Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: Writing Life (page 1 of 4)

3 Books I Want to Tell You About Plus One More

Looking for a book to take on vacation this summer or to read on those nights when the kids are in bed and it’s still light out? How about one of these…

Breaking Up and Bouncing Back: Moving On To Create the Love Life You Deserve

What I love about this book is how comprehensive it is. It’s divided into three parts: dealing with the breakup, learning about yourself and practicing self-love (and figuring out what kind of healthy relationship you want), and getting back out into the dating world. This is not a book that you have to sit down and read through all at one time. It has exercises. It has real-world applications. It gives practical advice and things to try. I see this as a manual for your life after a breakup. And Samantha Burns has done her research. She has an extensive bibliography in the back of the book and other books you may want to check out, depending on where you are in your life. She does use some of her own experiences, but the whole book is not based on that. She has done the work to write a book like this!

I will admit that I was skeptic–how much can a book really help someone with dating? But here’s the thing–she isn’t really telling you what to do. First she is telling you about her experience (after a bad breakup) and how she found someone. Then she is explaining what YOU deserve and this is all based on your life, your choices, your goals, and your morals. She provides plenty of examples, and the message she makes loud and clear is: If you don’t feel like someone is treating you correctly, then REALLY examine why you are settling. She also asks you to look at any hand you might have had in past breakups and ask yourself why that happened. So if anything, when you finish this book, you will love and understand yourself more and know what type of partner you are looking for. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to really learn from past relationships and work on finding a new one that is healthy. BONUS: I was able to interview Samantha for WOW! Women On Writing, and so if you want a taste of her writing style and advice, then check that out hereLink to buy the book on Amazon.

Murder is a Dirty Business

This is a cozy mystery book with a fantastic new amateur sleuth, Cece Cavanaugh. Besides this book being extremely well-written, it is funny and unique. How can a mystery book be unique you ask? Well, Cece is no regular heroine. She is going through a divorce from a rich, country club husband, and she has to figure out how to support herself. So, she gets a job as a crime scene cleaner, and this is how she discovers a murder with the wrong person (someone she knows!) being accused, or at least she hopes the wrong person is being accused. That’s what she is trying to prove!

The author has stated that her husband is a retired police officer, and I didn’t notice anything in the book that seemed unbelievable. There’s also a bit of a love story developing–CeCe is in her late 40s with two daughters–one still at home with her–and so she is not really looking for love, but she can’t deny the attraction she feels for one certain man that pops into her life.  This is the first book in a planned series, titled, “GCrime Pays Mystery”.  If you are looking for a new series, you must check this out on Amazon.  The second book is Death, Diamonds, and Freezer Burn and is due in November! Here is an interview with the author.

Emergence (Voodoo Butterfly Series Book 2)

If you like New Orleans, voodoo stories, intrigue, strong female leads, romance, and a bit of magic, then you will like this book! So Emergence is actually book 2 in the Voodoo Butterfly series, so you may want to start with book one. Emergence just came out this summer and is available on Amazon. People who read book one (like me) have been anxiously waiting to find out what is going to happen to Sophie, Taj, and Poppy, and if Sophie is really going to embrace her powers and her role in the New Orleans voodoo scene after inheriting her grandma’s voodoo shop in book one and narrowly escaping death! Book two starts with things going well for her and the new man, Taj, in her life, except she hasn’t told him about her secret Voodoo life, and maybe he has a few secrets of his own!

In Emergence, there is a mystical monster lurking in New Orleans, sucking blood from children (not as gross as it sounds, LOL) and a fog that is hurting her best friend and co-worker at the shop, Poppy. Blackbirds are falling dead from the sky! What can Sophie do to solve all these problems while figuring out what it is that Taj is keeping from her? This is what you will find out in this well-written, page-turning sequel to book one. You can find book one at the link above and book two here.  To read an interview with the author, go here.

 

And finally, I’m currently reading The Lemonade Year!

