How he won my heart with a hammer...

My Prince Charming

What makes a moment romantic?

                 If you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably already heard this story. I like to telling it again around Valentine's Day to remind everyone that romance isn't all chocolate, lingerie and semi-precious stones. It's about listening and showing your love, even if it involves household tools.

                  Despite appearances, the picture above is FAR from one of our most romantic moments. Some day, if you have a few hours and enough money for margaritas, I will tell you about that day and the unromanticness (Yes, it is a word. I don't care if the rest of the world doesn't acknowledge it). No, our most romantic moment involves a hardware tool and my soon-to-be husband was nowhere in sight.

                 I met my husband two weeks after I moved to Texas. We met at a church we were both visiting for the first time. He asked me to lunch after the morning service ( an interesting story in itself, but I'll save it for another time). After the evening service, we ate ice cream at a park. I will add here that one of the top ten most romantic moments was when he turned to me and said, "Do you like to read? Because I just finished this great book. It's called the Notebook. I think the author is Nicholas somebody." (Insertme swooning here).

                 After our official first date the next Sunday, he made a comment about the bareness of my apartment walls. I responded that I had never noticed I didn't own a hammer and nails until I moved into the apartment alone. We went on to talk about other things and I didn't even think about it again.

                The next day was a Monday in every sense of the word. I taught middle school at the time and let's just say all of my students were very much seventh graders that day. I remember wanting to cry when I pulled up to my apartment because my head was throbbing, as were my feet, and I lived on the second floor. When I finally dragged myself up the stairs, something was leaning against my door.

 A silver hammer with a shiny red bow. 

And that, my friends, is all it took.

So Tell Me Your Story. 

What is your most unconventionally romantic moment? Got big plans for Valentine's day? Ever swoon over a tool (no innuendo intended!)? 

And this one time at band camp...

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Like I said yesterday, I'm at ASL Teacher Camp this week. Okay, that's not what it's really called. But, that's pretty much what it is.

So, tell me your best camp story. Pranks, homesickness, sneaking out of the cabin and meeting that special someone (not that I ever did that!)

You know, this one time at band camp....


Spoiler Alert

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

My oldest daughter, who is much older now than in the picture above, made a confession last week that forced me to reevaluate everything I thought I knew about this sweet child.

SHE READS THE END OF A BOOK FIRST.

I fear I have failed as a parent.

I blogged before about

her reading obsession.

 She is almost never without a book. Takes two or three with her for any kind of overnight stay and, when we recently changed the sheets on her bed, I found she was sleeping with FOURTEEN (!) books every night. 

The child is by all definitions

a reader

.

But, she reads the end first! 

Shocked and confused by this admission, I took my argument to the best place for public opinion.

Facebook.

Me: Michelle just confessed that she reads the end of books first...I don't even know her anymore...

Male Childhood Friend #1: 

I do too! If I don't like the ending, why invest my life in the story? 

For me, reading fiction is an escape from reality. If I don't like the destination, I'd rather not buy the ticket!

(WWHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTT?? Not by the ticket?

Isn't that what the whole reading experience is about?)

Fellow Mommy Friend:

Funny! [Her daughter~same age as mine] reads the last book in a series...what's wrong with their generation?!?!?

Male Childhood Friend #2: 

I've always read the end of books first... Agree with [MCF #1]

 on this one.

Me:

 [MFC #1]while I have to admit on the surface your argument has substance...It's just wrong. wrong. Wrong. WRONG! 

 You, too,[MFC #2]

. (I say this with love, of course!).

Is this some kind of widespread epidemic of which I have lived blissfully unaware? Do YOU read the end of a book first? Is there some kind of 12 step group I can get my daughter in before this gets out of hand?

Why Do You Remember?

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


There either is or is not, that's the way things are.
 The colour of the day. The way it felt to be a child. The saltwater on your sunburnt legs. 
Sometimes the water is yellow, sometimes it's red.
 But what colour it may be in memory, depends on the day.
 I'm not going to tell you the story the way it happened.

 I'm going to tell it the way I remember it.
Charles Dickens ~ Great Expectations

My husband and I had a conversation recently about first kisses. He doesn't remember his. 
I'll pause for a moment and let that sink in. 

HE DOESN'T REMEMBER HIS FIRST KISS!

How does that happen? He couldn't even with confidence remember the first time he kissed ME!*

*Disclaimer: I am married to an amazing man who supports me fully in everything I do. I can forgive the fact that he has let a moment on Sept. 21, 1997 at approximately 10:14 pm while slow dancing in my apartment to a local country station playing from my mini-stereo slip his mind.*

His explanation was that he "didn't catalog the information for future reference."
Then, he mumbled something about women never forgetting anything

But, my mind was already working. Why do I remember so well? 
I'm sure part of it is about being a girl and living for those kinds of moments, but I believe there is much, much more. 

