June 11th, 2021
June 11th, 2021
Wow! It's been a while. Looking back and seeing my last blog post was a reality check that I've really been "away" from myself for a while now, and it's about time I got back to doing some of the things that make me "me". In my last post, I announced that my life was about to change forever, and did it ever! On March 5th, I was blessed with the most amazing little boy, my son Declan. While being a mom has been the most amazing journey so far, I found myself forgetting a little bit about what makes Deanna "Deanna". When you become a parent, I think it's so easy to lose a little bit of your former self to become a better parent to that beautiful new person in your life, and that's totally okay! But I also think it's so important to make time for your own personal hobbies, which I know is incredibly difficult as a new mom. Trust me! I want to spend every waking minute (and sleeping minute) with my son, but I realized that with the COVID regulations over the last year, starting my master's degree in January 2021, and having a baby in March, I haven't read a book (other than a textbook or a book for my classes), or really sung in over a year, and that's such a crazy feeling!! If you know me personally, you'll know that I've been a singer for much longer then I've been anything else, and the fact that this past year was the longest I've gone without singing in a choral ensemble is the craziest feeling for me. I need to sing. It's a huge part of my heart and soul, and it's what makes me "me". Being a singer was my first and most beloved identity (now only second to being a mother), and I can't wait to get back to singing with other local musicians this fall. While I do sing songs to my son, it's not the same as using my full voice, and I can't wait to experience that feeling again. Apart from being a mother and a singer, another huge part of my heart is reading and writing, and while I've been both reading and writing (in significant amounts) for my graduate classes, it's still not the same as reading a great romantic novel, which of course is something I absolutely love to do! So, this summer, I signed up for my library's adult summer reading challenge, and I set a goal of reading at least 3 novels for fun this summer, which of course sounds like a very small number for someone who loves to read and runs their own book review service, but factor in that I'm taking two graduate classes, running a youth fishing league, and of course, taking care of my son, 3 books is a very achievable goal for me. This summer, I encourage you to set achievable goals for yourself that help you feel a little bit more like "yourself". Whether it's a reading goal, something that helps you practice self-care, finally cleaning out that closet you've been looking to organize for months, or just spending more time with family and friends, set some goals for yourself that make you feel more like "you". At the end of this summer, I hope that I'll be filled with even more joy than I am today, and I hope to find more pieces of "myself" along the way, creating a beautiful blend of who I was, and who I am today.
October 10th, 2020
October 10th, 2020
As the seasons have changed, I've been doing a lot of learning and reflecting. While I've been away from my blog for a few months, I've continued building up my library for the upcoming months, and I am so excited to read and review some amazing books this fall and winter. August brought the start of the school year, and with it came many challenges for teachers like myself. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn't been easy for anyone, and for teachers, this school year has brought more challenges than anyone could have ever planned for.
While my focus this fall has been providing the best education for my students, I also believe that it is so important to make time for myself and my family, too. Giving myself some space to breathe helps me focus not only on my work, but also on myself and my family. While my home life has been pretty simple with just my husband and me, we've recently started preparing ourselves to become a family of 3, and that in itself is an entirely new adventure! So, this fall, I'm trying to remind myself to take everything one step at a time. If I can remember to breathe and focus on the day ahead, my mind becomes so much clearer, and I find that I am better at managing my time and focusing on the most important things in my day. Whether it's journaling, going for a walk, mindfulness, or listening to music, there are so many ways that you can take time for yourself.
My next reading adventure will be a review for Windy City Reviews that should be published within the next month or two, and soon, I'll be announcing a new December giveaway that I hope will spread some literary holiday cheer! In the meantime, remember to take a moment for yourself each day, and try to breathe. We'll all get through this together, one step at a time.
Simply Romantic Book Reviews
June 14th, 2020
June 14th, 2020
I wholeheartedly believe that to be a writer, you have to be an avid reader. I would have never been inspired to write without having read hundreds of books. In my last post, I talked about my first book, Imperfect, which was loosely based on the Clique novels by Lisi Harrison. While Imperfect may have been a little too closely based on someone else’s work to ever be shared with the public, the books that I’ve written since then have been more original, but not uninspired.
