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Buying My First Home Has Taught Me That I’m Not Always Excellent At Life

September 7th, 2014 No comments
Female hand reaching for a house isolated on a white background.

Being an agile life leopard requires more than getting your oil changed on time.

As an adult I’ve been living for years under the embarrassingly wrong-headed (but kind of adorable) assumption that I’m decent at life. Not great, mind you, but I’ve got the swing of things. Routine and practice has insidiously bred false confidence. I totally have checking email, getting my oil changed, and setting up online banking accounts down. I am queen of the universe!

As a child and uber sulky teenager, I was constantly faced with new experiences that reminded me quite clearly that I was not an agile life leopard. I remember, all too clearly, misaligning my car the first time I tried to enter an automatic car wash, desperately feeding empty envelopes into the ATM because it was making a whirrrring noise (note: Banks are really unhappy if you feed blank envelopes into the ATM), and nearly hyperventilating when trying to navigate the Atlanta airport alone on my first business trip.

At this point in my life, I feel like I “get it.” I don’t mean to humble brag, but I’ve got a few good crock pot recipes up my sleeve, have managed to automate about 90% of my online bill pay, and I even paid my taxes two weeks before the deadline this year. So you can see where all the false confidence starts seeping in, right?

But recently I embarked on a strange and perilous journey filled with frustration, maddening costs labeled “Document Signing Fee to Escrow,” and forced inner reflection. I am buying my first home.

And guess what? Turns out that I’m not as awesome at life as I thought.

My whole house buying issue is really about the fact that I don’t actually know how to make such a big decision. When my real estate agent opens up a door, I wander in trying to look confident as I glance at empty rooms and wonder, what am I supposed to feel? My agent will point to towards the ceiling and chirp about crown molding, and I’ll nod like, of course I totally know what that is and care deeply about it.

This is going to be the biggest purchase I make to date in my life. It’s going to turn into the place where I write, where I sleep, where I wonder important things like – how can sea water really be bad for you when our bodies need both water and salt? (Seriously, think about it.) A considerable chunk of the hours I work will go towards keeping this house in my possession. I will voluntarily agree to pay property tax, HOA fees, homeowner’s insurance, and an insane amount of interest along the way.

All of these thoughts keep playing in my mind as I wander from house to house thinking, How will I know it’s the one? Will a little bell go off somewhere in my brain? Please let there be some kind of internal perfect house-within-my-budget bell in my brain.  

One upside to this whole house hunting experience is that it has lodged me out of my usual comfort zone. The queen of the universe has retired her crown…at least for now! I think that’s a good thing.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Why I Would Be A Terrible Green Lantern

September 1st, 2014 No comments
Green Lantern Logo

Way too heroic for me.

My sister – the librarian – is a huge comic book nerd. Apparently graphic comic novels are a big thing at her library, and she’s jumped in with both booted feet and cape billowing dramatically behind her. Growing up, I was a big X-Men fan (Storm forever!), but I’ve only dipped my toe in the vast comic universe.

Recently, my sister turned me onto a Green Lantern cartoon on Netflix called Green Lantern: The Animated Series. The show only lasted a single season, but I found it amusing.

Watching the cartoon, I discovered that the Green Lantern world is pretty complicated. You see, Green Lanterns aren’t the only guys (and girls) flying around with extra special power rings on their fingers. There are also Red Lanterns who are fueled by rage, Blue Lanterns fueled by hope, Pink Lanterns (Star Sapphires) fueled by love, and even Yellow Lanterns fueled by fear. Oh, and one dopey Orange Lantern fueled by avarice. Yes, avarice, because apparently just saying “greed” wasn’t fancy enough.

Every Lantern charges their extra special power ring by shoving their hand into a lamp-shaped battery and chanting a nifty little ditty that often rhymes. The Green Lanterns – fueled by willpower – say:

“In brightest day, in blackest night,

No evil shall escape my sight.

Let those who worship evil’s might

Beware my power–Green Lantern’s light!”

 

Red Lanterns (the guys with anger management issues) go with this gentle little lullaby:

“With blood and rage of crimson red,

Ripped from a corpse so freshly dead,

Together with our hellish hate,

We’ll burn you all–that is your fate!”

 

My personal favorite is the orange greedy guy who chants:

“What’s mine is mine and mine and mine.

And mine and mine and mine!

Not yours!”

 

That’s pretty awesome, right?

One other thing that you should know about the Lantern Core is that the ring chooses you. In order to be a Lantern, you must already embody the characteristic of the ring: willpower, rage, hope, (sigh) avarice, etc… in order to earn the coveted ring.

