Whys and Why Nots

I’ve had a conversation stuck in my head ever since Comic Con.  A fan stopped by our booth and asked my friend and fellow author James what the difference was between traditional and independent publishing and why we decided to go the independent route.

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There’s a fairly typical response to this question.  Most of it truthfully comes down to rights and royalties.  I love that Cemetery Tours and Boy Band are 100% mine.  I guess I’m kind of a control freak like that.

But James mentioned something else, something that I really hadn’t considered.

“There’s more freedom in what we write.  Many of the big publishing houses require a certain formula.  They like books to fit their mold.”

I’d always known that from a business perspective, I had more freedom with independent publishing.  I once read a book that ended with several cliffhangers.  It was clearly not written to be a standalone novel.  But it hadn’t sold the way that the publishers had hoped it would, so they didn’t order a sequel.  I was distraught.  There was no way those characters’ stories were over.  Not even close.  I love that with independent publishing, I have the freedom to give my characters the complete stories that they demand and deserve.  But I had never stopped to think about how my independent books differ from the countless traditionally published books I’ve read.

And wouldn’t you know it?  The more I thought about it, the more I read, the more I began to pick up on certain patterns.  On little predictabilities.  That’s not to say that all traditionally published books are the same book.  Not in the least.  But I suddenly became acutely aware of all the unwritten rules that do, in fact, exist.

The independent world is different.  True, if we want to be taken seriously in the world of literature, we need to produce high quality books.  That is non-negotiable. But as far as the stories and the characters go?  We really do have a lot more freedom.

In graduate school, I was taught that everything that happens in a story is significant.  The writer wouldn’t have written it if the reader didn’t need to know it.  And in many traditionally published books I’ve read, everything eventually falls and fits together like a perfect puzzle.  It’s excellent story-telling.  But life, I’ve come to realize, isn’t really like that.  And yes, okay, I realize my books are about ghosts and boy bands.  Hardly representations of what real life is actually like.  But I’ve always wanted my books to have some sense of flawed authenticity, if that makes any sense at all.  I want my stories to play out as they would if they were happening in the real world and not in a book.  And that, I think, is an advantage that independent authors enjoy.  Because our stories and our characters truly can be anything we want them to be.

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Thought Catalog’s 50 Questions

A friend of mine posted this article a few days ago:

50 Questions To Ask A Girl If You Want To Know Who She Really Is

As I scrolled through the questions, I began to realize not only do I now know a lot of my friends’ answers to the questions… I don’t even know my own answers.  Of course, I try to avoid getting too personal and deep… ever.  It’s a bit of a defense mechanism.  If I don’t take anything seriously, then I don’t have to confront my own shortcomings or flaws or let downs.  But I rather like the idea of this challenge, so I think I’ll give it a go.  If for no one else, then for me.

1. What’s one thing that’s happened to you that has made you a stronger person?

Honestly, writing my books, learning about the publishing industry, and making the choice to go forward and follow my dreams despite the numerous odds stacked against me.  I’m so proud of everything I’ve learned and everything I’ve been brave enough to try.  I never thought I would feel so confident.  But I do.  

2. What’s one thing that’s happened to you in your life that made you feel weak?

The snark inside me wants to say Calculus.  Calculus made me feel oh, so helpless.  But I think the correct answer to this would be my struggle with low self-esteem and social anxiety.  It’s terribly frustrating to be in constant battle with your own mind.  It’s also kind of sad to realize how little you think of yourself.    

3. Where is one place you feel most like yourself?

The beach.  The lake.  The woods.  Nature in general. 

4. Where is your favorite place to escape to?

The beach.  The lake.  The woods.  Nature in general.  But of course, I also love to escape into my books.  

5. Who do you think has had the largest influence on the person you are today?

Everyone who has supported me, especially my parents.  They have always encouraged me to follow my dreams.  Even when I was little.  

6. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

I have NO sense of direction and it frustrates me to no end.  I embody the stereotype that women can’t carry a map in their heads.  Thank God for GPS!

7. If you had one day left to live, what would you do first?

Fly to Australia even though I’d spend over half that day in an airplane.

8. What decade do you feel you most belong in?

1990s.

9. Who are you closest to in your family? Why?

I think it’s probably a tie between my parents and my sister.

10. Who is the one person in this world that knows you best?

My sister.

11. What is your favorite quality about your best friend?

Oh wow, where to begin?  She cracks me up.  She’s fiercely intelligent and independent.  She believes in magic and adventure.  We can talk about anything.  

12. When you were younger what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

A marine mammal trainer.

13. If you could identify with one fictional character (from a book, show, or movie) who would it be?

Probably Cather Avery from Fangirl.  Or Ariel.  

14. Do you easily accept compliments? Or do you hate compliments?

Oh, I love compliments.  But they make me blush.  And I always feel like I have to return the favor.

15. Is your favorite attribute about yourself physical or non-physical?

Non-physical.

16. What is your favorite physical attribute about yourself?

My eyes.

17. What is your favorite non-physical attribute about yourself?

I think my sense of humor is delightful but I might be the only one.

18. Do you believe in love at first sight?

I’ve seen it, so yes.

19. Do you believe in soul mates?

Yes.

20. How seriously do you take horoscopes?

Not very.  They’re fun, but I certainly wouldn’t place bets on their accuracy.

21. Have you ever been in love? How many times?

No.

22. What makes you fall in love with someone?

If I want to spend time with you and talk to you all the time… That’s pretty awesome.

23. What does vulnerability mean to you? What has the ability to make you vulnerable?

I do not like vulnerability.  Vulnerability, to me, is making everything that hurts you more real and giving other people access to it.  I don’t like people to know when I feel vulnerable.  I don’t like people to know when I’m hurting.  When they’re aware of it, I’m aware of it.    

24. What’s one thing you’re scared to ask a man, but really want to?

I don’t know.  I’m not actually very shy… 

25. If you were a man for a day, what would be the first thing you do?

Grow a beard. Then go to the store and dress myself up in sexy clothes.  

26. What do you find most attractive about each sex?

Men: Eyes, arms, smile.

Women: Hair, eyes, smile.  

27. What’s one thing you’d love to learn more about?

I’m always considering going back to school for my marine biology degree.  I also still want to learn to cook.

28. What is something you’ve never done that you’ve always wanted to do?

Oh man, too many things to list.  Parasailing is the first thing that comes to mind.    

29. Why haven’t you done it yet?

Good question.

