The Blog

WHAT I READ THIS MONTH: THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS

6A03B323-E63B-49F0-9E3A-3BEA2B6B15B1Hi guys! Welcome to the first installment of my new book review series, WHAT I READ THIS MONTH. I plan to publish these monthly, and I’m so thrilled that the first book I’m reviewing is THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS by Laura E. Weymouth. This young adult fantasy just recently hit shelves in October and is sure to sweep you away and make you feel all the feelings this winter. I suggest cozying up with some tea by the fire (I live in Florida, so I pretended) and diving into this story. Let’s get into it.

From Weymouth’s website, here’s an overview:

Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge.

When Ev and Phil finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves.

Now, Evelyn spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes.

Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was.

But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

This story has all the elements I absolutely love and appreciate. It centers on family and the very real, agonizing feeling of being caught between two places. Something I particularly loved about this book was that it didn’t dwell too much on world-building or keeping the reader preoccupied with the details of the otherworldly creatures of the Woodlands or magic or anything you typically think of when you think portal fantasy.  The exterior, fantastical setting is great and grand – but this book focused on the people.

And that’s what sets it apart.

Weymouth expertly seesaws between the present in the known world and the past in the Woodlands. This very premise struck me as something so original –  we often read stories of people who are magically transported to another world and must complete some sort of high-stakes quest (guilty – that’s what my first book is, basically). We rarely hear about how these adventurers are when they come home, and if they’re okay. And if you’re going by the Hapwells, they’ve very much not okay.

What struck to the core was Evelyn Hapwell, the true light between worlds. She knew beyond doubt where she truly belonged, and that was her curse. So many people, be it in careers or relationships, can feel in their bones what they should do, but may not be willing to take the risk. There’s the safe way that might, maybe make you happy, and there’s the hard way that will require tough choices but just might pay off. Evelyn knew what her decision had to be.

Evelyn is not always likable. She’s stubborn, she wanders, and she refuses to hear sensible sentiments. But, she has hope. For someone who feels so caged, so entrapped by the dark, menacing real world, she makes her own light and clings to the belief that she’ll someday return to the Woodlands.

Besides having a hauntingly beautiful story and complex characters, Weymouth’s writing is breathtaking and gorgeous. She doesn’t overwhelm you with flowery language or exhausting, long chapters. Instead, she brilliantly balances vivid description with sharp, concise prose. Be warned: you’ll leave a piece of your heart within the pages.

All in all, I highly recommend you give this book a read. Content warnings can be found here.

And stay tuned for January’s book review! Hint: Psych. Thriller.

Buy THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS here:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
IndieBound

 

Celebrating Christmas in Orlando!

211A2A98-0936-4E36-A64F-296F4D8FE766Since Thanksgiving is officially behind us and December is less than 24 hours away, you know what that means. Trees adorned with lights, stockings hung with care, colors of the red/green/silver/gold variety ubiquitously displayed, and of course, Christmas music in the air. This is truly one of my favorite times of year because it conjures up joyful childhood memories and brings family together. And although Christmas is only one day, I try to milk it for a while – weeks, really – in advance to soak up this short, sweet season.

This year will be my second Christmas in Orlando, and so I want to share a few fun, or jolly, things to do in the area to get hyped for Christmas!

#1: Take a ride on The Polar Express

One of my absolute favorite holiday movies is The Polar Express. I used to glance out our window when I was little hoping that the train would pull up in front of the house. Now, there’s no need to keep it to the imagination. The Polar Express Train Ride – Orlando takes riders on a trip to the North Pole from our very own Mount Dora! The ride replicates scenes from the movie, and you even get your golden ticket punched and hot chocolate served by dancing chefs. They do it all – you just gotta believe!

The last train departs on Dec. 30.

#2 Deck the halls – downtown

If you’re in the mood for a more downtown vibe, the city of Orlando is putting on tons of fun holiday events around Lake Eola. From movie screenings to concerts to parades, there’s so much to do to ring in the season downtown.

Events run through the month of December.

#3 Meet Santa at the Mall at Millenia

If you need a cheerful break from gift shopping, stop and take a moment to check out the extraordinary North Pole display at the Mall at Millenia. It’s free, and you’ll get some awesome photos of the jolly old elf! Get there early, though, as wait times to climb up to five hours close to the holiday. Hashtag your Santa photos with #MyMillenia, and you might get featured on their social!

Santa will be there until Christmas Eve.