Amazon description: 

Nina’s once-sweet life has unexpectedly turned sour. Her marriage is over, her job is in jeopardy, and her teenage daughter is slipping away from her. Then her father dies and issues with Nina’s mother come to a head; her estranged brother, Ray, comes home; and her sister, Lola, is tempted to blow a big family secret out of the water. They say the truth will set you free, but first it will make a huge mess of things.

All Nina’s got left is her final photography assignment shooting images for the book 32 Ways to Make Lemonade. Well, that and the attention of a younger man, but Oliver’s on-again-off-again romantic interest in her ebbs and flows so much she is seasick. And then Jack, her ex-husband, shows up, wanting to get back together.

As Nina struggles to find a way through her complicated relationships and to uncover her true path, she discovers just how valuable a second chance at life and happiness can be.

 

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I Need To Write 500 Words a Day

All right, enough is a enough! That’s what I’m telling myself and you today. No more excuses. No more self-pity. No more being overwhelmed with life. I am writing 500 words a day even if this latest novel I’m working on goes nowhere!

What’s it about? Well, it’s for adults–that’s new for my fiction, most likely it would be considered women’s fiction. And it’s about a woman who has her first serious relationship with a narcissist in college, and she has an alcoholic sister. She doesn’t know who she is (maybe that’s the reason for my true self post the other day!) except for being connected to the narcissist her entire adult life and being a caregiver for her sister–so yes, she’s totally codependent. In this novel, I explore if it is possible to break free from these habitual patterns of unhealthy behavior and choose yourself over codependency.

And I need to work on this every day. I will write at least 500 words a day.

When I vowed on here to do Morning Pages, I did pretty well. I’m still writing in a journal in the morning several days a week, and it’s very helpful. So I think vowing on here to write 500 words a day will hold me more accountable than if I just tell myself I will do this.

Want to join me?

 

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Catch a Dream by Wendy Brown-Baez (A Review of a GREAT Novel)

I was excited to read Wendy Brown-Baez’s novel, Catch a Dream, when I read the synopsis that it was about a woman on a healing journey in Israel.  Someone very dear to me is from Israel, and this blog (and my life) is often about self-care and healing, so I thought this book fit into my life at just the right time. And I was not wrong! I loved Catch a Dream, and I think you will too, if you enjoy well-written women’s fiction with complex characters and an interesting setting.

Here’s a quick synopsis (by the way, I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review AND as part of WOW! Women On Writing’s blog tour):

A woman’s healing journey begins in a country embroiled in relentless turmoil. In Israel, the first Intifada has just begun. Palestinian frustration for a homeland erupts in strikes, demonstrations and suicide bombings; and Israel responds with tear gas, arrests, and house demolitions. Lily Ambrosia and Rainbow Dove arrive in Haifa with their children on a pilgrimage to sow seeds of peace. Lily’s fascination with Jewish culture inspires her to dream she can plant roots in the Holy Land. She falls in love with the land itself, with its people, and with Levi, a charming enigma, dangerous but irresistible. Eventually she is fully immersed in Israeli life, earning her way as a nanny, hanging out in cafes with friends, and attending Yom Kippur in the synagogue. Her son rebels against the lifestyle she has chosen, and war with Syria looms on the horizon. Will she be able to stay? What does she have to give up and what will she be able to keep?

What I really enjoyed about this book besides the setting of Israel was two things:

  1. The love story between Lily and Levi
  2. Lily’s struggle, determination, and strength at being a single parent (even though she does have help!)

I’m sure these two plot lines resonated with me because of where I am in my life–dating after divorce and raising my daughter as a single parent (and I also have a lot of help and support). Because Wendy’s writing is beautiful and honest, the book is easy to read, and I flew through it. It’s also not too long–only 181 pages with book club questions in the back. (One last thing, the main character does suffer a traumatic event (which I don’t want to put a spoiler here), but I always think it’s important to let readers know to ask about this, in case certain things trigger them. )

Any reader who enjoys women’s fiction, stories about life-changing events and other cultures, and well-written prose will love Catch a Dream. Check it out! 

