review: one snowy night

One Snowy Night by Jill Shalvis (2016)

This novella is book number 2.5 in Jill Shalvis’ Heartbreaker Bay series (preceded by Sweet Little Lies and The Trouble with Mistletoe, and followed by Accidentally on Purpose, which I reviewed here). One of the good things about this series is that each book stands alone and the books can be read in any order. I’ve said this before and will say it again, Jill Shalvis is one of those authors whose books I will always check out because I know exactly what I’m going to get. I don’t know if I would put her in my list of favorites, but she’s dependable and entertaining and hasn’t ever disappointed me.

One Snowy Night is an easy and quick read. I tried to read with my “reader” hat on but somehow my “writer” hat kept demanding to be worn. While reading, the development of the main characters—Max Stranton and Rory Andrews—preoccupied my mind as well as the basic story structure. The story is told through Max and Rory’s alternating third person point of view, and while I would say that the narrative is split fairly evenly between them, I wouldn’t say that by the end of the story I know either of them especially well. Sure, I know them in terms of their current situation—Rory has agreed to accept a ride from Max as they both travel from San Francisco to Tahoe on Christmas Eve to spend the holiday with their families. Perhaps that is attributable to the short narrative as well as the fact that the story itself takes place within a time frame of approximately twelve hours.

The desire for forgiveness is what drives Rory’s character. What haunts her is the way she left home. At seventeen, she ran away from home after her junior year in high school in order to escape a household where she didn’t fit in and a family who blamed her for things she hadn’t done. Six years later, she is finally returning home and fears that she will do something to make her family continue to believe she is flaky and undependable. Proving that she has changed is the thing that drives all of her actions and emotions. In the end, it is her interactions with Max during the drive from San Francisco to Tahoe that shows what kind of person she is, and it’s up to her family to see and accept for themselves the woman she has become.

While Rory’s character arc is clearly defined, Max’s is a bit blurry and indistinct. He is haunted by the same incident in Rory’s past but his experience of it was different and he begins the story blaming Rory for what he thinks was her part in it. During the drive, he learns the truth about what actually happens, and this does change the way he sees Rory and allows him to act on the attraction he has felt for her in the time that they have both lived in San Francisco. Max travels a flat character arc through the story. He doesn’t change in any significant way (yes, it can be argued that he admits his love for Rory and that that is a significant change, but in my mind, this is a romance and that is what is expected and without that element the whole story fails to work). Rather, he reflects Rory’s positive change arc and assists her along the way, ensuring that once she does finally make it to her family home, her opinion of who she is and understanding that she is no longer the seventeen-year-old girl who ran away from home six years is what matters most. She won’t be devastated if her family doesn’t see the change and we feel confident that she’ll continue to be who she is even if she doesn’t have her family’s acceptance.

The structure of the story is also difficult to define in absolute terms. When it comes to story structure, I’m looking for the following six key turning points in the plot: catalyst, big event, midpoint, crisis, showdown, revelation. One Snowy Night does have external conflicts and obstacles that the characters must overcome along with inner conflicts that the characters must resolve. And yet, the lines between acts one, two and three are blurry and indistinct, and in my opinion, the turning points are largely absent. This is more observation than judgmental. The story moves along fine and has good pacing; there wasn’t a moment when I wanted to put the book down and stop reading.

If you’re looking for a few hours of escape into a book and want a light romance, One Snowy Night delivers. If you want something a bit deeper and more complex, I can recommend the first book in the series, Sweet Little Lies and the third book, Accidentally on Purpose. If you’ve already read every book in this series, well, then, perhaps like me you’re waiting for Spence’s story to finally be told in Chasing Christmas Eve.

Have you read One Snowy Night? Hit the comments and tell me what you thought of it.

ROW80 Check-In – 3.4: Bubbles

Bubble baths and bubbly.  If you’ve had a peek at my About Me page or know me IRL, you know that these are two of my favorite things.

I indulged in a bubble bath last night.  It’s been a long, stressful week filled with life questions I can’t answer, more than a little bit of self-doubt, and concern about the health about my 94-year-old grandmother.  It’s also been a week to wish my older brother many happy returns and remind myself that mountains aren’t climbed in large leaps, but rather in the relentless, continuous motion of putting one foot in front of the other.  This week has been chaotic and I spent several days feeling out of rhythm with my Self (no that’s not a typo).  To find my way back to the calm, collected, peaceful center within that I have spent the year recognizing and cultivating, I opted for a bubble bath late Saturday afternoon, and I followed it up with a short nap.

