Monday, March 2, 2015

What is the World Coming To? A plea for the Social Consciousness.

Normally I keep this blog pretty focused on writing. Normally I keep this blog pretty positive. Normally I don't bring up politics or religion or anything else that divides people. Normally.

I guess today isn't normal.

Yesterday, while reading through my feed on Facebook, I came across an article about two people, a mother and her son, who, though they were both in good health, died from some sort of mysterious "flu" strain. I noticed this article because it was posted by my cousin, whose daughter died in a similar fashion a few years ago. So I read the article and made the mistake of scrolling down to the comments where I was astounded.

The thoughts were not of condolences for the family or concern for public health. No. It was a pretty long rant on how we hate this politician or that one, how people who identify with this political party or that one are stupid, lazy, greedy, etc. and how colleges are taught by liberal professors who aren't interested in teach journalism but rather producing clone for the media centers that distort the truth. (FYI, I'm paraphrasing here.)

But wait a minute. What was the story about? Oh yeah.

Two people are dead.

They are gone and they leave behind people who are grieving. And no one can explain why they are dead.

And we (as a collective) take this opportunity to be nasty and hateful instead of recognizing that by the Grace of God, the fates, karma, whatever you want to call it, this story isn't about us.

We are a nation... no, we are a world... divided by hate. We watch from our couches while people around the world are kidnapped, tortured, sold into slavery, raped and murdered and instead of turning on our compassion and empathy, we play the blame game and unleash an anonymous rant filled with nastiness that isn't even germane to the topic.

We are watching our country (the USA, for those of you who found this blog from somewhere else) cut off our nose to spite our faces. Where words like liberal and conservative and compromise have become ash in our mouths. People... they are just words. It's the venom behind us that is toxic to our lives. And the people in charge love it. Because we are so focused on hating on each other that they, and I'm talking all parties involved, can continue unchecked.

But it's not our fault.

Yes. I said it. It's not our fault.

It's so much easier to focus on the negative than to retrain our brains to see the positive. Don't believe me? See what the experts have to say in this TED Talk. (Be warned, it's ten minutes of actual scientific exploration as to why we are negative.)

So we're screwed, right? We can never change this cycle. We are doomed to continue the circle of hate and negativity until the Mothership arrives and aliens invade when we're too caught up in our lives to even notice we've been taken over.

(Sorry for the dramatic analogy... I'm reading Rick Yancy's 5th Wave series and everything I experience is being explained by an invasion. Like the small cut on the back of my head... it is probably the insertion site of the implant that will systematically zap my brain when they realize I've caught on to their plan. Oh, wait... I digress. And, for the drone hovering above my house reading this, I was just kidding. And could you please stop looking... I'm still in my PJs.)

The whole point of this rant is that I'm tired of being surrounded by the negative. I feel like it's consuming me. I'm afraid to check out Facebook or read the news because it's just more of the same. Serious story compounded by negative politically and socially motivated rants that forget the whole point of this is that two people are dead.

So to sum it up, our planet is doomed.

Or is it?

Could it be that it's not too late to change the social consciousness?

If that were true than someone would have done a TED Talk about it.

Oh wait. They did!

Simple, right?

Not so much. We have to want to change. Here is my challenge for you. Join me on the quest to make a difference in our world one person at a time.

Be a Difference Maker with me.

Are you up for it? Or will you sit back and be an observer in your own life?

Already think you have the positive thing working for you? Then pass it on.

Check back on Mondays for a once a week update on my attempt to make a difference in the world that starts with me.

In the meantime, I issue you a challenge: Perform one random act of kindness and report back not what you did but how it made you FEEL. (Yes, I do have a degree in Psychology, thank you for asking.)

In the meantime, BE FEARLESS in the face of negativity.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Are you ready to read in 2015?

Okay people, 2014 is quickly spiraling into oblivion and before you know it, we will be popping champagne corks and pledging with our whole hearts to work out more, lose weight, not spend so much money, learn the finer points of comma usage, etc.

