Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner

The Summer of Letting GoThe Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Francesca “Beans” Schnell’s world has been falling apart ever since her little brother drowned. Her father seems to be hiding something, her mother can’t look her in the eye, her best friend is dating the boy of her dreams and worst of all, she hates herself as she feels she’s to blame for her brother’s death.

While trailing her father trying to get to the bottom of his odd behavior, Francesca happens to meet Frankie Sky, a boy who bears an eerie resemblance to her dead brother. But it’s more than that, there are also inexplicable coincidences that lead Beans to believe her brother’s soul might be living in Frankie Sky.

Gae Polisner’s prose is like poetry. It reads as if every word of every sentence is handpicked with precision creating a perfect flow like ocean waves. This book was so evocative, I smiled, I cheered, I cried. Francesca’s story is haunting, yet hopeful and every time a new twist of fate occurred, my heart stopped, waiting to see what it might mean. I loved learning about Saint Florian, Christmas Island crabs, and sand dollars. I loved seeing how throughout the book Francesca grew stronger and further away from that place in her past, and closer to letting go.

I fell in love with the characters in this book. So many readers will be able to relate to those characters with that air of sadness about them — when you feel so heavy inside, like you’re drowning, but have to continue to move and stay afloat on the outside — the Schnell’s, Mrs. Schyler, Mrs. Merrill. Lisette is a perfect best friend, and lovely, and I love that she doesn’t act like she’s beautiful even though she clearly is. I adore Bradley's, quirkiness and even Peter’s peculiarity.

Then there is Frankie Sky. Gae has written him so well…I picture him in my head perfectly. His voice is adorable and I’m sure will stick with me for a long time. I wonder if Gae spent a lot of time around 4 year olds while writing this because it seems so spot on. And I love his spirit, the spirit of a young boy, full of energy and adventure who believes himself invincible.

I read Gae’s first book, The Pull of Gravity, and her writing is even better than before (and it was beautiful before) — This storey even more beautiful and heartfelt. If this is what we should expect from Ms. Polisner in the future, I'm in.

This book will resonate with me for weeks, I can tell. It will make me take a closer look at the world, at chance occurrences, coincidences and karma. I try not to live in the past and to live life profoundly and passionately like Frankie Sky, but sometimes I still need reminders, as I’m sure we all do, and this book as given me one.

Do yourself a favor and buy this book. You won’t regret it.

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 27, 2014


This hashtag is trending on Twitter today.  I like to scroll through and read what people write under the trending hashtags, sometimes I like to participate. As I read through #HighSchoolTaughtMe, I grew very sad about our youth's perspective on high school, and their lives in general.

Little do they know that when they respond to these hashtags, they are giving us a  glimpse into their view of the world. And though it's only 140 characters, it says a lot.

This is what some of them said about #HighSchoolTaughtMe:

  • that many teachers do more of the parenting than some actual parents do.
  • to cheat in exams.
  • that even the ones you look out for the most could turn their back on you.
  • it's okay if you're unhappy and completely miserable, so long as you have good grades.
  • that people will like you only if you're hot & popular.
  • some people are only going to be nice when they need you.
  • that most teachers don't care, they're just there to get paid.
  • that if you dont have stunning looks or you're not good in a sport than you're a nobody.
  • that I don't have a right to my opinion.
  • that sophomores post nudes.
  • how to hate people.
This is sad, yes? It seems to me that as adults we've gone wrong somewhere to make our children feel this way.  Behave this way. Perceive their world in this way.

Don't get me wrong, They weren't all negative, there were a few positives, like these:
  • that we should be happy,we need to be happy, we deserve to be happy .
  • that no one's opinion but your own is important in the end.
  • to be responsible and free at the same time. How to have fun yet how to not fail my parents.
Um, yeah, the positives were hard to find.

I can't say I blame these kids. In many ways, our public education system is struggling.

Teenagers deal with crap at school every day - drama, peer pressure, violence, bullying. Top that off with those that have the added pressures of sports, music or other activities, then homework on top of that. It can be stressful. Think how you felt at that age, how all your problems seemed like the end of the world. I know from personal experience that the school systems don't know how to handle some of today's teen problems.

In some ways, schools feel like prisons, with on sight cops, drug testing, drug sniffing dogs,  students wearing badges or picture IDs, random sweeps for drug paraphernalia, security cams. I'm not saying these are bad ideas. I'm sure in some areas security like this is necessary and I'd much rather have my kids be safe than me be sorry. But I can understand how a child could feel like an inmate in a school that takes those times of security measures.

Then we have the state of the facilities themselves. 44% of public school principals reported that problems with the school buildings themselves interfered with student's education. Heating and air condition, which I can attest to. I remember when I used to volunteer in the elementary school, the rooms were either freezing or like a sauna, no happy medium.  Size and configuration of the rooms also appeared to be a problem. And then there are the portables. These seem to be a major problem, from noise control to air quality to their overall physical condition, these seem to be a major interference in the education process.

I'm not going to blame the teachers here. I believe teaching is one of the most unappreciated professions on the face of the planet. Yes, there are bad ones. Yes, some don't know their subjects. I read that less than 15% of Math, English and Science teachers have neither majored in nor received a certification in those subjects. However, more than half have a master's degree or higher.  Not bad. Pupil teacher ratios are also good. Luckily we have more teachers in the country, so we have about 16 students per teacher. YAY!

