Cozy Stories

Looking for some warm fuzzies on a cold day? I got you covered.

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but up here in Pennsylvania, it’s gotten pretty chilly this week! We even had our first snowstorm halfway through November. Crazy!

All that got me thinking. There is nothing I love better on a cold, blustery day than settling in snuggled up in a blanket with a steaming cup of something, be it coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, and a good book. Even better if the dog or cats come to hang out with me. So today, I want to give you a list of some of my favorite cozy, warm-fuzzy-inducing reads.

As a bit of a bonus, I’ll also include a list of movies for those days you just need to give your brain a break… read to the end to see those!

Cozy Reads

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Series: It’s a standalone!
Why: Cath and Levi 4eva!
Genre: YA contemporary

Written in Red by Anne Bishop
Series: The Others book 1
Why: Meg and Simon and the entire Lakeside pack
Genre: Urban fantasy

Sunrise by Mike Mullin
Series: Ashfall book 3
Why: This series is a roller coaster, and it ends on such a high note of hope, you can’t help but feel warm and happy at the end! Also there’s so much snow, it seems appropriate for winter.
Genre: YA science fiction

The Martian by Andy Weir
Series: It’s a standalone!
Why: That ending… nothing like the feeling that we are all in this together.
Genre: Science fiction

Spice Bringer by H.L. Burke
Series: It’s a standalone!
Why: Niya and Jayesh and life. Be ready for the feels and the tears.
Genre: Fantasy

I Temporarily Do by Ellie Cahill
Series: Standalone!
Why: It’s adorable.
Genre: Contemporary/romance

A Chance for Sunny Skies by Eryn Scott
Series: What’s in a Name book 1 (but all can be read out of order)
Why: Sunny is adorable and her story is engaging and warm and full of feels. Honestly, every book by Eryn Scott is warm and fuzzy and fun.
Genre: Contemporary

Cozy Shorts

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
Collection: None!
Why: such a great feeling of solidarity and nostalgia
Genre: YA contemporary

Blood in the Snow by Sarah Pennington
Collection: None, but part of the Magic Mirrors joint release
Why: Baili’s journey and the love story ❤
Genre: Fantasy

Cozy Flicks

Why: It’s whimsical and magical and leaves you feeling good!
Genre: Fantasy

Meet the Robinsons
Why: It’s also whimsical, but it is encouraging and light and leaves you with a “we can do this” attitude! No movie makes me feel better at the end than this one.
Genre: Fantasy/scifi (kids)

Why: Yeah, I know, more Disney, but Flynn and Rapunzel make me happy. This is one of my greatest pick-me-up movies!
Genre: Fantasy (kids)

Final Thoughts

These are just SOME of my favorite stories that evoke the warm fuzzies. I have a bunch more! But I figured this list is long enough for one post. 😉

Now that I’ve shared some of my favorites with you, I’d love to hear some of yours! What are your favorite books and movies for those cold winter days? Comment below!

A Bookish Thanksgiving

Curious about the top ten bookish things I’m grateful for this holiday season? Read on.

Hi, fellow readers and writers! Over here in the US, Thanksgiving was yesterday, and I have to say I have a ton of things to be grateful for… like a phenomenal husband I didn’t think I’d ever find, a family who loves and supports me no matter what, and awesome friends who mean the world to me.

But today I want to shift to something a little different… I want to talk about the bookish things I’m grateful for. After all, this is a writing blog!

So here you are: the top ten bookish things I am grateful for this holiday season.

