Monthly Archives: November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Updates

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I hope that everyone had a pleasant holiday filled with food, family, and fun. In the spirit of the holiday, I want to thank everyone who has subscribed to my website and all of you who read my posts. Whether you have read them all from the beginning or have just stumbled upon one recently, thank you. I really appreciate your support.

In order to express my gratitude, I have a special offer for all of you! You can now purchase the State of Exception e-book for $2.99 throughout the holiday season! However, if you purchase from Smashwords between now and November 30, you can get 50% off! Just enter the promotional code TJ62J when checking out. Click here to purchase State of Exception from Smashwords!

I also would like to announce another change that is coming in December: more book reviews! Since my book reviews are some of my most viewed posts, I have decided to transform December into book review month! I will review a book every Thursday and every other Tuesday. I hope that you will all enjoy these reviews and that they will help you with your book shopping this holiday season.

Finally, to those of you who are finishing up NaNoWriMo, I wish you all of the best! This month has flown by and I hope that you are all able to finish. I also hope you all found my NaNoWriMo advice series helpful and thank you for reading it.

Until next week,



Book Review: Calico Joe

calicojoeTitle: Calico Joe
Author: John Grisham
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Rating: 5/5

Calico Joe is a novel about the baseball prodigy, Joe Castle, who makes his stunning debut in the majors by shattering countless records in the summer of 1973. Joe Castle becomes the idol to many, including eleven-year-old Paul Warren, whose father pitches for the New York Mets. Paul follows every game that Joe Castle plays in with the Chicago Cubs, up to the fateful match up between the Mets and the Cubs. Paul’s father, Warren, is nearing the end of his career and is obviously jealous of the rookie who has garnered everyone’s admiration. During the game, Warren throws a pitch at Castle that will never be forgotten and alters the course of his life and Castle’s life forever. Fast forward to present day and Warren Tracey is an aging old man with cancer. Paul is determined to reunite his father with Joe Castle so that he might apologize for the game that changed both of their lives.

Calico Joe is told from Paul Tracey’s perspective through flashbacks and present day narration. I think that the flashbacks are critical in order to illustrate the deterioration of Paul and Warren’s father-son relationship. An eleven-year-old Paul is a witness to Warren’s alcoholism, philandering, and arrogance that eventually drives Paul away from his father. I think that the delicate relationship between the two men is so well written and has an authentic feel. The flashbacks are also vital in introducing Joe Castle by providing details that show how important Castle was to so many people, including to Paul.

I think that Grisham did an incredible job creating likeable supporting characters and he kept their personalities consistent throughout the novel. I found Joe Castle to be really likeable, despite all of his early success. I really liked the family dynamic that Grisham built around him with Castle’s two brothers and the entire town of Calico Rock cheering him on. I thought that Clarence Rook, the newspaper editor, and his wife were really likeable characters as well.

I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy this book because I thought it was going to be a “baseball book”. I found that Grisham gave the sport a supporting role and let the characters really shine throughout the story. Although baseball was always in the backdrop, Calico Joe focuses mostly on the characters and the journey for forgiveness. I thought that it was a really well written story and I believe that Grisham ended it perfectly.

If you have read Calico Joe, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Calico Joe on Amazon, please click here.

NaNoWriMo: Stay Focused During Thanksgiving

We are quickly approaching the last full week of NaNoWriMo and with the final week comes Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a great holiday that marks the beginning of the holiday season, but it does bring many distractions for someone attempting to finish strong during NaNoWriMo. With family, friends, parades, football, Black Friday shopping, decorating, and entertaining, it’s hard to fathom the idea of finishing your 50,000 words. However, there are several things that you can do now that will help you whenever Thanksgiving comes and you find yourself away from your computer.

Starting tomorrow, start waking up earlier. Try to make it a habit to start writing shortly after you wake up. During Thanksgiving, your days will most likely be filled with family, friends, and everything that goes on with the holidays. These festive days may turn into festive evenings that eat away much of your writing time. If you write your words before you start your day, it will eliminate the guilt of not writing throughout the day because you would have already written your words that morning. You will also lower your stress levels knowing that your writing for the day is done.

If time is available, build yourself a word count cushion before Thanksgiving arrives. If you’ve been consistently writing 1,667 words every day, challenge yourself to write 2,500 words or even 3,000 words over the next few days. It sounds like it could be difficult, especially if you’re beginning to burn out. However, there is a chance that you may not be able to write the words you need on Thanksgiving. You’ll be incredibly thankful for the cushion you’ve given yourself that will keep you on track.

When Thanksgiving begins and you find it difficult to make time to sit at you computer, make sure you have a pen and paper or your phone handy. Between the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thanksgiving football, or Black Friday check-out lines, you will probably find yourself with time that you are just sitting/standing around. During this down time, jot down your thoughts in a journal or text yourself notes that you can copy into your manuscript later. You will add more words than you’d expect if you jot down thoughts during the day.

