The Nocturnal Journal by Lee Crutchley [book review]

The Nocturnal Journal: A Late-Night Exploration of What’s Really on Your Mind

The Nocturnal Journal helps readers live with greater freedom and introspection, providing a safe place to reconnect with the most important, and often most neglected, aspects of self. An engaging, supportive, and emotionally aware resource for night owls and insomniacs, this journal teases out the pressing thoughts, deep questions, everyday anxieties, and half-formed creative ideas that need unpacking, bringing more peace of mind and a richer understanding of ourselves.

The Nocturnal Journal. How fun is this idea? If you’re anything like me, there are nights where your brain spins out of control and although sleep is needed, it doesn’t come. As a teenager, I learned to pour my thoughts from my head into my journal—I don’t know if it was the writing/focusing or emptying my mind that did the trick (perhaps a combination?) but it always worked.

But my journal pages were blank. Lee Crutchley’s new book (releasing September 5, 2017) guides the restless (and exhausted) mind through 192 pages of hand-drawn journal prompts like determining what the clouds look like or writing a letter to someone you’ve lost. There are silly prompts, serious prompts, and everything in between. It’s customized for the late-night-can’t-sleep brain, with drawing exercises, writing exercises, and even staring exercises.

This isn’t the kind of book you read from cover-to-cover or even fill out in order. When you’re up at night and can’t sleep, go to the spot that speaks to you and get going.

An engaging and emotionally aware resource for night owls, insomniacs, and anyone else who finds themselves awake at all hours, The Nocturnal Journal will help you explore what keeps you up at night, and why. Prompts and illustrations tease out the pressing thoughts, deep questions, everyday anxieties, and half-formed creative ideas that need unpacking and exploring, bringing more peace of mind and a richer understanding of ourselves.

Although I don’t wrestle with my nighttime thoughts as often as I once did, I have enjoyed flipping through The Nocturnal Journal and allowing the prompts to send my mind in directions I don’t often go. This is a nice way to journal when you don’t have much to say (or don’t know where to start). It also aids in focusing your mind, getting your thoughts organized, and leaving your burden on the page. So you can experience restful sleep.

On the fence about The Nocturnal Journal? Maybe this will help. If you grab your copy now, you’ll get a glow-in-the-dark cover! I mean, who even does that anymore? What a nice touch.


The Nocturnal Journal Synopsis

An insightful, supportive and creative journal for anyone who can’t turn off their restless minds when the lights go out.

An engaging and emotionally aware resource for night owls, insomniacs, and anyone else who finds themselves awake at all hours, The Nocturnal Journal: A Late-Night Exploration of What’s Really on Your Mind will help you explore what keeps you up at night, and why. Prompts and illustrations tease out the pressing thoughts, deep questions, everyday anxieties, and half-formed creative ideas that need unpacking and exploring, bringing more peace of mind and a richer understanding of ourselves.

On these creative and colourful pages, night owls and anyone else who can’t sleep will find inspiration, comfort, and just the right questions and prompts to help sort through the unfinished business of the day (or week or year), offering peace of mind and a window into what matters most.

Part journal, part balm for restless minds, this insightful book is the perfect late-night companion when the lights go out but your brain won’t slow down.

**Order early for a glow-in-the-dark cover (limited edition only)**

Get the Hell Over It by Sarah Beth Moore [book review]

Are you held back by what ifs? It might be time to get the hell over it.

Get the Hell Over It by Sarah Beth Moore [book review]

Do you have a creative dream but don’t know where to start?

Do you wonder if there’s a book in you?

Do you wish you were doing your hobby full time?

Do you want to put yourself/your work out into the interweb but are crippled by the fear of rejection?

Do you have “the fear” from going after what you want in life?

If you nodded at any of these questions then Sarah Beth Moore’s book Get the Hell Over It: How to Let Go of Fear and Realize Your Creative Dream (Weenie-Proofing the Artistic Brain) is a must read.

Our digital age makes it easier than ever to put your creative work (be it writing, art, music, etc.) out there but it comes at a price—What if no one notices? What if it’s terrible? What if you offend someone? What if you fall on your face?

Yes, all of these fears could come true. What does Sarah have to say about it? Get the hell over it. Let go of fear and realize your creative dream.