Do you know what I discovered?  Bubble baths go a long way toward calming my nervous system.  Afterward I had this feeling of zen that lasted the rest of the night.  It was fantastic and the best gift I could have given myself.

Now for a recap of the last few days….

Write 7000 words each week.  6433/7000.  I ended up having four zero days this week.  Really unusual for me, and I can’t help drawing a connection between the lack of writing and the chaotic, stressful week that comprised the rest of my life.  The good news is that I got a good bit of writing done on Saturday and I also got some writing done today.  In total, I wrote two of the three scenes I was hoping to get done this weekend, and now I’m only one scene behind where I ideally wanted to be at the end of this week.  The other good news is that I have successfully completed my CampNaNo goal for July!  Currently my wordcount is at 38047/36000.  That may actually be where I finish the month, as I put off another commitment and the deadline is tomorrow and I may need to give up some or all of my writing time tomorrow morning to get it in and done on time.  However, I’m actually grateful for the chance to reflect on how writing (or not writing) impacts the rest of my life.  I’ve said before and I’ll say it again–writing is my keystone habit.  When I do it, the rest of my day is just better.  When I don’t, things tend to fall apart.  Let’s hope that next week I get back into my normal rhythm.

Journal everyday.  27/28.  I’ve only missed one day of journaling for the month of July.  Last month I missed three days and in May I missed one day.  I’m so close to having a whole month where I journal everyday!  I’ll try again in August but I’m happy with my progress here.

Read one book a week.  This week’s book was actually a novella–One Snowy Night by Jill Shalvis.  I had put a monthly goal in my daily planner to read four books this month, and I’ll end up having read six books total.  I haven’t gotten through everything on the list below, but I’m steadily getting back into the habit of making time to read and that’s what’s most important to me right now.

  1. The Sisters Brothers – Patrick DeWitt
  2. This Side of the Grave – Jeaniene Frost
  3. Turn Coat – Jim Butcher
  4. Surrender – Lisa Renee Jones
  5. The Return of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
  6. Ride Rough – Laura Kaye
  7. Entice Me – J. Kenner
  8. Anchor Me – J. Kenner
  9. Ripley Under Ground – Patricia Highsmith
  10. Demon from the Dark – Kresley Cole
  11. Just One Touch – Maya Banks
  12. Hard As Steel – Laura Kaye
  13. Hard Ever After – Laura Kaye
  14. The Iscariot Sanction – Mark A. Latham
  15. Random – Craig Robertson

Write one book review for my blog each week.  My review of One Snowy Night will get published to my blog tomorrow (I’m trying to make Mondays the days that book reviews get posted).

Walk/Run twelve miles each week. Ah, nothing to report here for this week.

Do you love bubble baths?  Do you also find that they have a calming, restorative impact on your mental outlook?  What are your favorite things and how does indulging in one of them help you bring order to the chaos of everyday life?

Want to learn more about ROW80?  Click here.

Have a great week!

ROW80 Check-In – 3.4: The Power of Music

I have had music on the brain for the past few days.  There are certain songs that I could hear right this minute and point to a particular time in my life (I listened to the Game of Thrones Season One soundtrack while studying for the Series 7 and 66), or a particular story I have written (Springsteen’s “The Secret Garden”, The Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris”, and X Ambassadors’ “Unsteady” have all been theme songs for various projects), or a particular memory from childhood (like my brother teaching me all the lyrics to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”).  I’ve been to my share of concerts and I’ve got a writing playlist that I listen to all the time and that only changes when I add new songs.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of music, and though I will never ever meet any of my favorite musicians (and perhaps that’s actually a good thing), it’s no less true how much I’ve been touched, inspired, motivated and at times emotionally leveled by their lyrics (I went to a yoga class not long ago, and the teacher had Michael Jackson’s “Man In the Mirror” playing and I was almost in tears because it was the exact song I needed to hear in that exact moment in time). When you know that someone you’ve never met who had that kind of effect on a specific time or moment in your life–helping you write the scene, reach the goal, pass the test, dance with someone you love, resolve to make a change in your life–is gone from the world, I don’t think it’s strange to feel a sense of loss.  In fact, I think it’s human.  For whom the bell tolls.  The sense of an ending.  (See what I did there?)