  1. My passion for story. Nothing makes me happier than a good book… either reading it or writing it!
  2. My library. That’s right, my husband reserved a room in our house, even before we got married, to designate as my library. It is a home for my books decorated in my style… and also a home for my desk!
  3. My book collection. I don’t know what it is about looking at my books, either on their shelves or in my hand, but it immediately makes me happy.
  4. Good books. This one is a given.
  5. Good bookish friends. Everyone needs someone to gush about their passions with!
  6. Family that loves to read… and encouraged it as I was growing up! The support of family and the values a family places on things like reading can really shape a person. I’m grateful my family was so passionate about books and learning. It truly created the writer I am today.
  7. Time to read. As I grow older, I find that more and more I am grateful when I have time to sit down and read. The world gets so busy sometimes, and we take that free time for granted. Being able to sit and read in peace is a blessing.
  8. The bookish community. I am so grateful that I found both readers and writers online to share with, to talk to, and to encourage and be encouraged.
  9. A muse of a husband. I can’t express how many times I’ve been stuck on a scene or needed inspiration and he’s been right there with the idea I needed. He’s fixed many a writer’s block!
  10. All of you. That’s right, I’m grateful for all you readers, too! A book (or blog) is powerless without readers, and I appreciate every single one of you who take the time to read what I say and start a conversation in the comments. I love hearing everything you have to say, and it truly wouldn’t be the same without you!

There you have it! My top ten bookish things I’m grateful for. Hop on down to the comments and let me know some of the bookish things you’re thankful for, big or small! I’d love to hear about the things you treasure. 🙂

Until next week, happy Thanksgiving, and happy reading! ❤

ARC Etiquette 101

Whether you are a writer or a reader, you may have heard about these books called ARCs. ARCs are, quite simply, Advanced Reader Copies or Advanced Review Copies. But just what are they?

Whether you are a writer or a reader, you may have heard about these books called ARCs. ARCs are, quite simply, Advanced Reader Copies or Advanced Review Copies. But just what are they? These are books the publisher or author provides free of charge to reviewers and influencers prior to publication in order to spread knowledge of the book and gain some early reviews to encourage sales.

However, what may not be clear to both writers and readers is the etiquette surrounding the distribution and use of ARCs. I’m just learning some of this myself, so today I only want to focus on some basics. If you have anything to add, I encourage you wholeheartedly to leave a comment below. I’d love to have more material for a future post!

But until then, here we go. ARC Etiquette 101.

Reader Etiquette and Responsibilities

Hey readers! Interested in reading a book ahead of publication? This section is for you! Now, there’s plenty of information on requesting ARCs out there… but that’s a post for another day. Today, let’s focus in on what to do with an ARC you have received.

When you receive an ARC, it may be either a physical book or an eARC. Many indie authors choose to send eARCs to readers for a number of reasons. But no matter the format, there are a few simple guidelines to remember:

  • The author is not asking you to edit, proofread, or comment. This is often impolite, as most of the time the book has already been through this process extensively. You haven’t been hired to edit, and it can be offensive to send criticisms back to the person who gave you this free book. You may, however, ask if the author is open to proofing or criticism. If you are tactful and kind about it, they may say yes.
  • Don’t sell your ARC. They are not intended for sale, and the author is providing it to you as a courtesy.
  • It’s expected that you will review the book, but it isn’t required. It is polite to do so, particularly either before the book releases (like on Goodreads) or on or near the release day (like on Amazon).
  • Your review doesn’t have to be positive. It just has to be honest. But again, keep those comments of your thoughts on the book to your reviews… don’t send them to the author. That can just kind of be mean, particularly if you didn’t like the book. And some authors choose not to read reviews for very good reasons.
  • You must disclose you received a copy of the book for a review. Often, this can be as simple as leaving a line at the end (or beginning) of your review stating, “I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review,” or something similar.

Author Etiquette and Responsibilities

Just like readers, authors have responsibilities for the use of ARCs. Here are a few general guidelines.

  • ARCs are provided free of charge… don’t try to sell them. And don’t try to make reviewers pay for postage.
  • You may not require a review in exchange for an ARC. You can request an honest review, but it cannot be a rule that the reader must follow to get the book.
  • Don’t assume you will only send eARCs. Yes, physical books are more expensive, but some reviewers will require it.
  • Avoid commenting on your reviews. It’s best not to engage with them. I’ve seen far too many authors go off the deep end after reading negative reviews of their books. You may not even want to read your reviews.
  • Consider any comments you receive from reviewers. They may find typos you missed or a plot hole. Remember, ARCs go out before publication… while there is time to fix mistakes. But also, try to ignore the inconsiderate comments you may get from reviewers. Not all of them are nice.
  • Choose carefully. Find reviewers who are likely to read your book or have agreed to do so… and to review it. Don’t pick a reviewer outside your book’s genre or who has a schedule too busy to meet your timeline. Remember, physical copies can be expensive to send out, so you want them to make as much of an impact as possible.