30. If money didn’t matter, what would your dream job be?

I wouldn’t have a job.  I’d just travel full time and take pictures.  But I’d keep writing books because I can’t not write books.

31. If you had off from work today, what would you do?

Read or write which is basically my job anyway sooo… 

32. What was the last thing that made you cry?

I think it was The Shack…

33. What was the last thing that made you laugh?

Stupid Pinterest pictures.

34. What is your favorite memory?

Oh my goodness, I have so many.  Probably standing on top of a mountain in Scotland.  Or sitting around in the small living space of the Iona hostel, watching the sun set, reading, and singing Breakfast and Tiffany’s.

35. What’s the last thing that REALLY embarrassed you?

God, I embarrass myself on a daily basis.  The thing is I’m so used to it that I don’t really get all THAT embarrassed anymore.  I really hate it when I forget someone’s name though.  Or don’t remember a conversation that I’ve had.  That happens a lot more than it probably should. 

36. What is your biggest fear?

Losing my family.  Sunken ships.  Vomit.  And that I’ll accidentally hit a pedestrian with my car.  

37. Do you have any regrets? What’s your biggest one?

I try really hard not to have regrets because I believe that life works out the way it’s supposed to.  Every choice I’ve made (even if it seemed like the wrong choice), has led me to where I am today.  I guess I regret that I’ve spent so much time worrying about what other people think of me.  Or worrying that I might be missing out on something.  Or worrying that I don’t always fit the mold or social norms.  

38. Have you ever broken a law? If you haven’t what is one law you’d love to break?

Um… I’m not telling you.  If I put it in writing, that means it actually happened.  If I COULD break a law though, I’d probably steal a lot of stuff I don’t need.  

39. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

I’m not sure I’ve done a whole lot of crazy stuff.  I’m not a very interesting person.  

40. Would you have a conversation with a stranger?

I talk to strangers more than I talk to people I actually know.  

41. Would you tell a stranger they have toilet paper hanging from their shoe? Or their dress tucked into their underwear? (Or anything else that is embarrassing to be seen in public)?

If I could do so discreetly.

42. What’s your favorite joke?

I like inside jokes.  I guess I’m kind of exclusive like that.  

43. Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Cat.  Cats all the way.  Cats forever.  

44. If you could be any animal, what animal would you be?

Killer whale.  I would be beautiful and at the top of the food chain.

45. What’s one show, movie, or book, you’re embarrassed to admit you enjoy?

I love lots of embarrassing stuff, but I will say it loud and proud.  I love Twilight.  I love Nicholas Sparks books AND movies.  I love One Direction.  I love Hannah Montana.  

46. How do you think your parents would describe you as a child?

Weird, quiet, and a VERY picky eater.  

47. If you could go back to any age or time of your life, what age or time would it be?

I don’t want to go back.  I like where I am now.  And I’m excited about the future.  

48. What’s something you believe in that not everyone else does?

God. 

49. What’s one thing you would say that makes you unique from other people?

I don’t drink soda or coffee.  LOTS of people think that’s weird.  

50. What is one thing you feel your life is missing?

The snark in me wants me to say money, because it’s true.  I don’t necessarily feel like my life is MISSING anything.  It’s more that I’m not quite there yet.  I feel like I’m on the right path.  But I’m not where I want to be yet.  I may not ever get there.  But I’m going to keep trying.  

A Comic Con of Errors

Okay, so the title of this post is a bit misleading.  There truly were not that many errors at Comic Con.  I just thought I’d be clever and witty.  Ha ha ha.

Comic Con (technically Fan Expo Dallas) is one of my favorite events of the year.  Three days of pure, unadulterated nerd heaven.  And I get to sell a lot of books and meet a lot of readers!

This past weekend was so fun and so busy that honestly, the memories are beginning to blur and fade together.  As always, my favorite part was meeting and connecting with new friends and fellow book-lovers.  And stopping all the cosplayers and asking them to pose with my books.

My favorite cosplayers, however, were Cecil Grimes and his partner in crime, Richard Dixon.  Early Saturday morning as my colleague and I were browsing the convention (we don’t get a lot of chances to explore once the Expo actually opens), and I noticed a photo booth that looked a lot like the prison scene from The Walking Dead.  I walked up to the man running the booth to ask if I could take a picture.  The guy looked up and I swear, I jumped a foot back.  He looked EXACTLY like Andrew Lincoln.  I’m not ashamed to admit I lost my cool a little bit.

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I’m especially glad I got to meet him since my photo op with Norman Reedus was cancelled at the last minute… And I do mean the VERY last minute.  Due to bad weather, he and his Walking Dead co-star had to catch an earlier flight.  I was disappointed, but since I got my money back, I wasn’t going to complain too much.  I was, however, VERY concerned about how long I’d stayed inside the convention center BECAUSE my parking permit was about to expire.  I’m not sure if I mentioned this in a previous blog post, but last year, I got a parking boot for having an invalid permit.  The only catch was that I’d asked my friend to watch after my purse (including my car keys) while I waited in line for my photo op.  During that time, his phone died and we got separated so I had NO way of reaching him.  Of course, me being me, I was far more conceded with having to pay for a parking ticket, so once the hoards of Walking Dead fans were escorted out of the convention center, I ran down to the parking lot to make sure my car hadn’t been booted again.  I figured James would eventually figure out where I had gone and come to find me.  In the mean time, I was calling my mom and James’ wife Claudette to tell them what was going on.

Thankfully I did not get a parking boot, Claudette found James, and we all lived happily ever after.  There was a brief period of time, however, that I became a crazy downtown lady, sitting in the middle of a parking lot at 10:00 at night screaming “DON’T BOOT MY CAR!” while the thunderstorms rolled in.  It makes a funny story I guess.

There were a few other interesting stories as well.  For example, one man I talked to actually got hit by a car in the Comic Con parking lot.  He was in the parking lot and a car physically backed into him and knocked him over.  Fortunately, he was fine and he’s an EMT so he didn’t make a big deal out of it.  It’s so typical, though.  Like, if you were going to get hit by a car, OF COURSE it would happen at Comic Con.

But as always, the good things about Comic Con far outweighed the weird and the parking lot mishaps.  For example, they had a booth set up right in front of the women’s bathroom and they roped the entire area off with curtains.  Well, I’m guessing that no one knew that that bathroom was still open because every time I went in IT WAS TOTALLY EMPTY.  It was kind of the best thing ever because this event was PACKED.  Normally, there would have been a line straight out the door to use the restroom.  But no.  Every time, I walked right in.  It’s the little things, y’all.

