Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My Favorite Books of 2016

For the past two years, I’ve made reading goals, and I still haven’t quite reached my goal. Last year, I was close. I wanted to read 45 books in the year 2016, and I read 34 published books, and 4 nonpublished. (Beta reads for other writers). Many of them were really fun reads, and I thought I’d let you know the top in my list!

Also, this is in no particular order.

Shades of Milk and Honey – Mary Robinette Kowal

I hadn’t heard of Mary Robinette Kowal. I knew of Writing Excuses, but I didn’t really listen to their podcast. Last year, I went to a writing conference with a friend, where Mary was on multiple panels. I thought she was hilarious, and I really wanted to read her book, especially since my friend highly recommended it. I loved the Austen feel with magic, and I’m pretty sure I read the whole thing in less than a day.

Ian Quicksilver – Alyson Peterson

Alyson was another writer I met at the writers’ conference. She hadn’t published Ian Quicksilver yet, but after meeting her, I was dying to read something she’d written. Let me just say, Alyson knows how to write teenage boys. Ian was a character who jumped off the page and kept me laughing through the entire book.

Healer’s Apprentice – Melanie Dickerson

I discovered Melanie Dickerson last year when one of my sisters recommended her books. Apparently, I was in the mood for a lot of historical type books last year. I actually read a lot of her books, but this was the first one that I read, and I loved her style of writing. I’m also a sucker for fairy tale retellings, so it was just the perfect balance for me.

Passenger – Alexandra Bracken

I love Alexandra Bracken. I devoured her Darkest Minds series, and when I found out that she had a new book, I just had to read it. This book was completely different, but I still loved it. She addresses so many issues in a way that made me want to keep reading. She addresses gender and race as her characters time travel to different times and different areas of the world.

The Originals – Cat Patrick

I have no idea how I discovered this book. I got a notice from the library that my reserved book was ready, and I couldn’t remember reserving it. It was definitely a happy accident though. Cat Patrick writes light science fiction, and I think she’s the reason why I tried writing science fiction last November. I read several of her books, and I loved that there was a slight mystery to everything. She’s the one who turned me on to contemporary science fiction.

Winner’s Kiss – Marie Rutkoski

This is the final book in the Winner’s Trilogy, and after several disappointing final books to series, I picked this one up with not very high expectations. But I shouldn’t have worried. Marie Rutkoski knows her characters, and she made me love them even more. It’s one of the best final books that I’ve read in a really long time.

Grave Mercy – Robin LaFevers

I had randomly downloaded this book before going on a writers’ retreat. I had spent the day writing – probably close to ten hours, and I wanted to relax before going to bed. This book wasn’t really what I would call relaxing, mostly because I had to find out what happens next! It’s such a unique idea, and I loved the execution. Plus, the romance was slow burning and just awesome.

Monday, January 30, 2017

One Day at a Time

Years ago, back when my husband and I first got married, we spoke Spanish at home. We met in Spain, and we spoke Spanish over there. In fact, he was the one who taught me Spanish. So it seemed natural to keep speaking Spanish once we came to the US.

Hubby started taking ESL classes through the community, but even with that, it seemed like his grasp of the language was very slow. He was having a hard time adjusting to the new culture, and even finding a job. We went to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving, and she gave us advice that really changed our lives.

She told us to speak English at home. We’d tried before, but I became impatient with him, because he couldn’t express himself well. He also found it easier to switch to Spanish if he couldn’t figure out how to say it in English. We told her that it was too hard to just switch to English.

Her response was:

Just do it for one day. For one day speak English at home. And when you’ve done it that day, then do it the next day. Take it one day at a time until it becomes natural.

We were a little skeptical, but we decided to try it. She’s a very wise woman, and we wouldn’t lose anything by at least trying. We tried for one day. It was a long, exhausting and frustrating day, but we got through it. At the end of that day, we realized that we’d spoken only English for one day. Then we tried the next day. We spoke English for the second day, reminding ourselves that it was one day at a time.

After a few weeks of our ‘one day at a time,’ Hubby started to have amazing progress in his English class. Suddenly, he started shooting through the levels, passing the tests, until he took the TOEFL. (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and did well. Six months later, he was attending classes at the community college, and then a year and a half after that, he transferred to a university.