Watching this cartoon, I realized that if I were a kid I would totally, utterly want an extra special power ring. I mean, come on, you put on the ring and you immediately get an awesome costume, get to fly around space, get to be all glowy and cool, and you can use the ring’s power to create whatever your mind can imagine, like a glowing chainsaw, a glowing Ferrari, a glowing box of calorie-free donuts. (I’ve never seen a Lantern make a glowing box of calorie-free donuts, but I bet it could be done.)

I can totally picture my child self sitting on my bed, staring longingly out the window waiting, hoping, praying for a little ring to come sailing my way. But what color would that ring be? Looking over the list of ring characteristics, I realize that none of them truly fits me.

I would love to believe that I could be a Green Lantern fueled by willpower, but that just isn’t me. To me, willpower equates with dramatic heroics. Hal Jordan, the main Green Lantern showcased in the series, is a little too heroic for my taste. He constantly takes huge risks in order to save the day, which is great…when it works out. In the cartoon — surprise, surprise — his crazy plans nearly always work despite the odds, or he gets saved by a massive stroke of luck at the last minute.

Watching this cartoon, I’ve come to realize that I’m just way too pragmatic to be a Green Lantern. If the odds were stacked against me, I’d turn tail and live to fight another day. So, if I’m not made to be a Green Lantern, a Red Lantern, an Orange Lantern, a Pink Sapphire, a Blue Lantern, or any of the other colorful offshoots zipping around the galaxy, what’s left?

After a relatively short amount of thought, I’ve decided to create my own Lantern Core.

Introducing the Teal Lanterns fueled by pragmatism. The color teal combines Blue (hope) and Green (willpower) and tempers it with Yellow (fear) for an individual that seeks to do what is right but also stays firmly planted in a reality where good and evil aren’t always clear cut and where risks should be mitigated to accomplish the greater good. The Teal Lantern Core would compromise, they would run when a battle was unwinnable, they would make tough, sometimes unheroic decisions in order to achieve an outcome that every side could live with. Sure, we wouldn’t be as heroic as the Green Lantern Core, as sexy as the Pink Sapphires, as positive as the Blue Lanterns, or as bad ass as the Red Lanterns, but I think the world needs the power of Pragmatism.

I even made up a little battery charging oath for my new Lantern Core:

Know when to run, know when to fight

We see beyond black and white

Many roads lead to right

I choose the best path by Pragmatic Light!   

What do you think? Anyone else want to be a Teal Lantern with me?

Fun With Overlapping Narratives

August 2nd, 2014 No comments

Every story presents its unique challenges. Sometimes the plot hits a brick wall and I stare helplessly at my computer, at that last lonely sentence waiting for a mate. Other times the characters pull against their leashes, and we have to trek down mysterious paths together.

My current project, RECOVERING, led me to a different puzzle. This novella overlaps the first half of my novel RISING and is written from the foul-mouthed point of view of my character Gabe. The whole reason that Gabe insisted I write the novella in the first place is that he only makes a short cameo in the first half of RISING.

Roughly 90% of his novella covers new ground, but several early chapters in the novella play out events that are featured in RISING when Maya briefly returns home and interacts with Gabe. In essence I had to write the same scenes over that already exist from Maya’s point of view – same action, same dialogue – but infuse it with Gabe’s perspective.

Sounds easy, right?

Not exactly. To get the scenes just right, I had to carefully reconstruct them from the chapters of RISING, reading and re-reading those chapters as if they were under a microscope.

When I wrote the same scenes for RECOVERING, I had to force myself out of Maya’s guilt and concern and put myself in Gabe’s shoes to show his loneliness and self-loathing. I had to write from his sense of betrayal, shame, and anger using the same dialogue and the same scene structure that already existed.

This little experiment forced me to focus more on Gabe’s inner thoughts to make the scenes seem fresh and also to change the pacing of the scenes so that it wasn’t a rote rehearsal of the scenes found in RISING. For example, Gabe often summarizes longer bits of dialogue that Maya’s narrative in RISING recalls in full. Gabe’s focus will also emphasize different parts of the scene. He doesn’t notice the sad state of the house as much as Maya does. He also thinks a lot about his mother and sister, people Maya never met.

On the technical side, I ended up putting the text of RISING on one monitor and the overlapping text of RECOVERING on the other to make sure every word of dialogue matched up, that the timing of events was accurate, and that Gabe reacted outwardly in the way Maya observed in RISING.

I hope the result is a fresh take on Maya and Gabe’s interactions that doesn’t feel stale or repetitive. I have to believe that Gabe is such a charmer that his perspective can put a new twinkle on everything!