This weekend, I also celebrated the release of a brand new anthology in which I’m featured.  The book is called Ever in the After and it is a charity anthology.  Every dollar we make off of this book goes to benefit a charity called Lift 4 Autism.  I was able to bring a limited number of copies to Comic Con and guess what?  I sold them all!  To all of you who bought a copy, thank you for your support and I hope you enjoy the stories.

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I’m eternally grateful to all the amazing people I met this weekend and the amazing people I’ve known now for years (James, Claudette, Joe, Alicia) for reminding me why I do this.  Why I write.  Why I love to tell stories.  Why I continue to strive each and every day despite the tremendous odds stacked against independent authors.  This is the path I’ve chosen.  It requires a lot of work, a lot of endurance, a lot more manual labor than you’d expect, but it is so, so worth it.

I love you all.  Thank you for this weekend.

Tale as old as Time

Well, everyone.  The day we’ve all been waiting for is upon us.  Beauty and the Beast is in theaters and yes, I’ve already seen it.

I’ll admit, I had my concerns about this one.  Okay, I had three main concerns.  The first was that it was almost an exact reenactment of the 1991 animated movie that we all love.  The second was that the singing wouldn’t be very good.  The third… was Emma Watson as Belle.

Blasphemy, I know.  She’s a great person.  I’ve just never thought she was a very good actress.

After seeing the movie, I’m not entirely convinced that she was the best choice to play Belle, but she was still pretty okay.  And I loved the movie.  Every moment.  God, it was magical.

If you haven’t seen the movie, be forewarned, there ARE spoilers in this review!  Lots of them!

Here we go!

Thoughts on Beauty and the Beast: 

Why is Dan Stevens attractive even as the spoiled brat in ridiculous make-up?

It’s been two minutes and I already ship the hell out of Madame Garderobe and the Maestro.

There’s the dog! And it’s their dog! OMG so cute.

I really like this new back story they’ve given the Prince.  And not the “an 11-year-old turned away a stranger” thing.  This guy deserves the curse.  Douche.

Okay. Moment of truth, Emma Watson.

Why is this school teacher so salty?  Shouldn’t he like the idea of reading?

I like it when she skips across the pond.  That’s cute.

I never understood how Belle is literally the only person in town who likes to read.  Is this part of the curse?

Emma is okay as Belle.  Not as bad as I thought she’d be.  My problem with her as an actress is the same problem I have with Johnny Depp.  Whenever either of them are on screen, all I see is Emma Watson as Belle or Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter or whomever.  They don’t bring the characters to life.  They don’t BECOME The characters.  Take Emilia Clarke (who, personally, I think should have been cast as Belle).  I never see Emilia Clarke whenever she acts.  I see Khaleesi or Louisa.  Do you see what I’m saying?  So basically, Emma did a fine job of playing Belle.  But I still only see Belle as played by Emma Watson.  I don’t see Belle.

Okay, is it wrong that I’m actually rooting for Gaston?  I’m already in love with this guy.

Oh Olaf.  You’re so funny.

Why do I love Gaston so much?  I never loved Gaston in the original.  But goodness, do I love this Gaston.  Luke Evans, you’re amazing.

“Not gonna happen ladies.”

Okay, I officially love Le Fou too.

I actually love the chorus too.

Aw, I think it’s kind of cute that he gave her flowers.  Emmabelle, why you so mean to him?  Would it actually kill you to give this guy a chance?

Kevin Kline!  I love you, Kevin Kline!

Fun Fact: Kevin Kline was Captain Phoebus in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Disney Alum!

I actually really like that they made him an artist.  That’s adorable.  And his music boxes are gorgeous.

A rose?  Can you not grow your own roses, Belle?  Do they not grow in your village?  God, this village sucks.

Okay, if the village people are pissed that Belle washes her clothes in their fountain… I get it.  They probably drink out of that.  No one wants your dirty bloomers in their drinking water, Belle.

That is sad that they toss her clothes on the ground though.  I feel bad for her.

Gaston admiring himself.  I’m dying.

Josh Gad is Le Fou. Josh Gad is perfection.  Everyone should be like Josh Gad.

Okay, Gaston grabbing her skirt is all kinds of inappropriate.  Not liking him quite as much.

I don’t believe you actually want adventure in the great wide somewhere.  But goodness, I love this scenery.  This movie is beautiful.

I like how this movie specifies that it’s snowing around the castle in June.  So basically, all the land around the castle is cursed.

“Always winter, never Christmas.”

Sorry, wrong Disney movie.

Maurice is awfully bold sitting himself down to eat in this castle which appears to be empty or haunted or both.  Like, the sitting himself down is gutsy enough.  But you’re really going to eat the food that’s set out for you?  He has no idea how long that has been sitting in the pantry.  It could be moldy.

Demon teacup!  Run, Maurice, run!

Wait a minute.  Are you serious?!  You are (understandably) running from a talking teacup… literally FLEEING for you life… but oh, wait!  Hold the phone!  Gotta stop and pick a rose for Belle!  I think she’ll understand if you don’t bring her home a rose this ONE time.  Seriously, Maurice?  Seriously?

If the household items came to life before my eyes, I’d keep running.  Forget the rose.  Tell her to plant her own.  She already has a garden!

Look at that.  That rose screwed you over, Sir.

You can’t expect me to watch Emma Watson meandering through this huge castle and not make like a hundred Hogwarts jokes inside my head.

“Hey, this place looks a lot like my alma mater.”

Okay, Belle, can we talk about your dress for a minute?  It’s really cute and I actually love it, but why is it hiked up so high I can see your undergarments?  That’s not particularly ladylike.

This castle is making me very nervous.  There are no railings.  Everything is a platform.  One misstep and you would plummet to your death.

I love, love, love you Dan Stevens, but I feel like there was a lot more emotion in the animated beast.  That could be due to the CGI, however.

Emmabelle hitting Lumiere with the chair is actually hilarious.

Sir Ian McKellen was born to play Cogsworth.

Lumiere is constantly throwing Cogsworth under the bus and it is perfection.

“A broken clock is correct twice a day but this is not one of those times.”

Aw, can we just talk about how much I love Emma Thompson?  I love Emma Thompson.  She is wonderful.  And she’s another Disney Alum!  She played Captain Amelia in Treasure Planet and mastered the role of PL Travers in Saving Mr. Banks.  God, she’s so wonderful.

Incidentally, she was also Emmabelle’s Divination teacher at Hogwarts, Professor Trelawney.  They didn’t get along quite so well back then.