Write 7000 words each week.  1669/7000.  It’s been a slow week in terms of writing, with yesterday and today being zero days.  I have eight scenes left to write in my current WIP and even though I have written for two days, there’s loads of time to get back on schedule for the week and on track to meet my deadline of 8/15 for finishing the first draft.  Hopefully, my mind has been percolating on the story even though I haven’t gotten any words down.

Journal everyday.  23/24.  I have started to set my timer for thirty minutes when starting each day’s journal entry.  I try to write for the full thirty minutes, sort of in a stream of conscious style.  It’s amazing that I actually could still write even after the buzzer goes off.  I like it and will keep doing it.

Read one book a week.  I finally finished reading Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, which I expect to finish tonight.  I don’t read a whole lot of non-fiction or even books about writing so I don’t know how to rate this one.  Like I said last time, it has some good information in it. I’m not crazy about the style of the presentation (there is a lot of self-promotion by way of examples to get the writers’ point across) but I do think there is advice that writers can apply to their own writing and writing careers.

  1. The Sisters Brothers – Patrick DeWitt
  2. This Side of the Grave – Jeaniene Frost
  3. Turn Coat – Jim Butcher
  4. Surrender – Lisa Renee Jones
  5. The Return of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
  6. Ride Rough – Laura Kaye
  7. Entice Me – J. Kenner
  8. Anchor Me – J. Kenner
  9. Ripley Under Ground – Patricia Highsmith
  10. Demon from the Dark – Kresley Cole
  11. Just One Touch – Maya Banks
  12. Hard As Steel – Laura Kaye
  13. Hard Ever After – Laura Kaye
  14. The Iscariot Sanction – Mark A. Latham
  15. Random – Craig Robertson

Write one book review for my blog each week.  Nothing new to report here.

Walk/Run twelve miles each week. I haven’t walked at all this week and as I look at how the rest of this work week is going to unfold, it’s not looking good.  I may not get to the gym again until Saturday.

In case you were wondering, the theme song for my current WIP is “The Space Between” by Dave Matthews Band.  The project I’ll be working on next already has a theme song.  “Let it Be Me” by Ray LaMontagne.  Do you identify a theme song for each writing project?  What songs have you used? How has having a theme song impacted your story?

Want to learn more about ROW80?  Click here.

Have a great week!

ROW80 Check-In – 3.3: No Signal

Let’s spend a minute thinking about this boat on the water, with no people, no land, and perhaps most importantly, no cell tower in sight. What would it be like to be on that boat for just a few hours on a Sunday afternoon? Where all you really had to do is lay on the bottom and stare at the sky or lean against the bow or stern and watch the world drift by? What if, in that boat, you couldn’t access the internet, your smartphone had fallen overboard, and the only companionship you have is your own thoughts, your own mind? Would it be a wonderful escape, or a pending nightmare? Would it be heaven or hell?

Write 7000 words each week.  8398/7000.  It was a good week in terms of writing.  I had a zero day on Tuesday, but other than that I wrote everyday and met my weekly wordcount goal.  I still have no word debt for CampNaNoWriMo and I’m currently at 31614/36000.  Getting really close to reaching my goal and “winning” the July challenge.  Next week will be about crossing the finish line.  The other good thing that’s happened this week is that I am still on schedule to meet my self-imposed deadline for completing the first draft of my current WIP.  According to the project target in Scrivener, I have 24 days left to write nine scenes.

Journal everyday.  20/21.  I missed my journal entry for last Sunday, and that was the first day I’d missed making a journal entry for the month of July.

Read one book a week.  I’m still reading Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, which I expect to finish tonight.  I don’t plan to write a book review. I’m still undecided on how I feel about the book as a whole.  I think there’s some good information in it, but I’m not all that enamored with the presentation.  I also have read almost the first 100 pages of Gena Showalter’s The Darkest Pleasure (book 3 in the Lords of the Underworld series).  So I’m reading.  I’ve started a few things but haven’t finished anything since the first week of July.

