It’s my annual end-of-the-year post where I share what I’ve been doing creatively and my favorite reads. I know this year has been challenging for so many, but I hope you are doing well and finding avenues for joy.
I had one book published this year - my very first picture book, Matching Costumes. It came out at the end of September, just in time for Halloween. It’s published by MacLaren Cochrane Publishing and is illustrated brilliantly by Cason Rome.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do any in-person events in October to promote it, nor was I able to get it to many reviewers prior to Halloween. So…. I’ll just pretend it’s debuting again next year. That’ll work, right?
My only self-publishing venture this year was a middle grade Christmas story called Sharing the Spotlight. This story was originally featured in the anthology Winter Wonder. I revised it and arranged it in chapter format. I put it on Kindle as a companion to my novel No One Needed to Know. I decided to do this on a whim while in quarantine at the end of November. I’m very grateful to the five people who downloaded it.
I did manage to get in one school visit this year. Believe it or not, it was right at the beginning of March, one week before the shutdown. It was my first high school visit, where I spoke about The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy and gave some tips about recycling and reusing to help our environment.
I wrote quite a bit this year. Like many people, my work was closed for two months in the spring. I took that opportunity to finish the women’s fiction novel I’d been working on. It’s called Attitude of Grace and is about an aging amateur ballet dancer getting a second chance at love and life. I’m querying it to agents right now.
Working with composer Caleb Dinger, I wrote a sweet romantic musical called Songwriter Night. We recorded it as a full cast audio play. We’re working now on getting it published.
In addition to that, my co-author, Jeni Richard, finished her edits on our middle grade fantasy novel Dragon Surf. We have that out on query to agents as well.
As I’m in waiting mode for all of those projects, there’s not much else left to do but start writing another book. I’m only two chapters in at this point, but it’s a beginning. This new one is also a women’s fiction about a child care teacher (write what you know) with an It’s a Wonderful Life type of theme.
My other creative outlet—theater—has been on hold. I directed Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the beginning of the year. It closed the last weekend of February, and I had just started rehearsals for Mamma Mia when the theater had to close its doors. Fingers crossed that we can start live theater again in the new year. The set that my husband built for the show is finished and waiting for us to come back to it.
With so much more time at home than usual, you’d think I’d read more, but I didn’t. I definitely chose TV as my first mode of entertainment and watched more than I’ve ever watched in my whole life. There were some really good shows, though. Some of my favorites were Hollywood, The Royal Gambit, Mrs. America, Lovecraft Country, The Good Place, and Ted Lasso.
As far as reading, I did make my Goodreads Challenge goal – barely. There are a couple picture books on the list and I didn’t finish three books on there. Having had two months off from work, I didn’t listen to quite as many audiobooks as usual, and I also chose some of the short Audible Originals titles between my monthly free credits. My list is a bit all over the place with genre too. I made a point to read more women’s fiction and romance, as I feel it’s important to read the kinds of books you want to write. I also wanted to make a point to include more diversity on my list. There are still a few young adult and middle grade books on the list. As usual, there’s a good mix of books from indie authors, small press and large press.
If you want to see all the books I read this year, here’s my Goodreads challenge. I'm currently nearing the end of two more books, so I hope to pop this up to an even 40 before New Year's Eve.
Now, for my faves:
The Wish List of Albie Young by Ruby Hummingbird
I picked this book up from a Bookbub listing without knowing much about it. The story sounded interesting and right in line with the kind of book was looking for. It was a charming story about an older woman rediscovering the joys of life thanks to discovering wish list left unfinished by a friend that passed away. I’d love to see this one made into a quiet movie starring someone like Judy Dench.
Best young adult or middle grade book:
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
I read a lot of great YA and children’s books this year. Historical fiction always rises to the top, though, and this one was no exception. It was about a Chinese girl and her father living secretly underneath a home in Atlanta in the early 1900s. She writes a column on manners for the local newspaper without anyone suspecting who she is. Fantastic book.
Best indie/small press book:
Top Producer by Laura Wolfe
Laura Wolfe had a big year with publishing three thrillers in one year. Two of her books are with a small publisher, and I haven’t had a chance to read them yet. This one she published herself (which I only found out today when researching that fact). This book about a young realtor and the conniving, ruthless woman she works for was thrilling and had me in its grip from beginning to end.
The Institute by Stephen King
The narrator! Santino Fontana! Oh, I love him so much. You might know him from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or the Broadway musical Tootsie. He read this book deliciously, and I didn’t want it to end. I will hunt down every book that he narrates and listen to them as well. (He narrates You, eek!) The plot about kidnapping children with supernatural powers was riveting too. Always and forever a Stephen King fan.
The Diviners by Libba Bray
I started this series a couple years back, but getting a subscription to Audible helped me finally listen to the remaining books. This series is wonderful historic fantasy/horror. The characters are diverse and each one is fully drawn out and captivating. The spooky plotline is intricate, and the setting of New York in the 1920s is divine. On top of all that, the audiobook narrator, January LaVoy, is one of the best out there. I truly believed all of her voices for all the characters. Brilliant all the way around.
Best large press book:
The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall
This book was another Bookbub surprise. It was on sale and looked interesting, so I snatched it up. It has a dual storyline between the 1940s and present day, following two young, ambitious women trying to figure out what they truly want from life. Although the title has the word “girls”, it's a book about women in their twenties. It also has a great afterward with some extra history to learn. I loved every word of this novel. If you like League of Their Own, this will appeal to you. I want it to be a movie or series. Come on Netflix, make this happen.
Best book of the year:
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
Ruta Sepetys can not fail. I’ve read every book by her and always will. She’s a true genius, and I’m so grateful I had an opportunity to go to one of her presentations about this book to hear her talk about it. This story is based on history I knew nothing about: the selling of babies in Spanish orphanages. As usual, her book was rich with detail while simultaneously moving fluidly through a complex and fascinating plot. Brilliant. You must read this. It’s classified as YA, but, as with every Sepetys book, it appeals to anyone who loves amazing historical fiction.
Well, there you go. My year in a nutshell. Here's hoping 2021 will find everyone healthy and by the time I write my year-end post next December, all the troubles will be behind us. In the meantime, get yourself a couple good books to read and cozy up for the winter ahead. Roam around my website and see if anything I've written or the books listed above appeal to you.
I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and say hi. Wishing you all the best.
D. G. Driver
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.