Everything about the Gaston number is perfect.  But especially Josh Gad and Luke Evans.

Be our guest!  Be our guest!

Sakes alive, I’ve definitely been blessed.  This is perfection.  I was so iffy on Ewan McGreggor being able to live up to the standards that the legendary Jerry Orbach set, but even if his voice isn’t quite there, his charisma (well, the candelabra’s charisma), the cinematography, the performance itself is DAZZLING.  Oh my God, I think this was my favorite part of the entire movie.  I can’t stop smiling.

I guess Ewan McGreggor sort of counts as a Disney Alum.  Star Wars IS Disney now, after all.  But it wasn’t Disney when he was Obi Wan, so does it count?  I don’t know.

He was really hot as Obi Wan though and I always felt sort of odd for thinking so.

Emma Watson is not enjoying this nearly as much as she should be.

Okay, now that that scene is over, I really have to pee.  I don’t want to leave, but I figure if I have to skip one scene, I won’t miss all that much with him yelling at her and her almost getting eaten by wolves.  That was always my least favorite scene in the original anyway.

They’re playing “How Far I’ll Go” in the bathroom and I can’t sing along because someone else is in here too.

Moana was so robbed at the Academy Awards.

Back to Beauty and the Beast.  Beast is hurt.  Emmabelle is tending him.

Oh, I like this moment.  Where Belle asks why the servants care for him, why they stay with him.  They really care about him.  They’re protective of him.  They feel like they should have taken better care of him when he was younger.  This is so sweet.

I love Beast’s reaction to Romeo and Juliet.  Same, Beast.  Same.

Beast leads Emmabelle to library.

Emmabelle: So like, where’s the restricted section?

Dan Stevens, where are your table manners?  Cousin Violet would be appalled.

Sorry, you knew a Downton Abbey joke was coming sooner or later.

Incidentally, his Cousin Violet/Grandmother-in-law is also Emmabelle’s former Transfiguration Professor, Head-of-House, and Deputy Headmistress.  I love it when fandoms collide.

Gandalf and The Bard, anyone?

Sorry, we’re not there yet.

Of course, we’ve also got Caesar Flickerman here.  And he has the honor of being married to Audra McDonald.  And they’re like the cutest Disney couple EVER.

Wow, Beast, way to pwn your future bride with a snow-canon-ball.

Seriously, he knocked her to the ground. Rude.

“I’ve been told I’m clingy, but I don’t get it.”

It’s kind of cool that Gaston and Le Fou are tagging along to help Maurice, but we all know Gaston has ulterior motives.

OMG.  Dude.  No.  I do NOT like Gaston anymore.  You, Sir, are not a good person.

I think I actually screamed in the theater.

My sister says Gaston is a prime example of a man’s rights activist and that, my friends, is both accurate and hilarious.

LE FOU CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.  JOSH GAD YOU BEAUTIFUL HUMAN YOU.

Belle, in what universe is Guinevere and Lancelot romantic?  That was pure adultery.

But can we talk about how Dan Stevens played Lancelot in the third Night at the Museum movie and was freaking HILARIOUS.  He didn’t get to play funny at all in Downton Abbey but this man is FUNNY.

It’s okay, Beast.  I still think you’re manly.

Alright, now this strange book that takes you anywhere you want to go is a bit of a stretch for me.  It’s cool… but I don’t think I buy it.  The mirror is supposed to be his only window to the outside world.  And this book actually lets him walk around in it?  Hmm…

“What do you think?  Too touristy?”  This script is gold.

Belle’s mom died of the plague.  That’s gruesome.

By the way, shout out to Ghost Adventures and Zak Bagans for teaching me all about the plague masks.

Also, I love that they made the Beast so smart and well-educated.  That’s really hot.

That chick who saved Maurice is so totally the Enchantress.  Calling it right now.

WOW Gaston is an off-the-charts asshole.  See, now I feel icky for liking him.  I’m glad Belle didn’t give him the time of day.

Poor Le Fou.  He’s so torn!
Why is the priest in a tavern?

I think we’re all just waiting for the dance scene at this point.

Unpopular Opinion: I actually really like Belle’s dress. I think it’s gorgeous.

This whole scene is just beautiful.  Stunning.

“A creature like me could never hope to win your affection, right?”

“I don’t know. You should see the red-haired loser I dated back in high school.”

Another problem I have with Emma as Belle is that I don’t think she and I would be friends.  I loved Belle as a kid.  I wanted to be her friend.  I wanted to be her.  I feel like Emma Watson would just be judging me all the time.  She probably wouldn’t be.  But that’s the sort of air she gives off.

Dan Stevens singing.  Thank you, Disney Gods.   I only wish I could hear it in his real voice and not his Beast voice.

Also Evermore is pretty, but If I Can’t Love Her is still the best.

I do love Belle riding into save her father on a white horse.  That’s pretty awesome.

I get that she would do anything to save her father, and so would I, but boy this movie makes it seem like she’s throwing the Beast under the bus.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always like “The Mob Song.”

GOD I LOVE LE FOU’S CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.

“Grandmother?!  Attack!!”

“We are so in a bad place right now.”

I LOVE the guy who was so happy to look so pretty after Audra McDonald dressed him up.  He’s adorable.

MR. POTTS?!?!

Holy ish I never expect Gaston to be THAT big a jerk.  I actually screamed again.

Oh my God, Disney, are you actually making me sit through the metaphorical deaths of beloved characters from my childhood?  It’s like you’re actually making me watch my childhood die.

The puppy!  No!  Oh my God, that made me cry.  The puppy still loves his parents!

Cogsworth and Lumiere’s goodbye is not okay.  In what universe is this okay?  I’m not okay.

I knew Agatha was the Enchantress!

The Transformation scene is EXACTLY like in the animated movie.  Same score, same camera angles, same sequence.  I applaud you on this one, Disney.  I like that you kept it.

Ugh, I want to make out with Prince Dan Stevens.

Okay, I’m happy that Mrs. Potts reunited with Mr. Potts and everything, but Disney, you kind of just sank my Maurice/Mrs. Potts ship.

“Turn back into a clock.  Turn back into a clock!”

You cannot convince me that Sir Ian McKellen has ever been married to a woman.

Ugh Dan Stevens is SO hot.

Audra McDonald singing Beauty and the Beast is making me cry.

Emma Thompson!  Oh my God, I love you so much!  I’m crying just watching her.  She is magic.

Can we talk about how our entire theater burst into applause when Le Fou and that cute soldier danced together?  The two most adorable guys in the movie.  I approve, I approve.