When it comes to writing fiction, I tend to follow a pattern of writing what is pertinent to me in my life at the time. When I was first writing Taking Chances, I was thirteen, and about to enter high school. So, what did I write about? A girl in high school. Now, if you’ve been to any of my live events, you’re aware that while the story line of Taking Chances does have some similarities to my life (my hometown, my local high school, and even some of my friend’s names, to name a few), the protagonist, Sydney Baker, is a fictional character who goes through fictional life events that I have never had to experience in my life. It took a lot of research and discussion to decide how I was going to proceed with Sydney’s story, but one thing was clear in my mind: I wanted to write a story about a high school girl that was different than the others I was reading at the time. I wanted Sydney’s story to matter in a way that I couldn’t understand at the time. When I started to tell people what I was writing about, I had several people reach out to me in regards to their similarities to Sydney Baker and her life, and I was stunned to hear their stories. Their life stories helped me write Sydney’s story in a way that was sensitive to my readers, but also told her story in a truthful way without having experienced her life myself.
As I’ve gotten older, my interest in reading and writing books has aged with me, in a way. When I was in college, I wanted to read and write stories about collegiate students. As a first year music teacher in 2018, I wanted to read and write about women in their early twenties. Now, as I am about to turn 26 in July, (yikes!) I find myself wanting to read and write more adult contemporary fiction stories.
As my literary interests have evolved over the years, I’ve come across several incredible authors that have inspired me with their writing, which was the catalyst for my latest literary adventure, the launch of my own book review service, Simply Romantic Book Reviews!
While I have been reviewing novels for Windy City Reviews for several years, I've found myself wondering how I can review more books and assist other writers. That's when the idea for my own review service for romantic novels came about. While I will still continue writing reviews for Windy City Reviews, I am so excited about this new personal literary venture, and I am looking forward to reading some incredible romantic novels!
To learn more about Simply Romantic, or to see reviews, visit the Simply Romantic tab here on my website.
June 11th, 2020
June 11th, 2020
When I was twelve years old, I wrote my first book. It wasn't a full-length novel by any means, but it was the first time I'd ever written anything longer than a paper or a short poem for school, and I was so proud of it. Little did I know at the time that the next book I would write would become my first published novel, Taking Chances.
My first book, titled Imperfect, was loosely based on the Clique novels by Lisi Harrison (my favorite books at the time), and told the story of an average 8th grade girl who becomes friends with the "populars", a group of the most beautiful and popular girls from her school.
Even though Imperfect was never published (and probably never will be), I'm still proud of my first book, and I go back and re-read my handwritten manuscript (which spans across three spiral notebooks) every now and again.
While I haven't been avidly writing this summer, (yet) I have been reading and taking the time to pursue some of my other hobbies, including photography. Today was a perfect Midwestern summer day in Illinois, so my sister and I decided to take some photos out in the sunshine. As I looked at the photos that my sister had taken of me, two words came to my mind: perfectly imperfect. I wasn't wearing any make-up, and I hadn't dressed up for a photo shoot, but somehow, I loved quite a few of the photos that she took of me (which is a rare experience for me, trust me!). While some of these photos turned out great, there were others that were taken at just the wrong time, or showed too much of my imperfect legs. There were photos that featured my not-so-interested-in-photos dog, and others that just didn't turn out how I expected, which seems to be a reoccurring theme for 2020.
The summer of 2020 has been perfectly imperfect for me in many ways, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this. While I do enjoy staying at home, spending time with my family, and reading, I'm missing out on a lot of things that bring me joy, such as teaching, counseling at a music summer camp, and assisting with summer reading activities for children at my local library. I also just found out that our local state park won't be hosting their annual 4th of July fireworks display, which will definitely put a damper on my July 4th birthday traditions.
While I won't get to participate in these activities this year, I'm trying to see the good in everything going on around us, and find joy in the little things I'm doing these days, like reading books that have been on my shelf for years (I'm currently reading Sarah Dessen's Once and for All, which has been on my to-read shelf for WAY too long), and photo shoots with my little sister. Even though this summer will most likely continue to be perfectly imperfect, I hope that all of you can enjoy the perfect moments that you find this summer.
