Friday Feeling

Friends.  I am still so sick.  I haven’t been this sick in years.  I’m so sick the doctor made me get a steroid shot.

On the bright side, my friend sent me these really cool pictures she took of Boy Band in Mexico.

Happy Friday, friends. I hope yours is healthier than mine.

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Speechless

Y’all, I am speechless.

No, seriously.  I can’t talk.  I have some kind of laryngitis or pharyngitis or if nothing else, a really nasty upper respiratory infection.  Whatever it is, it has left me with a croaky frog voice and a lot of mucus in the things that are supposed to help me breathe.  Like my lungs.

Thankfully, my typing skills have not been affected so much as my singing skills.

I hate being sick.  It’s the worst.  Especially because in the past two years, this is only the third time I’ve been really sick.  I used to get sick all the time.  Then I went to see an allergist about my constant respiratory problems and she got me on some pretty awesome allergy remedy and I have been ridiculously healthy ever since!  So when my throat first started hurting late Friday night, I was not particularly thrilled.

I am a naturally energetic person.  I like to get out and do things.  If I don’t get out, I like to spend my days inside being productive.  When I get sick, especially with something like this, my body doesn’t like to do anything except sit on the couch and drink lots of water.  I tried to defy my body yesterday.  I went out with a friend who I probably won’t see for another month due to her crazy work schedule and then I had a game night with a few other friends.  I knew I was probably pushing it, but I figured that if sitting around and resting all day Saturday hadn’t made me better, then hanging out with a few friends wouldn’t make me any worse.

Wrong.

Before I woke up this morning, I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t actually sick because my sore throat hadn’t progressed to anything worse.  Maybe it was just irritated.

Nope.  I’m definitely sick.  And I’d like to officially apologize to all my friends who accepted hugs from me yesterday.  I hope I didn’t breathe on you.

Being sick can seem like kind of a nice vacation.  I’ve been able to catch up on some reading.  The seventh book in one of my favorite series ever finally came out after years and years and YEARS.

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Meg Cabot is one of my absolute favorite authors of all time.  I want to be her when I grow up.  The Mediator series follows a girl, Suze Simon, who can see and communicate with the dead.  No wonder I love these books, right?  I like to think that if Suze ever met up with the characters from Cemetery Tours, they’d get along.  Or at least have a lot to commiserate about.

The other book I’m reading right now is An Ember In The Ashes.  It’s one that my sister has been recommending to me forever and so far, it’s excellent.  It’s very dark, however, so I’ve been reading it in increments.  What’s really neat, however, is that I got my copy online and when I opened it up, I discovered…

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It’s been signed by the author, Sabaa Tahir!  How cool is that?  I researched her signature and either someone is very good at copying it or this is a legitimate autograph.  I’m holding on to this one, folks.  It’s going to be pretty big.

Meanwhile, I’m still working on the next books in the Cemetery Tours and Boy Band series and trying to master the art of marketing.  Still not there just yet, but I feel like I’m beginning to make progress.

That being said, I think I’m going to go work a little now.  Love you all.  Don’t catch what I have.

More Than Writers

As independent authors, we are told we need to be more than writers.  We need to be competitive.  We need to be marketers.  We need to be businessmen.  We need to be campaigners.  We also need to be publishers and designers and formatters and social media experts and reviewers…  I’ve said it before and I will say it again.  When you’re an independent author – when you’re in business for yourself in general – there is no such thing as down time.  There is always something that you can be doing.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t take down time.  I probably take way too much of it.  But it’s true.

We take on the world just so we can do what we love.  We learn skills that we never would have ever thought necessary just so we can write.  When I first realized that I wanted to be an author, I had no idea that I had so much to learn.  I had no idea the work that went into creating a book and getting it out into the world.  I just thought, “Oh yeah, this will be a breeze.  I’ll write it out and get it published.  Easy!”

No.  Not easy.  Not even remotely close to easy.  But worth it.  Oh, so worth it.

As proud I am of everything I’ve learned, however, I still find my greatest joy in writing, in making up stories, in getting to know the characters, in experiencing their worlds with them.  I currently have to works in progress: Worldwide, the third book in the Boy Band series and Lost Souls, the fourth book in the Cemetery Tours series, and I am loving every moment.  It’s fun writing the first book in a series, but I think I enjoy writing the sequels even more.  The characters feel like old friends.  We’ve been through so much together, we’ve grown together, and I love discovering where their stories take them.  It’s not always something you can plan.

That being said, I’m so excited to work on new projects as well.  I’ve been asked how I come up with ideas for books.  The honest to God answer is… I have no clue.  I never know who or what will inspire a story.  It’s not something you really have control over.  It just happens.  As for me… I currently have about 20 books in my head waiting to be written.  I’m not sure all of them will be written, though I am certain that more will present themselves in the time it takes to write them.

