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.

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Pokemon Go Book Tag!

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Disclaimer:  Pokemon Go belongs to Niantic and Nintendo, please don’t sue me.

So Read At Midnight has come up with a brilliant book tag for all the aspiring Pokemon Masters out there!  I just have to participate because I too, wanna be the very best like no one ever was.

Rules:

  • NIL. Link back to my blog is appreciated but optional. Feel free to use my graphics. Tag people, don’t tag people, whatever. Just have fun!

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The first book I remember loving (that actually inspired me to write as well) is Shortcut by Donald Crews.  That was preschool.  As I got older, I read all of the Bailey School Kid mystery novels as well as Lurlene McDaniel novels.  I also loved anything that Bill Wallace wrote.

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A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle.  This book is so beautiful and so inspiring and it really helped me to understand a lot about the significance of what goes on around us and how we interpret and experience life.

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This tag actually made me laugh out loud because it’s TRUE. Zubats are EVERYWHERE and I already have a Golbat so I no longer have any need for Zubats!  Go away, ugly little flying creature!

And I’m just going to have to go with genre here and say anything erotica that features a submissive virginal female and an arrogant dominant male.  I’ve tried to read a few and they simply don’t appeal to me.

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Nicholas Sparks’ books are all literally the same book, but I love each and every one of them and read every single new book he releases.

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The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and Game of Thrones by JRR Martin.  I actually intend to read both someday (Outlander first because I love Scotland), but as of right now, I’m trying to get past the intimidatingly tiny text.

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Any time a new Harry Potter book was released, sleep did not exist.  I had to read them straight through.  I actually passed out after the fifth book was released because I was running on no food and no sleep and I was sick.  Another book that kept me up, however, was Defending Jacob by William Landay.  It didn’t keep me up in the sense that it scared me, but oh my goodness, this book stayed with me for forever.  I would just lay awake at night thinking about it.

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I think my #1 OTP of all time would HAVE to be Katniss and Peeta from The Hunger Games.  I love them so much I just don’t even know what to do with myself.  I want a Peeta!

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Can I say my own books for this?  Haha!  I wrote them specifically to be fast-paced and fun and easy to read.  I’m not sure how “fire-hot” they are, but I like them.  So I’ll go with the Boy Band series and the Cemetery Tours series by me!

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Harry Potter!  Harry Potter!  Harry Potter!  Harry Potter!

I need books on the Marauders and the founders and the Weasleys and Harry’s children and maybe a whole rewrite of the original series from Neville’s point of view and Draco’s point of view and Snape’s point of view and…

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I’m actually in the middle of it, but I was really surprised by how much I liked The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.  I went into it thinking it would be kind of boring and serious.  Quite the contrary.  It was actually fun, dark, entertaining, and even funny.

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So, my sister and my little cousin have been trying to get me to read The Selection series by Kiera Cass for forever, and I actually really want to.  I’ve just been trying to find the time to commit myself to all those books!  I am actually really excited to read it!

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Oh, goodness, this is difficult because I love old books and I love signed books.  I could definitely use a brand new set of first-edition Harry Potter books, however.  All of mine have been read so many times they are actually falling apart.  OH!  Or I’d love to have the original UK editions!

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I’m a bad reader in the sense that I don’t actively go seeking new authors.  I usually let the books find me, haha!  So for this tag, I’m going to mention a few of my friends and their debut novels (even though some of them have been out for quite a while).  I’m excited for Doll by Miracle Austin, Winter’s Curse by April L. Wood, The Wall Outside by James William Peercy, The Conservative Congregant by Paula Walker Baker, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren by Cody Wagner, and Firebrand by Sarah MacTavish.

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My current auto-buy authors are Deb Caletti, Meg Cabot, Nicholas Sparks, Rainbow Rowell and Jodi Picoult.

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The wait is almost over! I’m going to the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Saturday!  I would also kill for a sequel to Eleanor and Park and/or Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell but I’m not sure either will happen.  In fact, I’m certain that the latter will not.  Because I’ve asked her.  In person.  And she said no.

Thank you so much, Aentee, for this fantastic Book Tag adventure!

Everyone, go follow her!

Also, if you’re reading this, I CHOOSE YOU!

Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

So, unless you’ve been living under a rock or on a desert island with no wifi, you’ve probably heard of Pokemon GO, the mobile app that is sweeping the nations and probably has groups of random twenty-somethings wandering around your lawn at four in the morning trying to catch that darn Nidoran.  I’ll admit, I’m guilty of the wandering as well.  My sister and I grew up on Pokemon and now, to be able to go out and “catch” them in the real world… It’s SO much fun!  It’s really bringing out the nerd in me.