How do you think I did? HERE is a chapter from RISING and an overlapping chapter from RECOVERING. Enjoy the sneak peek of RECOVERING!

The Dread Monster Comes Again – The Fear Of Starting Something New

July 5th, 2014 1 comment
Young girl, scared

This is kind of what I feel like every time I start writing a new book.

The laptop is open in front of me, the page white and fresh. It’s time to start the first draft of the fourth book in my Girl With Broken Wings series. I want to feel excited. I want to feel plump with possibility like a perfectly ripe grape that bursts between your teeth. I want my fingers to be humming with anticipation.

But what I feel is a deep, dark, shapeless dread.

The old worries whisper through my mind. I won’t be able to finish this book. My writing will come out stale and mildewed on the page. My characters will spout vapid dialogue and be as colorful, as deep as shadows.

It doesn’t matter that these worries are pointless. I’ve already completed three full books in the series as well as one novella. A second novella is on its second draft. I know I can finish this book. I know my talent won’t shrivel up and fade like some mystical, short-lived flower.

So why is it so hard to get started on this book and all the previous books? Why are my first, faltering words always overshadowed by a big, snarling Dread Monster?

The more I think about this, the more I realize that the Dread Monster has always been stalking at my heels. I remember my stomach flip flopping, my throat tight on the ride over to gymnastic meets when I was ten. Later, in high school, my whole body would be tight with fear as the last hour of the day ticked down before a tennis match. We had matches three or four times a week during tennis season and that I enthusiastically made the team all four years, and yet I could never quell the Dread Monster. I could never run fast enough to leave him behind or find a sword to pierce his hide.

Is it just nervousness about starting something new? I don’t think so.

Nervousness is that fluttery feeling on a first date when you don’t know what to do with your hands and words become slippery like butter.

This is dread. A dismal sense of emotional pain, of unstoppable worry and anxiety. It is a growling, slobbery monster that eats light, goodness, and positive mantras for breakfast.

Maybe you’ve felt this way too. Maybe not, and I’m just a freak who gets off on self-sabotage. I wonder if there are other people out there with monsters walking behind them. Maybe some of you have found ways of facing your Dread Monster, of starting new things without worries or an endless pit of doubt opening up beneath you. I have not, but I have found a weapon that works against my Dread Monster.

I ignore him.

I write.

When I look at the white page, while the worries spin so fast in my brain they make me dizzy, I put my fingers on the keys and make them move. The words come, slow at first but then faster and easier. I’ll hit hard parts, and my writing will be as graceful, as smooth as running through sand, but I will buff and polish these areas to a high shine in the editing process. The dread will shrink little by litter and the love of writing, which has always been inside of me, will begin to softly beat inside of me like a second heart.

One day I hope that I can approach a new book, a new project, a competition, or a big life choice with enthusiasm, eagerness, and confidence. But until then I’ll elbow past my Dread Monster and start writing, one word at a time.

Superman Must Ignore Tons Of Crime…And That’s Okay

June 25th, 2014 No comments

Is this guy a total D-bag who doesn't stop enough crime?

Who wouldn’t want to be Superman?

The Man of Steel comes with buns, thighs, and abs of steel, not to mention a lock of hair that always curls perfectly on your forehead. Wouldn’t it be grand to soar through the sky (like a bird, like a plane) and to never, ever have to feel vulnerable except when that pesky Kryptonite enters into the picture?

Well, here’s the thing. I wouldn’t want to be Superman (or Supergirl if we’re being gender specific). It’s not just because that form fitting outfit looks tight enough to give some “super” wedgies or even the thought of seeing everyone’s pores and hearing their bodily functions in High Def.

It’d be the pressure.

If you’re neigh invulnerable, can shoot lasers from your peepers, and blow a hurricane when you sneeze (except you never sneeze because even germs can’t penetrate your awesomeness), then you pretty much have to don a cape and tights or you’ll be a total D-bag. See, guys like Bruce Wayne don’t have to be superheroes. He’s just a dude with a butler, an unsettling bat fetish, a perfect growly voice, and enough money to buy a bat jet ski among other crime fighting tools. Even someone like The Flash could probably get off the superhero hook. He may be fast, but bullets won’t exactly bounce off his chest. It’d be perfectly reasonable for him to…say, decide to use his super speed to deliver fresh water to villagers in Africa instead of tango with a crazy villain called Captain Boomerang (an actual villain, look it up). I wouldn’t fault him for that.

But Superman.