I don't just remember my first kiss. I remember everything about it. Where I was standing, the butterfly army in my stomach, praying my mom did not choose that moment to walk into the kitchen. Everything. Just like I do so many other tiny but huge moments in my life.

But, I wonder how much of it is because I'm a writer. I love the story of each moment. I love hearing how other people met and fell in love. I love passing those emotions on to my readers and sharing the experience of moving through it together all over again. 

So, tell me your story. 
Do you remember the tiny but huge moments of your life with vivid detail? Were you cataloging it all for future reference? 

If you're in the mood for some nostalgia, you can check out this post about Remembering the Good Old Days (It's worth the click just to see my 1989 hairstyle!)






HAPPY RELEASE DAY TO RONI LOREN!

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Today, I am breaking out the virtual champagne and throwing imaginary confetti for my friend, the FABULOUS RONI LOREN!

Roni is awesome. I'm a total fan of her Loving on the Edge series, especially Melt into You (Hmm, Jace and Andre....*insert dreamy stare here* Oh, sorry. Were we talking about something? Oh, right, the blog post.)

Um, as I was saying, her new release
is the first title in Roni's new eserial.
  A new installment will be released every week over the next eight weeks. 

I have been totally looking forward to this because 1. It is about Andre's sister. He is in the very first scene ( *insert fangirl squee) and 2. It will be longer than her regular novels, which I love, but always want to read more!


So, CONGRATULATIONS RONI!!!
Here's to a terrific release day. 

From the author of the Loving on the Edge novels comes a story of a good girl who discovers that once you dare to cross some lines, it’s hard to turn back…
On the night of her graduation, innocent veterinary student Cela decides to play a game of Never Have I Ever with the two hot neighbors she’s been quietly crushing on for the last year. Always the prim and proper student, Cela thinks she’s earned a wild night before she has to move back home under the watchful gaze of her family. But what starts out as a simple game is about to take a very sensual turn...
Ian Foster is tired of playing games. With his membership to The Ranch, an exclusive BDSM resort, and a musician roommate who brings home groupies with a taste for ménage, Foster has a life most guys would kill for. But lately, his need for dominance is no longer satisfied via one-night stands. He craves the full surrender a woman—a submissive of his own. 
But when his quiet, sweet-as-sugar neighbor shows up at their door with a bottle of tequila and an invitation, Foster decides he and Pike may have time for one more fling… 

And a few questions for the Roni fans out there.
What book is your favorite? 
What character would you love to spend an evening with? 
What character would you be terrified of spending the evening with?





Guest Post: Feeding the Muse



Guest Post: 

Feeding the Muse

So we’ve all had creative moments in our life inspired by something. Maybe it was a painting. Maybe it was a passing car. Or maybe it was that car chase racing down I-35 the other day.

I’ve had those moments. But really? That’s not exactly what my muse loves to be fed. It gets me the initial idea, yes. But my muse wants stronger stuff than a passing car or a painting to sustain me for a book. In that case, I turn to a very important fuel:


I know what you’re thinking. Who needs a freshness seal? That bag was gone in a week, but it got me through 23,000 words for the first week of November. I kept telling people, the book demanded it. No one believed me, I don’t think, but it’s true. Sometimes, you’re coasting along, writing away, and you stop. You have to ponder a scene for a while.

Now I’m highly OCD. I have nervous ticks that drive people up a wall. Especially when I’m trying to think. My fingers need to do things or I tend to destroy things that are around me. I also tend to grind my teeth together when I’m concentrating. My dentist hates me.

The book demanded Twizzlers at first, as evidenced by the picture up there. The good thing about Twizzlers is that they are relatively low calorie. Of course, that really doesn’t matter when you’re like me and finish off the bag inside of a week. They’re also chewy so I can sit there and grind on a Twizzler instead of my teeth. Not saying that it’s better… in fact, my dentist still hates me.

There’s a lot of me in my heroine in Off Her Game. Valerie doesn’t pig out on Twizzlers like me, but she needs to be busy. And that’s a big thing when someone suddenly has a huge lifestyle change, like losing a job. I drew a lot off my own personal OCD experiences. It’s never been debilitating for me. But I’ve always been aware of it. And while Val might not be as aware, she does know that she has her own oddities.