However, I prefer to set myself up for unbridled success, in addition to the list above, so I proudly proclaim that I am taking part in the 2015 Reading Challenge, in addition to the 2015 Debut Author Challenge.

Are you on Goodreads? Well, It's A Wonderful Death could use some love on listopia, including the YA Debuts 2015 list where it's currently sitting at #67. Don't forget to add it to your "To Read" list as well. What, you already have a long list. Oh please... what's one more?

Here's the checklist for the Reading Challenge. Add these to the 12+ debut novels I'll be reading to support my fellow Fearless Fifteeners plus the 60 or so books I'll be reading from March to September for the Young Hoosier Book Award Middle Grade nominees, let's just say this is going to be a book heavy year. Did I forget to mention It's A Wonderful Death comes out in October? So, basically, if you want face time with me, you'll have to be happy with my eyes peeking over the cover of a book (occasionally). (And please let some of these books count for more than one list!)

Happy Reading and make sure to hold your loved ones a little tighter this holiday season!

Happy reading and make sure to hold your loved ones a little tighter this holiday season!
gif,cute,holidays,Christmas,Peanuts, Charlie Brown

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Negativity Sucks

Someone once told me that writer’s block doesn’t exist. And, to a large extent, I agree. If you sit in the chair long enough, words are going to run through your head. They will. But what if the words running through your head aren’t yours? What if they are the words of every bitchy, jealous, hateful person who has tried to pull you down, disguised as your voice?

Blah Blah Blah

Like many writers, I battle against the forces of negativity every single day. Most days, I’m able to swat them away like they are nothing more than an annoying gnat on a summer day. But then there are the darker times. When what I want is to climb into bed, throw poptarts at my kids when they ask what’s for dinner, and ignore the voices that tell me I’m no good, or that I’m foolish for thinking I could ever write something good enough to publish. And certainly not lucky enough to have the publishing lightning strike twice.

Where does this come from? Because, if I’m being honest, I mean completely honest, I have practiced my interview for when I’m on the Ellen Show. I have imagined what it would be like to see my story up on the marquee at the local movie theater. I have dreams that, most the time, don’t seem unattainable. I’m not saying it’s a slam dunk, but every writer starts out new. We all make the rookie mistakes. The difference is who can push through the negativity and disappointment to achieve the highest level of literary success they possibly can.

So, what I’m saying is, I rarely lack for confidence. But there are moments. Moments when I question if my house being in shambles because I’m in the middle of major revisions or heading off to the local coffee shop to get a chapter or two done in one sitting while my husband stays home with the kids is really worth it.

Yeah, it is totally worth it, but that doesn't mean it's easy. I don’t know if people who aren't in the industry understand how hard it is to be a writer, much less deal with the demands of being published. I’m not saying it’s the toughest job out there, not by a long shot, but being creative, taking your work with you every single place you go and wondering if you have done everything you can to make your book a success can sometimes wear a person out. 

Okay, back to the negative thoughts. I’m struggling right now with the overwhelming negativity of my inner critic. I worry about the sophomore slump before my first book has even been magically transformed into an ARC. And based on conversations I've had with other writers, I’m not alone. So what do we do? What do we tell our crit partners when they've gotten bad news? How do we let them know it will get better and that yes, it’s okay to let your kids play an extra hour of video games so you can finish a really tricky scene? How do we lift each other up until they can get back to climbing the mountain of literary success on their own?

I think one thing we can do is give ourselves permission to relish in the little victories and let the big ones be singular events that don’t have to have an impact on future ones. What I mean by this is this: say your debut book doesn't fly off the shelf during your first week like you think it should. Does this mean you are bound to be a one-hit wonder what if? Hell no. It means you got a book published. That’s what it means. There is no reading in to it. Not making the best sellers list your first time out doesn't determine if you are a good writer. In fact, not getting a book published ever doesn't determine if you are a good writer. Remember those smaller milestones... like writing the first page... totally banana split worthy!

ice cream animated GIF

So BE FEARLESS when you face negativity. Just because someone gives you a bad review doesn’t mean you are any less of a writer or a human being. It just means they didn’t like your book. And that’s okay. Focus on being the hero to that kid who ponied up the courage to write you and tell you how much they loved your book. Or you vlog or whatever they loved. And tell the negativity to take a number. You can always go back to it. If you want to.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

#MWW14 starts tomorrow!!!