Getting back to these unhappy children...especially the one who stated teachers act more like parents than parents...sigh...there are the kids that deal with shit at home. I know kids with parents who are addicts, who live with other family members. Kids from broken homes, which as mainstream as it is these days, still affects them profoundly. You don't know what else goes on behind closed doors, they could be dealing with abuse, whether it be verbal, emotional or worse.

We need to protect all these kids -  these kids who have it bad at home, these kids who have it bad at school, who hate the learning process for one reason or another. We have to let them know that it's not that bad. 

There are over 3 million high school dropouts annually. That number has gone down in the last few years, but still, 3 MILLION!?! 

 These kids won't go to college. Many will be teenage moms. Half the people on Welfare are dropouts. These are also our future criminals! 75% of crimes are committed by high school dropouts.

This is our responsibility as a society isn't it? To make sure these kids graduate? The signs are all there. These are the kids who skip school, who  do poorly in class, who get in trouble, who have obvious trouble at home.

What can we do? According to the Parents Association we can do this:
  • Arrange for help making up missed work, tutoring, placement in a special
    program or another school.
  • Help with personal problems and/or arrange for professional help.
  • Help them schedule work and family obligations so there is also time for school.
  • Help them understand the choices they make - marriage, parenting, failing, behavior, suspension, expulsion - and how those things can disrupt their ability to finish school.
  • If a student becomes pregnant, help them find school and social programs to help meet their needs.
  • If all else fails, help them find a GED program and encourage them to stick with it until they finish.
But here's where I started.

Never live in fear of failure, true friends are the ones that are there when things suck, and nothing lasts forever.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Just how difficult is it to write a book?

This was posed to me last night, and a totally legit question. I know that many non writers often wonder, because maybe  they'd like to try their hand at it because they have an idea that's been nagging at their brain for some time. If they have that much, that's good because of course a book has to start with an idea.

An idea can come from anywhere. They have come to me from big events in my life and fleeting moments, newspaper articles and simple phrases. Sometimes the ideas are big and sometimes all I have is an opening line, a character or a title and I have to work from there.

Once you have your idea, you can either outline it or just start writing. I tend to do the latter. I just write until I can't write anymore. I"m called a "panster" because I write by the seat of my pants. This is the first draft of my novel.

By this point, many people who start writing a book have already given up. You have to be determined, motivated, and diligent to stick with writing a book from beginning to end. It's not easy. Things will get in your way -- job, kids, time, life in general. If you really want it, and really think you have a story to tell, stick with it.

In the second draft I deal with the sticky parts. Usually the sticky parts for me are the details, developing characters and places, figuring out the storyline in what us writers call the "murky middle" and well, *cough* the plot. I have to make sure I actually have one. I've had to at this point add characters into the book, cut thousands of words and add 10s of thousands of words.

Then there are usually a couple more drafts.

For me, editing comes next. I have a couple friends who I think are great editors. their work (editors can be wrong too you know, plus, they're all proper and shit and sometimes you don't want to be proper and shit).

Much better than me (though I see they don't know their lay, lie, lying, laying either). So I have them go through the manuscript and find my mistakes.  I am doing all my corrections hard copy now. I've proven to myself that if I just have them track changes on Word, I get lazy and don't really check them. Having them correct on a hard copy actually makes me read the entire manuscript again and even check

Next step is to get Beta Readers. These are a group of people to read your manuscript and give feedback. I like to choose a variety of people. My editor friends give me feedback as well, so they kind of count. I gather up a couple writer friends who can usually give me an idea about the plot, storyline and character development. Then I grab a couple people who are strictly readers who give me a blanket idea of how the book worked. Did they like the story? The characters? Were there any problems? If so, what were they? Were there any questions left unanswered?

I do another rewrite based on the information I've gathered from my Betas. Now, keep in mind, your Betas are giving you opinion and you may not agree. Change what you feel needs changing and toss the rest away. However, if they're all saying the same thing, you should probably listen. When I had Betas read my last book, Dissected, none of them liked my protagonist. So in my rewrite I had to make her more sympathetic and likeable.

After the rewrite I'll give it back to at least one editor for copy editing again. With all those new words in there, there are bound to be grammatical and punctuation errors.

I may give it a couple more reads for good measure, just to make sure it's as publishable as can be. The voila! You have a book with which you can either start querying agents or indie publish.

This is just the basics. You should also brush up on writing tips, like don't use too many adverbs, exclamation points or ellipses...crap like that. There are a ton of great books on writing out there and of course, the almighty Google.

What is your process? Do you have any questions or comments? Feel free to leave them. I try to respond to every one.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Setting deadlines and other authorly stuff

I've decided if I'm ever going to complete this book, A Tattered Life (still not sold on the title), I have to set a deadline for myself. A couple weeks ago I realized I had not finished writing a book for two years when I completed Dissected. I've started many projects, none of which have come to fruition.

I have approximately 26k in on this novel. I'm figuring most of my young adult books hit at about 50k, so I'm about half way there. I've set myself a deadline of June 30th. That gives me 3 months, which I think is realistic.