Until then, I’m writing as fast as I can to get these next two books out.  I think they’re going to be worth the wait!

50 Better Ways to Spend $1 Billion Than Giving it to Kanye

Hard times have apparently fallen on multi-millionaire/rap-superstar/insufferable egomaniac Kanye West.  According to a ridiculous Twitter-rant that West posted earlier today, he is $53 million in debt and is asking for a donation of $1 billion from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg.  Now, I highly suspect that Mark Zuckerburg is too busy doting on his new baby daughter to really give a hoot and a half about Kanye, but the rest of the world is getting a real kick out of the fact that the famously self-absorbed rapper is asking for money.

West claims that while he is still personally rich (Whew! There’s a relief! I was almost concerned that Kim Kardashian was going to have to start living like the rest of us peasants!), he needs the $1 Billion to change the world, or make it a better place, because that what he’s meant to do or something.

Well, Kanye, sorry to burst that bubble that you apparently live in, but I can think of a few ways that that $1 billion can change the world without going through your slippery wallet.  50, in fact.

Education

Education is a hot-button issue here in the USA. There are schools in certain parts of the country that are barely scraping by.  There are students who go to school and get their only meal of the day.  There are vital programs being cut to save a few pennies.

  1. Donate calculators, desks, and other supplies.
  2. Donate musical instruments and arts and crafts to the kids who want to study the arts.
  3. Build a new playground.
  4. Invest in teaching programs and speak out for better salaries for educators.
  5. Invest in new buildings for the kids who go to school in trailers.
  6. Donate for more dual-language programs and train all educators in the languages as well.
  7. Invest in special education programs and educators.
  8. Invest in after-school programs, especially for schools in underprivileged districts.
  9. Donate to scholarship funds for kids with disabilities, kids from low-income families, etc…
  10. Sponsor a child or a classroom.

Local Charities

We don’t have to look farther than beyond our own front porch to find people and animals in need of help. 

11. Donate to homeless shelters or organizations that provide meals for the homeless.

12. Sponsor a house for Habitat for Humanity.

13. Donate to drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities.

14. Donate to churches and outreach programs.

15. Donate to women’s shelters and sponsor a woman who has been a victim of domestic abuse.

16.  Buy new food, blankets, and toys for a local animal shelter and speak out on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves.

17.  Donate a new wing to a children’s hospital.

18.  Support programs that help homeless veterans.

19.  Help donate to the refugee crisis.  Provide meals and decent housing.

20.  Sponsor a senior citizen, or donate to nursing homes.  Provide blankets, shoes, clocks, books, wheelchairs, and help improve quality of life.

Nature and the Environment

We are slowly but surely destroying our greatest gift and resource: our home planet and all of its inhabitants.  $1 billion won’t solve all of our problems, but it could pave the way to a better world.

21.  Donate to protect and clean up the oceans.

22.  Donate to protect and replenish the rain forests.

23.  Protect the lions and rhinos and other endangered species that Kim Kardashian likes to wear draped around her shoulders. Adopt animals from the World Wildlife Fund.

24.  Invest in rescue and rehabilitation facilities.

25.  Invest in solar panels and donate to energy conservation and innovation.

26.  Donate to national parks and designated wildlife sanctuaries.  We have bobcats and coyotes sneaking into backyards and preying on domestic pets because their homes are being destroyed.

27.  Donate to arctic relief efforts and climate researchers to help protect the polar bears.  This is a personal one for me.  I really want my future children to grow up in a world with polar bears.

28.  Donate to parks and animals refuges that take in old, sick, or disabled animals.

29.  Invest in saving the bees and butterflies.  We need them!  Bees are vital!

30.  Finally, invest in farmers and livestock farms.  Invest in better living conditions for cows and pigs and chickens.  There is no need for those animals to live in such horrible places for their entire lives.

Medical Relief and Research

31. Donate to groups and laboratories that study cancer.

32. Donate to groups that are fighting to wipe out malaria and other parasitic diseases.

33.  Donate medical supplies to third world countries.

34.  Donate to Alzheimer’s research.

35.  Support better mental health centers, resources, and caretakers.  Mental health is a HUGE deal and there are very limited resources for those out there either living with mental illness or who love someone with mental illness.

36.  Donate new equipment to hospitals.

37.  Donate to help hospitals that provide services such as spinal implant surgery, cleft palate repair, etc…

38.  Donate to surgery centers, transplant specialists, and those paving the way toward artificial organs and specialty surgery.