Most importantly, try not to stress out over meeting your word count requirement. Thanksgiving is a day about reflecting on what you are thankful for and spending time with those you love. The holiday may add distractions, but if you keep your head low and focus, you will soon be able to call yourself a NaNoWriMo winner.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I hope your novel writing is going well and you’re able to complete your 50,000 word count! If you have any thoughts to share about staying focused during Thanksgiving, please share them in the comments!

Until next week,


NaNoWriMo: Change Perspectives

As the end of Week 2 of NaNoWriMo approaches, some writers may be slowing down and losing the motivation that they had started with at the beginning of the month. Stress, fatigue, and life have all started to interfere with the writing process and some of us have hit a wall. Whether it’s a lack of ideas or just a lack of words, this is the time of the month when some writers start to get behind and panic. If these feelings sound familiar, you may need a change in perspective.

Most writers write from one character’s perspective, most commonly from the point-of-view of the hero. This can be great in many ways and through this writing technique, we begin to get attached to the hero and sympathize with the challenges he may run into throughout the book. However, if you are only writing what the hero sees, you may be limiting yourself. In order to shake things up and add some spark back into your novel, write from a different character’s perspective. Not only will this change the way you see your story, but it may also give you new ideas and I guarantee it will increase your word count.

An interesting change in perspective could be from the hero to the villain. In our writing rush, we may focus so much on the hero and think of the villain almost as an afterthought. However, the villain, in some ways, is just as important as your hero. Try writing your next chapter from your villain’s perspective. Not only will you force yourself to get into the head of your villain, but you will see the world as your villain sees it. This will be drastically different than how your hero sees the world. Even if you end up deleting these extra chapters in later edits, this technique will help you learn more about your villain and in turn, when you write about your villain from your hero’s perspective, it’ll make your villain seem much more complex. Nobody wants to read about a villain who is just evil because he has to be. Diving into the mind of your villain to find his motivation will create more layers and make this character vastly more interesting.

Not only will a change in perspective alter the way you see your characters, it’ll also add events into your story. While your hero is marching off to fight the villain, the villain will obviously be doing something. What is the villain doing? Are other characters involved? How would this affect the hero? Writing about events that are outside the hero’s point-of-view will expand the world you’ve built in your book. In fact, you can add an entire subplot that you might not have previously considered by thinking in the head of a different character.

Obviously, you are not limited to just changing to the villain’s perspective because you should have a whole cast of characters to choose from. You can change perspectives to the hero’s best friend or mentor. Although the characters may experience similar events as your hero, everyone sees things differently and characters are no exception. Viewing similar events as a different character may give you a new look at what your hero is facing. This might even affect how you write from your hero’s perspective later on in the story. This fresh look at your novel will give you that motivation you need to break through your writer’s block and continue writing.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I hope your novel writing is going well and you’re on target to complete your goal! If you have any thoughts to share about a change in perspective, please share them in the comments!

Until next week,


Book Review – Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

brainonfireTitle: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
Author: Susannah Cahalan
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Rating: 5/5

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness is the harrowing true story about 24-year-old Susannah Cahalan, who goes from an emerging journalist to a catatonic hospital patient with a mysterious illness. The book chronicles her journey, including her first symptoms, the rapid decline of her health that lands her in the hospital, her diagnosis, and recovery. Cahalan relies on memories, hospital videos, diary entries, and friends and family to tell the tale of her spiral into madness and how she is able to escape it.

I want to start off by saying that this book has a lot of science in it. It delves into the psychology of the human brain and presents the different possible diagnoses that Cahalan is given by a numerous amount of doctors. That being said, I absolutely loved it. As someone who has an interest in psychology, I found this book really fascinating. I think that Cahalan does a great job of defining every term, from brain stem to anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis, without making it feel like a vocabulary lesson. The writing is so easy to follow and I never felt like the science overshadowed Cahalan’s story of survival.

I really enjoyed Cahalan’s writing and it’s easy to see that she is a journalist. There is a tremendous amount of research behind this book and Cahalan’s hard work is very evident. She has taken hospital videos, erratic journal entries, interviews from family, friends, and doctors and created a page-turning story that is hard to put down. Although Cahalan notes that she does not remember much of what happened to her, I never felt like anything was left out and the story seemed complete. I thought that Cahalan’s psychological and physical changes throughout the book were perfectly illustrated and it exceeded all the expectations that I had for this book.

At the end, Cahalan also brings awareness to the disease that she is diagnosed with, a disease that many people know nothing about. She tells the reader what it was like to share her story with the world and what it has done to help other patients who suffer from the illness. I think it’s admirable that she published such a tragic and personal story in order to help others and bring attention to a disease that is often misdiagnosed and left untreated.

If you have read Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness on Amazon, please click here.