Superman is different. If he doesn’t fight crime and save the world, then talk about squandering your genetic legacy. Talk about letting the peoples of the world down.

For a long time I resented Superman, because I felt like he wasn’t being all the hero he could be. What’s a guy who can circumvent the globe during his morning jog doing bumbling around in a suit and glasses as Clark Kent? Didn’t he realize that women were getting raped, children molested, soldiers killed, protestors imprisoned, and governments overthrown while he was typing up a fluff piece for the Daily Planet about five tips to sizzle away belly fat?

I wondered, how many lives could he have saved from an earthquake in Pakistan, a tsunami in the Philippines, or a tornado in Missouri he if had done his little phone booth number instead of grabbing a hot dog for lunch with Lois Lane?

For years and years I was mad at Superman for so callously ignoring all the need around him. For having a life.

And then it hit me…Superman deserves to have a life. Why am I asking him to play the untouchable, majestic superhero every second of every day when I’m too lazy to walk my empty yogurt cup to the recycling container in the laundry room?

Superman spends his nights hanging bank robbers from street lamps (or is that Spiderman?), battling horrendous aliens from outer space (does anyone else think that every citizen of Metropolis should have severe PTSD by now?), and preventing Lex Luther from taking over the world (again).

I gave $25 to Kiva.org…two years ago.

So yes, Superman must make a clear decision to ignore tons of crime…but so do we. Bad things happen every day around the world, in our country, even in our small little spheres of influence, and you know what most of us do? We play Clark Kent, hiding behind our glasses, eating a hot dog with Lois, and waiting for Superman to save us all.

The moral of this story is not to start sewing our pajamas into a superhero outfit. It’s just this – I have mad respect for Superman. Not the fictional character – but all the Supermans in this world who commit their time and energy to making a positive contribution in whatever form that might take (Here’s a little something to warm up your heart). We can choose to make the world a little better, we can choose to cause harm, or we can blend in with the majority and do nothing at all.

Inevitable Book Tie-In

I may not be a Superman just yet, but at least I can create some Supermen on the page in my Girl With Broken Wings series that feature three vigilante protagonists. My characters live dark, dirty, obscure lives as they fight a secret war against genetically altered super humans. My characters aren’t bullet proof and that vulnerability is what makes them truly heroic.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I need to go dig that yogurt container out of the trash.

Categories: Essay Tags: , ,

Sometimes Opportunity Doesn’t Knock…It Emails

June 14th, 2014 No comments

Opportunity has a reputation for going around and knocking on people’s doors. Honestly, that hasn’t been my experience. Opportunity is sneakier than that. He likes to play Hide-n-Seek with me, ducking behind trees and bushes or flashing by in a conversation with acquaintances.  I don’t mind seeking out Opportunity. In fact, the chase is kind of enjoyable. Makes me appreciate it more when I actually catch Opportunity.

Occasionally Opportunity will get fed up with me. He’ll come out from the bushes (not in a creepy way) and be like, “Hey, you, girl in the glasses, how ‘bout looking my way?”

Also, here’s another bubble popper – Opportunity almost never knocks. Usually he’ll email or Facebook message. That’s what happened a few weeks ago, when, out of the blue, this guy named Bryan Cohen emailed me. I didn’t know it at the time, but Bryan is a pretty awesome guy.

He let me know that he was putting together a promo event for New Adult Fantasy authors. Would I be interested in being a part of it?

I looked over the edge of my computer to where Opportunity was doing some weird combination of jumping jacks and the chicken dance to get my attention. I considered Bryan’ email. Opportunity danced on, switching to The Robot and then, unfortunately, to twerking.

“Alright, alright, I get it,” I told poor, gasping Opportunity (he’s not in the best shape). I wrote back to tell Bryan that I would be delighted to join the event, Legends, Lovers, and Lives.

So folks, today is the day. Sixteen authors, including myself, have lowered the price of one book each to $0.99. My discounted book is FALLING, Book One in the Girl With Broken Wings series. Some of the books on offer look very intriguing. I’ve only had a chance to dig into one, AFTER THE ENDING, which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. Sassy girls, cool powers, the apocalypse…what’s not to like? Okay…. the apocalypse…I wouldn’t like that (as soon as I lost my glasses, I’d be zombie bait). But reading about an apocalypse can be surprisingly enjoyable.

So guess, what, maybe this event is your Opportunity to download some cool new books. New Adult is a very diverse genre that, in my opinion, is more satisfying than the typical young adult novel that features high school students popping pimples and freaking out about prom. I actually wrote a little bit about how I discovered that I was a New Adult Author on the blog Deal Sharing Aunt. The post just went live today.

