Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How to Set More Attainable New Year’s Resolutions

We've reached the end of another great year. In just two days, 2015 will be in the history books and we'll move onto the next great year...

Every year, many of us take time to reflect and decide what we want for the next year. Often this is done through setting goals. Since January 1st feels like a clean slate, we can start on achieving all of our life's goals, whether it's this:


Or this:

But as I learned in a workshop I once attended, the key to success at New Year's resolutions is to make them controllable, attainable goals. Instead of lose weight, for instance, you might say, "Eat 1,200 calories a day" or "Work out for 30 minutes a day, five days a week."

For us writers, "get published" can be broken down as, "Send out one query each month" or "Write two pages a day."

You could always buy one of those fancy Passion Planner thingies and make your goals all colorful:

Or check out this similar planner that has people going crazy. 

I think you have to be a bit artistic to do this sort of thing, though. I don't want to spend more time on my planner than I actually spend doing the things on it. All of the great tools in the world won't help if you don't work hard at making your goals happen.

What is your New Year's resolution?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Best Books of December

It's time once again for my best books of the month...and this is my final version of the year. It's been a year of amazing books. I can't wait to see what I get to read in 2016!

My first book this month is from my own publisher, Aladdin M!x. Golden Girl is Mari Mancusi's first book with Aladdin M!x, but it is not her first book overall. In fact, she's an award-winning young adult novelist and an Emmy award-winning TV producer. After reading this book, I can also say she's a phenomenal middle-grade author!

Golden Girl has something I love in a book: unpredictability. The directions she took this book in were so unexpected, yet it all came together in a perfect way. This is what great fiction is about! Lexi is the most promising young snowboarder in her snowboarding school...until an accident sidelines her. But it wasn't an accident at was sabotage. The book chronicles her return to the slopes after the accident, including how she finds her way and figures out who her true friends are. Children (and adults) can learn a lot from Lexi's kind heart and inner strength.

My next book is from a very talented author named Alison Cherry whose middle grade, The Classy Crooks Club, comes out from my publisher in late March. More about that one next year! But this month, I learned about Alison's phenomenal talent by reading one of her young adult novels, For Real.

I've never been able to get into The Amazing Race as a TV show...but if it were as interesting as it is in Alison's book, I'd be hooked! In For Real, two sisters go on a race around the world for live TV, only to find out at the last minute that it's a dating show version of the reality show. There's a little romance but the most important storyline is the relationship between the sisters. Alison really dug deep on this one and the result is a fun, adventurous story with a winning character arc.

I also read two anthologies--the first was a compilation that included our blogging friend Leandra J. Wallace

Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets celebrates women and technology. Many of the stories are futuristic but they all revolve around smart, tough, kick-butt heroines who are brilliant with tech. Leandra's story, The Mad Scientist's Daughter, is about a young inventor who works hard to hide the fact that her father is a much-hated inventor. My other favorites included Blink, a story about a young girl and a time machine; Lyra, a futuristic take on Cinderella about an artificial-intelligence system that goes awry, and Panic, an all-too-realistic story about being trapped in a crowded room where shooting is taking place.

The holidays are here, so I had to read this one, which features our very own Medeia Sharif. It was co-edited by another blogging friend of mine, Kelly Hashway, so double reason to read it!

Fright Before Christmas: 13 Tales of Holiday Horrors has 13 great horror stories with a Christmas theme. While I was reading these stories, I couldn't help but think that many of them represented a child's worst nightmares. My favorites were Medeia's story about a video game that evokes a very evil Santa, Ally Matthews' story about two brothers who venture into the cold forest to test out a legend, and Patrick Hueller's story about a little boy who gets coal in his stocking...and learns he's lucky--really bad boys don't get to see Christmas morning. Every one of these stories was a true page turner. I found that I couldn't wait to read the next story.

What's the best book you read in 2015?