I’ve never openly admitted my love for Pokemon, but the truth is it was a huge part of my childhood and one of the very first things to really spark my creativity.  I loved the idea of these cute, beautiful, powerful animals hanging out and going out and learning about them.  Granted, I’m pretty sure if I was a real life Pokemon trainer, I wouldn’t actually battle them or even train them.  I’d catch all the cute ones and keep them as pets and love them and take them on adventures.

Last night, I was hanging out with my birds (my real birds, not all the Pidgeys that have flocked to my front porch), and I started thinking, “I wonder what my characters would be like if they were Pokemon trainers?”

This inspired me to try to find one of those websites where you can make your own character.  You know, there’s a mermaid one, a Lord of the Rings one, a Disney one, etc… Well, I couldn’t find one.  So I decided to attempt to draw the characters myself.

May I just say that although I enjoy drawing, I’m not very good at it.

I started with Mel Parker from Boy Band, simply because the new book just came out and she was pretty easy as far as drawing is concerned.  I also knew almost immediately which Pokemon she would pick.  So I made an attempt at drawing Mel with her Marill.

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I had a lot of fun with it.  I haven’t drawn anyone else yet, mostly because that one itty bitty drawing took me FOREVER.  But I want to.

Until I actually get around to it, however, I have been giving some thought as to who my other characters might pick as their Pokemon.

Luke Rainer from Cemetery Tours  is easy. He’d obviously have a Ghastly or a Haunter.  He’s far too obsessed with ghosts to have anything else.

At first I was thinking Kate Avery from Cemetery Tours might have a Mew, because of her sensitivity and sense of wonder, but then I reconsidered and realized she’d have something more like a Persian.  She’s a strong character.  And that’s not saying that Mew isn’t a strong Pokemon (it totally is), but I think a Persian suits her a little more.

As for Michael Sinclair?  He’d want something normal.  He’s all about lying low and fitting in.  I can see him with an Eevee.  Or anything that wouldn’t destroy his apartment.  He’d want a low-maintenance Pokemon.

Brink, on the other hand, would have something outrageous, like a Dragonite. The bigger and more destructive, the better.

Sam Morneau from Boy Band is very basic.  He’d totally have a Pikachu.

Oliver Berkley, for some reason, I can see with a Ponyta.  I think it’s because at first glance, Oliver is very meek and mellow, but he’s got a lot of spunk and fire in him.  A Ponyta would suit him.

Josh Chaill would have a Jigglypuff.  He wouldn’t want it, but that’s literally all he would be suited for.  Sorry, Josh.

Jesse Scott, I can see with a Wartortle (is that how you spell it?).  Not as cute and cuddly as Squirtle, but not as fierce as Blastoise.  But it can still pack a punch.

Cory Foreman, I think, would have something awkward like a Doduo or an Oddish.  He’s tall and awkward and the poor boy just doesn’t know what’s good for him.

His twin sister Joni, on the other hand, would probably have something like a Staryu.  I don’t know why, Staryu just always struck me as such a no-nonsense Pokemon, and Joni is the same way.

Now as for me, the author, I would want an Articuno.  I’ve ALWAYS wanted an Articuno because they’re pretty and blue and when they fly, they sparkle.  And even though I don’t necessarily enjoy the cold, I was born in the middle of a snowstorm, so you know, it fits.

What Pokemon would you choose?

 

Three Cheers for Indie Authors

On Saturday, I attended the North Texas Book Festival for the second year in a row, and it was even more fun this year than it was last year.  I had several friends there and I was privileged to make the acquaintance of even more wonderful readers and writers.

I may have come home with one or two new books…

Hey, it’s networking.

Currently, I’m in the middle of reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  I loved the movie, so I’ve really been looking forward to reading the book.  The thing is, however, I’m so, so, so excited to start reading all my new books that I got on Saturday that I’m finding myself kind of speed-reading through Still Alice in order to get to my new ones.  There’s something so special and remarkable about reading books that have been produced and published by the author themselves, especially authors you’ve met in person and who’ve shared their personal stories and experiences.  The best way to get to know an author is to read their book.  And I can’t wait to dive in.