But back to Opportunity. He’s dancing for you right now, trying to get you to pick up some great books at an even greater price. Don’t make him bust out any Backstreet Boy moves (don’t think he won’t!).

But seriously, if you have a little time, please stop by our Facebook Event today, Legends, Lovers and Lives for some great giveaways, author chats, and links to all the discounted books.

How To Write An Awesome Book Review

May 26th, 2014 3 comments

You can totally write an awesome book review. I believe in you!

One of the nicest things you can do for an author you like is to write a positive book review. Seriously, book reviews are a HUGE DEAL to authors, especially indie authors. They not only provide validation (of which we authors are always in the most desperate of need), but also a solid collection of positive book reviews can convince new readers to give the book a try.

Many readers find the idea of writing a book review intimidating. They imagine that writing a book review is akin to the struggle of cranking out the requisite high school literature class essay. Not so! You don’t need to take pains to highlight symbolism or how the protagonist subverts the feminist ideal in your book review. You’re not getting graded. All you have to do is to share your opinion of the book in a thoughtful manner.

Writing an awesome book review isn’t as hard as you think. Trust me. I wrote over 100 book reviews during my tenure as co-owner of Compulsion Reads, a (now-defunct) company that evaluated and reviewed indie books.

If you’ve never written a book review before, then here are a few basic guidelines that might help:

Start with a short setup of the book

Book reviews are written for potential readers, so it is helpful to provide some setup of the story. Consider writing a few lines that introduce the main characters, the setting and the primary conflict. Be careful not to give away too much of the story, or you’ll ruin it for new readers.

Here is an example from a review of my novel, Falling, from the book review blog, Book Marks The Spot:

Maya is living a totally normal life until she gets swept up off her feet, literally. All in one night she gets kidnapped by an angel and learns she has two half brothers oh and the elephant in the room is that is turning into a monster. She now has to survive on animals auras if not she could go on a killing spree. If things couldn’t get worse, her older brother is always looking for an excuse to kill her.

Tell readers what you liked

After the setup, explain what you liked about the book. (Again, you can do this with just a few lines.) Did you have a favorite character? Was the plot fast and entertaining? Did the author have a strong narrative voice that had you laughing and crying? Don’t worry about trying to be particularly witty or finding the exact word. Just be honest, and readers will appreciate your thoughts.

Here is an example from the review I wrote for the very enjoyable book Red Shirts by John Scalzi :

Redshirts is a sweet gift to anyone who has knowingly lapped up the crazy improbability of old (and some not so old) space adventures where drama outweighs plausibility and faceless crew are torn to pieces as a picker upper before the commercial break. Author John Scalzi puts his fingers perfectly on the pulse of these cult shows and breathes life into the poor red shirts that are so often blasted, torn to shreds, and crushed in the background while the heroic officers save the day.

I loved Scalzi’s insight and felt that this book was truly written for me. Scalzi has a gift for witty dialogue and proves himself to be a masterful plotter. The story twists and turns and balances precariously on a crazy premise that does justice to the very genre he unmasks. (See the full review)

Tell readers what you didn’t like.

If you absolutely loved the book, then there might not be any need to point out deficiencies. However, if there were areas of the book that you thought could be strengthened, you can address these concerns in your review. Just take care to mention weaknesses in a constructive and fair manner. (No need to attack or criticize the author directly.)

Here is a short excerpt from my recent review of the book, Beauty is for Suckers by M.A. Carson:

The last quarter of the book picked up some serious speed and a few big revelations piled up. Personally, I felt this part of the book was rushed, and I didn’t like that Nolan (my fav character) faded into the background. Despite these issues, I thoroughly enjoyed Beauty is for Suckers. The book was deftly woven with humor, strong plot points and a good pace. Iris Green proves that death can be the beginning of a meaningful life. (See the full review)

Add caveats.

Remember, your book review is written to help other readers decide if the book might be right for them. If you think the book would appeal to a specific audience or that a specific audience would find it offensive, consider adding a caveat at the end. For example, if I review a book that contains graphic violence or sex scenes, I make sure to mention that at the end of a review.

In my novel, Falling, my characters speak naturally, which happens to introduce a lot of F-bombs and other, shall I say, inventive language into the mix. Several of the bloggers who reviewed my book pointed this out to their audiences, including Maria, of A Night’s Dream of Books:

In spite of the book’s dark theme, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole plot, from beginning to end.  That was largely due to Bennett’s deft characterizations and brilliant prose.  I was even willing to overlook the unfortunate appearance of “the F bomb” every few pages.  Believe me, it’s not every day I find myself doing such a thing!