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Congratulations to These Reading Challenge Winners and the Amazon Gift Card Winner

I’m happy to announce these 6 people finished the Pre-Summer Reading Challenge!

  1. Kathryn S.
  2. Sara L.
  3. Sue B.
  4. Sophie L.
  5. Sebastian L.
  6. Katie B.

And the winner of the $20 Amazon Gift Card, which will be awarded on June 15, 2018 is….(pretend drumroll here)…

Sara L.

(The winner was chosen randomly using random.org.)

Besides being entered to win the gift card, each person will receive this digital badge:

 

They also receive a 25 percent off coupon for editing services.

Thank you to everyone who checked out the reading challenge and who decided to sign up. And thank you to those who finished! I know it’s not easy to read every day, especially at the end of the school year, and then to also keep track and turn in your sheet. Congratulations again to Sara L. for winning the Amazon gift card–it will be coming by email on June 15, 2018.

What’s a good book you are reading this summer?

I’m currently finishing up a great book–Catch a Dream by Wendy Brown-Baez, which I will be reviewing tomorrow AND was lucky enough to host a great guest post on motherhood that you can check out here.

 

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A Few Odd Things About Me, Why I Don’t Like Air Conditioning, and Please Take My Poll About Yanny

Did you listen to the Laurel or Yanny sound clip? What did you hear?

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I start with that poll because it’s what inspired this blog post. I was scrolling on Facebook at my daughter’s bedtime, like I usually do, and I saw a post that said: “I’m Team Laurel.” I was thinking: Is this a How To Get Away With Murder thing I don’t know about? Is there another season of Bachelor already? What is Team Laurel? So I go on to read the comments, and I see that most people know exactly what he’s talking about and they’re saying either: “Me too” or “Team Yanny”

First, I commented: What are you people talking about? And then I googled. Even after reading the explanation of the Laurel and Yanny craze, I was like: How is this a thing? It’s just like the dress debate a couple years ago, which I also didn’t get. So then, another friend of mine told me to google the Yanny/Laurel debate, and I told her (still all on Facebook because who has real conversations any more? This stuff is much more important): “I did google.” She said, “Well, what did you hear?” And I said, “I didn’t listen. Am I weird or what?”

Does that make me weird? Does it make me NOT curious enough?

Here’s something else I discovered yesterday. I don’t like air conditioning. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for it. I live in St. Louis, where the humidity is ridiculous in the the summer. I also don’t have a good cross breeze in my home. But I mentioned this dislike to one of my friends, “I don’t like air conditioning.” And he said, “Why not?” (as in–are you crazy? How can you not like air conditioning?)

I didn’t really have an answer for him, but the biggest thing I kept thinking is: It makes me feel closed in. (I also don’t like air conditioning when it is on so cold in a place that you have to bring a parka in the summer either.) But, a furnace and heat don’t make me feel closed in during the winter. I guess it’s because on those in-between weather days (temps in the 70s and 80s) when my dog is panting and begging me to turn on the air conditioner because the temp in the house is reaching 77 degrees F, I like the windows open and the breeze hopefully coming in, and it feels like I am more productive and energetic.

Does that make me weird?

And here’s the last one I’ll share with you today because goodness, I hope you come back and read this blog again, and don’t think: She’s weird. Why would I listen to her advice/opinions about parenting or self-care or finance or dating?

I love writing. I love working on my novel. Whenever I do, I feel good–I get lost in the words, and I’m not constantly thinking about my problems, like I usually am. But I don’t do it on a regular basis. If I didn’t have my lovely critique group, I probably wouldn’t work on my novel at all. WHY DO I DO THIS? Why don’t I make time for something that brings me a natural high?

Does that make me odd?