Final Thoughts

As I’m approaching the release of my first independent novel, I am starting to consider how to best go about marketing, including the use of ARCs. So far, this is the information I have obtained on the etiquette and guidelines for readers and writers, but there is plenty more to learn and do. I look forward to sharing another post on ARCs as I gather more information! Until then, happy writing, and happy reading!


Do you have experience with ARCs, as either a writer or a reader? What advice or inside tips do you have to share? Let me know in the comments!

What I Learned From Failing NaNoWriMo (Twice)

It’s November again, and many writers know what that means: NaNoWriMo.

If you’re not a writer, or if you simply haven’t heard (I didn’t know about this until 2014), NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, which is a challenge every November in which writers strive to write 50,000 words in 30 days (the length of a short novel) to “win.” It’s an intense challenge, and once you start following hashtags and other writers, you may be inundated with Preptober (October NaNo preparations) and NaNo information everywhere.

Since I learned about NaNo, I have participated in (and won!) several Camp NaNoWriMos (which happen twice per year in April and July where writers set their own goals) and in two full NaNoWriMos. And I’m participating again this year to finish my fantasy work in progress. But you know what?

I’ve never won November NaNo.

But I have learned quite a bit. Here are the biggest things I’ve learned from my two failures at NaNoWriMo.

  1. It’s not for everyone. While this kind of program can be the kick in the pants a lot of writers find useful, it doesn’t work for every writer. The more we write, the more we find the style that works best for us. It may not be an intense NaNo format, and that’s okay.
  2. It’s a great way to build a habit. One of the hardest parts of writing is discipline, and NaNo can be really helpful to get your butt in the chair and work… which develops a regular habit that will help you for months or years down the line. It can establish a precedent that will help you treat your writing like a job, something that is necessary should you want to eventually make it your job (but that’s a topic for another day… in the meantime, check out this video by Meg LaTorre).
  3. Writing regularly builds excitement. Creating this regular writing habit, like through this event, is a great way to build momentum and excitement for your story. The more you write, the more you may find you enjoy it and want to dive back in.
  4. Writing quickly helps keep your story consistent. Another advantage is that by writing quickly, you reduce the possibility of adding inconsistencies in the story that may otherwise build up over a long writing period (say, years to finish a novel). When the process is drawn out, remembering small details, even as simple as an eye color, can become difficult, and small errors in consistency may build up and create extra work for you during edits.
  5. It’s easy to beat yourself up. Let me tell you, missing even one day can overwhelm you. Writing 1,667 words every day is hard, and it piles up fast if you don’t keep up. Because of this, it can be really easy to despair if you fall behind and to simply give up. For me, this tends to happen once Thanksgiving hits and family events start up… I lose writing time, and when it’s so close to the end, it feels impossible to catch back up. It’s hard to keep going. But when this happens, it’s important to remember the last point.
  6. You never actually “fail” as long as you write. Even one word written is something you didn’t have before. And that’s progress toward your goals.

In my first couple of attempts, I put so much pressure on myself to meet the goals that when I failed it was hard not to feel down on myself about it. But at this point in my life, I’ve decided it’s better to use NaNo as an ideal goal and not as a marker of success. As I said in my last point, every word added is a triumph, so you can’t truly fail as long as you try. Already this year, I’ve written thousands of words I might not have gotten to yet without NaNo to give me a push. And I am excited to finish my manuscript.

So you know what? This year, NaNo is going to be my kick in the pants, a goal to get me to finish the draft of this novel. But it is not going to be full of the pressure I used to put on myself. If I don’t finish what I set out to do, at least I have pushed myself that much closer. And that is enough success for me.