I know I’m also an independent author, so what I’m about write may sound a bit self-congratulatory and egotistical, but I am so proud of the work I’ve done, and I’m so proud of my colleagues for their dedication and passion.  There’s this stigma that independent publishing is the “easy way out.”  Let me tell you now, there is nothing easy about taking matters into your own hands and learning skills that you never thought you would need practically overnight.  Independent publishing is real work, work that I would never have even considered if I didn’t truly believe that my books were worth sharing.  This is why I say three cheers for all my fellow indie authors.  You do not believe in limitations.  You will not accept no for an answer.  You conquered your own mountains, you made your own dreams come true.  I am so honored to be in your company.  And I can’t wait to read your books.

Spring Has Sprung

Hello, friends.  I’m sorry I haven’t been updating as much as I should.  Life, as usual, is quite busy.  My sister is home for spring break so I’ve been spending as much time with her as I can.  We went to see the stage production of The Little Mermaid on Sunday and once again, I cried my eyes out because Ariel is my childhood hero.  Then yesterday, we spent the morning at the Arboretum.

It was a beautiful day and the best way to welcome spring.

As for book updates, I’m having so much fun writing the third book in the Boy Band series.  I think it’s going to be my favorite.  I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

I’m also helping my cousin (whom I only recently connected with on Facebook) publish her book of poetry/memoir.

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The photo on the cover is hers as well.  It’s been a new experience.  This is the first time I will have published a book that is not my own.  I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to publish it so that the royalties go directly to her.  I think I’ve finally got it all sorted, but it’s been a challenge.

Of course, I’m hoping to one day get to the point where I publish a LOT of books, not just my own and my family members, and I’ve had some requests.  The thing is, I can’t work for free.  With Margaret, it’s different since she’s family.  Even still, I don’t want to be a pay-to-publish company, or a vanity press, if you will.  I want my authors to get paid.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the sort of money that would allow me to make an offer or a payment up front.  I think the best way to do it would be to publish and keep 25% of the royalties while the other 75% go to the author.  But that’s not going to happen for a while.  I’m still trying to make a name for myself as an author.  That’s my ultimate dream.

On the other hand, I am very seriously considering offering my services as a cover designer.  I have thousands of images that would work for book covers (NOT stock images) and it’s something I really and truly enjoy.

What do y’all think?

Kindle Unlimited

As an author, I’ve never been all that sure how to feel about Kindle Unlimited.  I’ve heard mixed reviews.  Some authors love it and think that the pay-off is great.  Others think it is Internet robbery and claim that their sales and royalties have taken a major hit.  I didn’t have any books enrolled in KU, so I had no idea if or how it would affect me.  I chose to keep it that way.

Then I published the Cemetery Tours Series Box Set.  The set includes the first three books in the Cemetery Tours Series: Cemetery Tours, Between Worlds, and After Death.

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I knew I was only going to post it to Kindle.  I haven’t had a whole lot of luck formatting for Nook and sales haven’t been at all good enough to make the effort worth it.  So I uploaded the box set exclusively to Kindle.

Yesterday, on a complete and total whim, I thought, “You know… I’m going to give Kindle Unlimited a shot.”  At this point in the game, I’m curious.  It will be a learning experience if nothing else.  It’s not permanent.  It’s only for six months.  If I decide I don’t like it or that it’s not worth it, then I simply won’t re-enroll.

However, for the time being, the Cemetery Tours Series box set IS available on Kindle Unlimited.  That means that if you have a subscription, you can read ALL THREE novels in the series for FREE.  It’s over 700 pages, but then again, it’s three books.  It should be a bit lengthy.

Read the Cemetery Tours Series for FREE!

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So if you have Kindle Unlimited, hop on over and download the Cemetery Tours Series.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.

In other exciting news, the new Lurking Anthology, Lurking in the Shadows, has an official release date!  It will be available on June 28, 2016!  We don’t have a cover just yet, but I’m super excited about this anthology.  My contribution, An Empty Building, is by far the darkest thing I’ve ever written.  I had to write it in short increments in order to keep my own sanity.

Have a happy Thursday, y’all!  Keep reading!  Keep writing!

World Book Day

I haven’t been very good about blogging recently, but I simply had to take a moment to wish you all a very Happy World Book Day!

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I don’t think I even need to tell y’all that I love books.  I love to read.  I love to spend hours at a time perusing my local bookstore for new titles, new adventures.  Becoming an author has only deepened my appreciation for the written word, and for all the hard work that goes into transforming a story into a book.