Finish with a summary sentence

Consider capping your review off with one or two sentences that summarize your overall response to the book.  A book I read earlier this year, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher Moore absolutely blew me away. At the time I finished the book, I was drowning in other work and didn’t feel that I had the mental resources to do it justice. However, I knew his book deserved my praise, so I managed to cobble together a short review with this final sentence that truly sums up how I felt reading the book:

Biff is a lovable narrator, and through his eyes, Jesus truly does live again. One of the best books I’ve read in the last year! (See my full review – Good example of a short and sweet review that will still make an author over-the-moon happy)

Create a strong headline

 Many book review retailors, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble, require reviewers to title their reviews.  You may be able to just reuse your summary sentence at the end. If not, think of a short sentence or phrase that sums up the book in a positive manner. As you write more reviews, you’ll find that this part becomes easier and easier.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when writing book reviews:

Be sensitive

Authors spend a great deal of time and effort writing their books. To an author, their book is like their baby. Even if it’s a very ugly baby, it’s still their baby. Be sensitive when writing a critical review. If you felt a book was not very good, you certainly have the right to air your opinion, but be mindful that hearts and feelings are on the line. Be fair in your judgment and constructive. If you come off as a hysterical hater, then you’ll end up looking worse than the book you’re trying to haze. Many authors read every review of their book, so keep this fact in mind when writing anything critical.

Limit spoilers

Nobody likes to read spoilers in a review, though they can sometimes be hard to avoid, especially if you want to talk about how much you liked or didn’t like specific plot twists. When discussing later parts of the book, be as general as possible. It’s better to say that, “The surprise ending was disappointing to me.” Rather than, “I can’t believe Krista got hit by a car on the last page after surviving that psychotic stalker.”

If you feel you have to give something away, then make sure you warn readers so they can stop reading. The best way to do this is to write SPOILER ALERT in all caps before revealing any spoilers.

Keep it clean

Writing a book review doesn’t have to be hard, but it does require a little effort and focus. Make sure you write your book review with care, focusing on correct grammar. If your review is all over the place and half the words are misspelled, no one will take you seriously. Again, and I really can’t emphasis this enough, it’s okay to write a short review, but make sure the review is coherent. One of the most frustrating reviews I got from a short story of mine simply stated:

This story wasn’t for me.

Not only does this type of say-nothing review drive authors to distraction (Why wasn’t the story for you???), but it’s completely useless for readers who might be interested in purchasing the story.

Spread your review

If you really want to help your favorite authors, then post your review to multiple websites where readers are likely to congregate. The top websites include Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads. If you have a personal blog, consider posting your book review there as well and then be sure to link to your review on your social networking pages to let your friends know about the great new book you just read. If you want to go the extra distance, post a link to the review on the author’s Facebook page. If it’s a positive review, it’ll definitely make their day.

Read other reviews

One of the best ways to learn how to write a review is to read other reviews. Reading a dozen reviews for your favorite books on Amazon will give you some insight into all the different ways a review can be constructed.

Now go forward readers and spread your awesome book reviews across the land!

Categories: Essay, Writing Tags: , ,

Microsoft Kidnapped My Computer…And Beat The Crap Out Of It

April 28th, 2014 No comments

Last Friday, Microsoft kidnapped my laptop for 2.5 hours, and the psychological trauma still seems to be affecting poor Lancelot. He is so distraught he now has trouble connecting to the internet and loading pages despite a previous near perfect record on this WiFi network. (Note: Lancelot is my laptop’s name, because he is gray and came to my rescue when my previous laptop had a computer aneurysm and died without warning).

That Friday, after multiple nagging messages, I decided to finally upgrade to Windows 8.1. I assumed this upgrade would take 10 -15 minutes. It didn’t. It took two and a half hours to be exact.

I am very mad at Microsoft’s new CEO, Sayta Nadella for his assumption that I would just have 2.5 hours lying around for him to use for his glacial upgrade. At no point did I get a message before the upgrade saying something like, “Hey, you might want to go grocery shopping and go to the bank, cause this could take a while” or “Going to bed? Okay, now might be a good time to do that Windows 8.1 upgrade, because it will take FOREVER!”

Lancelot is not old or clogged with downloaded Gif files of cats playing the piano. He’s not some poor, fat old guy huffing and puffing around a track trying to get in shape before his heart explodes from French fry grease. In other words, Lancelot should be able to handle an update at normal speeds.