#4 Take a Disney trip – they have all the Christmas things

OH BOY. You probably saw this one coming. 🙂 Disney World has so many festive activities and shows to get you in the Christmas spirit, and my family has made it a point year after year to visit the happiest place on Earth during the most wonderful time of the year. Whether it’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party hosted at the Magic Kingdom, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, the Sunset Seasons Greetings projection show at Hollywood Studios or the adorable Disney-themed Christmas trees on the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail, there’s no shortage of holiday cheer at Walt Disney World.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – select nights through Dec. 21
Epcot International Festival of the Holidays – runs until Dec. 30
Sunset Seasons Greetings – showing until Jan. 6
Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail – open until Jan. 6

And that’s all I got! I’ve already checked out some of the events on this list, but I have a lot to squeeze in before the big day. Have a Christmas idea or tradition? Leave a comment below, and be sure to follow me on Instagram for holiday fun around the City Beautiful.

XO,
Elizabeth

 

 

Making positivity a priority

DSC_0763I wasn’t always the most positive person.

It wasn’t so much that I was overly negative before, but I’d say I was easily discouraged and highly impatient. Sometimes, I still am (no one is ever going to be perfectly positive), but I have learned to look on the bright side a lot more.

Often, whether it was school or starting a new job, a creeping self doubt would emerge because of internal frustration. Why wasn’t I a master at something as soon as I started? Why did I make mistakes? Did literally everyone know more than I did? This is incredibly flawed and unrealistic thinking, and it’s one of the things that caused a lot of anxiety and negativity in my life.

The good news was that I could change it. And I did.

Choosing to look at life through a positive lens will not only make you happier, but you’ll also become much better at problem-solving, and your work/school/relationships will likely improve.

The truth of it is that being positive is more difficult than being negative. It just is. Having a pessimistic attitude is pretty easy – especially when things aren’t going your way. Giving into discouragement is a breeze when you aren’t employing positive thinking regularly. And, hey, I am still guilty of it.

One thing I’ve learned over the past few months is that it takes strength to be positive and to show that attitude to others. I feel that people who choose to be positive are sometimes viewed as naive or oblivious. But in fact, when faced with adversity, it takes a rock-solid person to say “this is happening, here’s how we’re going to make it better or deal with it.”

Unfortunately, negativity is powerful. There’s no doubt about that. For example, think about your favorite band. Imagine telling someone you love that band, and that person saying “they suck.” How do you feel? Dumb for liking that band? Feeling like you have bad taste? A hesitation to be open and passionate about what you love in the future?

Reject those feelings, and recognize you’re dealing with a negative person. And ultimately, I’m not saying to agree with everyone to appear positive. It’s fine to voice your opinion if you don’t like someone’s favorite band/book/movie, obviously, but frame your thinking and words in a positive way. It’s better for everyone all around.

And most importantly, never let anyone dictate how you feel. Never let anyone dim your light or detract from your passion.

But just as negativity holds power, so does positivity. One of the most powerful things about positivity is its ability to be contagious. I started at my current job almost two years ago, and I was blown away by how positive and encouraging my colleagues were – and are. Sure, there are stressful times where it’s hard to look at the bright side, but they’ve taught me that everything is an opportunity to shine.

All in all, it takes a conscious effort to be a positive person. Sometimes, it’s much easier said than done. But if you take the time to be mindful and intentional with positivity, your life will be a lot better for it.

XO,
Elizabeth

 

 

Prepping for a Disney World visit!

A5DA5C88-755B-42AE-904F-A66CCA26B498As you might know by now, I absolutely love Disney World. I maintain that getting an Annual Pass earlier this year was one of the best decisions I’ve made since moving to Orlando. No matter how many times I visit one of the four main parks, I always find something new and exciting. Whether you’re an Annual Passholder like me, or somebody visiting a park for the first time, I thought I’d offer some tips on prepping for the big day.

#1 Download the Disney World app. Like, right now.

This app is an absolute game-changer. Not only can you view wait times for rides and showtimes, but you can reserve dining, book FastPasses, view annual pass blockout dates, and order food from park restaurants. It’s a necessity.

#2 Get FastPasses!  

It’s not a secret that wait times for Disney rides can get pretty long, so if you have certain rides in mind that you really want to ride, book a FastPass. You can do it directly through the app! I’d recommend doing this as far in advance as possible, as your options will be limited the day of. Keep in mind that for most Passholders, you can only book passes in one park per day. For example, if you get a FastPass for Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom, you can’t get one for Avatar Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom on the same day. Good to know for park hoppers!

#3 Going to Magic Kingdom? Wait.

