peas. Because the dotting tool is so small, I was able to make small blue flowers with five dots, and then, because it still needed some oomph, I picked out a few pieces of the holographic glitter from Techno and put them randomly on each nail.

I think that the yellow really POPs with this mani, and I love the general colour scheme. Of course, now that I've had time to think about it, I could have made the brown dots into ants but c'est la vie. Haha!

Have an awesome weekend, everyone! And don't forget to link up your post with the pretties you rocked this week!

Book Club Friday: True Vines

It's been a very long time since I've trolled NetGalley. With my revisions and ever-expanding TBR pile, I just didn't have the time. But since my revisions are winding down (read: sent out to readers for feedback) I finally had some time to peruse. One of the (many) books I requested was True Vines. And let me tell you, it was unbelievable. 

Like, un-be-liev-a-ble. Yes, all five syllables need to be accentuated when talking about True Vines because that's just how good it was. I started on Wednesday night, stayed up WAY too late, and then finished Thursday morning. And now I'm positing a review because there was no way I could wait until next week. Usually, it takes me a while to write a review, but I found myself drafting it in my head the SECOND I finished. Well, after I wiped the tears from my cheeks and blew my nose, that is. 

Instead of writing my own summary, I'll defer to the one on Goodreads, because A LOT happens and the existing summary…well…sums it up, nicely. Haha!

When the Italian countryside simply won't leave your heart...

After the sudden death of her Italian winemaker husband, Meryl Michelli flees to her small hometown in Pennsylvania, looking to slam the door on heartache and trudge forward. But it's never that simple, especially when old family ties have been strained by years of geographic and emotional distance. 

A chance encounter with a childhood friend brings back a betrayal she could never put to rest, and readjusting to life in the States in upper mid-life wears her thin in ways she never could have imagined. Just when Meryl feels she can't go on, Providence steps in and gives her permission to completely fall apart. Only then can she finally manage to grieve both her magnanimous, flawed Francesco and the unforgettable country she left behind.

True Vines traverses the manicured rows of northern Italy's majestic wine country and the winding path of Pennsylvania's Delaware River as Meryl seeks to reconcile her past and her present. Several people on each side of the Atlantic guide her as she relives her own stories: a spirited sister-in-law, a petulant physician, a strong-willed landlady, a good-guy boss, a determined mother-in-law, an amazing flood survivor, a Senegalese English student, a young co-worker. Each recollection and encounter deepens Meryl's insight into how to make peace with her new reality.

Saying goodbye to one existence allows Meryl to swing the door open to another as she weaves a new, uniquely beautiful tapestry that transports her to exactly the place in this short, sacred life she is meant to be.

Guys, I don't even know where to start with my review because I loved the book so freaking much. To the point that Meryl Michelli now has a place in my heart as one of my all-time favourite characters. She was undeniably sympathetic, totally messed up in certain areas, and walked the line between strong and vulnerable like a seasoned pro. I was drawn into Meryl's world so completely, and so utterly, that I was devastated when the books' many strings were tied up so neatly at the end because I hoped there would be room for a sequel. To say it another way, if I were Christopher Walken, instead of demanding more cow bell, I'd be demanding MORE MERYL. Haha!

Aside from an incredible main character, True Vines has a lot more going on: love, laughter, heartbreak, loss, redemption, deceit, triumph, and puppies--yes, PUPPIES. And the emotional growth of the characters, guys. THE EMOTIONAL GROWTH! Being a writer of women's fiction, myself, I was astounded with how much Diana Strinati Baur was able to accomplish.  Not just with Meryl, but with EVERYONE. Because the level of craft, guys. OH THE LEVEL OF CRAFT! 