 

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Reading Challenge Update

How is the reading challenge going for those of you participating? Katie and I are doing pretty well. I think since April 30, we have each only missed one day of reading.

I have been reading 3 books: Codependency and Shame, Anxious for Nothing, and a novel–Catch a Dream.

Katie has been reading a whole bunch of books, of course, from Magic Treehouse to Splat the Cat. Together, we finished a book, Abby in Wonderland, in a series she likes,  where the main character Abby goes into different fairy tales to try to save Maryrose who is trapped by an evil fairy.

I hope you’re enjoying finding the time to read each day. Remember, if you do read 21 days for 20 minutes before Memorial Day weekend, you are entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card! Plus, hopefully, you will have developed a love of reading and a habit for it, too.

Remember, you can earn extra bonus entries into the reading challenge by:

  • Post a photo of yourself on Facebook or Instagram! Take a screenshot and email it to me or tag me in the post.
  • Write a review for any book on Amazon.com. Comment on this page with what book you chose: http://margoldill.com/pre-summer-reading-challenge. (This one is actually worth two entries!)
  • Here’s one more way to earn an extra entry into the contest: Comment below this post and include the title of a book you or your family members are reading during the challenge!

Also,I should point out, if you don’t finish the challenge, you can still earn these entries into the contest for the gift card by doing the above 3 things! Because what is actually important here is reading and supporting authors. 🙂

Any questions? Let me know.

Happy reading!

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Join the 21-Day Pre-Summer Reading Challenge for Adults and Kids

Most libraries have a summer reading challenge–St. Louis County has a great one each year. Katie and I have participated for several years, and we plan to again this year. Most of them work like this: Read a certain number of minutes or a certain number of books and  earn prizes throughout the summer, accumulating in a bigger prize at the end of the summer.

I thought it would be fun to do a 21-Day Pre-Summer Reading Challenge for kids and/or adults (or both!) during the busy springtime when weather is warmer, sports seasons are in full swing, days are longer, and school is busy. It’s still important to read, right?

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. —Richard Steele

A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read. —Mark Twain

Let us read and let us dance—two amusements that will never do any harm to the world. —Voltaire

More great reading quotes...here.

What is the 21-Day Pre-Summer Reading Challenge? 

Between April 30 and May 25 (the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend),  you need to read 21 days for 20 minutes each day (of course, you can read every day if you want!). You can read anything! It can be books to your kids; it can be a novel or self-help book; it can be a magazine; it can be a blog you’ve been meaning to check out. Anybody of any age can participate, by the way!

What it can’t be is Facebook posts or tweets or something similar…if you’re not sure, email me at margolynndill (at) gmail.com!

How do you sign up? 

Go to the sign-up form on this page here.

How much does it cost to participate?

Participation is free!

How do I keep track of what I read or my child reads?

You can download a record sheet at the link above for any member of your family who wants to participate! You record daily readings on this sheet.

What do I get if myself or my child completes the reading challenge for 21 total days before May 25?

  1. Each person who completes the reading challenge, and turns in their record sheet by May 30, 2018, will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card. One gift card will be awarded on June 15,2018 to one person who completed the challenge and turned in their sheet. A bonus entry if you read every single day of the challenge (April 30 to May 25) for 20 minutes! (Plus, there are more ways to receive EXTRA entries–please see the record sheet on this page!)  
  2. Each person who completes the reading challenge will be acknowledged on this blog!
  3. You will receive a digital badge, which you can post on your blog or social media account.
  4. You will receive a 25 percent off coupon for any of my Editor 911 services. This does NOT expire and can be used for any member of your family.
  5. If you or your family have any service, charity, event, anything family-friendly to promote, and you finish the challenge, you can do so on my FB page and/or this blog.
  6. Hopefully, you will also receive a good reading habit that will last throughout the summer and even further!

So what are you waiting for? Go here now and sign up for the reading challenge today! 