My perception of time has become severely twisted ever since I started working as a full time freelance copywriter and fiction author. Time is money. Literally. If I’m not working, producing content, I am not generating income. I know how much I need to make each month, each week, and each day to meet my basic expenses and to hit my income goals.

You might be able to see how this can quickly and quite thoroughly screw with someone’s psyche. Any last minute jolts or unanticipated interruptions, and all the building blocks in my daily schedule come tumbling down. A two and a half hour blackout for my laptop is a pretty big deal.

It was interesting, watching the screen do it’s little count up as it downloaded something or other, only to then start a whole new download sequence as soon as the former was complete. I got to really watch myself have a minor, silent meltdown.

I wonder if other people do this, study and muse over their reactions while they occur? Sometimes I feel like I am of two minds — the worrying part of me in the moment, and then the observer watching my thoughts frantically tumble around.

I have a coping mechanism for when I take myself too seriously. It’s pretty simple. It’s a game I’ve dubbed, “At least you’re not/you don’t [Fill in the blank]”

For instance, here are a few choice ones that came to mind on Friday:

— At least you’re not a kindergarten teacher

— At least you don’t live in Syria

— At least you’re not an Untouchable living in India

— At least you don’t live in the Game of Thrones Universe

— At least you don’t have Elephant Man syndrome

— At least you’re not struggling to survive during the Zombie Apocalypse

You get the drift. Feel free to use that little trick if it ever suits you.

The Microsoft 8.1 update was probably in the top 300 worst decisions I’ve ever made. Lancelot is severely traumatized as I mentioned earlier. Apparently it’s okay for updates to actually make computers work worse now rather than better. FYI to Microsoft. Messing with my computer’s ability to connect to my WiFi network and not drop pages while loading is kinda important to me.

Categories: Other Tags: , ,

RISING – Book Three of the GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS Series

April 17th, 2014 No comments
Meet my new baby, RISING. She's a big one, but that just means there's more of her to love.

Meet my new baby, RISING. She’s a big one, but that just means there’s more of her to love.

Have you ever had a big, hairy audacious goal, like running a marathon, buying a mansion, or finally solving that $%^&*# Rubik’s Cube? That goal drives you, focuses you, gives you a glimpse of future glory. Success can be oh-so-sweet, but then what happens next?

Maya had a goal, a pretty big one. She wanted vengeance against the man who changed her and murdered her boyfriend. (If this sounds like gibberish, it’s time to get your hot little hands on FALLING – GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS). At the end of LANDING (book two in the series), Maya gets her vengeance, which leaves her with that big, scary, accusing question…what next?

I’ll tell you what’s next — Adventure, Snow Storms, Cool Missiony Stuff, Chuck Norris Jokes, Occasional Kidnappings, and maybe even a little love in the air! That’s right, RISING, Book Three in the GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS series is here!

And Guess What — You Get A Discount

As a gift to true fans of the series, I have priced the ebook for $2.99 for its first week of existence. On April 27th, RISING, well, rises to its permanent price of $4.99. Buy your copy today and enjoy an awesome story for an even…er, awesomer price.

Other Places to Buy

RISING is also available as a soft cover on Amazon, though the  book is so big that the printing cost make it a wee bit higher than I would have preferred (sorry, nothing I can do about that). Additionally, you can find RISING on iTunes, Kobo, and BarnesandNoble.com.

One More Thing — Free FALLING Giveaway

<< Blog Update: This giveaway has expired <<

If you really want to enjoy RISING, then make sure you start at the beginning. Maya’s story, and the whole not-exactly-human-so-much-anymore thing all start with FALLING, Book One in the GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS series. You could always buy the ebook on Amazon for just $3.99, but if you need one more little nudge, I’m giving away 10 print copies of FALLING on Goodreads. Participation in the giveaway is completely free. You’ll need a Goodreads account, but otherwise no hoops to jump through. I’d love to be able to mail you a copy of FALLING! Throw you name in the hat.

The giveaway ends April 30th, so sign up today!

Alright, those are all the announcements of the day. Back to business.

Is Elsa, From Frozen, Too Powerful To Live?

April 12th, 2014 1 comment

Disney Princess, or our future conqueror and master?