God, this movie is magic.  I can’t wait to see it again.

Book Challenges

Excerpts, questions, and answers from several book challenges. 

Question: How long have you been writing?

Answer: Since before I knew that J and L were not the same letter. I didn’t realize I wanted to be an author, however, until my junior year of college.

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Question: What should all books have?

Answer: All books should be written with love.

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Question: What scares you most about writing?

Answer: I’m scared to death that I’m accidentally going to plagiarize or violate a copyright law. Even in elementary school, I had it drilled into me that plagiarism was a transgression second only to murder. I carry that honest to goodness fear of God in my heart to this day.

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Question: What do you listen to while writing?

Answer: Each of my WIPs has a different soundtrack. Here’s a compilation of three of those soundtracks.

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Question: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever written?

Answer: Oh wow, I’ve written so much crap, it’s really hard to pick just one. It’s probably a tie between every poem, short story, and screenplay that I wrote in college (and of course, the worst poem of all ended up in the stupid literary journal) or all the god awful Harry Potter fanfiction I wrote throughout high school.

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Question: How do you show diversity in your work?

Answer: Well, a lot of people think it’s kind of weird that I write creepy ghost stories AND silly love stories about boy bands. Does that count?

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Your CP/Beta Readers

My sister is always the very first person to read and critique my books because as she so eloquently puts it, “I don’t want to be related to someone who writes crappy books.”

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Question: How do you cope with killing your characters?

Answer: So far all of the characters I’ve killed were dead long before the books began, so I’ve been okay. However, there was one day I that thought that maybe, just maybe, the story was leading toward someone’s death and I cried for like thirty minutes just thinking about it. So yeah.

Question: Have you ever ‘killed an enemy’ in your writing?

Answer: No. Writing gives me way too much joy. I try not to give my “enemies” any more space in my head than they already occupy. And yes, I have been known to hold a grudge.

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Question: How did you choose your genre?

Answer: I write the books that I would want to read.

Question: What do you like best about YOUR writing?

Answer: My characters. I love my characters.

Describe your main characters in three words.

Melissa Parker (Boy Band): Sweet, Loyal, Neurotic.

Sam Morneau (Boy Band): Enthusiastic, Optimistic, Devoted.

Michael Sinclair (Cemetery Tours): Thoughtful, Chivalrous, Sardonic.

Kate Avery (Cemetery Tours): Bright, Spontaneous, Loving.

Luke Rainer (Cemetery Tours): Determined, Cheeky, Stubborn.

Question: Which celebrity would play your main characters?

Answer: Natalia Dyer would play Melissa Parker (Boy Band).

Harry Styles would play Sam Morneau (Boy Band).

Matthew Gray Gubler would play Michael Sinclair (Cemetery Tours) (though I could totally also see Ezra Miller).

Amanda Seyfried would play Kate Avery (Cemetery Tours).

Question: How do you choose character names?

Answer: MomsWhoThink.com. Not even joking. I’m terrible at coming up with names.

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Question: What’s the meanest thing that you’ve done to a character?

Answer: Michael Sinclair would argue that is entire existence is miserable and that its all my fault. But you know, he really doesn’t have it all that bad. He gets the girl so I really don’t know what is problem is.

I do tend to give a few of my characters awkward personalities and put them in embarrassing situations as a result, but that’s mostly because I have an awkward personality and I embarrass myself a lot. Writing myself into my own characters if you will.

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Question: What word do you use WAY too much?

Answer: Oh, there are so many. I use “after all” and “of course” ALL the time. I also have a lot of characters whose names begin with M. Apparently I like M names.

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Question: What is your biggest pet peeve in books?

Answer: Stories that take unhealthy relationships and makes them sexy. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read (or attempted to read) that romanticize the hot guy who’s a huge jerk but it’s okay because he’s misunderstood and has a tragic back story oh and he’s hot. Not a fan.

Note: None of the books in the picture are like that. I just used them in this post because they’re pretty.

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Question: Which book do you wish you had written?

Answer: Literally all of these.

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Question: Do you have writing pals or do you ride solo?

Answer: I write alone. I am a control freak and not much of a team player. HOWEVER I have several writing pals in the sense that I have several friends who also write. And they are all brilliant.

Note: I am collaborating with Author James William Peercy, however, on Within The Heart of Silence, a collection of his poetry coupled with my photography. It’s absolutely spectacular and I can’t wait to share it with you!

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Question: What do you want to accomplish with writing?

Answer: I want what I’ve wanted my whole life. Freedom. And writing gives me that. But I’ve come to learn that the very best thing is when a reader messages you and says, “Your book changed my life” or “Your books helped me to love reading again.” That is the absolute best compliment than anyone can give or receive.

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Question: What is one thing you wish people knew about you?

Answer: It’s not really something I wish people knew about me. It’s what I wish people knew about all independent authors, and that is that we truly love what we do. We believe in our work and we work our tails off. We didn’t take the easy way out. Trust me, this business is anything but easy. I’ve never worked harder for anything in my life. But I can tell you this. Every moment is absolutely worth it.

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CHARACTER SWAP! Harry Potter just became your Main Character! How does your WIP change?

“Sam Morneau is Harry Potter’s best friend. He’s also a member of The Kind of September, basically the hottest boy band on the planet.

After two and a half years, Harry is all too familiar with the day-to-day occurrences that come with being a member of the band’s inner circle, including hectic schedules, passionate fans, and gossip-mongering celebrity girlfriends.

Now, with the release of the group’s third album just weeks away, their lives have never been crazier and Harry is doing everything he can to keep up, all the while trying to cope with the ridiculous rumors that follow the band everywhere they go and pretending that he isn’t harboring a secret and hopeless crush on Sam.

It’s weird enough being in love with your best friend. It’s even weirder when the rest of the world is in love with him, too.”

Sam and Harry. I’m for it. We could call it The Boy Band Who Lived.

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Question: Who do you ‘channel’ when you write?

Answer: These extraordinary women!

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Research

Dobby does all my research for me. Like a good House Elf.

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Fan Love

I think it goes without saying that my readers/fans/friends are the best.

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A Challenge Overcome

I think my biggest challenge, in fact I think this is something that most of us struggle with, has been overcoming self doubt. I knew I could write a book, but how was I supposed to put it together? To actually make it a book? To learn the ins and outs of publishing? To reach people? To make it something worth reading? What right did I have to try any of this? I’m so happy I kept pushing myself. I’m so happy I had friends and family who believed in me and were there to support me every step of the way. I wouldn’t be here on my own.