However, I'm also redesigning my website, which I want to launch soon, and that is taking up part of my time. I'm about half way done with that as well. I have a goal of launching it on my birthday, which is April 11th. For now, that is the plan. It may not happen that fast, so I'm not making huge announcements about it. It will be a completely different design and brand than I've been using. It's time for Megan to grow up.

Last thing, I was interviewed by Ethan Pariseau for his podcast, Xposing Me. He talks to people about experiences they feel have changed their lives. Give it a listen at here

Monday, March 24, 2014

The publishing path is kind of like the road to Terminus

Yeah, so you're a writer working your way to this great unknown, but you know it's supposed to be wonderful. Terminus! *cough* I mean, publication. Yeah, and you're among others trying to reach the same goal. Some of them falter along the way. They get eaten up by metaphorical zombies in the form of self doubt, rejection, time and lack of motivation.

Zombies are the devourers of motivation.

The path is long and hard. Sometimes you have to kill Zombies on the way. It's not easy.

Sometimes you have to kill metaphorical "bad people"  that get in your way like plot holes, bad story lines, and flat characters.

Then what happens when you get to Terminus *cough* I mean publication? You really have no idea what you're getting yourself into. You feel relief, yet, something is still amiss. Yes, your publisher is really just a cannibal who will eat your soul.

I'm kidding. It's not that bad. Now there are people out there willing to prey on those who have given up on traditional publishing. They are the cannibals. Do your research before going indie. It doesn't cost all that much to self publish these days.

So, I reserve cannibal for the real predators out there, but the publishing industry can be a brutal reality, not unlike living in the zombie apocalypse, but you can do things to make the best of it.

These are things I've learned.
  • Most publishers do NO marketing for you after sending the book out to media unless you are already a name or you've written a series and they can see dollar signs in their future. I was very proactive in my own marketing, so mine did a wee bit more, but not very much.
    •  Be proactive and give them ideas, they may jump on board. If they don't, do research as to how to best get your book into people's hands without breaking the bank. Information is out there, you just have to find it.
  • Some editors are not very communicative.
    • If you are waiting for answers on your contracted book, bug them. If you are waiting for answers on an uncontracted book, give them their alloted time (if it's an option) check in and see what they thought. If they don't respond, move on. You don't have time to waste, because...
  • The process is painstakingly slow. Once you sign your contract, expect your book to come out 18 months to 2 years later.
    • There is nothing you can do about this. You must learn patience. If you have to stay all night in the trunk of a car while a herd of zombies passes by, you do it, no questions asked.
  • Don't think that having a great working relationship with your editor means you will work with them again. Sad, but true.
    • You love your editor, I know, but sometimes their house gets absorbed, sometimes they don't want your second book, sometimes shit happens and you don't get to work with them again. Keep their contact information though. I think it's perfectly acceptable (at least I hope so and if not someone should correct me) to contact and ask them if they'd like to see some future work.
  • It's okay to fire your agent. 
    • Sometimes these relationships aren't symbiotic. I know authors on their 2nd or 3rd agent. Find someone you click with. I know it's hard not to jump on the first person who takes you and if you feel you need to go ahead. But if you feel like they aren't doing your work justice, talk to them. If that doesn't work, you are perfectly in your right to terminate the relationship.
  • Getting a first book published doesn't automatically mean getting a second book published.
    • Yeah, the second book is the hardest from what I hear. I was agentless and didn't want to wait 2 years for my next book, so I went rogue. That may not be the answer for everyone. Do what is right for you.

Good luck on your journey to Terminus, I mean publication. I hope your experience is a rewarding one, as I truly believe mine was, and not full of metaphorical zombies, bad people, and worse yet, cannibals.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Grasshopper JungleGrasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All the best books are about everything. You know what I mean?

Grasshopper Jungle is no exception. This book is about smoking cigarettes with your best friend, finding condoms and bibles in dresser drawers, grimacing lemur masks, plastic pink flamingos, shrinking balls, little blue kayaks, unstoppable corn, horny teenage boys, giant praying mantises and the end of the world.

And they all cross under our feet.

What this book is really about is connections. How the things we do and the decisions we make have an impact. How history tends to repeat itself no matter what. About how we keep doing the same sh*t over and over and why? Well, because we're human and that's what humans do because there are stupid among us. Because we don't look closely enough at those connections. We don't study the past to see where we went wrong and fix it. That's why.

Austin Szerba is your typical teenage boy. Sort of. He likes recording history, skateboarding and smoking cigarettes with his best friend Robby Brees. He's in love with his girlfriend Shann Collins. He's got both his parents, a brother fighting in Afghanistan, and a dog Ingrid, who lost her vocal cords when she was just a puppy. He's horny for Shann, but he also wonders if he might be gay for Robby and sh*t like that. He's not sure what to do about it.

Through a series of seemingly unconnected events, Unstoppable Soldiers, in the form of giant praying mantises, are unleashed on the unsuspecting town of Ealing, Iowa. All they want to do are eat and screw (not unlike teenage boys) and impregnate the female which will lead to the world being taken over by these Unstoppable Soldiers and the eventual end of the human race.

By digging through history, Austin connects the dots and finds that only he and Robby can stop the giant bugs and save the world. And nobody knows anything about it.