I’m kind of predictable about a few things. Like, given the choice of pen color, I will pick red every single time and at midnight of the day I’m supposed to leave for a conference, I will be doing laundry.

Today is one of those nights. Because in about ten hours, I head off for THE Midwest Writer’s Workshop. I have been to this conference for the last four years, and my “fifth year senior” trip is looking to be the best yet.

Why? I’m so glad you asked! This conference is like none I have ever been to, and I am a bit of a conference tramp. I’ve been to big conferences and little ones. Ones that take place in enormous hotel empires and ones that are held in a state park lodge. And they all have their outstanding qualities. But there is something about MWW that keeps me coming back. And, since you asked, I’m going to share a few of them with you.

1. Jama (and the Committee): It doesn’t take long to for even the newest newbie to realize that the heart of MWW is Jama. Don’t get me wrong, the Committee works their tails off and they deserve every ounce of credit they get, but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone more dedicated to fostering writers than Jama Bigger. Don’t believe me? Dude, she has her own fan club! Check this out:

2. The faculty: OMG. Not only does MWW deliver first rate faculty, but the conference is set up in such a way that it is so easy to actually TALK TO THEM. And you should talk to them. Because someday, they may be reading your book to blurb for you. Or at the very least, giving you a shout out to their legions of fans when you land that agent you’ve been hunting for. Plus, they seriously know what they are doing! I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure award winning authors don’t pick Muncie, Indiana as a vacation destination. Let’s face it. There really is only corn in Muncie in July. (Watch out for wrong turns or you might find yourself in a field of it!) But these authors and professionals show up, ready to hand out knowledge to anyone who will take it. TAKE IT!

3. Agents: As we all know, a lot of agents make their living in New York City. It is the publishing mecca of the US, if not the world. But this little conference in the middle of a cornfield has gotten such a well-deserved reputation in the Big Apple that agents actually beg to come back, on their own dime. In my humble opinion, I think that’s because when they get to MWW, they find an intense group of writers who are serious about their craft and intent on being the best writer they can be. And, let’s be honest… there’s something to be said about watching a New Yorker indulge in their first taste of fried pickles.

4 & 5. This last one is so important that it warrants two spots on this list. (And my laundry is ready so I need to finish packing.) But the biggest reason why this conference rocks is the people who come to it. Five years ago, I attended MWW by myself. I didn’t know a single soul. I had no idea what I was doing (although I did know better than to pitch an agent in the bathroom) and honestly, I was nervous. When you meet me, and if you are coming to MWW, PLEASE come up and say hi, you probably won’t guess this, but I am a seriously shy person until I know you. Then, good luck getting me to shut up, so I’m getting ready for the opening session and out of the corner of my eye I see a flash of red. Thank God, another Ginger. I sit down and something amazing happens. We start talking and it was serious insta-friend. Before the end of that weekend, that duo would merge with another group of writers and before I left, I had found my tribe. My tribe who hails from 3 different states and meets twice a year to recharge our writing batteries. We have endured heart breaking losses, unbelievable professional setbacks and wonderful highs. All because we met at MWW.

To sum it up, say hey to Jama, listen to the faculty, remember agents are people, too and don’t BE FEARLESS when you approach a stranger. By the end of the weekend, they may become your people.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Nerd Blog Tour: Essence by Lisa Ann O'Kane

The Review

(Summary provided by GoodReads.)
Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she's fallen into another.

Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.

Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic -- and he can prove it.

Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall.

I loved this book from the moment I saw the cover. There was something about the outstretched tightrope reaching into the unknown that I really connected with. And once I began to read, I couldn't put this book down.

Not only is Autumn and realistically flawed character, still reeling from the death of her little brother, but Ryder is a perfect blend of a boy trying to be the man his father wants him to be all the while wanting to be the person he is.