Magic Kingdom is my favorite Disney park for so many reasons, but let’s be real. It gets crazy with crowds and wait times. My tip for visiting this iconic park is to wait and go later in the day. Out of the four main parks, it’s the one open the latest (typically closing between 10 p.m. and midnight, depending on the day), so you still have plenty of time to enjoy the sights and rides if you head over in the early afternoon. At this point, you’ll have surpassed the hottest part of the day, lighting will be better for photos, and you’ll be inclined to stick around for the magical firework show since you just got there!

Not a fan of fireworks? Hit up some rides! The wait times plummet during the show, and it’s always cool to be on a roller coaster with fireworks painting the sky.

#4 Remember your parking spot!

As the Disney team members like to remind eager guests on the tram, Disney World has 15,000 parking spots. Usually, my husband will text our row number to me so we don’t forget (ex: Rapunzel 237). If you do it as soon as you park, you’ll have no stress trying to remember it when it comes time to head home.

#5 Pack your Mickey or Minnie ears!

Enough said. 🙂

 

Thanks for reading, and I hope you get to the Happiest Place on Earth soon!

XO,
Elizabeth

 

 

Tips for beating writer’s block

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“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
Charles Bukowski

It’s scarier than a Stephen King novel. It’s more intimidating than a CEO.

It’s an ocean of the unknown.

It’s a blank page.

Writer’s block can hit anyone. Whether you’re a content creator, professional writer, or just trying to draft an email, it doesn’t discriminate. In fact, it seems every writer hits a wall at some point (or, if you’re like me, many). It can be disheartening and discouraging. It can be. It doesn’t have to.

Feeling your creative juices dry up is rough stuff. In fact, I feel like I’m experiencing writer’s block right now, since my work in progress hasn’t been touched in days. But, there are ways you can get yourself back in the groove. Here, I’d like to show you some tips that have worked for me in the past so I could get back to writing.

Step away from the page

Sometimes, we’ve been staring at the page or screen for too long. It helps to break away. Whether it’s taking a walk to clear your mind, listening to music, or, my favorite, shopping, doing something that takes you out of the mindset can give you a fresh look.

Talk it out

For me, this especially helps if I’m trying to develop a plot, or if I just don’t know what comes next. I will literally sit at my desk and talk through it. Alone. Is that weird? IDK. It works. As a fiction writer, this helps bring characters to life. It takes them off the page, and I’m able to really craft what will happen next in my book. If I can follow them, I can finish my manuscript.

Brainstorm

Keeping to proper sentences and paragraphs can run you into a wall sometimes. When this happens to me, I like to take a physical pen and paper and just jot down words. Sometimes, I’ll even (badly) draw maps or things related to my writing, since it truly does help you think of your work in progress in a different way.

Read

It’s a common sentiment among great writers that to be a great writer, you need to do two things. Write and read. If you’re having trouble with the former, lose yourself in a good book. I’ve found that reading books while in the midst of a word drought helps rejuvenate my creativity.

Don’t stop writing

Lastly, don’t use writer’s block as an excuse to stop writing! We’ve all been there. But it will definitely claim victory over you if you decide to wait until inspiration hits. Keep it moving.

And that’s it! Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment below if you have any other tips for beating the dreaded writer’s block!

XO,
Elizabeth

24 things I’ve learned in 24 years

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One thing I can tell you is you’ve got to be free.
– Come Together, The Beatles

Today is my 24th birthday! While I’ll be spending it at a Disney park and eating a boatload of chocolate (shocking!), I also wanted to take this chance to commemorate the last year I can call my early twenties (eek!) with some writing! I’ve compiled a list of lessons I’ve learned over the years – specifically in the past year, as there were a lot of lessons – to share. I still have to remind myself sometimes to take my own advice, and it’s not always easy seeing the bright side, but hopefully this serves as an inspiration.

  1. Change will come. Embrace it.
  2. You always have a choice.
  3. It’s a tough world out there. Cherish the ones you love, and make them a priority.
  4. Your health and happiness are the most important.
  5. Find joy in the simple things.
  6. No, you’re never too old for Disney.
  7. Try to see the positive, even when it’s the hard thing to do.
  8. Say what you need to say. (Stole that from John Mayer, but it’s so true.)
  9. Be honest with yourself and others.
  10. Letting go is hard, but sometimes it’s necessary.
  11. Good communication solves a lot of problems.
  12. Pursue your passions.
  13. Don’t be so concerned with other people’s opinions.
  14. A new attitude can change everything.
  15. Surround yourself with uplifting people and things.
  16. Give the benefit of the doubt – to an extent.
  17. Don’t give up.
  18. Have good posture. It does more than you think.
  19. It’s totally OK to re-watch The Office for the fiftieth time.
  20. Happiness is a work in progress.
  21. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, no one else will.
  22. Everything turns out fine in the end.
  23. Cuddle your cat as much as you can.
  24. Be excited for the next chapter.

That’s it! Thanks so much for being here, and I can’t wait to share even more things I’ll learn being 24. If you have your own personal lessons and inspo, I’d love to hear them! Feel free to comment or email me.

Now I’m going to put on my Minnie ears and eat too many fries.

XO,
Elizabeth

What happens after you’ve written a book

C0DAB403-AF1F-4A58-B55E-8E3D1A490012It’s both a satisfying and sad feeling. You’ve been at it for months, spending nights and weekends in front of tiny laptop screen passionately punching out the words to your story.

After weeks and weeks of outlining, drafting, revisions, character development, bouts of writer’s block, doubt, chocolate splurges and excitement beyond anything you’ve ever felt, you’ve reached those two words.

The End.

When I finished writing my first book, THE PANACEA, I cried. The ending was emotional in and of itself, but I couldn’t grasp that this project I’d spent a year of my life on was over. At least for now. The story was complete at 50,000 words, and I was proud of it.

I finished my book in July of this year, for real. I say that because I’d thought I’d finished it in December 2017. I’d reached the ending I’d always envisioned for this story, but it still felt lacking. It was only until a literary agent suggested I make it a little longer that I realized I had more work to do.

Now that I’ve finished my manuscript, people have asked me how publishing works, or what I’m going to do now. While I don’t have the expert’s grasp on the former part of that question, I can share how I approached it.

You can certainly self-publish, as a lot of writers do, however I’m trying for the traditional route. Check out what happens post-ending below.

Let it be

When I finished my book, I immediately wanted to head straight back to chapter one and begin editing. I don’t recommend this. Instead, step away from it. Let it sit for a month. Don’t look at it. Then, when you are ready to edit, you’ll have fresh eyes.

Proofread and poke holes

Now that you’ve let your book sit, you feel it’s time to start editing. It goes without saying that a writer should do a thorough job of proofreading and grammatical/spelling /mechanical editing. But there’s an entirely different kind of editing that’s crucial – developmental editing. This is the poke-holes editing. For me, I liked to interrogate my own writing.

Why did so-and-so do this? Didn’t you describe this differently a couple of chapters ago? How can x happen if y is happening?

It seems annoying at first to grill yourself with so many questions, but this will really help you spot inconsistencies and plot holes in your story. After all, if you don’t spot it, your readers will.

In short, revise.

Beta readers and critique partners

Once you’ve self-edited, it’s a good idea to find yourself some beta readers, or people who will give feedback on your book. These aren’t your friends, or family, or basically anyone who has an emotional connection with you. Why? They won’t be honest.

Finding good beta readers and critique partners is a fantastic step. They’ll help you improve your story and may spot things your eyes glazed over. I’d recommend anywhere between four and eight. Take their comments and feedback with a grain of salt, though. Remember that’s it’s your story. If they make a suggestion that doesn’t feel right, trust your gut.

Find a great editor

This step isn’t free, but having a great editor will help polish the manuscript and get it ready for my next step. Determine what you want to hire the editor for: is it grammar/spelling/mechanics? Or is it developmental editing? Or is it both? Both will be greatly beneficial.

Query literary agents

This step is the step I’ve been on for eight months now – and that’s not uncommon. Since I’m pursuing traditional publishing, I’m querying literary agents in the hopes that one will want to represent me. Having an agent is extremely advantageous to a writer, and they’re often referred to as “your first friend in the publishing world.” Nowadays, most publishers will not accept submissions unless they come from an agent.

A query is basically a short and sweet email pitch explaining the premise, conflict, and stakes of your book. Agents will often ask for a writing sample to accompany the pitch, which can be anything from the first ten pages to the first three chapters. Important note: A writer should not query an agent for a work of fiction unless the manuscript is finished and polished. Additionally, a genuine agent never asks for money up front. They only get paid if your book sells.

This is where getting cozy with rejection comes in. In the almost year of querying, I’ve received 50+ rejections, one full manuscript request (passed), and one partial (still out for submission). But I’m still going.

Start writing the next book

The truth of the matter is that it’s rare for a writer to get an agent on their first manuscript. Should that be discouraging? No. It means a writer should get to work on their next project – which I’m happy to say I’m doing right now, and it’s completely different from my first one. Not only will you have something to distract you from awaiting agent replies (which can be months after you’ve submitted), but you’ll keep honing your writing. If your first one doesn’t cut it, maybe this next one will.

And that’s all for now! If you want to check out what my next manuscript is all about, please visit the fiction page.

Thanks for reading!

XO,
Elizabeth