Grasshopper Jungle is weird, inappropriate, disgusting and one of the best books I've read in a long time. Its innovative, fresh and fun. Austin's voice is one of the most original I have read in YA, ever. Period.

Perfect book for boys, although, the appeal of this book is far reaching. Of course, I caution, not for those looking for a "clean" read. This book, like I said, talks about horny teens, masturbation, sex, etc. Typical teen stuff. If that's not your thing, stay away.

This is the truth. Andrew Smith has just become one of my favorite YA authors and I cannot wait to read more of his work.

Big thumbs up on this one. You know what I mean?

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fifteen authors, happily ever afters and the ugly truth.

I got tagged by my friend Ian Healy in one of those things that get sent around the Facebooksphere. You know what I'm talking about, right? Usually it's a list of some sort, then you tag people whose answers you'd like to see?

This time it was fifteen authors who have influenced me. You're not supposed to think about it very long, just write down the first people that pop into your head.  I sat down and thought and comprised the list below. It's kind of a mish mash of people...

As you see there are writers of fairy tales, tragedies, mysteries, contemporary and juvenile fiction. They range centuries from Shakespeare, born in the 16th century to very contemporary writers, some of which are still among us.

Even though they seem very different, I think there are some common threads, and that is the reason I believe they have been such a great influence on me.

These are writers who, no matter what world they write in, fantasy or reality, they understand that life isn't always pretty.  Even though you may get a message, a moral, or a ray of home in the end, there is not always a happily ever after. 

When you do get the happily ever after, sometimes the path leading there can be horrific and ugly and difficult and not easy to navigate. And sometimes they didn't all live happily ever after, but they simply lived and that was enough for them. 

I think that is why these writers came to mind. Because when I write I don't write what's easy. I write about the evil step-sisters, the Black Forests, the dark wizards of real life. In my books you don't always get to keep your fins, get the girl, get out of the cold, and sometimes just surviving is your "happily ever after."

Why? I don't know. I'm just drawn to it. Will I always right about that stuff? Who knows? I do know that every writer I mentioned above has a hand in making me the writer I am now. 

 Maybe in a not so distant future, when these lists are passed through Facebook, or whatever the social media de jour is at the time, my name will be on someone's as a writer of influence and I can give back what the authors above have given to me.

BTW, the first episode of my new video series is up. Here ya go.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Contests, Vlogs and Karma

Amazon is once again holding their Breakthrough Novel Award Contest (ABNA) and Girl in Motion (once An Unbalanced Line, once Cheesy) made it through the first round. I've not paid much attention on purpose. The first two years I did and it drove me nuts. I'll be getting a couple reviews from Amazon Vine reviewers, I think that determines the next round, and we'll go from there. I've not made it past this round since the first year I entered when my superhero novel made it to the top 100 (I believe that was the quarterfinal round).
apparently my novel,

I've decided to start another Vlog series. I know, I'm crazy, but it's time. I always enjoyed doing it and I had people that liked it, you I hope to have my first video up later today, so stay tuned to my Youtube chanel. I'll update that link once I get it up.

And I wanted to mention my friend Gae Polisner. Her novel, The Summer of Letting Go is hitting stores all over the country this week (of course Amazon can't seem to get mine here until after the 21st >:( ) But she's been posting guest blogs about karma and coincidence on her website all month. I didn't have time to get one to her, and mine would have been boring in comparison to others. You should read them. Pretty interesting stuff. Here's today post.

I was going to tell Gae how both times I was pregnant, each of my paternal grandparents died. I often wondered if one soul had to depart to make way for  another soul to be born. Maybe my grandparents volunteered out of love for their great grandchildren.

Did you enter the ABNA contest?

Do you have any Karma or coincidence stories you'd like to share?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Unlocking Creativity

So I read this article on the Huffington Post this morning, 19 Daily Habits of Artists That Can Help Unlock Your Creativity, and here's what I have to say.

1. Let go of your idea of "perfect." 
Um, yeah, done.

2. Allow yourself to have fun.
The problem with this and me is that I write stuff about the bad things that happen to people. I have fun when I'm done. Either that or drink.
3. Don't be afraid to silence your inner critic.
I know some writers who edit as they write and I can only imagine that can only stifle your creativity. I do not do that. I just write. That is what a first draft is for. It is supposed to be shit. You take the following drafts to make it better and publishable.
4. Realize that you can be your own worst enemy. Not the work.
Do not comprehend. No seriously. Duh. If my manuscript is a mess, and I have a couple that truly are, what, I'm going to blame the book? No, I blame me. And I am the only one who can fix it.
5. But not all self-inflicted boundaries are bad.
Oooh, I'm not good with parameters. Maybe I should try setting some deadlines for myself again. I just realized the other day I have not finished writing a book in over 2 years. I've started a LOT of them, finished, um, nope.
6. Find your mantra and keep it close.
Yeah, I seem to change my mantra about once every six months and I usually forget it in about a day. I guess I should write it down on a sticky note and attach it to my computer with all my other notes.
7. Establish your "me" time.