I don't know about you, but while COVID-19 has us all quarantined, I've been taking the time to do some of my favorite things: singing, photography, writing, and reading! Just the other day, I finished a great new love story by author Riley Costello called Waiting at Hayden's, and let me tell you, I loved it! Riley's novel is fun and engaging, and her story about childhood sweethearts Charli and Jack was so relatable and inspiring!
If you're anything like me, you probably have several books on your bookshelf that you purchased a while ago, but just haven't read yet. My problem with reading is that there are so many amazing books that I want to read, but I can never decide which one to read first! When 2020 began, I jumped on the "20 Books in 2020" bandwagon, and after falling behind during the start of this pandemic, my total as of June 2020 stands at 5.....which of course means that I have so much more reading to do in order to reach my goal! The photo pictured here has some of my "20 books in 2020 reads! (By the way, you can follow my Instagram to see my "20 Books in 2020" progress! The link is at the bottom of this page.)
What I love about reading is that it takes me away from everything. Instead of thinking about myself in my present state, I'm so focused on the characters in their present state that I completely forget about everything happening in my life, which sometimes is a great thing! Now that I'm in between books, I'm trying to figure out which one I'm going to read next!
One of the great parts about being an avid reader and writer is that I can also review novels written by other writers! Several years ago, I became a member of the Chicago Writers Association, and began reviewing novels for an organization called Windy City Reviews. Being a reviewer has given me the chance to review novels that I would have never considered reading, and I've found that my love of reading spans across more than just one genre. I also get to read books by local authors, which is a great experience!
To see my reviews for Windy City Reviews, and to learn more about this amazing organization, visit this website: http://windycityreviews.org/display/Search?searchQuery=deanna+frances&moduleId=11757393&moduleFilter=&categoryFilter=&startAt=0.
Writing More than Prose
May 29, 2020
While readers of Taking Chances know me as a novelist, the majority of my readers know me as a journalist. In college, I worked as an entertainment writer for the Northern Star, the official student newspaper of Northern Illinois University. While working for "The Star", I had the chance to branch into an entirely different style of writing. At the time, I had become used to writing prose, but I had to pause my novel ideas and write in a journalistic point of view based on facts and current events.
Thankfully, I found out very quickly that I loved reporting and photographing events, and writing reviews about local restaurants and music venues. I even had the opportunity to interview celebrities such as country stars Brett Eldredge, Phil Vassar, and Montgomery Gentry, Irish Celtic band Gaelic Storm, and comedian Gabriel Iglesias, otherwise known as "Fluffy"!
While most of the events I covered were local musical performances and art exhibits, I had the chance to write some entertainment columns,too, which was another style of writing I had never tried before. I even got the chance to fly in a B-17 plane that was flown in World War II. (Pictured here!) Learning to write as a journalist in college gave me so many incredible opportunities!
Check out this link to see the articles, reviews, and columns that I wrote for the Northern Star: https://northernstar.info/tag/deanna-frances/.
Hi, I'm Deanna! Thanks for reading my first blog post! I'm a writer, journalist, musician, and educator. I live in a very small town in Illinois surrounded by cornfields, and I'm here because for some reason, I was lucky enough to have a book published when I was 18. That's where my story begins...
To summarize, it all began in middle school. I began writing novels based on the advice of my amazing 7th grade English teacher, and in high school, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a program called Adopt-An-Author, where I was partnered together with a published author named J.D. Gordon, who mentored me and helped me gain connections to get my first novel published. During my freshman year of college, Taking Chances was published by a small publishing company in Villa Park, Illinois, and my life has never been the same.
Following the release of Taking Chances in 2013, I went on a multi-state, self-promoted book tour which featured events such as a first reading at Bluestockings Bookstore in New York City, author fair visits, Barnes & Nobles book signings, and a school tour.
I took some time off of writing during college, but after graduating in 2018, I've been brainstorming new ideas, and I have several new novels in the works.
Subscribe to my website to hear about my new ideas, and to learn more about my writing journey!