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Month: December 2017

Kayla’s Top Reads of 2017

Kayla’s Top Reads of 2017

If great readers make for great writers than I should be well on my way to literary greatness. I love to read.  My tombstone will probably be inscribed with: SHE READ A LOT OF BOOKS. And I’m ok with that.

Last December, Brooke made end-of-the-year introspection fun by looking back on a big year of reading and selecting the titles that made it into the hall of fame: see her 2016 top books HERE.

This year I wanted in on the fun and proposed a duet. Take a look at my top reads and check back tomorrow for Brooke’s. Between us we’ve got love stories, high adventure, books on creativity, dinosaurs, anthropology, sex cults of the 1960s….and that’s just the normal stuff.

If you’re looking for a new source of inspiration, or just want a good adventure story, our lists may guide you in the right direction. Trust me, one of our fav titles will have you braving icy temps to visit the local bookshop.

I’ll cut the rambling and let you get to it. Here’s my super exciting, top ten books of 2017! In no particular order because choosing just ten was hard enough.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill – This is the fantasy novel that stole my heart. A story of a village shrouded in suffering and a girl with magic buried deep inside her. A girl who was mysteriously abandoned and subsequently raised by a witch, a swamp monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon.  Her power is the key to setting the village free, but it means the end of a safe and happy life with the strange creatures who love her. Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal, technically a middle grade story but written beautifully and loved by all the adult’s I know who have read it. Without a doubt my favorite book of 2017.


Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi – I’m not a phone addict, I’m really not, to be honest I hate the little beast. I do, however, love having a computer that fits in my pocket and takes great photo-video, BUT because it’s in my pocket I check it too often and waste too much time on the social medias. Bored and Brilliant challenges us to disconnect from our tech. A recent study found that mobile users now average nearly 3 hours a day on their devices! The way our brains respond to this constant distraction is astounding…and troubling. Many a study is finding that  if we are never bored, if our brains are always stimulated, always packed with information, then we lose capacity for attention, focus, and creativity. If you want to find the time and brain space for creativity this is a must read.


Euphoria by Lily King – This book carried me away to the sweaty jungle of 1933 New Guinea. The story focuses on pioneering anthropologist, Nell Stone, the magnetic and controversial genius (inspired by my real-life hero Margaret Mead). I found the subtle retelling of Peter Pan transporting and transforming. The twisted love story crackled with jealousy as the characters navigated the intoxicating excitement of discovery and the danger of losing oneself in a foreign land and culture. Euphoria is a gem. And the damn ending broke my heart.


Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – I was a big fan of the Shadow & Bone trilogy before Leigh Bardugo came to town this fall promoting her gorgeously illustrated collection of short stories: Language of Thorns. I hadn’t gotten around to the follow-up Six of Crows duology but meeting Leigh left me eager to dive back into the Grisha-verse. The books follow criminal prodigy Kaz and his wild team of misfits that take on an impossible heist. If you’ve ever craved a fantasy version of Ocean’s Eleven, this is the series for you.


The Secret History by Donna Tartt – This book has been on my radar for ages, but once I picked it up I could not put it down.  This book is a ride! I lost sleep, it’s that good. At the surface level this book is about a group of college friends that perform an arcane ritual, accidentally commit a crime, and not accidentally cover it up.  But that’s just the surface, you’ve got to read it to believe it. This line from the first chapter sums it up better than I ever could: ‘A morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.’ Just read it, trust me.


We Were Feminists Once by Andi Zeisler – Has anyone else noticed that feminism has devolved into a popular buzzword used to sell movies, pop songs, and fashion? This book takes a long hard look at how an important social justice movement was watered down, turned into a brand identity, and used to sell us crap we don’t need. Ziesler is engaging and witty as she gives us history, a peek into the future of feminism, and sage advice on reclaiming the power of the movement.


Girls by Emma Cline – A strange and intellectual look at the indefinable time of life that is girlhood. Inspired by the late 1960s infamous cults of free love, it was a thrilling read, disturbing at times, always intense, and definitely unforgettable. Emma Cline is a young author and I felt an affinity with her 20-something female voice. This book was about a past generation, but it had a lot to say about ours.


The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss – This is an EPIC fantasy by a master storyteller. A truly magical experience that has been described as Harry Potter for grown-ups, but, although I love the Potter-verse, I feel that comparison does a disservice to Rothfuss whose books are definitely in a league of their own! I’m really really really bummed that the third and final book hasn’t been released (a date hasn’t even been set!) and the anticipation is more like a fiery sting of impatience that never quite goes away. Do any fellow fans agree?


Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy – A great book for writers, editors, students, teachers…really anyone with the remotest interest in the craft of writing.  But not just any writing, this is a book about writing the kind of fiction that gets under your skin and does something physical to your heart and tummy. Percy’s collection of essays is both wise and funny – the snarky kind of funny that has you laughing and reading aloud to your family at dinner. Somehow these non-fiction essays are also suspenseful, Percy practices what he preaches, even his academic stuff is exciting! I’ve got a copy of his newest novel The Dead Lands in my ‘to read’ pile.


Fen by Daisy Johnson – This is the most bizarre book I have read in many a year, possibly in all of my years. It’s that weird, and that great. Creepy, lyrical, and full of dark instincts. When recommending it to my sister I struggled to come up with a description and ended up calling it a gritty folktale. And that it is, a gritty, sometimes horrifying, folk story set in the flat, eerie fenlands of contemporary Britain. If you know someone who likes weird, dark fic, you need to pass this on.  