What is this "me" time you speak of?
8. And indulge in some vices to reset.
I thought vices were bad things. Believe me, I have vices and I indulge.
9. Humble yourself from time to time.
Yes, when I want to humble myself I just go read all my 1 star reviews. Really? Humble myself? I think as artists we are all masochistic my nature. Is that not humbling in itself?
10. When in doubt, ask for help.
I have no problem doing this. If you want to be a beta reader, find me on Facebook. I always just put out an SOS there and pick from the litter who offer.
11. And be prepared to find inspiration in mundane places.
I find inspiration in music, when I take walks, when I'm out to dinner, at the grocery store...I am always looking for a story, or quirky character, or even a glimmer of an idea no matter where I am.
12. To clear your mind, maybe you need to clear your work space.
Um, that will never happen. My workspace is a chaos magnet. I clean it, 2 seconds later it's messy.
13. Find another perspective, even if it's physical.
And if it's writing...? 
14. Let yourself be impulsive!
I love when I get a new idea, or a revelation on a novel I'm working on and I just have to get to a computer or notebook and write it down before it leaves me. Most awesome feeling in the world. ALWAYS have something to write on and with on you at all times.
15. Don't be afraid to see the adventure in a challenge.
I love a good challenge. I love when someone tells me I can't do something. It just makes me want to succeed even more.
16. Because failure is only one moment before success.
Failure just means you are taking risks and trying. How will you know you can do something if you don't try it first. I don't want to live with any more regrets in life. I did it far too long.
17. Don't be afraid to alter your process.
As writers, if we get stuck, it's so important to do something different. Write the middle, write the end, try a different POV, a different tense, take a walk, get inspired. Do something to break through the block.
18. Sometimes, there won't be a "finished product." And that's ok.
Um, yeah, the 15 unfinished manuscripts on my computer tell me that.
19. Because creation can come from destruction.
I've taken thousands of words out of a manuscript and built it back up from nearly nothing. I've pulled them apart, sliced them in half, torn them to shreds. You can always start over.

Don't forget, if you're in the Tacoma/Seattle area I'm going to be doing a wine tasting and book  signing on 6th ave. Click here for details.

Happy Pi Day, Happy Friday.

Song I'm digging this week: Arctic Monkeys, Do I Wanna Know
 Book I'm reading: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Show or Movie I"m watching: The Walking Dead
Quote I'm loving: 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I believe...

Eternal Clock by Robbert van der Steeg
  • I believe Tweeting isn't easy.
  • I believe my kids are allergic to the dishwasher, the garbage and dirty socks.
  • I believe I need more hours in my day.
  • I believe if we taught our children more things at home we wouldn't have so many people to blame.
  • I believe the internet has a great and unfathomable power that somehow makes me forget blocks of time during my day.
  • I believe in pleases and thank yous.
  • I believe I don't care if I'm called self published, indie published or rogue.
  • I believe sometimes the those who are supposed to care about children the most, treat them the worst.
  • I believe words can't hurt you if you don't let them.
  • I believe if I had a dinner party with 8 people real of fictional, alive or dead, I would choose Jesus Christ, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Degeneris, Marilyn Monroe, Sylvia Plath, Stephen King, Atticus Finch, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Or not. That's actually a really hard choice.
  • I believe I can't decide what my platform is.
  • I believe the flowers on my kitchen table are dead.
  • I believe I'm tired of hearing about the lives of celebrities. 
  • I believe George Zimmerman thinking he would get any fans at a gun show
    are hysterical.
  • I believe LOL Cats still crack me up.
  • I believe running is the work of the devil.
  • I believe my diatribe has ended.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Banning "Bossy"

Have you heard of this campaign? It was started by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook in an attempt to build girls self confidence. She believes that when boys assert themselves they are called "leaders" but when a girl does, she's called "bossy," which is in essence telling her to be quiet.

Can banning a word be the answer to improving the self confidence of girls across the nation? Sandberg isn't the only one who wants to ban bossy. The Girl Scouts, Beyonce, Jennifer Garner, Jane Lynch, and even First Lady Michelle Obama have all jumped on the ban bossy bandwagon.

What's in a word, though? Does being called "bossy" really have that kind of effect on girls? I'm not sure. If you ban the word bossy, won't girls who speak their minds just be called pushy, snotty or bitchy? And who's going to stop using a word just because you say so.

If girls are truly less interested in leading than boys, it's probably not because of a
word. It's not because we're telling them to keep quiet. It's because as a society, we're sending them the wrong messages. We get them more interested in superfluous things, the things that don't matter in life. They become "typical teenage girls."

The top toys for girls last year consisted of Barbies, Bratz and Disney Princesses. Dolls with perfectly sculpted bodies and faces, the princesses, most of them not being able to get through life without their Prince Charming coming to their rescue. iPad Air came in at #4.

We let them watch shows in which these are their role models:

Plus reality shows about teenage girls getting pregnant, teen dramas where kids are leading "glamorous" lives full of shopping, drugs and sex.

And do you know what music they listen to? If they listen to hip hop or rap they are constantly being told that women are bitches and hos. Nothing worthy of more than a lay and discarding.

 So are we deterring a girl from following her dream of becoming a CEO of a giant corporation or President of the United States by calling her bossy? I don't think so.

For some, I believe leadership is an innate quality. I think someone who possesses that will not let people quiet her. She will not allow the world to hold her back merely with a word. In fact, she may embrace it.