39.  Donate to teams studying rare birth defects and premature births.

40. Donate to worldwide AIDs relief funds.

Global Efforts

41.  Send clean water and other resources to countries that are lacking.

42.  Donate to world literacy funds.

43.  Invest in and speak out for education for women in countries where they are treated as second-class citizens.

44.  Invest in start-up businesses, in independently owned businesses, in local mom-and-pop shops that have been around forever, in non-profit organizations.

45.  Donate to natural disaster relief.

45.  Donate to NASA and other programs that seek to explore and test our limits.

47. Donate to human rights and civil activist groups who seek to make the world a better place.

48.  Donate to preserve, protect, and restore historical monuments, buildings, works of art and literature, etc…

49.  Donate to help put an end to human trafficking, prostitution, and crimes against children.

50.  Donate to local communities, to revitalize their livelihoods, to protect their way of life.

The world can be a better place, even without Mark Zuckerburg’s $1 billion.  We don’t need money or celebrities or social media to make it happen.  The opportunities are right there in front of us.

 

 

Guest Interview With Miracle Austin!

Today is Valentine’s Day.  It’s a day for love, for flowers, for chocolate, and… for revenge.

Okay, probably not so much that last one, but isn’t revenge so much more fun than the mushy stuff?  At least in the fictional world?

On this day, Valentine’s Day, it is my sincerest pleasure to welcome my friend and fellow author, Miracle Austin, to my blog!  After being featured in several horror anthologies, Miracle is celebrating the release of her first full-length novel, DOLL.

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I read this book in one sitting, and you can find my reviews on GoodReads.com AND Amazon.com.  For now, however, please enjoy my interview with

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Jacqueline Smith: First of all, tell me a little bit about yourself:

Miracle Austin: I work in the social work world by day and the writer’s world at night and weekends. I’m a YA/NA Cross-Genre author; adults also enjoy my works.

I’ve been writing ever since first hearing Drive by The Cars in junior high, which has been one of her biggest inspirations. I rediscovered my writing passion, recently. My first mini-story, PENS, appeared in http://www.leaves-of-ink.com.

Horror/suspense are my favorite genres, but not limited to. I enjoy writing diverse flashes, short stories, and longer works, while threading various social awareness themes into my stories, at times.

Doll will be my first debut YA/NA Paranormal novel, which will be released on CreateSpace and Amazon on 2-14-16—available both in paperback and ebook.

Boundless will be my second debut work, which will be a YA/NA eclectic short story collection; it will release in the summer.

I’m currently working on future works and reside in Texas with my family.

JS: How did you get into writing?

MA: I started writing in the sixth grade, mostly free-verse poems, and writing out lyrics of my favorite songs, usually love songs, in a notebook.

I did write my first short story about a 13-year-old boy. His name was Jobie. Jobie was spending his last summer with his best friend, kissing a girl for the first time, and coping with his untimely death.

I hand wrote that story and don’t recall the title. I thought I kept it, but I must have thrown it away years ago, accidentally. I still think of the character, Jobie, time from time.

As high school approached, my writing was stop and go. An English teacher shared a writing assignment, and I really enjoyed that assignment. However, distractions popped up, as usual.

I wrote off and on in college. I really enjoyed my English, sociology, and children’s literature classes because I always had writing assignments in.

Later on in my adult life, I experienced a very dark time and found myself almost lost there.

I stumbled upon a private writing group with diverse writing prompts.

I started submitting and discovered something—how much I really loved writing.  In fact, writing, this time around, actually saved me… I found a ladder and began to climb out of my darkness.

A reviewer on the writing group commented me on my writing and suggested I should start to submit to magazines, ezines, anthologies, and etc.

I was hesitant, but I decided to give it a try, after a few months. I submitted and received so many rejections. I almost gave up, until that one day, I had a message waiting in my email box, where my first mini-story was accepted.

My confidence began to blossom. I continued to submit and receive more rejections than acceptances. The rejections made me stronger and the rest is herstory.

JS: What is your favorite book? Or if you can’t pick just one (I know I can’t), top three?

MA: I’m going to list more than three.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Carrie  by Stephen King

To Kill a Mocking Bird  by Harper Lee

“The Man Who Loved Flowers” Short Story by  Stephen King

“The Last Rung”  Short Story by Stephen King

JS: Tell me about your new book, Doll.

MA: Doll is a YA/NA paranormal novel. Doll was never suppose to be a novel, only a short story for adults. I started writing it to distract me from the postponed publishing of my first collection, Boundless.

Doll transformed. It started out as 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 12,000, 15,000, 18,000, 20,000, 25,000, 30,000, 45,000, and then over 52,000 words.

The characters took over and Doll was created.