I swear, and I’m speaking as someone who had a book deal within her grasp and lost it (but that’s a story for another time). Failures are painful, but they are rarely fatal.

Ouch.

Or…maybe this is exactly what you (I) need to hear.

In this quick 12 chapter book of simultaneous straight talk and encouragement, Sarah takes you on a journey through dreaming, discovering what’s in your wheelhouse, discerning between hobbies and careers, relying on yourself, teaching yourself, branding yourself, selling yourself, and (of course) letting go of fear. She includes personal examples from her creative life, highlighting times she was afraid, times she was brave, and times she failed. Because sometimes you will fail, it’s part of the journey.

But what if I fail?

You might. You will. And then you’ll try again.

But what if I fail again?

You might. You will. And then you’ll try again.

But what if…

But what if you succeed?

What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?

Do you need some tough love? Get the Hell Over It is a vulnerable look inside a creative’s life and what it takes to succeed in today’s world. Sarah Beth Moore shares the points on her writing journey where she had to “get the hell over it” and be brave, make a hard choice, try, and what happened after.


Get the Hell Over It: How to Let Go of Fear and Realize Your Creative Dream (Weenie-Proofing the Artistic Brain) Synopsis

Finally: The Real Way to Claim the Profitable Creative Life You’ve Always Wanted!

Cravings. We all have them. But these days, it’s easier to indulge your sweet tooth than it is to reach your wildest dreams. At least, it certainly feels that way. And you know the type of dreams we’re talking about, right? Everything from living where you want and building a career you can pursue around the world, to accomplishments that stand the weight of time. These dreams go beyond hashtags and high-resolution photos, and the best part is that they’re well within your reach. In fact, they’ve always have been waiting for you. But when we’re afraid, it’s hard to pull back that huge curtain of fear and see our heart’s desires. Don’t worry; you just need help putting it all together.

Using your creative talents to build a lifestyle that’s unapologetically, delightfully, and incredibly all your own is beyond satisfying. Sure, you’ve seen examples of other people doing this. And you know deep down it can be done. Yet you’re stuck in your own personal adventure-movie quicksand, with no handy tree branch in sight.

That’s where this book, Get the Hell Over It: How to Let Go of Fear and Realize Your Creative Dream, comes in. Short and sweet with plenty of ideas, this book will give you a sturdy branch to grab onto when the quicksand starts pulling you down. New opportunities for a profitable, creative life await you…if you dare to reach out again.

In this book, you’ll learn how to dodge those big boulders of fear keeping you from the life you really want. However, it doesn’t end there. You’ll also learn:

  • The real way to use failure to your adventure (no pity party required)
  • Realistic exercises designed to trigger ongoing action (who really wants to save the fireworks for the holidays when every day can be a celebration?)
  • How to set your priorities in a way that pulls you closer to your designed outcomes (hint: this lets you get all your goals met rather than having to settle for just a few)
  • A great way to tell the difference between a dream, an outcome, and a mere fantasy – and why these differences matter
  • How to sidestep the people who don’t “get” what you’re doing (so you can make room for the supporters that are dying to cheer you on!)
  • And other bits of advice to help you reach for the stars (or maybe just a nice dinner on the town, nbd)

Maybe you’ve already read a dozen books on following your dreams. That’s okay too. If you aren’t where you want to be, could reading another book really hurt anything? You can’t just sit still, watching yet another year roll by without any of those big dreams coming into reality. Check out Get the Hell Over It: How to Let Go of Fear and Realize Your Creative Dream (Weenie-Proofing the Artistic Brain) today!

Story Sparks: Finding Your Best Story Ideas [book review]

Story Sparks Finding Your Best Story Ideas & Turning Them into Compelling Fiction by Denise Jaden

Story Sparks. S.P.A.R.K.S. An acronym of author Denise Jaden’s own making, this concise 166-page book talks us and then walks us through how to come up with ideas and keep the idea train running at full steam.

Seek. Jaden encourages us to change our mindset from coming up with ideas to finding them. Transforming into an Idea Seeker. This means you go out, you search, you look for inspiration. Then when your list feels sufficient, you create. Treating ideas like something to be discovered transformed the idea process into something to enjoy rather than stress over.