What about those who do not have that innate leadership quality though? How do we instill that sense of leadership within them? How do we help raise her confidence and self esteem so that if she wants to try, she's not afraid of failing?

On the Ban Bossy website, it states girls are called on less in class and interrupted more. How about we fix that? How about teaching all children to let name calling roll off of them instead of letting it bother them?  Or we teach them the difference between "bossy" and assertive? How about we try to stop the name calling? Or maybe parents, teachers and adults who come into contact with children on a regular basis instill self confidence in girls by letting them know that they are smart, and can achieve anything they want if they work at it. Encourage them to be leaders.

I don't fault Sandberg and those backing her campaign. I think what she's trying to do is noble. There are some helpful tips about raising girl's self confidence, but much of the focus is on banning "bossy."  I think there are better ways of empowering girls than trying to get a word banned.

Monday, March 10, 2014

To self publish or not, that is the question...

I was going to blog about how rude people are, but this came up on Facebook, so I changed my mind.

You all have seen me talk about my friend Gae for like the last 7 years, right? Well, she has a friend that just received her 1st rejection from an agent. I guess people immediately offered the suggestion of self publishing.

As you know, I'm all on board for indie publishing, but truly, I don't see it as a first option. Especially after ONE REJECTION?!?!? Really? Is that what the industry is coming to?  Do we really need gratification that quickly that we don't want to put the hard work in to at least TRY to get a publishing contract with a traditional house any more?

My first book was a middle grade superhero series. I received over 100 rejection letters on it. It is now a file in my computer. It will not be published in its current form. I am however rewriting it and turning it into something very different.

My second book happened to be Never Eighteen. I went through many rigorous rounds of editing and rewrites before sending it out. I received about 25 rejections before it got picked up.

Before I decided to indie publish Dissected I sent it to my former agent, who didn't want ti. I sent it to my editor at HMH. I then sent it out to 5 agents, all who rejected it. Without an agent, without a house, I knew I'd be looking at least two years down the road at a release date. With a traditionally published book under my belt, and fans asking me for the next one, I didn't want to wait that long.

I researched, talked to friends that had self published, and thought about it long and hard before deciding to go that way.

Was it worth it? I'm not sure. Probably? Maybe? Am I glad I did it? Yes. However, I've
not had much time to market the book as I've had many family and personal things come up. But, it does no damage to have the book sit there and wait until I do. And though the sales haven't been great as of yet because of that, there have still been sales pretty steadily.  I don't have to answer to anyone, I write what I want to write, I don't have to wait and I don't have to share royalties with everyone under the sun, making my chunk much bigger.

On the other hand, there's no advance, no books sent to reviewers and media, the editing process is way harder and if I do want reviews from legit sources for instance, Kirkus, etc, I have to pay out the nose for them.

I'd like to be traditionally published again. I'd like to self publish again. I like both ways. But I don't think it's wise to just jump on the self pub bandwagon without trying the traditional route first. It's very rewarding having someone choose you, your work to make their list and put on bookshelves. It's still hard work, don't get me wrong, but to be selected from all the candidates out there from a pool of so many is gratifying.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Review: Alliegiant **SPOILER ALERT**

Did I mention **SPOILER ALERT** Because in this review there is a **SPOILER ALERT**

 Allegiant (Divergent, #3)Allegiant by Veronica Roth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What can I say about Allegiant? My least favorite in the trilogy. It started out clunky. Not because of the writing. I think Veronica Roth is a very talented writer. I did not understand the sudden POV shift change from just Tris to Tris & Tobias and at first it was confusing. I was so used to it being only Tris that I would start reading a Tobias chapter thinking it was Tris and be like, O.o until I figured it out. I did get used to it though eventually.

The storyline was kind of a letdown. I wanted the Divergent to be something more than they were I guess. Not just normal people. But, I know this is dystopian and in these worlds things are more bad than good and that’s just the way it is otherwise it's utopian. Still. If this were a standalone book and not related to the Divergent series at all, I probably would have liked this storyline better if that makes sense.

Let’s talk about the characters. I liked most of the new characters, save Nita. I thought she was an idiot. I really liked Matthew. Great addition. The author should have let him hook up with someone. Tobias/Four, I’m sorry, I fell in love with him in the first two books, but he was a little whiny in this one. There is a fine line between broody and whiny and he crossed it.

Evelyn threw down arms a little too quickly for me there at the end. “Hey mom, could you go make peace?” “Anything for you son.” Bam! Done. Really? After living years as a Factionless and planning the rebellion, a hate and vengeance growing deep inside her for her husband, she’s just going to roll over that quickly? I don’t think so. Yes, it goes along with the plot, I understand, but, sigh, for me it didn’t work.

Now let’s discuss the “shocker.” I get it. I do. Shit happens. The world isn’t perfect. Selflessness. Courage. Sacrifice for those you love. Yeah. It didn’t have to be Tris. That really could have been Caleb’s great moment of redemption. Or she could have done all that and survived it. She died of GUNSHOT WOUNDS for God’s sake. Not even from the death serum. Killing main characters is like sacrilege or something, well, unless that’s what your book is all about and your readers know. UGH! Veronica, I feel betrayed!!!

Here’s what it comes down to for me: I loved books 1 & 2 in this series. Not a Hunger Games love, but a close second.


