Today, let’s look back on July and look forward to August.

Favourite July reads

I read 15 books in July, and thankfully, none were DNFs, yay! My favourite few of the month are below. Just click on the images to be taken to the book’s Amazon page.

My very favourite of the month was Indivisible by Daniel Aleman. This book was just wonderful. It’s about a gay Mexican-American teen living in NYC, and when his illegal immigrant parents are detained by ICE, he has to figure out how to raise his seven-year-old sister and navigate his new reality while maintaining his friendships. It is incredibly well-written and so emotionally impactful. (Plus it has just the sweetest m/m romance subplot.) I highly recommend it.

I am thrilled—thrilled!—to say that Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell lived up to my expectations. I was worried given the disappointment that was Wayward Son, but AWTWB had everything that WS was missing. All those cute moments between Simon and Baz that you wanted in WS? You’ll get them in AWTWB.

The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer is probably one of the more interesting books I’ve ever read. A young adult sci-fi that reads more like new adult, this was an emotional story about a daring space rescue that turns out to be so much more, with a romance between two boys that is tangible and heartfelt.

I binge read the final three books in Cordelia Kingsbridge’s Seven of Spades of Series one weekend this month. I have no regrets. I’d read the first two when they were first released (in 2017 and 2018) and subsequently decided to wait until the final three books were out to read them. Well, I don’t know why I waited so long because this series is awesome. If you like well-written romantic suspense, check them out.

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong is the second book in the These Violent Delights young adult fantasy duology, a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai. Romance, politics, betrayal, creepy monsters, coups, shifting allegiances, friendships, family. One of my favourite young adult series of 2021. This book doesn’t release until November, but I was lucky enough to get an ARC from Netgalley.

Books I’m looking forward to reading in August

I’m currently reading Untethered by KayLynn Flanders. This is the second book in the Shielded young adult fantasy duology and it just came out a couple of weeks ago. I absolutely adored the first book, Shielded, so I’m looking forward to finding out where the sequel takes me. So far, it’s got evil mages, a magical medallion that warns of danger, a recently crowned king, and a fierce princess.

I adore Jackie North’s time travel romances, the Love Across Time series, so I’m super excited to finally delve into the first cowboy romance in her Farthingdale Ranch series, The Foreman and the Drifter.

At least once every month I try to read a book that’s been on my shelves or on my Kindle forever. August’s book will be The Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett, which I received as part of my Rainbow Crate book box subscription at the beginning of the year. It’s supposed to be a character-driven young adult suspense novel.

I won a signed copy of fellow Toronto author Liselle Sambury’s debut novel, Blood Like Magic, through an online auction benefitting Palestine in June. It’s billed as “a rich, dark urban fantasy debut following a teen witch who is given a horrifying task: sacrificing her first love to save her family’s magic.” I can’t wait to read this! Plus, look at that stunning cover.

Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria came in my June Fairyloot book box. It’s about two sisters raised to be dragon slayers who end up on opposites sides of a war when one of them befriends a dragon. I’m here for all the dragons, so I’m excited for this!

On the writing front

In early July, I sent Two-Man Team (Stick Side #5) to my editor. While it was with her, I took some time away from writing to recharge my batteries, read some books, and watch some TV. I probably should’ve written the blurb for Two-Man Team, but blurbs are the worst to write (you try summarizing an 87,000-word novel into 150 words or less!). I’m also a master procrastinator, so there’s that. Plus I also worked on the plot of my current WIP. Look for Two-Man Team in September or October.

Speaking of my new WIP, Chasing Sunsets… That plot I spoke of? I trashed it. Here’s what happened.

I had a plot and characters I was super excited about, and I started writing Chasing Sunsets on July 19. By July 28, I only had 5,000 words written, when usually I can write 5,000 words in 2-4 days. On weekdays, I start my days off with a writing session before the day job, but to be honest, I was never excited to write this book. So what happened?

Originally, I thought maybe the story wasn’t working because I hadn’t started it in the right place. So I rewrote the opening scene…except I only got halfway through before realizing that wasn’t the problem at all. The problem was that the story and the characters weren’t fitting together. It wasn’t the story I needed to tell and it wasn’t the right story for these two particular characters.

So I started brainstorming new plots that would work for these characters, plots I was excited to write about, and that would better tell these characters’ stories. I started to think about the kind of stories that I love to read and watch, and that brought me to Hallmark movies.

(Listen, if you’ve read even one of my books, you know they’re very Hallmark-y. I’ve never kept that a secret.)

So I did a Google search: “Hallmark movie plots.”

And wouldn’t you know it? It took me a Hallmark Movie Plot Generator. This one below, to be exact, and if you’ve ever watched a Hallmark movie, you know how accurate this plot generator is.

Anyway, I digress.

This plot generator made me giggle so much that I texted it to one of my best friends, a fellow Hallmark movie lover, and we had a fun text exchange about it. But as we laughed about it, and as I studied this generator, a new plot started to piece itself together in my head, and with the help of my BFF (who’s also a romance reader), I ended up fleshing it out.

Now I’m excited to write this book. Now I’ve got a plot that fits the characters.

So, you ask, what happened to those original 5,000 words?

I tossed them. They were garbage. There might be a handful of passages that are salvageable for the new plot, but for the most part, those 5,000 words will never see the light of day. And that’s okay. One thing I learned while I was writing The Nature of the Game (Stick Side #2) in late 2018/early 2019, is that sometimes you have to write it wrong to realize it isn’t working.

What can you expect from Chasing Sunsets?

I don’t want to give too much away (it’s still early, and who knows? I might end up hating this plot too), but think small town romance between a hotel manager trying to save his hotel, and his former college flame/current NHL player. You might even see some familiar faces from my other books!

Chasing Sunsets will be available in early 2022.

In my Facebook Group, I teased that one of the characters from Chasing Sunsets is a side character from one of the Stick Side books that you probably thought you’d never see again. Take a guess at who it might be below!

Hint: he was not a hotel manager in the book he appeared in.

Come back for next month’s High Five Friday post for the answer!

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Which Stick Side character is a main character in Chasing Sunsets?
Which Stick Side character is a main character in Chasing Sunsets?