Doll is a story about a mean girl who torments three outcasts, one in particular.

The three outcasts decide to band together in an untraditional way to give the mean girl a taste of her own medicine.  However, things don’t always turn out the way wish, so be careful what you wish for

JS: How did you come up with the idea?

MA: My mom, who has shared other ideas with me for other stories and future ones, told me a story about something that happened years ago with a friend. I absorbed all the information and created my characters.

I recall a publisher, several months ago, sharing how Boundless was geared more towards YA/NA crowd, plus I love the YA/NA world, so I changed my main adult characters to teens.

JS: What was the writing process like?

MA: This is interesting one.

I procrastinated with this one. Believe it or not, I had about one paragraph for the concept, which changed a lot. I even had the cover made before I had one full page written. The cover did inspire me.

I knew that I needed to complete it after I avoided writing for several weeks because I didn’t know where I was going with this story, even though I had the concept down and cover. I just was  so unmotivated.

Therefore, I decided to do something that I never had before—outline.  I’ve read about others completing outlines, but I’ve always been a free bird and didn’t want to restrict myself.

I came to realize that was the best thing I could have ever done without restrictions. The outline ushered me through my writing and kept me focused.

So, I’m now an outline advocate, never would have imagined.

JS: You are also featured in horror anthologies such as Luna’s Children and A Shadow of Autumn.  What inspires you?

MA: Again, I must give my mom credit for many of my current and future stories. She’s my inspiration. She’s always sharing stories about her youth from the 50s and her adulthood. I usually take something from her stories and twist it up to make it my own.

Furthermore, my other inspirations come from conversations (protected of course),  people watching, songs, movies, or something that I’ve read in a book, magazine, Facebook, newspaper, and so on.

JS: What draws you to this genre?

MA: My exposure to horror/suspense arenas occurred prior my middle school years. My mom used to listen to an AM radio station on Friday nights, cannot recall the station, but it would have pre-recorded creepy stories.

I was sold instantly and couldn’t wait until the next airing. Horror/suspense just meshed with me from my first dance with it. I craved it, minus the horror that deals with possession.

JS: Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

MA: I sure am. I am cleaning up Boundless, an eclectic collection of shorts, which was supposed to be published by now. However, I’m a big believer in how certain things must occur before something else, which is why Boundless was postponed.

I still don’t understand it completely, but I accept Doll being released first.

I’m enhancing Boundless and then all the edit rounds.

I’m waiting to see how Doll is received from readers.

I do have a sequel mini outline for Doll 2 already, not sure if it will evolve yet.

I have another story  (20,000 words so far) that’s been on back burner for almost two years called, LoneStar Unordinary Girl. It’s a mash-up of comedy/supernatural elements. A reviewer challenged me to add comedy to a piece and I came up with that one.

Finally, I love writing shorts all the time. I have one that I have been wanting to write called Nightrunners. I plan to soon.

I am currently working on a monster piece for consideration in Sirens Call, a fabulous ezine.

Sine I mentioned Sirens Call, I wanted to share that I’ll be featured with many other amazing women authors in their Women in Horror Month 2016 upcoming issue. My piece is called “The Lock.”

JS: What are your favorite pastimes, other than writing?

MA: I love attending  all types of movies (Marvel/DC Fangirl, by the way) and watching  Netflix.

I enjoy creating playlists that inspire some of my stories and enjoy attending diverse book festivals and comic cons, where I’ve been so honored to be one of the panelists on some.

I’ll be a featured author and a panelist at the upcoming Teen Book Fest by the Bay in Corpus Christie, Texas on 2-20-16. I’m so honored and excited to be part of. This will be my first teen book festival.

The highlights of attending the above functions include opportunities to hang out with great author friends and meet new authors/readers.

I also enjoy collaborating with my amazing colleagues on YAAR (Young Adult Author Rendezvous) , an author group, on Facebook. I’ve learned a lot from some amazing authors and the founder, Patrick Hodges. They have all been so helpful in various ways.

JS: Finally, where can read readers connect with you?

MA: Feel free to contact me anytime and follow me on all the social media outlets.