Without being judgmental or preachy, ESSENCE explores the psychological impact of cult life and leaves the reader crossing their fingers that Autumn can discover, for herself, the difference between right and wrong.

For anyone who has ever wanted to break loose and live life on the wild side, this book serves up a great helping of action scenes that will satisfy the literary adrenaline junkie every time.

Overall, ESSENCE is a fun read that leaves the reader both satisfied and begging for more once the book is over.

The Interview

First off, I absolutely loved Essence and especially Autumn! And I am thrilled to be able to interview you on my first Book Nerd Blog Tour! I have a few questions to go along with my tour stop, so here we go. (Awe, thanks so much, Sarah! I really appreciate it, and I’m so glad to hear you liked Autumn! I tried my best to make her flawed and believable, so it’s wonderful to hear you ‘got’ her!)

Sarah: Essence is such a unique book in terms of genre, it's such a perfect blend of a utopian, which we don't see often right now, and a cult story with a pre-dystoian flare. Where did you inspiration for this type of novel come from?

Lisa: Thank you so much! I have always been fascinated by the psychology of cults, particularly by idea that people who are raised in these cultures generally grow up very susceptible to manipulation and control. How tragic—yet logical—for someone to finally stand up for themselves and leave their cult only to accidentally fall into another cult.

I liked this idea of extremes very much. I also liked the idea that Autumn would grow to accept her new Community beliefs just as whole-heartedly as she originally accepted her Centrist beliefs. Although this flip-flop seems strange from an outsider perspective, it makes perfect sense in the context of Autumn’s upbringing. She has never been given the opportunity to think for herself, and this is the core of her struggles in Essence.

Sarah: Autumn is such a passionate character, throwing everything she has behind her convictions, including her love for Ryder. How do you think this helps and challenges her during the story?

Lisa: ‘Passionate’ is a perfect word to describe Autumn. What she lacks in street smarts, she makes up for in determination and loyalty. This is one of her greatest strengths, and it is also one of her biggest weaknesses.

Autumn is very a na├»ve person, so she typically believes everyone around her is looking out for her best interests. She doesn’t think to question other people’s motives, and this ends up being one of her greatest challenges in Essence.

Sarah: Natural disasters are an interesting way to inflict instant problems for characters, but in ESSENCE, the story begins after the country has mostly recovered from the events. What made you pick Yosemite as your setting?

Lisa: I definitely didn’t envision Essence as a post-apocalyptic novel, but I did want the country to be slightly different than it is now, so I figured an earthquake was a great way to shake up California’s social climate. (Haha, wow. That was a pretty terrible pun.)

I also remember the public outcry that ensued in the aftermath of the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. Some groups actually believed the earthquake was a manifestation of God’s anger, and they said San Francisco was targeted because it was a haven for perversity. I wondered what would happen if a group of San Franciscans actually took this message to heart, and the foundation for my story was born.

I chose Yosemite National Park as the hub for my Community counter-cult because I spent the summer of 2004 living in a tent and working for the park’s concessionaire. I have never been more inspired by a setting in my entire life, and it has been begging for a story ever since.

Sarah: How much of your background played into the creation of ESSENCE?

Lisa: Although Autumn and I are very different, we both share a fierce sense of loyalty and a strong desire to please other people. This fidelity sometimes trumps logic—and it often isn’t earned or deserved. I certainly poured this quality into her character, and her vulnerability is all me, too.

As far as the Yosemite setting, I lifted many destinations and occasions (shooting stars, swimming holes, moonbows, secret waterfalls, etc.) from the time I spent living and working in the park. However, the circumstances of the actual events were obviously far different than those portrayed in Essence.

Sarah: As a soon to be debut author, I'm always curious about what the biggest differences of a pre-pub writer’s expectation and the reality of actually being published. What surprised you the most?

Lisa: Congratulations on your debut! How exciting!

As far as my experience goes, I think I have been most surprised by how little has actually changed. I have enjoyed the validation that I haven’t just been wasting my time with my ‘little hobby’ all these years, but beyond that, it’s pretty much business as usual in these parts.