Passion. What inspires you? Jaden challenges us to look for what we’re already passionate about and write from that place, rather than writing about what we think we should write. She says for our readers to feel deep emotions, we must write with deep emotions and passion. So, which ideas propel you to write?

Allies. Who do you trust to bounce ideas off of? Anyone? Jaden says we need allies on our writing venture. We need them not only to test ideas but to help spark new ones. But what if our ally steals our idea? Jaden says although we need to choose our allies with care, we shouldn’t worry about idea theft. “Each writer may start with the exact same idea, but each uses that idea to say something unique, perhaps even wildly different or opposed, based on their worldview,” (20).

Resonance. This is the part where we’re warned not to write a book because it’s trendy or selling right now. It won’t resonate. Instead, she says we need to think about what our story satisfies in readers. Don’t worry about the selling part right now, focus on the writing. What about our story will resonate with our readers? Can we make it better? More dangerous? Add higher stakes? Can something go wrong?

Kinetic Energy. At the end of the journey comes the momentum. Action happens first, then momentum grows. Jaden says, “As these elements come together, this ‘kinetic’ energy gives your ideas a unique momentum that will carry you through the actual writing of the story and make the process seem almost easy or effortless,” (31).

And that’s just part one. The following four parts are filled with great tips and inspiration for fanning the spark into a flame, developing the fire along with habits, and useful resources like prompts, themes, and even lists of names.

Reading through Story Sparks: Finding Your Best Story Ideas and Turning Them into Compelling Fiction I stopped multiple times to jot down ideas, brainstorms, and topics to think about. I couldn’t believe how inspired I was—and that was just from reading! I worked through several of the exercises Jaden suggests and found them fruitful. This is a valuable read for anyone battling writer’s block, perfectionism, or just looking for new ways to keep their ideas fresh.


Story Sparks: Finding Your Best Story Ideas and Turning Them into Compelling Fiction

Anyone who has been hamster-wheeling a story idea for years or has hundreds of pages exploring various approaches on their hard drive knows there must be a better way. There is. Successful young adult novelist Denise Jaden shows exactly how to create the captivating stories that prevent dispiriting wasted time. Busting the “visitation from the muses” myth, she shows that inspiration is a skill that can be learned by understanding how story ideas work (or don’t), fertilizing the ground for fresh and sound ideas, and moving swiftly through stuck points. Practical and inspiring, Jaden’s approach celebrates the imaginative sparks that make innovations of all kinds possible while pinpointing the precise tools writers need to fan their unique creative flames.

Jaden shares, “I think the idea that everyone has a story in them is universal. I speak with many people who say, “I could never write a book,” but when I start to delve into their lives and the possibilities for stories within them, something lights up.” The truth is, finding great story ideas does not have to be a gift or a talent grown from birth. It is a skill, and it can be learned.

In Story Sparks, you will…

  • Learn how and why stories resonate with us
  • Discover new and fun ways to come up with story ideas
  • Get help in choosing from ideas and then following through with them
  • Troubleshoot ideas for potential pitfalls
  • Find a lengthy appendix of ideas for getting unstuck

Denise Jaden, author of Story Sparks and Fast Fiction, fast-drafted her debut novel, Losing Faith (Simon Schuster), in twenty-one days during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Her second fast-drafted novel was published in 2012. She runs a fast-drafting challenge on her blog each March and lives outside Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Story Sparks: Finding Your Best Story Ideas and Turning Them into Compelling Fiction will be released on August 25, 2017. Pre-orders are available now on Amazon.

Sustaining Grayce [book review]

Sustaining Grayce

Remember when you were 14 years old? Remember how hard it was? Let me assure you, Grayce’s 14th year was worse. Here’s a shy, nice girl using all her energy just to keep it together when the school principle asks her a favour—carry co-student Peggy’s books to and from all her classes while she adjusts to her crutches. Grayce agrees to the task, not seeing much alternative, and is surprised when a friendship develops with the pretty, lively, now-one-legged girl.

Through 14 chapters we observe the birth, life, and death of a best friendship. We see how love can cover pain, and how prayer can make us strong. We see how telling the truth releases us from shame and takes power away from our secrets. We see how acting in kindness and obedience are scary but lead to good in the end.