All this to say that I highly recommend candy as a way to feed the muse. I can’t tell you how many messes I’ve coaxed myself out of with a bag of Twizzlers. In fact, I’ve got another two pound bag in the kitchen for when I’m ready to hit the next half of my current WIP. But right now, that book wants Hershey’s Cookies n Cream and Elton John (music is an entirely different post, because if I tackled it now, Dawn would never invite me back…)

Sigh. The muse is never satisfied.

Thanks to Dawn for having me over today. 

So, it’s y’all’s turn now.

 Have you ever been attacked by a hungry muse while writing? What was the food of choice? Talk to me.
~~~
Off Her Game is available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble for pre-order. Releases March 25, 2013!
Penalty Number One: Men
Making time for men and relationships doesn’t fit into Valerie Chase’s game plan. This crisis-counselor-turned-cocktail-waitress knows the score—Men are a distraction. But when a certain hockey player tempts her wild side, part of her wants to indulge in a little harmless fun.
Penalty Number Two: Desire
As the star center for the Texas Highlanders, Darren Moran’s good looks and deadly determination make him a fan favorite. But after the previous season’s disaster, the last thing he needs is to let some woman crawl under his skin. But… Valerie is different. She brings out the best in him—both on and off the ice—and he’s not about to lose her.
Penalty Number Three: Passion
When the game moves to the next level, Darren and Val have got to call timeout. An unplanned romance is a game-thrower, a sinful temptation that neither of them can afford. After all, there’s no way to have order in matters of the heart when the penalties tally up to an ejection from the game.
~~~
Suzan Butler is a romance author with a penchant for Dr. Pepper, ice hockey, and world domination.  She lives in Texas under a not-so-secret identity with two monsters, writing books and planning the next step in her evil plans into the twilight hours of the night because that’s when it’s quiet in the house.
Visit her online on her website and subscribe to her newsletter to keep up with all her new releases.

The Myth of a Carefree Childhood

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


The Myth of a Carefree Childhood

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that read: 
I just want to be 10 years old again with no worries in the world. 
If I remember correctly, it was accompanied by a picture of a child on a bike, riding with no hands, or some other heart-swelling image of nostalgia. 
Several comments followed about the carefree, joyousness of childhood. 
Youth is wasted on the young and similar cliches. 
The same faulty rhetoric people feed teenagers when they declare, 
"Enjoy high school. It's the best years of your life."
Trust me, if high school was the best years of my life, 
I would have snapped and gone running naked down the street a long time ago. 

It's all lies. 

Because, you know what? 

I live with a ten year old. 

A smart, beautiful girl who does well in school, has close friends, as well as  a strong family that loves her fiercely... And, she worries about everything
Not just about how she looks or if her favorite Disney Channel couple is going to stay together. 
She worries about the little girl who stole her snack from her locker because
 "Why would she need to steal food, mom?" 
She worries about her friends when others tease them. 
She worries about the boy her sister likes not being nice enough for her. 
She worries about what the country will be like for her children. 
(No, I'm not exaggerating.)

The idea that childhood is this blissful, free of stress, time is absurd.
 At no other point in your life are you in such confusing situations 
with such little control over your own destiny.  

I remember laying in bed at night, unable to shut off my mind. 

My mom probably remembers having to call my third grade teacher at home  because I couldn't stop crying. The teacher had made a boy stand in the trashcan as a punishment during class. I was so humiliated for him that I couldn't sleep and so scared of getting the teacher in trouble, it took my mom a good hour to get out of me why I was sobbing uncontrollably. 

That's the carefreeness of childhood. 

When adults look back through the rose-colored glasses, they discount the overwhelming pressure of that time in a child's life. 


By the time I was my daughter's age:
  • My parents were separated for the third or fourth time.
  • I had lived in three states in three years. 
  • I knew what drugs were.
  • I knew what alcoholism looked like. 
  • I had sat at the graveside of someone I loved. 
  • I had vague information about what sex would be and the thought was pretty terrifying. 
My life was far from stress-free. And, I wouldn't consider my childhood to be "bad". It just was. 

Children deserve for adults to respect the their emotions, ease their fears with out belittling them and offer empathy and compassion. 

Not just a patronizing pat on the head and a wistful, 
"Oh, when I was your age..."


So, tell me your story. 
Do you remember your childhood as all sno-cones and games of tag? 
Do you think people romanticize those early years? 
Is high school ever the best years of someone's life? 
 













Musical Misunderstandings

Tell Me Your Story

Musical Misunderstandings

    On a recent car trip, I decided if I had to hear Taylor Swift croon one more I'm-his-best-friend-but-secretly-in-love-with-him-let-me-cry-on-my-guitar-oh-he-loves-me-too! ballad, I was going to throw myself on the pavement at 75 mph. 
    To save me from highway suicide, my husband put in some  more mature, yet kid-friendly music. That's when this song came on. 