 

 

 

 

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The Sunshine Blogger Award Forces Me to Answer Some Personal Questions

Talented author and fellow blogger, Pat Wahler, who graciously comments on most of my posts (THANK YOU, PAT! BLOGGERS LOVE COMMENTS! ), nominated me for a Sunshine Award and assigned questions for pondering. The game goes like this:

  • Thank the person who nominated you. (Thank you, Pat.)
  • Answer the questions from the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate other bloggers for the award. (Cackles evilly.)
  • Notify the bloggers you have nominated them.
  • Hope they don’t block you, link to your blog in a nice post, where they answer these 10 questions. (I’ve made it 10 questions as that seems reasonable)

1. What do you love most about blogging/writing?

I think it’s an outlet for me. I always feel better after blogging and/or working on my novel. I love readers, but even if I don’t have any, I still feel better to get these words running around in my brain out. It’s an added bonus when someone says my words helped them.

2. Name a place you’ve never been but would love to visit and why?

Europe. Well, I feel like I really need to get out of the country and experience life.

3. Describe your favorite snack.

Chips and dips. Almost any. Chips and dips.

4. What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?

This is so hard for me because currently as a single mother, I see a lot of kids’ movies and/or watch 1 or 2 episodes of some Netflix or Hulu show. So, I recently saw A Wrinkle in Time, and I really did enjoy it.

5. What is your favorite season and why?

I love summer. I love doing summer stuff like swimming and long walks at night and snow cone stands with Katie. And it is much less stressful than the school year in the mornings.

6. Do you believe in ghosts?

I’ve always wanted to see a ghost but I never have. So I’m not sure about this…

7. What advice do you give but don’t take yourself?

Pat said, “Limit your time on social media. It’s a time suck.” That is a great one, Pat, which I also don’t follow.  🙂 I would say, “Stop worrying about the little things so much.” I am a worry-wart.

8. If you had to choose one favorite color, what would it be?

Yellow! Bright and sunny and beautiful.

9. When is the last time you laughed?

With Katie a few minutes ago when I was trying to convince her that she was the mommy and I was the kid–she could do the chores and I could play. 🙂

10. Do you prefer a tablet or actual book while reading?

Actual book reading. I just can’t get into the Kindle, even though I’ve tried several times.

 

Phew! Okay, now I’m nominating three bloggers:

 

Amy Willoughby Burle who has a new book out so check her out! THE LEMONADE YEAR!

Amy Harke Moore at “A Rural Girl Writes”. This blog is so good. Her latest post is on perfectionism. Check it out if you haven’t.

Kathryn Schleich at  Inspiring Women Authors to Find Their Passion and Live It. Kathryn is a great writer with a great message.

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Thoughts on Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness and Belonging in Our Families

My MOPS group chose Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown as our book club book this year. And amazingly, I have already finished it! (Book club meeting is not until May. YAY me! ) Most of you have probably heard of Brene Brown–her books are popular right now, and she writes with a very easy conversational style while still saying all kinds of important, life-changing, and thought-provoking things! On her website, she has a few discussion guides to go with the book, so in preparation for my MOPS discussion, I thought I would tackle a few of those questions here. So here we go…

As humans, we all want to feel like we belong, but we shouldn’t change our true selves to fit in, and that is hard. One place where we NEED to feel like we belong as our true selves is our families, but often, people don’t. So here’s a question on her guide: Not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. It has the power to break our heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth. Are we talking to one another about what it means to build a belonging family verses a “fitting-in” family?

 I can’t wait to talk to MOPS about this because I think this is crucial and difficult for parents. As parents, we want to see our children succeed. We want them to follow rules and do well in school. We also tend to sign them up for activities and events that we did as kids or that all the other kids are doing in their class. But are we listening to each one of our children? Are we taking into consideration individual likes and dislikes?