*sighs happily*

At times, there were huge sections of internal narrative but instead of checking-out, I found myself leaning closer to the screen so I could devour every word. Not once did I skim. Not once! And that's saying something because I find internal narrative to be kind of boring when it goes on for a couple of pages. But that SO did not happen with True Vines. The narrative was gripping, raw, and completely engaging. And then, in the end, everything comes together in ways that I never could have imagined. Good ways! Bad ways! Ways that I may not have agreed with but approved of anyway! I laughed, cried, and wanted to hug my iPad when it was done. The writing swept me away for an entire five hours and I enjoyed every single second. If I could give True Vines more than five stars, I would. 

And if the enchanting prose, incredible main character, and emotionally dense plot wasn't enough to entice you, half the book takes place in Italy. On a vineyard, no less (hence the name). So, yeah, this book is pretty much the best thing ever and it will come as no surprise to you that True Vines gets my MUST READ rating. 

Go and get it, people. GO AND GET IT NOW!

Thanks to Heather for hosting!


baby jamie vs. a super big puddle

This past Saturday, something awesome happened: my baby brother decided to participate in our ski club's Puddle Jump!

For those who don't know, a Puddle Jump is when you go down a hill really fast and then try to make it across a puddle on either a pair of skis or a snowboard. Naturally, this is a spring-time kind of event. And although the previous day was freezing, we had a few glorious hours of sun on Saturday afternoon, so the Puddle Jump was a go! Yay!

I made a little video to commemorate the event because it was so great!

Because of copyright issues, there's no music, so just sing a song in your head while you watch, okay? Haha! There is volume in the video clips, though! Also, you're probably going to want to watch it in full-screen mode. So enlarge, away!


the nail files: because bailey told me to do it

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**Link up with us to show off your cute manis (either done by yourself or in a salon), nail polish purchases and/or recommendations, nail polish tips--whatever nail-related thing you'd like! And please use the button and/or link back to this blog. Thanks!**


It's been a while since I've done nail art. Not glitter tips, or gradients, but straight up nail art. So, it was excellent timing when Bailey tweeted me with a look from the amazing nailasaurus


*bangs gong*

What I used:

The mani!
Outside, no flash.

I started with two coats of Margritte's Masterpiece and Lilou. When that was totally dry, I got out my weirdly-long striping brush. It's so long, in fact, that it needs its own case because it doesn't fit in with the rest of my brushes--an outcast, if you will. Ha! However, it's THE brush you want to use for lines like this. I swear that once you get the hang of it, it works really well at getting a straight line. So, uh, get one, okay? Also, ignore that REALLY jagged line in the middle of my thumb. I didn't notice its badness until right now. *headdesk*

Okay, so after it was totally dry, I used the Outcast Brush to make a bunch of stripes with Turned Up Turquoise. Isn't it funny how the colour looks different on the blue and yellow? Crazy! Anyway, you're going to want to paint right down to your cuticle to get a "square" looking base. If you stop before your cuticle, you'll get curved bottoms to your lines, which doesn't have the same vibe, ya know? I used the same technique with Paper Mache and Sparkle and Snowflake. And finished it all off by cleaning my cuticles with a much shorter brush and some acetone. 

I have to say that the nailasaurus is the total bomb-dot-com when it comes to nail inspiration. Thanks so much to Bailey for this challenge! (Even though I'm pretty sure that she was just being nice and it wasn't actually a challenge. I'm not competitive, I swear. Okay, okay, maybe I'm a little competitive. Haha!)

Hope you all have an awesome weekend! Spring is here (apparently) so get outside and enjoy!! VITAMIN D FOR EVERYONE! And, as usual, be sure to link up and show off your pretties!


Author Interview with Suzy G

Hello, hello!! Happy Hump Day, everyone! 

Only two days until Friday. TWO DAYS! We can make it. I KNOW WE CAN.

And speaking of Friday, last Friday, I posted my review of Tragic Tales of Strange Girls, Volume One, and today, I've got a little author interview to share with you! YAY FOR AUTHOR INTERVIEWS. You're gonna love it, guys. I swear. Suzy G is awesome sauce!