It was amazing to see the results of one day at a time. It was work, and yes, it got frustrating, but we worked through it. Baby steps sometimes makes a huge difference.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

NaNoWriMo Research

One of the reasons why I love writing is because I get to learn about so many different things. Research is a real thing, and I feel that the more I write, the more I get to learn. Last November, for NaNoWriMo, I had three separate books planned, which mean that in October, I was in full-blown research mode. Here’s just a few things that I got to research while I was preparing for NaNoWriMo:

Prosthetics (focusing on climbing prosthetics and materials)

How to play poker

Origin of Gargoyles

Native American Smoke Signals

Hunting techniques of foxes

How to escape quicksand

Types of screwdrivers

The Walking Dead TV show

Popular Bing Crosby songs

Pearl Diving



Climbing Competitions

It’s so much fun to research, and even more fun when you’re able to apply it into your writing. I’ve fallen down several black holes of research where I find such random and wonderful things to learn.
What are some of the things that you’ve had to research for writing recently?

Monday, January 23, 2017

TV Accents

I’m a huge fan of crime shows. I love getting into the heads of the criminals, and trying to see if I can figure it out for myself. Usually, I can’t solve the crime, and a lot of small details fly over my head, but I love watching it come together.

Another reason is because they bring in so many supporting characters. There’s always a new criminal, a new murder, which means a new list of suspects and family members. The other day, I was watching Criminal Minds, one of my favorite shows, and they were investigating a serial killer who was following migrant workers. The entire camp of workers was Spanish speaking, and several required a translator so that the agents could question them.

Then they questioned the suspect’s brother. He was an older man, Mexican, but as I was listening to the interrogation, something stuck out to me. The man’s accent was almost non-existent. Every once in a while, it would come out, but for the majority of the time, he spoke clearly, in full, English sentences, without hesitating, and with confidence.

Now, I’m not saying that that’s impossible, but I have several friends who are Latino. My hubby’s from Bolivia, and he still has a super thick accent, eight years after coming to the United States. And he speaks English fairly well. He’s almost got his bachelor’s degree, so he’s in an English speaking environment almost all of the time. Yet there are still times when I struggle to know what word he just said, and there are times when he doesn’t find the exact right word to express himself.

When he’s nervous, his accent gets even thicker. He struggles to think, just like anyone in a stressful environment. So for me, watching this Mexican immigrant, who lives in a purely Spanish speaking community, speaking full, completely, barely-accented sentences in a different language, while under investigation of the FIB, I didn’t believe it. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Communicating with the Doctor

As many of you know, about six months ago, I made a transition in my career. I’ve loved geriatrics, but I started to feel like I needed to try new things, and push myself as a nurse. It’s been quite a transition, and I’m pleased to say that I’m starting to feel like I’ve got my own pace now, and things are great.

What’s been most fascinating is the transition from thinking like a long-term nurse to thinking like a hospital nurse. There’s still a few habits that I need to drop, but I’m definitely doing better.
One of the biggest adjustments has been my relationship with doctors.

In skilled nursing, your patients are fairly stable. Even those who are on the TCU or rehab side of things, they aren’t critical. You’re not going to be doing blood draws on them every day, and you aren’t going to be monitoring for a catastrophe. You’re really in the mindset of reporting any abnormalities. Along the same lines, most of the patients in a skilled facility are going to be the patients of the same doctor. One who usually has several other jobs, which tend to take priority. The biggest decision a nurse can make is:

Is this worth bothering a doctor for?

Usually, the answer is no. Especially when you’re working night shift. Even then, I’ve worked in enough facilities that I’ve had multiple doctors give us the instructions that anything he needs to be contacted about should be given to him in bulk. A patient wants eye drops? Hopefully you can wait until the doctor comes in… in three or four days. Patient’s weight fluctuating? Well, the doctor will be in on Wednesday. Hopefully they don’t lose too much more. We’ve had doctors request that we don’t call them for anything, except an emergency, and even when a patient dies, half of the time, we can’t get a hold of their doctor.

In the hospital, that’s not how things work. You’re always communicating with the doctor. If you’re wondering if you should report something to the doctor, you’d better stop wondering and just report it. Any small changes could be an indication of something bigger. Suddenly, I have doctors actually asking me about a patient, asking their latest labs, their vitals, how much they ate, things that they need to know to make sure the patient can heal enough to get back home.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Christmas Hallmark Cliches

December is over, which means that with Christmas, we’re now done with the Hallmark holiday movies. I can’t be the only one who binge watches those over December. Hubby thinks that it’s hilarious, since I hate the terrible dialogue and obvious plot holes, but it’s like I can’t look away. I get frustrated by the story, but I want to keep with the ‘feel good’ experience.