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A Self-Reward

This is one of my absolute favorite books of all time. I’ve read it I don’t know how many times. Like The Princess Bride, my copy was a tiny, beat up, paperback that was falling apart. So I bought myself a nice hardback copy.

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An Author You Admire

I admire several of my fellow authors, but these are the ones to whom I really, truly look up.

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Give an AWESOME author to #FF. Why?

Answer: I can’t just pick one, so here’s my list! I picked these amazing authors because I know each and every one of them are kind, genuine, and off-the-charts talented. Also included in this list is the brilliant Sarah MacTavish, author of Firebrand, but sadly my sister still has my copy of her book. Need to get that back. Also Paula Walker Baker, author of Jack Learns To Grill and The Conservative Congregant Novellas. Her books are so beautiful but since they are novellas, the title does not fit in the side of the books. Please, if you’re in need of an inspirational and uplifting read, pick her books up! And Terri Farley! She is just the sweetest!!!

(I have too many favorite authors).

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One Word Title

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Bookish Tattoos OR Bookish Goods

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Author or Character who shares your name.

There’s a little girl named Jackie in #TheFaultInOurStars and there’s a reporter named Jackie in #TheBoyIsBack.

Incidentally, there is also an author who shares my name exactly.

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Bookish Confession

This one may get me kicked out of the #Bookstagram community but here it goes.

I don’t like Jane Austen.

I never have.

I’ve read them all. I even took a Jane Austen class in college. I’ve taken several British Literature courses that studied her work. I have a Master’s Degree in the humanities.

And I don’t like Jane Austen.

I’m sorry.

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Bookish Confession Part 2

Here’s another confession. I’ve never read any of these. My high school didn’t require them. After talking with a friend who also went to my high school, I decided to steal these from my sister. It’s time I read them. I also downloaded 1984 to my Kindle. No, I’ve never read that either. That’s going to be my March goal. To catch up on books I should have read in tenth grade.

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Teen Bookfest by the Bay

Friends.  Wow.  Where to even begin?

This weekend, I drove down to Corpus Christi to be a signing author and a panelist for the third annual Teen Bookfest by the Bay.  It was my first time so I had no idea what to expect.

I don’t know how else to say this other than it was one of them most incredible experiences of my life.

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It all began with a welcome dinner at the Art Museum of South Texas, where the event coordinators and sponsors had put together a wonderful meal (plus chocolate-covered strawberries!).

Each author was also presented with our very own swag bags, complete with snacks, chocolate, t-shirts, name badges, water bottles, and sea shells.  Let me tell you, I have never felt so spoiled in my life.

After dinner (and a quick trip down to the water’s edge to take pictures of the USS Lexington lit up in blue, it was back to the hotel.

Sadly, my straight hair, which had been so beautiful, was no match for Corpus Christi humidity.  That’s okay.  I’ll straighten it for Comic Con.

The next morning, we were all awake bright and early.  Early enough, even, to watch the sun rise over the water from my hotel balcony.

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Then, it was off to the festival.  Before breakfast (again, provided by our sponsors and the wonderful librarians who organized the event), I dropped my books off with the others at the sales table.  It was then that I began to realize that I recognized several of the titles being sold alongside mine.  One of which happened to be one of my favorite books of all time, Seven Tears into the Sea by Terri Farley.

“Wait a minute… Is she here?!” I gasped.

That’s when I remembered that the day before, when I’d first arrived at the hotel, I’d ridden up the elevator with a woman named Terri.  I’d been chatting with a woman who’d written one of my favorite books and I hadn’t even realized it.

Needless to say, I completely fangirled out when I met her for the second time.  Terri Farley, it turns out, is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet.  She’s also a huge animal lover and has written a non-fiction book called Wild Horses.  I can’t wait to read it.  It’s a beautiful books and features photographs by a National Geographic wildlife photographer, basically my dream job.

After a brief welcome, it was time for our first panel.  Now, I’ve never been one for public speaking. I remember in college, I would prepare slide shows so I would have something to read.  But my fellow authors on the panel, Laura Stampler and Guadalupe Garcia McCall, were so friendly and wonderful and sweet.  They made me feel right at ease and we spent most of our panels laughing.  And talking about books, of course.

At first, I’ll admit, I felt a lithe intimidated.  After all, Laura is published by Simon & Schuster and Guadalupe has won multiple, and I do mean MULTIPLE awards.  I’m just a little indie author from a small town north of Dallas.  In what universe was I worthy to sit next to them and act like I deserved to be there?

But then I thought to myself, “You know what?  No.  You worked your butt off to get here.  You and all the indies.  You’re out there every day fighting the stigma that independent authors aren’t as good as those who’ve been traditionally published when you know that that simply isn’t true.  Not just because you love your books, but because you’ve read and loved so many other indie books.”

So instead of sheepishly admitting that I’d published my own books, I proudly told our audiences that I’d learned the ins and outs of publishing, marketing, formatting, and cover design.  I told them of my friends and colleagues in the independent community who’ve written fantastic books, ones that I recommend over and over and over again.  I told them of the anthologies to which I’ve contributed, including Ever in the After, a charity anthology that will benefit Lift 4 Autism.

When my panel wasn’t presenting, I snuck upstairs to listen to my friend Miracle Austin’s panel.  She (and this is where I get to start name-dropping) shared a panel with multi-bestselling author Jonathan Maberry.

Seriously, this guy has done it all.  I can’t even begin to list his titles, awards, accomplishments, Marvel comics, X-Files, all this super cool amazing stuff.  And the best part of all is he’s SUCH a cool, nice person!  As I was on the escalator back down to the first floor, I noticed him walking by.  Being the elegant and mature grown-up person that I am, I yelled out, “Mr. Maberry!” and began running UP the escalator that was going down.

I introduced myself not as Jacqueline Smith, but as Miracle Austin’s friend, and basically fangirled all over the place.  But seriously, how else do you act around such a legend?

Speaking of Miracle, I just have to take a moment to thank her.  Not only for her unconditional love and friendship, but for telling me about Teen Bookfest by the Bay in the first place.  Without her, I would never have known to send in my name and my books.  Not only is she an absolutely amazing author (Jonathan Maberry even says so!), she’s the most genuine, sweet, wonderful, sparkly person you will ever meet.  I am so fortunate to be able to call her my friend.  She’s a rare one.