Picture from Suzy G's website
Raise your hand if you're shocked that this gal wrote some über creepy short stories. 
*looks around*
 *finds no raised hands* 
Yeah...that's what I thought. Ha!

Okay, time for the interview to begin!

*bangs gong*

1. Short stories are a very specific beast. And by that, I mean they’re mega hard to write. Or, at least, they’re mega hard for me to write because you need to do a WHOLE LOT in a very small space, so I’m curious as to how you got into writing short stories. Have you always written them? If not, what led you down the short story path?

I grew up reading short stories by Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. I love short stories. You get in, you get punched in the feelers, you get out. There’s no room for a whole lot of filler. The short story is a natural feeling length for me. Everything in the story--the voice, the conflict, the prose--is concentrated and heightened. I love trying to make it all fit. There is a special beauty in brevity.

2. I’ve described Tragic Tales as “creep-tastic,” because the stories are creepily fantastic (and hybrid words are awesome). On social media, I’ve never gotten the impression that you’re a creepy kind of gal. I mean, you’ve got partially pink hair! Where does all your creepy inspiration come from?

When I was young I adored spending time with my uncle and aunt at their house in the woods. My uncle, in particular, loved scary movies. We watched them all the time. My uncle and aunt also had these EPIC Halloween parties every year, complete with spook houses and haunted hay rides. I learned pretty early on that there was this kind of fun thrill associated with being scared. (I’m too lazy to get an adrenaline rush any other way.)

Some people mistakenly think that because I write scary things, I must be rock-solid and scared by nothing. On the contrary: SO MANY THINGS SCARE ME. There is a power in taking scary things and dissecting them, examining them. I also find it fascinating to read about and write about how people react in the face of fear. Fight, flight, shut down, accept--there are all kinds of responses and degrees of those responses. (Spoiler: I react awfully to fear and pressure. You do not want me on your apocalypse team.)

3. I’ll admit that I’m a scardy-cat and there were two stories, in particular, that gave me the prolonged heebie-jeebies. Did writing any of the stories keep you up at night?

No. My mind is a tangled ball of anxiety all the time. My imagination is always constructing some sort of terrible scenario that will probably happen AT ANY MOMENT. By the time I really think about things and get them down on paper in story form, that scenario is no longer scary to me.

4. Although there is a very consistent theme in Tragic Tales (the theme being tragedy), did you always have that specific theme in mind? And what made you choose these particular stories for Volume One?

It wasn’t intentional, but at some point I realized that I’d amassed quite a few stories with a couple things in common: they were written from a young girl’s POV and they ended rather unhappily. Again, that seems to be a natural feeling thing for me when I sit down to write. I know what it is to be a young girl in seemingly hopeless situations, feeling pretty powerless. Sometimes writing can exorcise all kinds of demons. Horror, for me, is pretty cathartic.

5. Quick! Zombies are attacking your house! You only have five minutes to grab what you can. What do you take?

Aside from people? Because I’d take my family. We each have “Go Bags”-- backpacks with 72hours worth of food, water, and survival stuff. My zombie weapons of choice would be a claw hammer and good old-fashioned denial. Also, I’m one of those sentimental people who would grab pictures. And not just the digital ones on my phone. I’m pretty sure there will eventually be an EMP that will knock out all things electrical-- then people will wish they had actual paper photographs! …

Wow. What was I saying about always imagining worst case scenarios?


See, guys? I told you that Suzy G was awesome! And I guess she's not as creepy in real life as you may have thought, based on my review. Phew! *wipes brow* Haha! And the fact that Suzy's zombie weapons of choice would be "a claw hammer and good old-fashioned denial," makes me love her even more. 

So go buy her collection of short stories RIGHT NOW! Look, I'll even make it easy for you. Just click on the cover to get linked to Amazon!

And if you want to have more Suzy G in you life (because, you know, why wouldn't you?) here's list of where you can stalk hang with her.

Thanks so much to Suzy G for stopping by! :)