My girls started singing along and Scott and I exchanged a look. 
This was going to be one of "those songs."

One of those songs you sing as a kid and have no clue they are any thing but innocent. One of those songs that make you call your mother when you're older and say,

 "Do you know what this song is about?" 

Yep, it's happen to me. I was exposed to a variety of music growing up. My parents were never into oldies. They listened to Hank Jr., The Eagles,  and people like Joe Ely. My uncle liked to show me off  (and win bets with his friends) because before I was in elementary school, I could identify songs by The Who, Peter Frampton and Little Feat.

 He did get reprimanded by mom when I was belting out Angel in the Centerfold in the middle of Pizza Hut. 

But, my AH HA moment came driving home from college. I hit an old country station and a great song from my childhood poured from the speakers. 


No one wants to go down to Tucson in the summer

So this time the boss chose me 

(See, he's a hard-working man who's ready to do a job no one else wants.)

I've been sort of restless yes he thought it might help if

I got away from my wife and family

(He's been stressed. Needs a break. I can respect that.)

There's been no other woman since the mother of my 

children

And in each and every way she's a lady

(He's faithful. Loves and honors his wife)

Now there's one that I'll remember a sultry night we spent

 together

(Remembering an old flame. Playing the "highlight" reel. It happens.)

And she satisfied the love inside of me

Go on and send me down to Tucson and I'll get the job done

(Good man. Send me down, Boss. I'll take care of it!)

And call up the one whose love is free

(Huh?)
She may be easy and I love my lady

(Whaa?)

But the lady don't satisfy the love inside of me

(He's CHEATING?!?!?! *Insert sound of childhood

 innocence shattering here.*)


So, tell me your story.
Ever had a song you loved but were clueless about the meaning? 
Ever had a "What?" moment like me? 

Where have you been?

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Where have you been? 
Or the story of how life slapped me in the face and I quit blogging for a while.
By Dawn Alexander


 If you're still reading this blog, thank you. I've been out of touch for a while. Paul A. Shortt got a month long feature for his new release and if you look past that you will see that I missed the entire month of October.

 Honestly, I thought no one would notice until this weekend when the president of my RWA chapter said, "I keep stopping by your blog and that man's still there."

So, if like Jen, you've been dropping by and seeing Paul alot. I thank you for continuing to check in.

I wrote in September about getting myself together. Everything was under control.I was ready to start writing, blogging, playing on social media. 

I was ready to be me, again. 

Then, October happened. 

Sometimes, just to let you know you ain't running nothing, as my dad would say, life backhands you.

Five deaths in 9 weeks. 

That's where I've been. 

Two family friends, two high school students and one cousin, who is being laid to rest today.  

All with their own stories that they don't get to tell anymore. 

I am making a proclamation that this year is done. 

No one else can get sick. No one else can be hurt. No one else can die. 

2012 has not been a pleasant experience. I have high hopes for the year to come. 

I just have to get there...with this little thread of sanity I am clutching intact. 








      

      


Jody Hedlund: Secret #11

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Welcome

Jody is awesome and I am so excited to have her sharing secrets with us today! Before we get to the juicy stuff, I absolutely have to recommend her latest book: 
I may or may not have devoured this book in basically one setting. I read the first two chapters on the treadmill and had every intention of only letting myself read it in the mornings while I was working out. Yeah, that night I stayed up until my eyes wouldn't focus getting it finished. So much for my reading-to-improve my thighs plan. 
But, the book was just that awesome! 
Enough about me!
Today is about Jody.

Secret #11: The area in my life I'm the most inconsistent.
By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Overall, I count myself a very self-disciplined person. I  water my plants every Monday. I set my coffee maker every night before going to bed.  I always get up early. I write a certain number of words per day.  I pay my bills on time. I respond promptly to emails. 

Yes, I'm consistent and self-disciplined with most of my life.

But I'm terrible at being self-disciplined in one particular area. And that is exercising regularly.

I have good intentions when it comes to exercising. I always tell myself I need to exercise more and come up with plans. But for some reason, I can't seem to stick with those plans for very long.

Last winter, my goal was to walk with my Leslie Sanone DVD each weekday morning for approximately twenty minutes. I started out walking most mornings. But then occasionally I skipped because of an early morning headache or because I had too many emails to respond to. 

And once you get into the habit of skipping occasionally, it becomes all too easy to skip more regularly, until you're hardly doing it at all anymore.