Veronica’s writing is beautiful and flowy (yes it is a word I just made it up) when she needs it to be. Clear and concise when she doesn’t.

Her characters are well drawn, interesting, and unique. It is easy for me to picture them in my head and I’m in love with Four. Well the Four from books 1 & 2, not so much this book.

It is the 3rd book in a series in which the first 2 books won me over.


As part of the series, I was disappointed in the plot. If this would have been a standalone and not related to the series, I think I would have enjoyed it much more.

The shift of POV from the first 2 books was problematic for me at first, until I got used to it. It took me a bit though.

The ending. ROAR! The peacemaking too easy. Tris’ death. No likey.

I vacillated between a 3 & 4, but ultimately, I think I can only give this a 3.

View all my reviews

Hey it's Friday, I get to do the Scribbles!

Pandora queue song: Brick by Brick by the Arctic Monkeys on the Arctic Monkey channel

Netflix/movie of the Week: Have I watched anything this week? I think not. Hmmm. Still working my way through Sons of Anarchy. Last movie I watched was The Heat and last show on real TV I watched was Walking Dead. Shows you how much I watch TV/movies

Book of the Week: Now that I'm done with Allegiant, I've started Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. I was lucky enough to get an ARC from Amazon.

Quote of the Week: I don't know how many times I've said this.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Creativity is the spice of life

My dear friend Jeff (he's a very talented writer and graphic designer, look at link on his Facebook the other day. 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently. I found it very interesting so thought I would share and comment as a somewhat creative person.
his work on his website) posted this

Did I hear someone laugh?


  1. Daydreaming - I suppose you could call what I do daydreaming, the never ceasing buzz of ideas in my head. Don't get me wrong, I do have those moments where the thoughts slow and I envision myself on tropical beaches of white sand with Josh Hutcherson (what? he's of legal age, right?) or what I'd do with unlimited amounts of money. Mostly, though, my brain produces a string of connected thoughts and ideas that never stops.
  2. They observe everything - If you're talking about taking in the flowers on the side of the road or the shapes of the clouds, yes. If you're talking about the spot my boyfriend missed shaving or the piece of lettuce stuck in my BFF's tooth, no.
  3.  They work the hours that work for them - If that means every waking hour, then yes.
  4. They take time for solitude - I love the quiet. I am up before my kids right now typing away. I will take off for the beach all by myself to get some writing done. I will hole up for a weekend and tell everyone I've died.
  5. They turn life's obstacles around - Has this person ever met a writer? Um, Hemingway? Plath? Okay, well, I do this, but after time has passed and I realize that sometimes you can't change things, you can only change your attitude towards them. Like recently, I've had a spot of trouble and I was getting mad and frustrated and I took a deep, cleansing breath and took on the mantra of resilience and strength.
  6. They seek out new experiences - I will try anything once, unless it has to do with
    heights, I have my limits. Did you see what I did there? Did ya...never mind. Anyway, I used to be a coward, but in the last three years I've tried to open my mind to trying, doing, feeling, going, moving, experiencing, living. I don't want any more regrets in life.
  7. They "fail" up - This is all about the "try." If you don't try, how will you know if you will succeed? You can't be afraid to fail in life. You cannot live in fear. Believe me, I've failed A LOT. Refer to #6. Open yourself up, make yourself vulnerable, if it doesn't work, get back up and do something else.
  8. They ask big questions - I don't always ask the questions, but I always have to have the answers. If I'm talking with someone, and something comes up we don't know the answer to, I'm the first to search Google for the answer. I'm the one with the trivial information in my head just waiting for the moment to be used. Questions? I think I'm more like a sponge just taking in all around me, absorbing, remembering what I can.
  9. They people watch - Yes. This. It's one of my favorite things to do.
     If you don't do it, you have no idea how entertaining it is and how much inspiration it evokes.
  10. They take risks - I suppose this is true in a certain way. I write about things people generally don't want to publish. Things that are hard to read. People still read them and like them. When the industry didn't want to take on that dark book, I published it myself. I suppose these are risks I'm willing to take for my art.
  11. They view the world as an opportunity for self expression - Much of what I write comes from my world, my experiences, so yeah, this.
  12. They follow their true passions - See #10.
  13. They get out of their own heads - I think we have to, or we would go insane. To
    keep all those voices in there, whether your a writer, artist, musician, whatever, something or someone is telling you what to write, paint, dance, play, to keep those all bottled up in your mind would make your head explode, and no one wants gray matter all over their living room carpet.
  14. They lose track of time - Uh, yeah. This is why I'm running out the door almost late for work (or kickboxing, doctor appointments or ___________fill in the blank) every day because I'm blogging or writing or working on my website. I get lost in my work.
  15. They surround themselves with beauty - My favorite color is black, but my home, though the base color is black, has splashes of color throughout. It's whimsical and quirky and I love it. Also, I only hang out with beautiful people. Kidding. During the spring I try to plant flowers around my house (I have what I like to call a "black" thumb). I have artwork throughout my home. So, yes.
  16. They connect the dots - This is about having vision, seeing something that wasn't there before. Sometimes people ask how you came up with your idea for a book and honestly, at times there isn't an answer. Sometimes it just comes to you.
  17. They constantly shake things up - I'm always shaking things up. Except babies. That's bad. I do not like monotony. In fact right now I'm shopping for new bedding. I'm not sure if that's what this means, but I am. I've also never held a job long, mostly my decision (except twice or three times out of about twenty). I like to move around, experience new things, get my toes wet. I want to paint walls and get new carpet and hop on a plane to anywhere.
  18. They make time for mindfulness - Meditation and focus. While I don't meditate, I do find a walk outside very clarifying and stress reducing. Whatever makes it happen, right?
So, what do you think about the list? Spot on? A little off? I think it's pretty accurate.  Are they missing something? Have a comment? Something else to share? Is this really different from anyone else? Let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to face adversity