How to Fill Plot Holes

How to Fill Plot Holes

As much as I am in love with my current work in progress, I am aware that it has a few major problems.  This novel truly is my tester novel, where I am making every writer mistake out there from spending too long on the first draft to under-developed characters to impressively poor world building.

Now that you all want to hire me to market your novels as well as I am marketing mine let’s continue.

I have learned so much from making these mistakes, and though it is taking me some time to work through this novel, I know it will be worth it in the end

My most recent round of editing has focused on filling potholes

I mean, plot holes….see what I did there?..?..?  Okay, moving on.

Since I initially wrote this story without an outline (big no-no, I would not recommend this) my plot was holier than a nun at a golf course.  There were small plot holes, large plot holes, confusing plot holes and plot holes with the potential to turn into plot twists.  

After navigating the treacherous plot road of my novel and carefully filling all the holes I could spot, I’ve learned quite a few techniques that I want to pass on to you wonderful readers.

Plot Hole Filling Step One:  Know where you want to go – Since I was a silly goose and wrote my first draft without an outline before I could begin filling plot holes, I had to know what my plot actually was.  This meant I needed to make an outline.  As Kayla wrote about in a recent post my first outline was a rather magical moment in my writing journey.  For the first time, I laid out my entire story from beginning to end.  The path between points wasn’t always clear, but with the outline I at least knew what the important points were, and could proceed to fill in the gaps along the way.  This step should ideally be done before you draft, but hey, nobody’s perfect right.  If you were a responsible writer who created an outline before typing out your manuscript it is still good to go back and review your outline once draft one is on the page.  You’ll be surprised how much things have changed.

Plot Hole Filling Step Two:  Know what you wrote – Now that you know where your story should go, you need to read to find out where your story did go.  Though time-consuming, my favorite way of doing this is to simply read my rough draft…twice.  The first read through I do not make any notes, I simply read and absorb, then the second read through, once I have the grand arch, of my story fresh in my mind I’ll make notes like there is no tomorrow with all the little, medium, and big problems I see.  This step helps me identify the plot holes.  If I just jumped right into plot hole filling without reading my draft first, it’s likely I would just create a bigger mess than I started with.  Which, let’s be honest, would be impressive – but sad.

Plot Hole Filling Step Three:  What’s causing the hole? – Now that you can see clearly where your plot holes are in your story, you need to determine what is causing the hole.  There are many different types of plot holes.

  • Character inconsistencies:  This can be anything from your MC being blonde in the beginning and a ginger at the end, or something more serious like your MC changing personalities halfway through.  Throughout the whole story your character needs to behave in a way that is true to them.  Yes, they can grow and change, but these changes should be evident to the reader throughout the process of the novel.  To fill these holes you’ll need a strong sense of who each character is (and what they look like).  You can then begin combing through the story and make sure your characters are doing things because that’s who they are and not just because it is convenient to the plot.  
  • Dropped Themes:  It can take a long time to write a book, and throughout that time you might forget that you started a theme then never followed through on it.  Perhaps you introduced a shadowy figure in chapter two, and then forgot they were going to attack your MC before the final battle scene.  Or maybe you wanted to play with how birth order affects a person’s personality, but never managed to fully flesh out the idea.  Cut out the themes that no longer seem relevant and tie in the themes you want to keep all the way through
  • Universal Law Breaking:  The universe your story takes place in has basic laws, but sometimes those don’t help move your plot forward.  For example, when writing about werewolves in my current WIP it made my plot more exciting if my characters couldn’t remember what happened to them when they turned into wolves, but the universe I set up also has the wolves keep their human spirits while in wolf form, making it unlikely that they wouldn’t remember what happened when they were wolves.  So I had to decide to change my universe’s laws, or change the storyline to work with my werewolves remembering their shifting nights.
  • Timeline Inconsistencies:  Again, this is a big one for me as my story is told from multiple perspectives, and also pays close attention to the phases of the moon.  I need to make sure the full moon comes after the first quarter, and that two weeks pass before the new moon.  Plus, when I’m chilling with my male MC on Monday, and can’t suddenly jump back to Sunday to talk about what my female MC was up to.  This is where my outline really helps.
  • Continuity:  This is the grab bag for the rest of things. Maybe you said your characters live on the south side of town, but then they always walk east to get home.  Maybe the math teacher is named Mr. Bog in the beginning, and Mrs. Bellpepper at the end.  All these little inconsistencies can easily be cleaned up once you identify them.  For my story, I’ve created a master list of characters, so I always know who’s who, as well as a map of the town so it is easier for me to describe my characters movements.

Sometimes identifying plot holes can be hard for an author to do on their own.  Beta-readers are an essential part in identifying your plot holes, however, they will be much more effective if you utilize them after you’ve done your best to eliminate all the plot holes you can find.  Otherwise, they might disappear into your oversized plot holes never to return.


Plot Hole Filling Step 4: Fill those holes  – Now that you know what your plot should be, and what is causing your plot holes you need to fill them.  I highly recommend doing this in stages, starting out with themes and characters, and finishing with timeline and continuity.  Each hole will take a variable amount of work to fill, but believe me the deeper the plot hole, the more satisfying it is to finally get it patched up.


Getting the plot of my novel right has been a huge ordeal for me (one that would have been somewhat avoided by having an outline) but I could not be happier with the progress I’ve made.  I am so excited about where my story is going and cannot wait to share it with all of you.

I hope your writing is going well.  Remember no matter how rough your story currently is, if you have the passion and determination you will someday turn it into a beautiful gem. When you do be sure to let me know, cause I’d love to read it.

Stay Amazing my friends