Just a few short years ago, writing and publishing a book was a pipe dream for many.  It was reserved only for the chosen few, the traditionally published elite.  Big companies and corporations decided whether or not your work was worthy of publication.  Those companies do good work.  Most of my favorite books are traditionally published.

But times are changing.  There is a real movement to take the independently published novel mainstream.  And of course, as an independent author, I’m all for this.  Indie books are real books.  Independent authors are real authors.  They’re more than authors.  They’re also publishers and designers and marketers and editors and formatters.  I’m almost inclined to say that you have to be at least a little crazy to be an independent author, because who would willingly do all of this work for a pay-off that isn’t guaranteed?

Well, we would.  And I do believe it’s worth it.

So today, when you celebrate World Book Day, I challenge you to read a book by a lesser known author.  Take a picture of an indie book.  Leave a review on Amazon or on Goodreads.  You may not believe it, but every little bit helps.  Every sale, every post, every review, is a step towards taking this very noble and worthwhile industry to the masses.  Readers make everything possible.  And we, the authors, will never be able to thank you enough.

December Tidings

Hello, friends!

Oh my goodness, it feels like it’s been a while since I last posted.  Probably because it has been.  This has been quite a week though, let me tell you!

First of all, I hope all my American friends had a splendid Thanksgiving full of good food and good times spent with family and friends.  My Thanksgiving was pretty excellent, although as soon as I got home from our friends’ house, my throat began to hurt and I spent the next three days on the couch with The Crud that’s going around.  Thanks, Dad.  Fortunately, I didn’t get it nearly as bad as he did.

In much more exciting news, IT IS FINALLY DECEMBER!  It’s time for snowflakes and hot chocolate and Christmas lights and movie nights by the fire and all those wonderful winter things!  Now of course, once Christmas is over, I won’t be nearly as excited about the cold, but for the next 25 days, bring on the winter chill!

Even though it’s only the first day of December, it’s already turning out to be an incredibly busy month.  I’m giving a talk tonight at a local library about NaNoWriMo and what to do after you’ve finished your manuscript.  If I can figure out how to post the Power Point presentation here, I will.

I’m also giving another talk at another library NEXT week, but I need to check in and make sure everything is still on schedule for that!

Also… BACKSTAGE WILL BE AVAILABLE IN EXACTLY ONE WEEK!  I’m so excited for y’all to read it.  I would post the first chapter here, but it contains MAJOR spoilers for the first book, so I’m afraid y’all are just going to have to wait a week!  You can, however, enter to win a signed copy of BOTH BOOKS on GoodReads.

Once Backstage is released, I’m going to take some time just to enjoy the holidays, spend time with family and friends.  But I’m also going to be investigating a few new publishing platforms as well as a few new projects.  Oh, and I’m also going to be catching up on a LOT of reading.  My goodness, I am so behind.

Happy December, everyone!  It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

(Except for, you know, when it’s warm and sunny).

 

Fiction’s Females

Hello, friends.  Today, we’ll be talking about female characters in modern literature.

As a female myself, I identify with several aspects of several female characters.  For example, Cath Avery from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.  Like Cath, I spent a great deal of my time absorbed in fictional worlds.  Books are just so much safer than reality.  Or maybe Hermione Granger.  I wasn’t quite the know-it-all she was, but I was definitely teacher’s pet.  I also had the outrageous, uncontrollable curly hair.  Or what about Katniss Everdeen, perhaps my favorite modern literary heroine?  I would go to any lengths to protect my little sister.  I would rather die than let any harm come to her.  That’s what big sisters do, and Katniss is just… wow.  I love her.

Of course, all these characters have their flaws, too.  Cath is timid and antisocial.  Hermione is stubborn.  Katniss is cold and hardened after the loss of her father and having to become the primary caregiver and supplier for her entire family.

There is a big push today for writers – of books as well as movies – to create what is known as the STRONG female character.  We’re not talking about a damsel-in-distress whose one goal in life is to meet Prince Charming, fall in love, and live happily ever after.  Although I have to say, I have friends who want just that and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.  Who doesn’t want to find companionship?  It’s a basic human need.

But you know what I’m talking about.  The swooning schoolgirl just isn’t “in” right now.  And that’s fine also!  I love female characters who are intelligent, ambitious, witty, independent, talented, powerful, etc…  What I don’t like is female characters who come off as rude, ungrateful, sarcastic, and pretentious.