Fellow NaNos, please remember to cut yourselves some slack this month. NaNo is stressful, and a lot of it is from pressure we put on ourselves. So if you meet your goals, congratulations, and that’s a huge accomplishment! But if you don’t, remember that you still succeeded by adding to your manuscript. Either way, you have something to be proud of!

Good luck, and happy writing!


Are you participating in NaNo this year? How “successful” have you been in previous years? Tell me your tips and tricks below!

Writing Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

If there’s one genre that is both overdone and under-explored, I would say it’s post-apocalyptic fiction. Now, don’t confuse this with dystopian. They are two different genres, though they do have great potential to overlap. Let’s start by distinguishing them.

Post-apocalyptic: stories about the world after a great catastrophe that completely changes society in one way or another.

Dystopian: a world in which everything is terrible, either due to a totalitarian or dictator government or through an environmental catastrophe (note: environmental disaster would also make it post-apocalyptic).

Now, some people may still argue that these are basically the same thing. And they can be. But I would argue that the difference is the presence of a catastrophe. This leads to the idea where a dystopian can also be post-apocalyptic, but it doesn’t have to be. Likewise, just because something is post-apocalyptic doesn’t mean it must be dystopian. Who knows; maybe the catastrophe drives civilization to become better and more hopeful for humanity!

Some common types of apocalypse stories include zombies, flu epidemics, or world war stories (to name a few) that leave the world a barren, empty place with a few survivors. These tropes have been done and redone so many times it can be hard to see dystopia or post-apocalyptic fiction as anything but overused and tired. And honestly, these tropes follow cycles of popularity and boredom. If you write it, eventually it will come back to market.

But the problem isn’t the genre itself. The problem is the stale ideas being used too often or at times when the public is exhausted of the topic. Authors have been playing off the same old tropes and ideas for years, so how can we do liven it back up? New catastrophes, updated situations, and unique perspectives on old tropes. Here are a couple examples:

  1. New catastrophes that aren’t tired, like an alien invasion, superstorm (which borders on overdone), or something people haven’t written yet.
  2. More relevant situations (think the long-term effects of climate change). Relate your catastrophe to something people weren’t writing about 50 years ago.

Let’s take a moment to examine a couple poor decisions, to balance out our understand a bit. What shouldn’t you do with your post-apocalyptic story?

  1. Choosing effects of a catastrophe that are not realistic. Simply put, don’t overextend the catastrophe’s capability. For example, I once saw a book in which an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) killed a huge portion of life on Earth. But there’s a major flaw: EMPs are harmless to living things. They really only affect electronics. And for this reason, I never picked the book up. Keep things logical and realistic to keep from losing readers.
  2. Writing the same story. We have enough stories about survivors of a zombie apocalypse going out and kicking butt. We need more stories with unique takes, like the scientists making a cure, or the onset of the catastrophe. Don’t write what everyone has always written. Make your own twists on it. If you don’t, your story will be lost in the noise of all other stories like it.

Now for some of the most unique catastrophes I’ve encountered.

  1. Life as we Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. In this story, the moon is knocked closer to the Earth by a meteor. Ever wonder what would happen in a case like that? Me either. Until I read this.
  2. Ashfall by Mike Mullin. Here’s another (scary and potential) disaster: the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. And this trilogy was really well-done and excellently researched.
  3. Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. This one plays off the possibility of a future water crisis. Another, newer release that follows this idea is Neal Shusterman’s Dry.

There are a few other upcoming or recent books I can’t wait to see, ones that show promise for reinvigorating this genre. These are my most anticipated post-apocalyptic TBRs:

I’m sure there are more, but honestly I have over 700 books on my TBR, and things can get a little lost. 😉 But these three definitely stand out at the top.

What are some of your favorite post-apocalyptic tropes? Do you agree with me, or disagree? What recommendations do you have for post-apocalyptic or natural disaster books? I’d love to find some more good ones, so leave a comment and let me know!