One exception is the introduction of strangers who actually care about what I have written. I’m so used to shrugging off my accomplishments that it’s strange to read a review or speak to a reader who actually ‘gets’ what I’m trying to say and is touched by it. That feeling makes all the struggles worthwhile.

Sarah: For all those writers out there who long to be where you are, can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? You know, how you met your agent, found your publisher, etc.

Lisa: Oh my gosh, my path to publication has been anything but an easy road. I am living proof that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I am also living proof that you should never, ever, give up on your dreams.

I was so affected by my publishing journey that I recently wrote a nine-part blog series called “The Path to Publication.” If you would like to check it out, here’s the link: (This link will go live on 6/9.)

Sarah: Finally, I have my Fast Five!

If you were stranded in a remote part of, let's say a National Park, what one of each of the following would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

Book: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. It’s so insane it just may keep me sane. 
Musical Instrument to learn to play: Bongo drums! I could totally see myself as a naked, hippie drummer (a la Matthew McConaughey).
Craft or Hobby supplies: Journal. Girl’s gotta write!
Comfort Item: I have this fantastic dragonfly quilt a good friend of mine made for me. I would probably wear it as clothes and sleep in it like a tent.
Food that happened to magically arrive when you want it the most: Macaroni and cheese. Every. Single. Time.

Well, that wraps up the interview portion! Lisa, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and I wish you the best of luck with Essence and every book after this! You are a fantastic writer!

Alright, my lovelies, now it's your turn to show Lisa how amazing you think Essence is: Click either of these links to be directed to Amazon or Barnes and Noble to order ESSENCE!


Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Debut Author's Worst Nightmare

Imagine a world where everything around you shimmers with excitement. Where you have lined up speaking engagements that both exhilarate and terrify you at the same time. You have perfected the way to mention you have a book coming out in a few months with the perfect blend of humility and confidence. The theme song of your book trailer is the backdrop of your life and you just received 1000 pens two days ago, proudly advertising your work. Humming the tune to “Everything is Awesome”, you hop in your truck and head to work where you get to make a movie with a bunch of amazing teens. Life really couldn’t be much better.

And then your cell phone rings and it’s your agent. In the middle of the day. You answer it, confused, but not concerned. Not until you agent tells you to sit down. You are sitting down, but you’re also driving an F250, so, in your confused state you ask, “Well, do you think I need to pull over?” To which she simply says yes.

Your mind whirls with what could possibly have happened. Have you been downgraded to e-book only for your release? Has your release date been bumped? You turn on your hazard lights. You’re ready for whatever’s going to happen next.

Your agent’s voice rings through the cab of your truck. “Strange Chemistry is closing their doors effective immediately.”

You were not ready for that. Your response is completely rational. “You’re kidding, right? That’s not funny.” You double check to make sure it isn’t April 1st because that’s the only thing that makes this conversation even remotely plausible.

The images fade and you sit up in bed. It was a dream. Right up there with who shot J.R. and every book that’s ever started or ended with a dream. Everything is still awesome.

Except it isn’t awesome and it isn’t a dream. It’s real. You and a lot of crazy talented authors are the proud creators of orphaned books. You have woken up to the writer’s worst nightmare. Add the distinction that this is your DEBUT and what you really want to do is go back to sleep and hope the next dream involves unicorns and glitter cannons.

But avoiding the situation won’t make it go away. Neither will the wine, though that does help a little.

I want to be clear. I don’t have any ill-will toward the people I’ve worked with at Strange Chemistry. Amanda Rutter has an eye for talent and is an amazing editor. I hope another publishing house knows what a gem she is and scoops her up. Caroline Lambe has been such a pleasure to work with, answering my endless stream of questions. And my IU Alum connection, Mike Underwood has taught me a lot about the sales side of the business. I don’t regret working with them at all!