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I have so many other stories I could tell you from this weekend.  I met Ann Redisch Stampler, author of After Party, Where it Began, and How To Disappear.  Again, one of the absolute sweetest people you could ever hope to meet.  I ate lunch with Diana Lopez, whose novel, Choke, became the Lifetime Original Movie The Choking Game.  I reconnected with my friend, Amanda M. Thrasher, author of The Greenlee Project which, in my humble opinion, should also be a Lifetime Original Movie.  I met other amazing and sweet and friendly authors like Manuel Ruiz, Brendan Kiely (rhymes with smiley), and illustrator Evan Turk. And again, the best part was how genuinely NICE and open and inviting these exceptionally talented authors are.  God, I felt so accepted and welcome and fortunate.  What an incredible experience.  Truly.

Finally, the amazing librarians, Debbie Carroll VanZandt and her team are simply the best in the world.  They genuinely love and care about their kids and work tirelessly to promote reading and literacy and to make reading fun for these teens.  And wow, do they know how to make authors feel spoiled and special.  We wanted for nothing all weekend.  Honestly, I’ll never be able to thank them enough.

All I can truly say is that I’m counting down the days until next year!  Thank you all again for the experience of a lifetime.  It’s one that I will never forget.

The Space Between Us

Hi, friends!

Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I’m sorry.  That was a semi-conscious decision.  There’s just been so much negativity in our world and on TV and on social media and emotions have been running so high that, for my own sanity, I had to take a step back.

January was a pretty big month.  I turned 29.  I got some work done.  I’m in the middle of writing the fourth Boy Band book called Spotlight.  And I’m working on a new standalone book as well!  And let me tell you, I’m having so much fun.

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I’ve also seen a few wonderful movies in the past few months.  The first of which was Moana.  I love Disney.  I love the ocean.  Naturally, I loved Moana.  But God, that movie made me bawl.  I’m not kidding you.  I was weeping.  The last Disney movie to make me cry like that was The Lion King.

Then there was Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. 

Y’all.

Y’all.

Oh my God.

I didn’t write a review for this movie because I literally have nothing to say other than it’s perfect.  Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is a perfect movie.  Everything about it is perfect.  Everything.

Newt is perfect.

The Niffler is perfect.

The score is perfect.

The costumes are perfect.

The magic is perfect.

Colin Farrell is perfect.

The subtle Harry Potter references are perfect.

Jakweenie is perfect.

PERFECT MOVIE IS PERFECT.

I could go on forever about how much I love this movie and the cast and the fact that it’s so much better than the eight Harry Potter movies (not books) and all my fan conspiracy theories and my borderline unhealthy love for Colin Farrell… But I’ll spare you.  Just know that I have never been more blissfully enraptured by a movie before and I doubt I will be again.

Well, at least until the second installment.

All that being said, I do have a new movie review for you, one in which I am not quite so emotionally invested as Disney or Harry Potter.

I’ve been wanting to see The Space Between Us since I first saw the trailer.  It looked exactly like my kind of sci-fi movie: a sappy teenage flick with a love story and a road trip.  The reviews weren’t exactly love letters.  Several critics pointed out that the science, the physics, the math, the technology was all ludicrous.  It could never work.  But you know what?  As a writer and as a movie-goer, I don’t go to see movies for their mathematical or scientific accuracy.  I go to be entertained.  I go for a story.  And come on.  It’s fiction.  I know this kid didn’t actually grow up on Mars.  I know I have to suspend belief for a while if I’m going to go see a movie like this.  Besides, as a person with a very, very basic understanding of physics and space travel and technology and what-not… I’m not going to know the difference.

I mean, my grandfather probably would have known the difference.  But I bet he also would have thought it was a cute story.  So whatever.

However, after reading all the negative reviews, I’ll admit that I second-guessed my eagerness to see the movie.  But then I read a review that called it “Nicholas Sparks type garbage” and I knew then that I would enjoy it.  For those of you who don’t know me, Nicholas Sparks type garbage is totally my kind of garbage.

So, without further ado…

Thoughts on The Space Between Us

SPOILER WARNING! 

  • You couldn’t pay me enough to go into space.
  • Of course they’d call this colony in the middle of dusty nowhere East Texas.
  • Why is Gary Oldman kind of hot as an old space geek?
  • He wasn’t even hot as Sirius Black. And Sirius Black is supposed to be hot.
  • Okay, I’m glad this kid grew up with other people.  For some reason, I was really concerned that he grew up on Mars alone.
  • Ugh Britt Robertson. I can’t stand her. I don’t know why. I’m sure she’s a lovely person. But as an actress, she’s like the human embodiment of nails on a chalkboard to me.
  • Also, she was born in 1990 and she’s playing a 17-year-old.
  • Oh look, she’s playing a song she wrote on the piano to show us how deep and vulnerable she is.
  • Gag me.
  • Gardener going through his post-puberty-rebellious stage on Mars.
  • BD Wong, why aren’t you taking care of your dinosaurs?
  • Somehow, surrogate space mom persuades BD Wong that bringing this kid back to Earth is a good idea despite his enlarged heart and brittle bones.
  • I’m actually really happy that Gardener gets to go to Earth but I’m already stressed out because I’ve seen the previews and I know his heart isn’t going to survive.
  • Stressful Martian kids.
  • Okay, Gardener is actually adorable.  Talking with that old homeless guy.  He’s so awkward and sweet.  I love him.
  • That guy on the bus is pretty much everyone in the entire world when strangers attempt to strike up conversations.
  • Gardener walking awkwardly into school.  God, he’s so cute.
  • Ugh, Britt Robertson, you’re such a little brat.
  • Tulsa.  What kind of a weird name is Tulsa?  I don’t even care that that’s the city she was abandoned in or whatever.  Sadly, I don’t even care that she was abandoned because she’s just that annoying.
  • Gardener walking into class and being adorable.  Can’t we just have a whole movie of him being awkward?  It would be much better without Tulsa’s tragic backstory.  Maybe I’d feel more sorry for her if the beautiful foster daughter who seems edgy on the outside but is actually loving with a beautiful spirit on the inside wasn’t SO overdone.  And often, so poorly executed.
  • Okay, I know I said that I was going to suspend disbelief going into this movie, but that was for the Mars stuff.  I don’t, for one second, believe this chick knows how to fly an old crop-duster plane.  No way.
  • Oh yeah, teenagers survive small aircraft crashes all the time.
  • Wow, these kids get away with a LOT of grand theft auto.
  • Tulsa sure does put up with a lot of weird from a boy she technically just met.  I mean, I know they’ve been Skype buddies for a while.  But still.
  • Oh my God, Gardener’s reaction to seeing the horse is so cute.  I just want a whole movie of this.
  • Ugh, Tulsa’s back at the piano again.  Writers, take note.  There are far less cheesy ways to communicate that a character is deep and beautiful and sees the world in a different way and blah, blah, blah.
  • Gardener’s health is still stressing me out.
  • I love this song by James Bay. “Need the Sun to Break.” It’s one of my new favorites.
  • Okay, I think we all knew that ending was coming.
  • I’m happy Gary Oldman got his dream.  I don’t know why anyone would want to live on Mars though.  It really doesn’t seem all that great.  Just a lot of red dust.
  • It would be fun to weigh less though.