This is hard. I’m guilty of it myself. When Katie told me she wanted to do cheerleading, I was like: Ugh, really? But what about basketball? She told me no, so I signed her up for cheerleading in kindergarten. Once she was going to games and saw that some of her friends were also playing basketball, she decided she wanted to do that, too. So in first grade, I signed her up for both. Now, I’m so glad that I did not try to squash that part of her who wants to be a cheerleader because she gets SO MUCH JOY out of it. She smiles, she dances, she laughs, and it’s not easy. Remembering the moves and the dances and getting all those coordinated at age 7 takes a lot of practice!

I’m sure there are other ways I can work on building a belonging family–it’s a fine line between “here are the rules of society you must follow to be a good citizen” and “here is your individuality–be a free spirit if you want.” Any tips or stories you have to share on how you build a belonging family would be great!

Here is another thing she asks:

Are we modeling belonging to and believing in ourselves? Are our children seeing us take unpopular stands and are we talking honestly about how hard and scary that can be?

We currently live in a world where opinions are shared online more than ever before. You don’t have to share your stance on hot button issues on Facebook or Twitter if it doesn’t make you comfortable. But if someone comes in to your home and starts talking about gun control, do you kindly and compassionately share your own opinion or do you nod along with the person, even if you disagree completely? This is difficult, and it is something that divides families and breaks friendships all the time. But it’s important to model that even if you disagree with someone, the relationship does not have to end. You can kindly share what you feel or you can even say: Would you mind if we talked about something else for a while until we can settle down and discuss this calmly? After the person leaves your home, and I feel like this is the key, we can talk as a family about what happened and what worked and didn’t work in the situation.

What I love about Brene’s book, Braving the Wilderness, is that she tackles this very subject. We don’t have to get into a screaming match every time we disagree with someone. We don’t have to purge our Facebook friends because they are Republicans and we are Democrats. We can have real conversations with people to try and understand their viewpoint and kindly share ours, without relationships ending or hurting each other’s feelings. This is so important, especially in today’s world.

If you are looking for a book that will make you think about what it means to belong as  your true self, then this is a great book to pick up, full of real-life examples.

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The Comparison Trap for Writers

Last week, I shared how much the book, video, and study group for The Comparison Trap positively influenced my life. I wanted to share with you a post I did for WOW! Women On Writing about how much comparison can hurt writers or any creative types! Here is the post I wrote on comparison and writing for The Muffin. (So…this is a re-post!)

I have been in a book study called The Comparison Trap by Sandra Stanley. In this study, we talk about how people, women especially, are terrible about comparing themselves to others, and this causes a lot of discontent and negative behavior. It causes broken relationships and broken spirits. Before taking this class and doing this study, I didn’t realize how often I compared myself to other women and felt like I wasn’t measuring up; or worse, I made myself feel better when someone wasn’t as successful as me.

I am so thankful this study came into my life, and of course, I started thinking about it in terms of being a writer. Writers also compare themselves to others, and it can cause writer’s block, a giving-up attitude, and hurt feelings between writer friends.

Have you ever found yourself reading a Facebook announcement from your writing friend about finally securing a big New York agent and thinking that’s it, I’m done, no one will ever want to represent me?

Or how about your critique group member who received her 20th rejection, and you are secretly celebrating because at least you had an acceptance last month?

I know both of these scenarios sound like you are horrible person, and you don’t have to admit that you have thought this way, but you probably have. And you are not alone. It’s human nature, but it’s not helpful to you, your creativity, or your career.

So what do you do?

What I’m learning with this book study I mentioned above is that “There is no win in comparison.” Stop looking to the left or right. You need to look at yourself and your talent. Think of how you can reach your writing goals and how you can improve your craft. Focus on you and your writing–not your Facebook friend’s new book, not your critique group member’s literary award, and certainly not your favorite writer you’ve been following on Twitter when she makes the bestseller’s list.

This does not mean you don’t celebrate success with every writer you know. This simply means that when you find yourself starting to compare another writer’s success or failure with your own, stop. Just stop. Because it is really true that there is no win in comparison. But you can win when you improve yourself!

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