But, I would be lying if I said I was okay with this. I’m not. I’ve done the denial thing. You know, when you hope a knight in gleaming armor is going to rescue your publisher, or at least recognize that your book is actually literary genius in its purest form and make you an offer you just can’t resist. Remember, this is denial, after all. I’ve tried to do the angry thing, but I’m not sure who to be angry with. There’s no clear direction in which to aim my furry. This is, unfortunately, part of the book business. Lots of factors went into this. (Can you see that I’m currently in the rationalizing stage… trying to make sense of something that just doesn’t.)

I still have some more emotions to go through. I’m trying to avoid the depression by staying focused on what’s next.

It’s A Wonderful Death is not the same book it was when SC gave it a home. It’s better.

So what’s next? Since the rights revert back to me, my agent, Liza Fleissig, who has been amazing through all of this, will send the new and improved manuscript out on submission, with the blurbs and trailer and pre-sales information, and we will find a home. It may take a little while, but we will see the inside of a bookstore.

In the meantime, I hope you will all join me in buying Strange Chemistry titles and show my fellow pub orphans just how much you love them!

Remember, when life slams a door in your face, BE FEARLESS and kick in a window. Because there's something wonderful about nightmares: you will eventually wake up and things will be okay.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cover Reveal for CATCH ME WHEN I FALL by Vicki Leigh

I am so excited to take part in today's cover reveal. I've known Vicki Leigh for about a year now and we have been walking this publishing path together almost the entire time! She's an amazing woman and a crazy talented writer, so without further ado, let's get to it! There's lots of awesome stuff going on, including a giveaway! But first, here’s a special message from Vicki:


And here’s what CATCH ME WHEN I FALL is all about:

Recruited at his death to be a Protector of the Night, seventeen-year-old Daniel Graham has spent two-hundred years fighting Nightmares and guarding humans from the clawed, red-eyed creatures that feed off people’s fears. Each night, he risks his eternal life, having given up his chance at an afterlife when he chose to become a Protector. That doesn’t stop a burnt-out Daniel from risking daring maneuvers during each battle. He’s become one of the best, but he wants nothing more than to stop.

Then he’s given an assignment to watch over sixteen-year-old Kayla Bartlett, a clinically depressed patient in a psychiatric ward. Nightmares love a human with a tortured past. Yet, when they take a deep interest in her, appearing in unprecedented numbers, the job becomes more dangerous than any Daniel’s ever experienced. He fights ruthlessly to keep the Nightmares from overwhelming his team and Kayla. Soon, Daniel finds himself watching over Kayla during the day, drawn to why she’s different, and what it is about her that attracts the Nightmares. And him.

A vicious attack on Kayla forces Daniel to break the first Law and reveal his identity. Driven by his growing feelings for her, he whisks her away to Rome where others like him can keep her safe. Under their roof, the Protectors discover what Kayla is and why someone who can manipulate Nightmares has her in his sights. But before they can make a move, the Protectors are betrayed and Kayla is kidnapped. Daniel will stop at nothing to save her. Even if it means giving up his immortality.

CATCH ME WHEN I FALL will be available on October 23, 2014 in both paperback and e-book formats from Curiosity Quills Press. For more information, visit the book’s Goodreads page.

Now, there can’t be a cover reveal without a giveaway, right? Lots of authors stopped by and donated some fantastic books to help Vicki celebrate. You don’t want to miss out on these! Here’s what you can win:

 • An e-copy of HEIRS OF WAR by Mara Valderran
• Two query+first chapter critiques from YA author Emily Stanford
• Two full manuscript critiques from YA author Emily Stanford
• An e-copy of WITHOUT BLOODSHED by Matthew Graybosch
• A paperback of DESTRUCTION by Sharon Bayliss
• An e-copy of KIYA: HOPE OF THE PHARAOH by Katie Teller
• One query+first chapter critique from YA author Katie Teller
• An e-copy of DARKNESS WATCHING by Emma Adams
• A copy of DESCENDANT by Nichole Giles
• Two signed copies of DIVIDE by Jessa Russo
• An e-copy set of EVER and EVADE by Jessa Russo
• A copy of UNHINGED by A.G. Howard

Enter the giveaway below for your chance to win! All prizes will be accompanied by a Dreamcatcher swag package from Vicki Leigh. Thanks for stopping by!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway