Pick Me Up Monday: Winterwood


Be careful of the dark, dark wood . . .

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.


Halloween might be over but there will always be room on the shelf for another witchy read! What atmospheric, spine-tingling books have you read this year? Let me know in the comments!

Note: this post contains Amazon Affiliate links

National Novel Writing Month

Also known as NaNoWriMo, this is a month in November when authors of all shapes and sizes go haywire.

“Why are you sleep deprived?” you ask.

Oh, you sweet summer child. How naive you are. How innocent.

Your author friend gives you a wild-eyed, harried look and blurts out a number.

“…I’m sorry?” you reply, bewildered. “I don’t understand.”

“Thirty days. Fifty thousand words. No time for sleep. Haven’t bathed since October. My blood is vibrating. I can hear voices.”

If you’re smart, take a step back. Leave an offering of caffeine and snacks. Then run for your life.

National Novel Writing Month is pure insanity at its finest. During the month of November, authors attempt to reach 50,000 words – the average word count of a novel. Why do this, you ask? Because it’s a major procrastination buster for some authors. The looming deadline combined with a fear of failure can motivate even the laziest of writers (*raises hand* that’s me).

For some authors, the tight deadline can paralyze them. For still other authors, they need a looser schedule to write, edit, rewrite, and not focus on the word count, which is okay. But you never know until you try.

NaNoWriMo F.A.Q.

Do I HAVE to write 50k?

Nope. You can dive into the chaos with your own personal word goal. One author I know set a goal of 1 million words (AND SHE MADE IT). Other authors shoot for 25k. Or just editing another project.

If you want a winner sticker on your NaNoWriMo profile though, you’ll have to pass that 50k finish line.

Do I need to start with a brand new project?

The website suggests a clean slate is a good idea. It allows for maximum flailing and messy writing so you don’t stress about all the nonsense you’re spewing into your manuscript at 2am, cramming leftover Halloween candy into your mouth, bleary-eyed and mush-brained.


Some authors work on their second draft. Other authors work on a compilation of projects.

The RULES of NaNoWriMo aren’t the key. It’s the productivity, feeding off of other writers to motivate and inspire you to put your butt in that chair and write.

What does it cost to do this?

Nada. Zippo. Zilch. Entirely, 100% free. All you gotta do is cough up your sanity and a whole lot of sleep.

Can anyone actually SEE my project?

Not unless you want them to. When you upload your novel via cut-n-paste, it’s only for word count purposes. Your novel doesn’t get submitted anywhere.

Why can’t I just cheat?

You sure can. The system relies on honesty. There are plenty of opportunities to cheat and say you finished 50k in like…an hour. But the only person who gets cheated is yourself.

And I’m not just saying that full of threat and bluster. It’s true. The point of NaNoWriMo is to work on your novel. Yes, you’re joining other authors in the writing process, but ultimately, it’s just you and your novel when NaNoWriMo is over.

If you cheat, eventually you will have to explain to your novel why you didn’t write it when you had the chance. And if your novel is anything like my projects, they can give a pretty mean stink-eye. Lots of guilt. If looks could kill, I’d be murdered by a book that isn’t even finished yet.

What do I get when I win?

  • Major bragging rights, like holy cow, you just wrote 50,000 words in 30 days!
  • Treat yourself in the swag shop. Smother yourself in NaNoWriMo merch, proudly proclaiming to the world that you are nuts.
  • Several sponsors have provided generous discounts on writing-related products for not only winners but also participants, i.e. 50% of Scrivener for winners, 20% off for participants.
  • Also, you finished that novel you keep procrastinating on for months…years…like, a really, really long time.

Extra stuff

NaNoWriMo also has a special Young Writers’ Program for those budding authors still in school, looking to learn the art of writing a novel.

Before NaNoWriMo begins, they provide free Prep 101 to arm yourself for battle.

Above all else, my favorite part of NaNoWriMo is the Pep Talks. These are short, inspirational messages from some of the top authors in the business. Some of them are even NaNo participants themselves! A few names you might recognize are:

  • Holly Black
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Jenny Han
  • Lemony Snickett
  • Malinda Lo
  • Marie Lu

Many of these pep talks are archived and free for your reading pleasure, without a NaNo account here. But you will get even more pep talks straight to your inbox if you sign up.

Have you jumped into the NaNoWriMo fray before? What was your experience like? Did you enjoy it or hate it? Tell me all about it in the comments!

PSST! Want a NaNo buddy? Send me a request @runningfree

Librarian’s Bookshelf: Hocus Pocus and The All New Sequel

Witches, spell books, and black magic, oh my! Hocus Pocus and The All New Sequel by A. W. Jantha is a wild broomstick ride from start to finish.

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Shortly after moving from California to Salem, Massachusetts, Max Dennison finds himself in hot water when he accidentally releases a coven of witches, the Sanderson sisters, from the afterlife. Max, his sister, and his new friends (human and otherwise) must find a way to stop the witches from carrying out their evil plan and remaining on earth to torment Salem for all eternity.

Twenty-five years later, Max and Allison’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Poppy, finds herself face-to-face with the Sanderson sisters in all their sinister glory. When Halloween celebrations don’t quite go as planned, it’s a race against time as Poppy and her friends fight to save her family and all of Salem from the witches’ latest death-defying scheme.


As movie novelizations go, Hocus Pocus is pretty standard fare. What I’m looking for in a novelization is a glimpse into the characters’ brains that I wouldn’t otherwise have in the movie. It adds an extra dimension to what I’ve seen and pulls me a little deeper into the world that I enjoyed enough, I wanted to re-visit in book form.

Hocus Pocus details the adventures of five kids – three modern, two from the past – as they face the infamous Sanderson sisters. These three witches are eager for a bite of child stew and there are plenty pint-sized humans to choose from, running around on Halloween night. But that child chili isn’t just to appease the witches’ hunger. Munch on enough children and the Sandersons would be young and beautiful forever!

The witches’ plans are foiled.

Or so it seems.

In book two, we enter the present day. The Sandersons haven’t been seen in decades. The same kids who defeated the witches before – Max, Dani, and Allison – are grown up, with kids of their own.

And they do NOT speak of witches, especially witches with the name Sanderson.

As you can imagine, their kids are the first to encounter the reincarnation of the Sandersons when they arise on Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts.

I have mixed feelings on the sequel. Maybe it was the first person, present tense style. I have trouble reading that perspective comfortably. Maybe it was the roundabout way that the story went on and on.

There were callbacks to the original Hocus Pocus though which were entertaining to spot, i.e. the witches struggling to adjust to technology. But it certainly had a different flavor than the original. Perhaps it needed a dash more eye of newt to the child stew.

What I liked about this book:

Cozy Halloween goodness

Halloween around every corner! Candy and costumes, parties and superstitions, graveyards and ghosts. Hocus Pocus and its sequel provide a heady rush of sweet Halloween traditions to binge on.

Witches, witches and more witches

Both books are chock full of witches. Not just the Sanderson sisters either. In the sequel, we meet the rest of the Sanderson family, both the Pure of Heart witches and the Extra Wicked witches. Winifred Sanderson meets her match when her mother breaks through the veil and confronts her. If you’re craving witches this Halloween season, you can’t go wrong with this book.

Do you have any cult classic Halloween reads or movies you enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

Pick Me Up Monday: Sorcery of Thorns

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All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.


I’ve talked A LOT about witches this month during Pick Me Up Monday, so I thought I’d switch things up a little bit. This time around, I found a new release about sorcerers.

(Don’t look at me like that! It’s different from a witch, I swear!)

Sorcery of Thorns sounds absolutely full to bursting with fantastical world-building. I’ve read Rogerson’s debut novel, An Enchantment of Ravens, and if her work follows the same quality, Sorcery of Thorns will be incredibly decadent with colorful descriptions and settings that will leave you breathless.

What are some of your favorite magical books? Let me know in the comments!

Five Bizarre Beasties for Halloween

Everyone knows about ghosts and witches, goblins and demons. But mythology, folk tales, and superstitions are rife with strange creatures much more unusual than the run-of-the-mill monsters we’ve grown accustomed to during our bonfire storytelling.


You might imagine this creature to be something straight out of a Lewis Carroll book, something akin to the Jabberwocky in Alice in Wonderland. However, tales of the snallygaster began much earlier, in the 1730s, when German immigrants settled in the Maryland area.

The earliest accounts detail this creature as dragon-like, or part bird, part reptile. It has a metallic beak lined with razor-sharp teeth (no monster is complete with a proper set of pearly whites) and, to top it all off, the creature has tentacles. Perfect for swooping down out of the sky, snatching up their victims and carrying them off.


The manticore originated in Persian mythology. It’s a jumble of elements, from a human head and a lion’s body, to the tail of a scorpion. Or, in some accounts, a tail of venomous porcupine quills. Whichever one is suitably more terrifying.
The manticore’s name literally means “man eater”, often consuming its prey by swallowing it whole. In Medieval times, the manticore was associated as a symbol of the devil, depicted with horns on its human head.


A Baku is a nightmare incarnate. When the gods made the animals, they had spare body parts left over. The Baku, sulking in the background, was the recipient of these cast-off arms, legs, fangs, and other extraneous oddities. Originating in Chinese and Japanese mythology, Baku are eaters of dreams and nightmares.

At first, the Baku can be beneficial. Can’t sleep due to bad dreams? Summon the Baku to slurp it up like a milkshake. Problem solved.

But there’s a catch. If the Baku is summoned too many times, it can remain hungry, its appetite monstrous and insatiable. Like a black hole, it will consume even the good dreams, leaving a person to live an empty life.


The Grootslang hails from South Africa, where a glorious cave is said to be hidden away by the sea. This cave is known as the bottomless pit, housing countless diamonds.

But no treasure remains without its dragon. Thriving in this cave alongside those diamonds is the Grootslang, a snake the size of an elephant. It covets shiny, sparkly gems, i.e. diamonds, and, legend says if you are ever trapped by a Grootslang, you can bargain your way to freedom by flashing a grossly rich amount of gems to please the Grootslang’s magpie eye.


The Jorōgumo hails from Japanese mythology. This creature can shapeshift into a beautiful woman one moment and in the next blink of an eye, she is only a spider.

Some trippy things happen when the Jorōgumo is around, seeking her next victim to ensnare. One story tells of a woman appearing out of thin air and leading her victim to a magnificent estate to marry him off to her daughter. Another story describes nearly being dragged into a waterfall.

Even the thinnest spider’s silk from the Jorōgumo could play havoc on the mind and turn everything upside down.

What are some of your favorite creepy crawlies from mythology? Tell me a scary story about them in the comments!