  1. The Sisters Brothers – Patrick DeWitt
  2. This Side of the Grave – Jeaniene Frost
  3. Turn Coat – Jim Butcher
  4. Surrender – Lisa Renee Jones
  5. The Return of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
  6. Ride Rough – Laura Kaye
  7. Entice Me – J. Kenner
  8. Anchor Me – J. Kenner
  9. Ripley Under Ground – Patricia Highsmith
  10. Demon from the Dark – Kresley Cole
  11. Just One Touch – Maya Banks
  12. Hard As Steel – Laura Kaye
  13. Hard Ever After – Laura Kaye
  14. The Iscariot Sanction – Mark A. Latham
  15. Random – Craig Robertson

Write one book review for my blog each week.  Nothing new to report here.

Walk/Run twelve miles each week. I managed a total of 7 miles this week.

  • Wednesday = 2.32 miles / 45 minutes (32/100)
  • Thursday = 2.32 miles / 45 minutes (33/100)
  • Saturday – 2.36 miles / 45 minutes (34/100)

 

In case you were wondering, that boat would be heaven to me.  If all I had to do was hand over my electronics and be promised a safe return to shore after five or six hours floating on the water, I would take it in a heartbeat.  No signal, a chance to hear myself think and turn off the noise and distractions–yes, that sounds like a wonderful escape.

Want to learn more about ROW80?  Click here.

Have a great week!

ROW80 Check-In – 3.2: The Road

My “writer’s work” is done for the week. I spent a lot of my writing time during the week in “think” mode instead of “write” mode, and that’s just fine.  I have a tentative publishing plan for the rest of 2017 and I also have a rough idea of the writing projects I’m going to work on for the rest of this year as well as 2018.  Ultimately, what I’m trying to accomplish is this: write a prequel-style novella that introduces the main characters of the full-length novel that will follow.  With that in mind, I’ve got draft copies of my project plan and my publishing plan. I’ll keep tweaking until I’ve got a good road map for the next sixteen months or so.  Not sure where this road will take me or if I’ll veer off or have to take a detour, but it’s a place to start and for now, that’s enough.

Write 7000 words each week.  5272/7000.  Fell a little bit short of my wordcount goal, but this is another thing I’m completely okay with. At the start of the week, my goal was to draft chapters three and four of my current WIP.  I managed to do both.  I also wanted to not rack up any word debt for CampNaNoWriMo.  As of today, I’m still well ahead of the pace.  I’m at 23,216 of 36,000 words.

Journal everyday.  15/15.  I’ve dumped a lot of what’s been weighing on my mind into my journal this week.  I recently read through an article that recommended going back and reading what you wrote in your journal over the past month or past quarter.  This idea makes me shudder a bit.  I prefer to use my journal as a place where I can let go of what no longer serves me, and yet I’m curious.  Do people actually do this? If you journal, do you go back and read the last month or last few months?  What do you get out of that experience?

Read one book a week.  I’m currently reading Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant.  Depending on when I finish it and whether or not I have anything to say about it, it could be my next book review.  Stay tuned.

  1. The Sisters Brothers – Patrick DeWitt
  2. This Side of the Grave – Jeaniene Frost
  3. Turn Coat – Jim Butcher
  4. Surrender – Lisa Renee Jones
  5. The Return of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
  6. Ride Rough – Laura Kaye
  7. Entice Me – J. Kenner
  8. Anchor Me – J. Kenner
  9. Ripley Under Ground – Patricia Highsmith
  10. Demon from the Dark – Kresley Cole
  11. Just One Touch – Maya Banks
  12. Hard As Steel – Laura Kaye
  13. Hard Ever After – Laura Kaye
  14. The Iscariot Sanction – Mark A. Latham
  15. Random – Craig Robertson

Write one book review for my blog each week.  Nothing new to report here.

Walk/Run twelve miles each week. I managed a total of 4.34 miles this week.  It’s progress and I will gladly take it.

  • Tuesday = 2.30 miles / 45 minutes (30/100)
  • Thursday = 2.34 miles / 45 minutes (31/100)

I have spent a lot of this week feeling stressed and out of control.  I think part of this stemmed from the fact that writing daily each morning is my keystone habit.  Four out of five days this past week, that habit didn’t get done.  Yesterday and today, though, I got some writing done, and made good progress on my current WIP.  As a result the last couple of days have been so much better and I’ve felt like my normal self again.

Are you on track and following the road you want to be travelling? Or do you need to take a detour or make a course correction? Or are you simply enjoying the journey and happy with wherever the road leads you?  Wherever you are, happy travels!

Want to learn more about ROW80?  Click here.

Have a great week!