Why do I bring this up?  Because I’m reading a book with exactly that type of “strong” female character right now.  Or should I say I WAS reading the book.  To be totally honest with you, I hate this girl so much that I probably won’t make it much farther.  Disappointing too, because this is a book I really thought I was going to like.  I downloaded it on Kindle on a total whim.  It wasn’t one I had planned on reading.  Now it’s on that I don’t plan on finishing.

I know what the author is trying to do.  She’s trying to make her female protagonist “different.”  She’s super smart, totally focused on her studies and her budding career (more power to her for that), but she’s totally aloof, unimpressed with anything the other girls find interesting.  That’s fine, you don’t have to fawn over Harry Styles if everyone else does, but don’t look down on them for doing so.  This girl acts so snobby and above-it-all that I can’t imagine why she has any friends in the first place!  She’s so completely rude and unappreciative to everyone she meets, even when they treat her with nothing but courtesy and respect because she’s so smart and special… It just drives me crazy!  Of course *spoiler alert* she gets the guy in the end, the one that she scoffed at all the other girls for swooning over.

I try to take a whole different approach to the STRONG female character in my books.  I like my heroines to be independent and smart and witty… but I also like the to be genuine.  I like them to be honest, to struggle over what’s right and wrong, to enjoy what they enjoy, and to not be ashamed of being themselves and loving what they love.

Take Mel in Boy Band.  She’s not particularly intelligent or ambitious, but she’s loyal and she’s a hard worker and in this new book, boy does she struggle with what’s right and what’s wrong.  She’s a good friend and she’s so completely in love with Sam, but that doesn’t make her weak or anti-feminist.  It makes her her.

Kate in Cemetery Tours is a bit different.  She’s older, more ambitious, more intelligent, and she doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do.  She’s brave and adventurous, but she also loves nothing more than sitting around in her pajamas and marathoning her favorite television show.

I love my female characters.  I wouldn’t enjoy writing them if I didn’t.  And I don’t love them because they’re STRONG.  I love them simply because they’re them.  They’re real to me.  That’s what I’ve always tried to achieve with all my characters.  I want them to feel like real, fleshed out people.  Not a jumble of characteristics on a page with a name attached to them.

It’s important for women to be strong, but it’s just as important for us to be real, to be genuine, and to be happy and proud of who we are no matter what.  We’re all different.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Nothing at all.

Hello Tuesday

Hi, friends!  I hope you all had a great weekend.  Mine was super busy.

For one thing, my dad had another eye surgery yesterday to take care of a nasty cataract which was a direct result of his last surgery.  Thankfully, everything went well.  It was a simple procedure and he was up on his feet and totally fine within about thirty minutes.  He still can’t drive, so my mom and I are helping him out there, but his vision has improved significantly in just twenty-four hours.  Pretty cool!

For another thing, I have been sending out review copies of my books like crazy.  And I still have more to send!

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I also finally made it to the mall to visit the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree.

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I usually don’t post about personal stuff like this, but every year, my sister and I adopt an angel.  I know that it’s always important to give things like food and clothes, practical items to those in need.  But I’ve always loved the Angel Tree because it gives me the opportunity to give those kids something more.  I love the idea of being able to make their holidays magical, to bring them a bit of joy.  By adopting an angel, you’re making a kid’s Christmas dream come true, a wish that may not have been granted otherwise.  So if you have a moment, or a few gifts to spare, stop by your local Angel Tree.  It’s so much fun to play Santa, and a beautiful reminder that this truly is the season of giving, of love, and of goodwill towards all men, women, and children.

This weekend, I also got to spend a bit of time outside, first with my friend and an adorable puppy named Kate, and then with my cousins at White Rock Lake.  I’m so happy to say it is finally feeling like fall.  I’ve been wearing my jeans and scarves and sweaters.  I love it!

Of course, I’ll only love it until December 26, but hey, I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

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Last but not least, I’ve been working tirelessly on Backstage, getting it ready for publication in less than a month!  Agh!

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On a similar and very fun note, there’s a new Twitter account called Niall (Horan) as Books.  I may have mentioned before that even though I am fond of all the 1D boys, I am very partial to the adorable blond Irishman.  Imagine how thrilled I was when this appeared in my Newsfeed:

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This is officially one of my favorite Tweets, along with a Tweet from a similar account, Harry (Styles) as Books!

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Yes, I am still a 1D fangirl and I am eagerly awaiting the release of Made in the AM this week!  I’m probably looking more forward to that than the release of my own book.

Well, maybe they’re tied.

Love you all!