I enjoy communicating with her readers.

http://www.miracleaustin.com

Email: shadesoffiction@miracleaustin.com

FaceBook: Miracle Austin Author

Twitter: @MiracleAustin7

InstaGram: MiracleAustin7

*BONUS SOUNDTRACK*

Songs that inspired DOLL

#1 You look beautiful tonight-Frank Sinatra

#2 One way or another-Blondie

# 3 Rock with you-Michael Jackson

#4 Every Breath You Take-Chase Holfelder

#5 One Way or Another—Until the ribbon breaks

# 6 Ready to love you forever-Tevin Campbell

#7 I want you to want me-Cheap Trick

#8 Leave-Jo Jo

#9 Count me Out-New Edition

#10 You Belong to me-Taylor Swift

#11 Rich Girl-Hall and Oates

#12 Make me wanna-Thomas Rhett

#13 Going to love you like I’m going to loose you–John Legend and Megan Trainor

#14 Jack and Diane-John Cougar

#15 Kissing Game- Hi-5

#16 Naughty Girl-Beyoncé

#17-All of me-Luciana Zogbi—(cover)

#18-You can do Magic-America

#19-Oh no-Lionel Richie

#21-Bad blood-Taylor Swift

#22-Tender Roni-Bobby Brown

#23-If it isn’t Love-New Edition

#24-Walking after Midnight-Patsy Cline

#25-Blue-Leanne Rimes

#26-Alone-Heart

#27-My baby doll-Toni, Toni, Tone

#28-She’s like the wind-Patrick Swayze

#29My Girl-Temptations

#30-Creep-Radiohead

#31-Everybody Hurts Sometimes-REM

#32-People are People-Depeche Mode

#33-Shake it off-Taylor Swift

#34-Wanna be starting something-Michael Jackson

#35-Walking in my shoes-Depeche Mode

#36-Treasure-Bruno Mars

#37-When I’m with you-Tony Terry

#38-Give Love a bad name-Bon Jovi

#39-We’re not going to take it-Twisted Sister

#40-Waiting for a girl like you-Foreigner

#41-Girl Crush-Little Big Town

#42-I need to know-Marc Anthony

#43-How do you mend a broken heart-Al Green

#44-Unpretty-TLC

#45-Try a little Tenderness-Otis Redding

#46-what about your friends-TLC

#47-All of me-Damien Escobar

#48-With You-Chris Brown

 

You can find DOLL by Miracle Austin here!

A Zoolander Reviewlander

I almost hesitate to write this review, because writing this review means admitting that I actually saw this movie.  On the day it came out.

I think most of us have seen the original Zoolander by now.  It’s something of a cult classic.  A really, really stupid cult classic, but I can’t lie.  I’ve seen it.  I own the DVD.  I laugh every time.  I might have always had a little bit of a crush on Owen Wilson.  My sister thinks that’s hilarious for some reason.  When Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson made a surprise appearance dressed as their characters in that fashion show, I think everyone was pretty excited.  Or at least mildly amused.

To put this as nicely as possible, the sequel is not anywhere near as enjoyable or hilarious the first movie.  In fact, it probably should not exist.  I think the world would be a better place if Zoolander 1 was the only Zoolander.

So… Here are my thoughts.  In the same style as all my reviews before, no real rhyme or reason or structure.  There will definitely be spoilers.  But honestly, does anyone really care if I spoil this movie?  Is it even possible?

I guess we’ll find out.