Sustaining Grayce by Sandra Hare is a beautiful story you can read in an afternoon. It’s well-written and gripping. I did find it interesting how an unchurched 14-year-old had become such a master at biblical interpretation and correlation—that would be a miracle in itself—but most of the plot was engaging and believable.

If you’re looking for a sweet story about saying the important things and being vulnerable, I recommend this book.


Sustaining Grayce

Grayce is coping with as much stress as a fourteen-year-old can handle, and then she is asked to help Peggy, a fun-loving teen who happens to be fighting cancer. Share the laughter and heartache as Peggy and Grayce try to live normal lives amidst the craziness that swirls around them. Set in Lancaster, Pennsylvania during the late 1960’s, Sustaining Grayce explores how two girls with totally opposite religious beliefs and very different families can learn to love each other and the broken people surrounding them. Their story is a miracle made possible only by God’s sustaining grace.

Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days [book review]

If you’re like most writers, you want to write a book.

Fast Fiction book review

Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days by Denise Jaden

Even if you don’t call yourself a writer you might want to write a book. There are so many stories waiting to be told and, who knows, you might be the person to tell it.

What’s great about author Denise Jaden’s latest book Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days is she makes you feel like digging out the story deep inside you is possible. And the 30 days thing? Bonus.

I’ve wanted to write a book for a while now, maybe forever. As a kid I drafted a 100-page Choose Your Own Adventure of twin girls who get lost in Mexico while trying to find an orphanage (scary part—I experienced this trip IRL 10 years later with a friend…) and for the last two years I have felt like it’s time to try for real.

And I have. Tried that is. But I keep getting stuck and I have never known why. Fast Fiction tells me why: I didn’t know how to write a book. I didn’t plan it beforehand, I just sat down at the computer and expected it to come together. After reading Jaden’s book I finally get it. I do have a book in me I just didn’t have the tools to dig it out.

This practical, well-written guide is broken into three manageable parts. Before, during, and after.

Before the Draft

This section is all about preparing to draft—the most important part of writing your book!

I love how Jaden approaches drafting. It’s a time to dream, to think outside the box, and to try new things. After you collect your dreams and ideas you can begin narrowing your story idea into once sentence.

Then, you determine your plot. This is such valuable information. She breaks down the plots of familiar stories and shows you the practical progression a story needs to take in order to work. It makes so much sense and adds much-needed order to an otherwise overwhelming process.

Part one continues and covers characters, theme, setting, symbols, scenes, and story. I found this section not only valuable but inspiring. My notebook overflowed with ideas while reading this section. This likely says more about where I’m at in the writing-a-book process than anything else but I can’t wait to read through this again when I plot my actual book.

During the Draft

I skimmed part two because I am not writing my book right now. However, I came away with the assurance this would be what I needed to help me break up my writing schedule into achievable chunks. Part two also breaks down where you should be after each day of writing, and gives you prompts and questions to think about if you’re stuck.

There’s a handy summary of the progress breakdown at the end of this section so you can have a guide if you don’t require all the explanation and prompts. Jaden thought of everything!

After the Draft

Part three it scheduled to happen after your 30 days of writing in part two. So although the title suggests a 30-day project you’ll have to set aside more time than that to follow the plan laid out in Fast Fiction. What’s great about this is if you follow the plan you will have a first draft in 30 days and you’ll have planned it properly in advance (in part one). So when you reach part three (aka revisions) you will know your characters, plot, story, and purpose inside and out. Revisions might…even…be…fun?

One of the strongest tips in this section is the Why Should I Care? test. You read through your draft and think like your reader. Ask yourself this question and if you can’t answer it, this section or idea needs strengthening. Jaden suggests all sorts of ways to help you revise weaker sections like adding new characters and conflict.

Oooh conflict.

This section also suggests what to look for when reading through your draft. This is helpful because it helps you figure out why something doesn’t work. Once you know why, you can fix it.

I’m happy to give Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days a five-star rating. I think the only thing left to do here is test out the formula for myself. Is there a book in me? We’ll find out soon.

Denise Jaden is the author of Losing Faith (Simon and Schuster, 2010) and Never Enough (Simon and Schuster 2012). She lives in British Columbia with her husband and son, and is currently at work on another young-adult novel, which she fast-drafted during the 2012 NaNoWriMo. A portion of profits will benefit National Novel Writing Month.

This book was provided for review by the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review (or even publish one).