Frozen is a sweet movie that cherishes the love between two sisters (not that kind of love!) Ana is a whimsical, quirky and adorable-to-a-fault princess who has catastrophic hair in the morning just like the rest of us. Your heart can’t help but melt for her gumption, her unfailing belief in her sister, and the naivety that comes from living a sheltered life. So too, can viewers emphasize with Elsa, cruelly cursed with unstable and deadly powers. Elsa tries so hard to hold her powers in, always terrified of hurting those she loves, that her life is on ice until the day of her coronation. When she finally does let her fears go, our hearts sing along with her beautiful ballad. We vicariously enjoy her coming out and awesome ice dress, hair down makeover, unless you’re this person. (Spoiler) The movie wraps up with Ana’s empowering sacrifice, choosing to protect her sister rather than be rescued by her odd, apparently smelly, reindeer-talking suitor. This choice ends up being her own salvation. Elsa learns that love is the key to controlling her powers and seems to instantly get a grip with this realization. Everything is all hunky dory.

But is it?

Like you, I want to believe that the end of Frozen is just the start of a long and fruitful reign for Elsa. Ana will marry her stinky, Official Ice Deliverer (not the most secure industry when the queen can shoot ice from her hands, but let’s ignore that for the moment) and pop out lots of chipper little urchins. I can’t help but worry, however, that the happy ice skating scene at the end of the movie is only a short spot of sunshine in the midst of a dark and gloomy reign. As much as I want to believe that Elsa will be a fair and just ruler, I worry that her abilities put her at risk of turning into a power-mad tyrant, the likes of which would make Joffrey of Game of Thrones look fair and lenient.

Think about it, Elsa’s powers are almost infinite in their potential for destruction and mayhem. She froze the entire Fjords and cast an eternal winter upon her kingdom…Without Even Trying! It seemed to require little strength and concentration to basically turn the whole place into a snow globe. Later, when Elsa puts her mind to it, she creates a magical palace of ice as well as a sturdy stair case in which a dozen men could run up. Most chilling of all, she can create fearsome ice creatures — huge and cruel, with knife-like teeth, claws and spikes. A single ice creature batted around Hans and his men like they were sock puppets.

As with the Fjord freezing and castle creation, building the creature seemed to take no effort from Elsa, and after its creation, it continued to exist, seemingly without her concentration or continued effort. Elsa has demonstrated one additional fearsome power, the deadly ice beams she can shoot from her hands or spew in a circle of destruction. A head shot has been shown to render the victim comatose, and a shot to the chest spells death unless remedied, weirdly, by an act of love.

Elsa does a pretty job of almost killing her sister, nearly annihilating her kingdom, and freezing her people to death when she isn’t even trying. What in God’s name could she do if she was?

If Elsa developed a Joffrey-like temper in later life, she could easily terrorize her population. Imagine a cackling Elsa freezing entire families that didn’t pay taxes or skewering enemies on icicles that plunged out of the walls.

But this is just piddley conjecture.

What if Elsa had grander ambitions? Her kingdom, Arendelle, seems to be very small and modest. What could Elsa do if she wanted to expand her empire? She could freeze any port in the world, essentially taking any country’s navy out of play. In fact, she could freeze the Fjords again and march an army right across the ice. She could surround Arendelle with huge, impenetrable walls of ice, protecting her own seat of power while her ice bridges allowed her army to scale any chasm, cross any moat, and climb any wall.

Oh, and it’s not like she needs living, breathing, blood-filled soldiers either. She can just make her own army of ice creatures (White Walkers, anyone?) and march them across the land. And if building ice creatures started to become a bore, Elsa could make conquest even easier by simply surrounding any stubborn enemy’s kingdom with walls of ice and literally freezing them to the brink of starvation until they surrendered. All it would take would be one or two examples and every drawbridge would open for Elsa and her White Walker army.

Elsa can literally take anything and everything she wants.

Will she? We can’t know, but the temptation would be great. If I lived in a neighboring kingdom, I’m pretty sure I’d wet my gown when I learned about her powers. (“%$#^ing ice monsters? Did you seriously just say she could make $%#@ing ice monsters? And that thing with the Fjords, that was her?”)

Once Elsa got a taste of blood and treasure, what if she liked it? What if she never wanted to stop? We don’t know the limit of her powers. Could she freeze the entire planet? With so much at risk, might it not be prudent to eliminate the possibility of a great catastrophe? If someone had a ticking nuclear bomb inside of them, wouldn’t it be for the greater good to destroy them before the bomb went off?

I’m pretty sure I know how my favorite literary bad ass, Tywin Lannister would answer that question. He’d cozy up to Elsa, whisper in her ear about the threats all around, let her crush his enemies, and then put a dagger in her back the moment she started to get her own ideas of conquest.

Is Elsa’s little ice skating stunt truly the end of Frozen or simply a poignant moment made all the more ironic for the horrors to follow?

Yeah, I’m weird.

Categories: Essay Tags: ,