Thoughts on Zoolander 2

  • Thanks to the trailer, I know that Justin Beiber is going to die. I’m no beleiber.  Not by any means.  But I do feel kind of sorry for the kid.
  • Okay, that was OVERKILL.  Whoever wrote this screenplay just really, really, really, really wanted to obliterate the Beibs.  I get that people love to hate him, but honestly?  That was brutal.
  • Am I spelling Beiber right?  I’m not actually sure.
  • Oh well. I don’t care enough to look it up.
  • Oh NO! They killed Lenny Kravitz too?!  This is Catching Fire all over again!
  • WHAT. They killed off Matilda?  Did Christine Taylor just not want to be in this movie or something?
  • See, this bugs me.  I really liked how the first movie ended, with Derek and Hansel discovering that there IS more to life than being really, really, really ridiculously good-looking.  I thought it was so cute.  They both seemed so happy and fulfilled.
  • I think I’m going to pretend that this movie doesn’t exist.
  • BILLY ZANE.  Oh my gosh, I am laughing so hard that BILLY ZANE is back.
  • Oh, Owen Wilson what in the world are you doing with yourself?  What is with this weird harem?  I don’t even want to go talk about the fact that he apparently knocked everyone up, including the men and the goat.
  • Susan Boyle at the airport.  I’m beginning to think that the celebrity cameos are the only thing making this movie worth watching.
  • Something about a bath house made entirely of poop?  What?  What am I even watching?!
  • Hansel has a Harry Potter scar.  Okay.
  • BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH. NO. NO. OMG I ACTUALLY SCREAMED.
  • Having a minor crisis over the fact that I watched The Imitation Game, a beautiful, brilliant, inspiring, heartbreaking, masterpiece of a film not eighteen hours ago and now I’m staring at the man who portrayed the father of modern computer science and essentially won World War II and now he has no eyebrows and is making weird sex eyes at Ben Stiller.
  • But seriously HOW did they convince BENEDICT TIMOTHY CARLTON CUMBERBATCH to appear in this movie?  How?  He did not need to be in this movie.  His career is already legendary.  Did he just think this would be a silly fun side project to add to his resume?  Because this movie did him no favors.  HE did THEM a favor.
  • Oh my God.  He’s a bird.  Benedict Cumberbatch is a bird.  And he’s cawing.  And he’s whipping Ben Stiller.
  • I mean, I guess he got some practice with a whip in that first episode of Sherlock…
  • BENEDICT WHY.
  • I don’t think I’m going to get over this.
  • Stuff is happening.  I don’t know.  Something about the Garden of Eden?  Steve?
  • Derek is reunited with his son, Derek Jr. and he is distressed over the fact that he is fat and homely.  Seriously who wrote this script?  That poor kid!
  • Ghost Christine Taylor and the reemergence of the Evil Break-Dancing DJ.  Definitely pretending this movie doesn’t exist.
  • I do like that Derek still has his tiny little phone.
  • Okay, the Wake Me Up Before You Go Go scene is kind of funny.  However, the car crash that results from Derek’s use of a selfie stick is a bit traumatizing.  But you know, that’s what happens when you selfie and drive.  Bad idea, kids.  Bad idea.
  • I think the thing that’s really bothering me about this movie is that it’s lacking the heart that I saw in the first one.  Yeah, it was stupid with a lot of weird jokes, but this movie just seems to be all cheap laughs and no heart.  There were “Aw” moments in the first one.  None in this.
  • I guess except when Sting reveals that he’s Hansel’s father.  That actually cracked me up.
  • How did they get STING in this movie, anyway?
  • HOW DID THEY GET NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON IN THIS MOVIE?
  • Okay, MC Hammer in fashion jail is funny too.  See?  Celebrity cameos are hilarious.
  • Oh, Will Ferrell.  I love you as Buddy the Elf.  This movie?  I don’t know.  You’re just way too weird.
  • TODD.  I like Todd.
  • OMG the dog is stuffed.  OMG he’s carrying around a stuffed dog.
  • I legit cannot even watch this make-out scene.  Please stop.
  • Okay, weird satanic ritual at the fashion show.
  • I’m so done with this movie.  I just want to go home and watch something intellectually stimulating.  Which, compared to this movie, could literally be anything.

Well.  There you have it.  Zoolander 2.  Not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but definitely not one I’d recommend seeing.

And you know what makes all this so much worse?  I saw this movie… WITH MY MOM.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

An Open Apology

As an author, nothing makes my day quite like someone taking the time to tell me that they enjoyed my books, and it never becomes any less thrilling than the first time I heard it.  As a reader, I love finding books that I can’t get enough of, that I can’t wait to share with others.  When you read a good book, you want to tell people about it!

I’m always eager to read books that my friends have recommended to me, especially when those books are written by a fellow independent author.  I want to support them.  I want to give them the same kind of hype and exposure that traditionally published books get.  I want independent books to go mainstream.  I think they deserve to go mainstream.

Unfortunately, not every single person is going to like every single book.  Even if a book comes with dozens of glowing reviews and reads like a dream, not everyone is going to like it.

Being an independent author myself, I always feel so guilty when I don’t like a book.  Okay, there are some books that I very openly and unabashedly loathe, but I try not to mention them too often because I don’t believe in tearing other artists down, nor do I believe in criticizing what others choose to read.  If a book gets you reading, more power to you!  And to it!

After reading the book that inspired this blog post, I’ve been trying to figure out how I would want someone who didn’t enjoy one of my books to handle it.  I know there are plenty of people out there who will write honest, carefully worded, critical reviews.  There are others who will leave a one star rating and a hasty, “This book is awful.  I hated it.”  I hate to be critical, just because I KNOW first-hand how proud the author is of their work and how much time and effort they put into it.  I KNOW.  I’ve been there.  I’m still there.

But I can’t bring myself to lie and write a review praising this book when, to be honest, I barely made it through.  It’s not that it was a bad book.  It just wasn’t my style.  It was simply too crude, too graphic.  I may be close to thirty, but I don’t enjoy books with explicit sexual content at all.  I’d much rather read YA fiction.  I also don’t enjoy male characters who view women as property and who only look to bed them senseless.  Even if they get redeemed somehow in the end, I can’t, for the life of, me understand why any woman would find that appealing.  But I know that to a lot of readers, these books are guilty pleasures.  I have my own guilty pleasure reads.  But most of them feature cute, sweet, small-town guys who are probably dying of cancer or something (yes, I’m referring to every Nicholas Sparks novel ever written).