I've faced a lot of adversity in my life, but in the last few months, I've seen quite misadventures are just beginning), I've learned a few things, and here they are.
a bit. I admit to getting frustrated and angry. I've cried, yelled and  complained. While sometimes an ugly cry is good, and it feels great to yell a little, there are better ways to get through the bad times. Looking back at these last few months, and forward to the next (I fear some of my

  • Prepare yourself: Get in the right mindset. If you're fighting against someone, do your homework. If you need to do research to back yourself, make it happen. Come guns blazing (not literally, figuratively, no violence please). If what you're facing isn't necessarily a battle then prepare yourself by still, having your mind right, taking care of the things that need care taking. I know sometimes it's hard to prepare for adversity, sometimes it happens unexpectedly, but if you can, do.
  • Be brave: When it hits, don't back down. Face it full force. Don't even think about it. If you think about it, it will bring you down.
  • Be resilient: If it hurts, whether emotionally, physically, mentally, take a deep cleansing breath and bounce back. Don't let it get you down for long, especially if you are battling with another party. If you do, you are letting them win. Take your punches and get back up.
  • Be strong: You may have to be strong for yourself. You may also have to be strong for those around you, whether it be a child, spouse, co-worker, friend or neighbor. Be a support. Be a brick wall. Be a stronghold.
  • Exercise: This is where I have failed. Do not under any circumstance let your sadness, frustration whatever, keep you from exercise. Exercise will only  make you feel better and more confident. It will give you a release. Use it.
  • Don't forget about you: Take care of yourself during these times, whether it's the loss of a loved one, a fight, a problem at work, anything...don't
    forget about you. Take a walk, a bath, get a massage, a pedicure, hit some golf balls, whatever makes you feel good and special. Do it.
  • Find your support system:  Just as you need to be strong and support others, you need a support system too. Find it. Find the friends you can talk to.  Family member. Counselor. We all need someone to lean on in hard times. Be careful though, sometimes those close to the same situation are not the best choice, even though they may seem like it. They are probably as stressed out as you about it. Make a judgment call depending on the situation.
Now, don't take this advice as gospel. I'm not saying these are surefire ways to beat adversity. And you still may not win the war, but whether you have a sick family member, or are warring with a neighbor or insurance company, I think these tips may help you get through the battles with a little more confidence.

Monday, March 3, 2014

AWP and moving forward

Had a great time at AWP this weekend. I wasn't there very long, just Friday to Saturday, but did much in that small amount of time.

Friday evening I met up with my fellow panel members Roberta Borger, Jolene Perry, Selene Castrovilla, and Katherine Ayres. What a group of wonderful, talented women. I felt small in comparison to their accomplishments. Roberta is an MFA student in Pennsylvania, and the one who put the panel together. I should also thank my friend Gae Polisner, who opted out of the panel and suggested me as her replacement.

After dinner, Selene and I spent some time together talking (we have quite a bit in common, we noted if we didn't live on opposite shores, we would probably be friends) then hit up the AWP Dance Party. We didn't dance, just watched as most the party goers were about 20 years younger than us.

The next morning I registered and hit the bookfair, checking out the books, reviews, and journals, then I noticed 3rd Place Books was there in the back. I went to check out their books and who was in their booth? Local author Lish McBride. We hadn't met in person, just by Twitter mostly, in fact when I ran into her, I hadn't looked at her name tag right away, and we were sitting there talking about writing and whatnot (she'd recognized my name from my AWP badge). When she told me her third books was coming out soon I asked her what she'd written and her books were sitting right there so she showed me. I wanted to do a palm-to-forehead so bad...DOH! I explained to her, via Twitter, the following day that it took me awhile to put 2x2 together because, well, I'm an idiot. Ugh.

Scurried on to my panel, which was a success. Good questions asked, time flew. Then I was bound for home.

Time to move so many ways. One of the problems I've been having, it culminates tomorrow. Another problem, I think it's coming to a head and I'm not sure how it's going to resolve. I'll have to wait and see. Either way, I'm ready to Creative Chaos Media. It's time to do a publicity blast on Dissected. finish the rebranding of my website, edit Girl in Motion and get it prepared to publish this fall (time is going so fast), and finish my latest novel, A Tattered Life.
do whatever I need to do to put it behind me. And it's really time to push my new business with the self publishing services. I've been working on the website again,

I realized I haven't finished a novel in over a year. I think Dissected was the last one I actually finished writing. I mean, I've edited novels, but I haven't written a new one in a really long time, so it's so important to complete A Tattered Life then move onto the next one.

Moving forward.

My Dad. He's awesome.

John Messina, Personal Injury Attorney

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