That being said, there’s definitely been several clichés that I’ve noticed pop up in various movies, so I thought I’d share my top Christmas movie clichés with all of you.

1.       Santa’s helper, or the angel, or random person who interferes with a person’s life without any warning at all. Or explanation.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I would be really annoyed with some random person if they suddenly turned my life back ten years, or forced me to relive a day over and over until I finally got the Christmas message. I mean, who gives them the power to decide that this person needs to learn a lesson? It almost makes me think of Krampus, the evil elf, who comes and punishes children who were naughty. Just let them learn the lessons on their own!

2.       Everyone is in a broken and irreparable relationship.

Holidays are apparently for finding love, but there’s no way to do that if you’re already in a relationship! So cue the controlling, domineering boyfriend, or the clingy, over the top girlfriend, just ripe for dumping! And why would you want to dump him/her? Because the love of your life is just around the Christmas corner. I mean, I get that the holidays aren’t fun to spend on your own, but seriously, why is everyone is such a bad relationship in December? It makes absolutely no sense to me.

3.       The workaholic, focused-on-her-career woman who just needs to understand that love is around the corner.

And obviously, she should stop focusing on her career because that’s not within the Christmas spirit. It always seems that there’s a story focused on a woman whose boss is over the top and forces her to work Christmas with the promise of a promotion if she just gets this one thing done. And of course, it can’t wait until the holidays. Enter the love interest who shows her that a career isn’t everything. In fact, it’s probably not important at all. Cue the happy Christmas music. I actually yelled at a movie because a woman chose to completely leave her job because she could have a family. Why can’t you do both?

4.       Insta-love. Boy meets girl, boy and girl have an amazing night together, and now their lives are intertwined for forever.

I’m not a fan of insta-love in general. The holidays are short. Three, four weeks max? That’s not enough time to decide that you’re destined to be together. Maybe you should spend some time… I don’t know… when you’re not hopped up on candy cane sugar? Real relationships are about compromise, and dealing with the world, not avoiding it because it’s Christmas. Once the lights are put away, and the songs in the department stores are back to normal, the magic could wear off. Then you’re back where you started, in that broken, irreparable relationship that only blossoms in the Christmas season.

So those are my top clichés for Christmas movies. And don’t get me wrong, I still love them, even though I don’t always know why. What are your top clichés for Christmas movies? 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Watching Gender Inequality

I feel like we hear a lot about gender equality. How women deserve to be equal to men, how they deserve equal wage, or better job opportunities. I’m definitely not one who’s against gender equality, but I guess I’ve never really been a recipient of inequality. Not enough to make me sit up and notice.

But a few months ago, I went to two banquets with hubby. They were back to back, and both for soccer leagues. Hubby played in the men’s soccer league and he coached one of the girls’ soccer teams, which meant that he was invited to both.

The first banquet was for the men. It was in a very nice, beautiful dining area of the school, where there were matching dishes, and plenty of chairs for all the players and their spouses if they had any. An hour later, we ran across campus for the women’s banquet, which was in a crowded gym, and they had to cram as many people as they could around a table, since there wasn’t space. And my husband’s friend (another coach) had to find a chair because they didn’t have any.

At the men’s banquet, they had a microphone, and they had the sports chairperson talk to them, and answer any questions they had about future seasons, and the future of soccer. During the women’s banquet, they didn’t have anything to cut out the noise, so the assistant chairperson had to shout, and she didn’t open it up for questions, probably because she wouldn’t have been able to hear them even if she did.

At the men’s banquet, they had trophies for the top six players and the MVP, all engraved with their name and their award. At the women’s banquet, the top six players and MVP were all awarded mini-soccer balls with their name written with sharpie on it. And they weren’t even brought up to the front and awarded it, the balls were thrown to them.

As an outsider, it was astounding to watch. I wasn’t in the girl’s league, or in the boy’s league, but I was one of the only people that went to the banquet for both. None of them knew the difference. The girls seemed excited to be celebrating together, and were happy with the general experience, but that may be because they didn’t know what had happened an hour earlier. For the first time, I actually saw the gender inequality that I’d heard about so much. It’s so easy to live in ignorant bliss of what you’re missing out when no one tells you what the other side is getting. And it’s so easy to believe the others are getting the same thing as you when no one talks about it.