So, to every author whose book I’ve read and have not enjoyed, I’m sorry.  I wanted to like it.  I did.  And I so appreciate the love and the passion and the time that you put into your work.  I’m so glad that you did.  Sadly, I am not the book’s target audience, but I know others will be.  Please don’t stop writing.  I wish you every success.

Author Life

So apparently writers around the world are celebrating Author Life Month this February. Since it’s already the 8th, clearly I’m a little late to the party, but I don’t see why that means I can’t just right into the festivities.

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That being said, I’m not really going to talk that much about what life is like as an author, because honestly, it’s probably nothing you don’t already know.  I sit around, I play with my cat, I write some words on my computer, I play with my birds, I listen to music, I read other people’s writing, I do everything under the sun except write, and then, at the end of the day, I might go back and add another paragraph or two to my manuscript.  Life of a writer in a nutshell.

Obviously, if you want to be an author, you have to write.  That’s just a given.  Even if you don’t feel like writing, you should try to write at least a little every day.  Remember, you can always go back and change what you’ve written.  You can’t edit a blank page.

On the other hand, I don’t believe you should rush your work either.  There will be pressure to finish your manuscripts, especially when there are deadlines involved.  I’m super anxious to get the next Boy Band book out because I know my readers enjoyed the first two and because I don’t want to fall behind.  I wrote and published three books last year and I really want to keep that momentum going.  However, I also want to make sure that Worldwide is the book that my readers and my characters deserve.  It deserves as much time and consideration as I gave the first two (granted, I wrote the first one on a whim in about two months…).

My sister (who reads my books before everyone else) keeps asking when I’m going to send her more chapters, but the thing is, sometimes you have to sit back and let the story figure out where it’s going.  I had about three different ideas last week for this third book that would never have occurred to me had I been in a hurry to get the next book out as quickly as possible.  And please, don’t think that I’m not in a hurry to get it out.  I am.  I’m working at it every single day.  It’s a bit of a two-edged sword, really.

I’m actually inclined to think that authors don’t actually write stories.  These stories happen and we write them down.  We somewhat make them up, but I think they play out the way that they’re supposed to, and sometimes we really don’t have much control over it.  Worldwide is already a story in my head.  I just have to figure out how to get it onto the page.  As authors, it is our responsibility to do these stories justice.

I have on series that I’ve had in my head since 2012, I think.  I’ve tried writing it several times, but so far, it hasn’t worked out.  I still have every intention of writing these books, but they’re still in development.  It happens.  In the meantime, I will focus on the books that are ready to be written and shared.

I love writing and creating and getting to know these characters and experience their lives and their worlds.  It’s a high that I’ll never be able to fully explain, and I want to keep writing as long as I can.  The other day, my friends and I were talking about what we want to do after we retire, and I realized that if I could write for the rest of my life, I’d never want to retire.  I’d want to be writing and publishing books until I’m 90 years old.  Knowing me, I’ll probably still be writing YA, but who knows?  There’s always room for growth.

Back to Books!

Happy Friday, friends! It’s been an amazing couple of weeks being with friends and adventuring into the great outdoors, but the time has come to return to the world of fiction.  And what better way to do so than with several wonderful new reviews and messages from readers?

To everyone who has taken the time to post a review or comment, I just want to say Thank You!  Seriously, it might not seem like a whole lot, but those few words make my entire day.  It’s every writer’s dream come true that a reader genuinely enjoys their work. That’s more than most of us ever dare to hope for!  And I’m so happy that readers are finding joy in my books.

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I’ve had several readers ask about an email newsletter.  That’s something I seriously need to start considering.  In fact, it’s something I probably should have been considering for a while now.  I’ve just never really been sure how to set one up.  That is on my to-do list.  For now, however, this will have to suffice!

As for my book release plans for 2016, I can tell you that I’m hoping to release Worldwide, the third book in the Boy Band series around late spring/early summer.  I don’t have an official release date yet and probably won’t for another month or so.  But I promise, y’all will be the first to know!

I do have another exciting book release announcement, however!  Lurking in the Shadows, a companion anthology to Lurking in the Deep, is officially in the works!  My short story, “An Empty Building” will be featured and I’ve got to tell you, it’s the darkest thing I’ve ever written.  I had to write it in increments because I kept creeping myself out.  I’m so excited to work with this amazing group of authors and publishers again and I can’t wait to add it to my bookshelf!

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If you haven’t read Lurking in the Deep yet, I highly recommend it, and not JUST because I wrote a story for it.  It’s full of great, spooky stories, all centered around the ocean.  I can’t wait to read the next installment.