Overall, The Space Between Us is a really cute movie.  I’d definitely see it again.  Don’t let the critics discourage you.  Of course, it’s no Fantastic Beasts, but let’s be honest, what is?

Thanks For The Memories

2016 was an interesting year to say the very least. I know several people who are more than ready to bid this year a rather disdainful adieu. But you know, 2016 wasn’t all political warfare and celebrity deaths. I can’t speak for everyone, but there are several moments from the past year on which I will look back with fondness.

And what better way to look back than with Instagram pictures?

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  1. Birthday Party at Painting with a Twist.

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2. Hot Chocolate by the fire.

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3. Hiking the ENTIRE 9 miles around White Rock Lake.

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4. Camping and sleeping outside for the very first time.

5. Adventures at Fossil Rim and Glen Rose Dinosaur Park.

6. My sister’s junior voice recital.

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7. The Little Mermaid, Wicked, and The Book of Mormon (not pictured).

8. Book Events.

9. Earth Day Celebration.

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10. A visit to Pioneer Village.

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11. My best friend moved home to Texas! This was definitely the best thing to happen to me this year!

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12. I took a dream vacation by myself to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, climbed two lighthouses, and visited the wild mustangs who live on the beaches.

13. I traveled to Arkansas to see my sister perform in Pinocchio.

14. A stop in to pay my respects to those buried at Showman’s Rest in Hugo, Oklahoma… the same graveyard featured in the third Cemetery Tours novel, After Death.

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15. Published the third book in the Boy Band Series and had a short story featured in Lurking in the Shadows!

16. Reconnected with old friends at my ten-year high school reunion. screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-11-04-09-pm

17. Met Aaron Watson.

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18. Celebrated the release of a “new” Harry Potter book… and was officially sorted into Ravenclaw!

19. Boy Band and Backstage won a few cool awards!

20. My sister and I traveled to Oklahoma to see 5 Seconds of Summer.

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21. I donated 10 inches of hair to Locks of Love.

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22. Found out I haven’t lost my touch at this Dave and Buster’s arcade game.

23. We all realized our childhood dreams of becoming Pokemon Masters.

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24. Had an amazing experience at the Texas Teen Book Festival (and got to spend the weekend with my dear friend Kara!)

25. Boy Band was featured in a SugarScape article! THIS was so very cool.

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26. Ghost hunting, sunrises on the beach, exploring submarines and World War II warships in Galveston.

27. I met Daymond John and gave him a copy of Cemetery Tours and a hug.

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28. Sold books and ate the most amazing cheesecake on a stick at Texas Renaissance Festival.

29. Met a childhood hero.

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30. Saw my sister perform in the Phantom of the Opera.

31. Found adventure in Lubbock (and trust me, that is not easy).

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32. Returned to the stage for the first time since grad school.

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33. And of course, read lots and lots and lots of books.

Ten Years Ago

This is a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for a while, but due to holiday festivities, I’ve definitely been slacking as far as reading, writing, and blogging go. Now that Christmas has once again come and gone, I finally have time to sit down with my computer and catch up on all the work that I’ve so blissfully and willingly ignored. Okay, maybe not blissfully. I actually really, really enjoy what I do. But it has been wonderful catching up and spending time with my friends and family.

A couple of weeks back, I had a girls night with two of my closest friends from high school. We haven’t seen each other nearly as much as I’d like in the past ten years, but I’m hoping that we can change that.

As we sat around in one of their brand new, super fancy, super spacious houses, we started talking about our senior year of high school and where we thought that we would be when we reached 28 (or in our cases, almost 29…).

Friend A thought that she would be married with kids, a house, and a great career. Today, she has a good job and spends most of her free time horseback riding.

Friend B thought that she would be living like a gypsy, traveling the world. Today, she’s married with a great house and a career that makes her good money, but that she’s not all that passionate about. She would rather be an artist.

As for me? I thought I’d be living at the beach and taking care of marine mammals. That’s all I wanted. Part of me still desperately wants for it to happen and dares to dream that one day, it might. I never dreamed that I’d end up writing books. Of course, now that I’m almost 29, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my twenties, it’s that life doesn’t always play out the way you imagine it will, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I know that I’ve written similar sentiments on this blog before, but honestly, it comforts me. I like knowing that things happen for a reason and having some assurance that maybe I am where I’m meant to be in life.

Contentment

When I woke up this morning, I found myself thinking about all the things that I want to happen in 2017. Most importantly, perhaps, is finishing the four books I have in the works and getting them published and out into the world. I only published one book this year (though I’ve had short stories in other publications) and somehow, that feels weird, like I’ve been slacking off. Granted, I’ve been traveling more and trying to learn about marketing, but I’m definitely not a one-book-a-year kind of girl.

Then I began to wonder if there’s anyone out there who can actually say, “Yeah, I did everything I wanted to do in 2016. I am accomplished. I am content.” If they exist, I must admit, a part of me envies them. The other part of me, however, can’t help but wonder, “If they’re perfectly content, then what do they hope for? What drives them?”

By the way, yes, this is pretty much exactly what you get out of the book, Who Moved My Cheese?

Still, I think it’s worth noting that it’s okay to feel like you have more to accomplish. It’s okay to feel like you could have done more this year. Heck, I think that’s pretty human. Do any of us ever truly live up to our full potential? It would be wonderful if we did and I do believe we should always try our best to do so, but we shouldn’t dwell on what hasn’t happened yet either.

I love having goals, having hopes, having dreams. I love having something to work for. I’ve been this way since I was little. True, my hopes and dreams have evolved and expanded a bit since I was seven, but for the most part, I still find myself enthralled by the possibilities of the future.

There is always room for improvement. I hope that I am still striving to improve myself and the world around me in fifty years. I hope I find joy, love, peace, excitement, adventure. But in a strange way, I hope I never find contentment.

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