As for now, however, I’m going to finish reading Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  I’m only on chapter 17 but I have a feeling it’s going to hurt.

Wish me luck.

Another Step Into the Truly Unknown

It’s been just a little over a month and already, 2016 is shaping up to be a year of adventure and new experiences.  Most recently, what began as an idea to spend a day at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center and neighboring Dinosaur Valley quickly became my very first camping experience.

Now, I worked three summers as a camp counselor up at Lake Texoma, so I’m no stranger to the great outdoors.  However, that kind of camping included air conditioned cabins, home-cooked meals, and indoor plumbing.  I’ve never slept outside, on the ground, in a tent.  And I’ve definitely never gone a full day without showering.  I’ll admit it.  I’m prissy.  I’m a control freak.  I like to be clean.  And I’ve never even considered peeing in the woods.

But I wanted to do this.  With the group of friends that I have now, I knew I could do it, and I knew that I would enjoy it no matter what.  That’s a pretty rare find.  To have a group of people that you not only actually enjoy spending time with but who make you want to go outside your comfort zone and try new things that used to feel pretty daunting.

When I first told my mom that I was going camping, she asked, “Do you want me to see if there’s a Marriott or a Holiday Inn Express nearby?”  That is how much of a not-sleeping-outside person I am.  Or should I say that I was.

Of course, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.  First, let me share the pictures from Fossil Rim.

For those who don’t know, Fossil Rim is basically a Texas Safari.  There are free-roaming animals all over the place and you can drive through in your own vehicle and feed them through the windows.  Yes, they will stick their heads in your car.  I’d been twice before, both times as a child, and I’ve been desperate to return ever since.  My friends and I are all very fond of natures, animals, and conservation, so Fossil Rim is pretty much Heaven on Earth.

This time, since we all wanted to experience the park together, we opted for a guided tour.  It was about seven bucks more, but it was totally worth it.  We all loaded up onto a small, open bus (since it’s the off-season, we were the only ones.  It was like having our own personal, private tour!) and embarked on the first part of our journey.

Everyone’s favorite animals on the safari, however, were the giraffes.  I must have an something of an encounter with giraffes my first two times at Fossil Rim, but it was nothing like this.  We got to feed and interact with these gentle giants who, as my friend phrased it, are so much more awesome than I ever gave them credit for.  Getting to know these creatures was pure, absolute, unadulterated joy.

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After our adventures with the stunning animals of Fossil Rim, it was time to set up camp. Now, I’ve never set up camp before.  I’ve also never cooked outside.  I have absolutely nothing valuable to contribute to surviving a night in the woods.  Although, I did bring Neosporin and Band-Aids and lots of chap-stick.  I also made my friend a mean PB & J sandwich, so I guess I was sort of helpful.

Thankfully, my friends are all camping enthusiasts.

After an amazing meal, we set out for stargazing.  Then it was back to camp for campfire and s’mores before we finally brushed our teeth and turned in for the night.

Here’s the thing about sleeping outside.  There are a lot of noises.  Like raccoons and other critters chit-chattering and messing around in your food.  Then there’s the wind through the creaking branches and the distant sound of the river rushing through the night (though that’s actually very soothing).  There are also the packs of howling coyotes in the distance.  The woods never let you forget where you are, not for one second.

Now at home, I’m a great sleeper.  I can sleep for ten hours straight.  But away from home?  Not so much.  I get antsy and anxious.  My senses go into hyperdrive.  I become very, very, very  aware of my surroundings, and that’s just when I’m in a hotel!  Sleeping outside in the woods?  Forget about it.

But somehow, I managed to sleep.  I did wake up a few times for one reason or another.  The worst part, however, wasn’t the hard ground or the sounds of the raccoons roaming around the campsite.  It was the cold.  It was absolutely frigid.  Granted, we were camping in February, so I kind of expected it would be, but still, my sleeping bag was supposed to be built for chilly nights!  I ended up sleeping with three layers, two pairs of socks, my sleeping bag, and a thermal blanket and I was still freezing.  Next time I shall be better prepared.  Thankfully, I didn’t lose any toes to hypothermia.

The next morning, we all packed up camp (which turns out to be a lot faster and easier than setting it up), and set off for a day of hiking through Dinosaur State Park.  It’s pretty surreal, setting foot in places that were once home to the brachiosaurus and the t-rex.

But you know, I think the best part was just being with my friends, having this incredible experience out in nature.  It’s so refreshing to breathe that clean air, to exist beneath the trees, to skip rocks along the river, to get a new perspective.  That’s what we were designed for, I think.  To venture out into the unknown and to live in appreciation for the things that money can’t buy.  I loved every moment of this adventure.  I can’t wait for the next one.