Then I went in for a yearly doctor's visit and discovered that my blood pressure is borderline high. As I evaluated ways I could work on getting it down (without having to take meds), I learned that exercise was one way to work on lowering blood pressure. 

So, once again, I vamped up my efforts to be more consistent with exercising. Over the summer, I tried to take a twenty minute power walk every weekday morning before the kids woke up. And I realized it's a beautiful, cool time of the morning, with very few people out—mostly just me and my dog.

I realized it's easier to stay consistent with something if you plan it into your schedule for the same time every day, eliminate excuses, and just do it whether you feel like it or not.

Even with all my resolutions, I still find myself missing days now and then. But I'm getting better at becoming more consistent at this area in my life where I've always been completely inconsistent.
Maybe one day, I finally get there.

How about you? In what area of your life do you struggle to be consistent?

Publisher's Weekly calls Unending Devotion " A meaty tale of life amid the debauchery of the lumber camps of 1880s Michigan . . . exciting and unpredictable to the very end."

To celebrate the release of Unending Devotion, Jody is giving away a signed copy. Leave a comment (along with your email address) to enter the drawing. Valid only with US or Canadian addresses. Giveaway ends Friday, Sept. 21st. A winner will be chosen on Saturday. 
For more secrets about Jody and additional chances to win her newest release, visit her Events Page to see where she'll be next in her "Fun Secrets About Author Jody Hedlund" blog tour.
Also join in the Pinterest Photo Contest she's hosting. Find more information about it on her Contest Page.
Jody would love to connect with you! Find her in one of these places:

Getting it together

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday
My younger daughter, age 4



So, I've been hiding. You may have noticed from the lack of a Friday Plot Swap (usually my favorite post). Also, I've spent very little time on twitter or Facebook. It's not that I've become anti-social. I just got stuck.

RWA Nationals pretty much knocked the wind out of me. The complete opposite of what I expected. I blogged about that here. I received awesome support and feedback. Which I appreciated while I was cleaning out my closet instead of editing. It still looks really pretty. You can see the pictures here.

Before I could make myself jump back into writing, I started a new job.

But, I think I've finally got it all together. I am excited about writing again. I'm excited about blogging and I am SOOOO ready to do some plot swapping. Have I got some stories for you!

Since it is Tuesday, tell me your story. Have you ever had to take a break and regroup? What worked best for you? Did you even notice Fridays have been dull and swapless?









Interview with an old friend

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Welcome
 My friend,

Sean and I go way back. I mean, big-hair-and-blue-eyeshadow kind of back. Talking about me, of course, not him. He never had big hair. In fact, we had a serious discussion about what pictures would and would not be shared for this post. You see, there was this play where he played a priest and I played, well, a ditz basically. My best line was "I like his hair...so much." What is that? 

Anyway, Sean is now an entertainment reporter as well as a writer-in-waiting novelist. Of course, I had to have him for Tell Me Your Story Tuesday. 

Let's get to know my friend, Sean. 
 
 Ah, the glamorous life of an entertainment reporter. It's all free movies, champagne and prestige, right?
 Being an entertainment writer is a great gig if you can get it.  I am published in the Moore Monthly and I am read by literally dozens of people every month…dozens! Sure, I see movies early and for free but there is a downside.  People don’t know about the pounds that I have packed on eating extra-butter theater popcorn two to three times a week, do they? I suffered the worst of Adam Sandler for my readers. I saw “Jack and Jill”. I watch those bad films so you don’t have to. It is a public service.

 How did you get into this?
 A friend of mine once gave me the advice, that when you are in a meeting where you clearly do not belong then just act like you do. I took this advice when I was asked to meet with the editor of the Moore Monthly. We had made an acquaintance in social media and he had been impressed with some freelance writing that I had done for a site called OKC.net. I had written a story about taking my young children to the annual Flaming Lips New Year’s Freak Out and titled it “The Family Who Freaks Out Together”. 

My unique angle on covering the show impressed him and I found myself having lunch with him. I was terrified at the prospect that this was a sort of job interview veiled as two guys eating sandwiches. Now, I had published freelance but this was a possible regular gig. I was nervous but took my friend’s advice and acted like this was the sort of thing that happened to me all the time. It worked out and I am now a professional entertainment writer. I have parlayed that in to becoming a member of the Oklahoma Film Critic’s Circle, a recognized professional society for film criticism.  Which, I have used to get more freelance writing work.  I just keep having meetings and pretending that I belong there.

 What do you look for in the movies you review? Do you take notes or rely on your own memory?  Do you like to have company for a discussion afterward or do you prefer work alone?

 Movie studios and promotional companies offer free screenings for the press and for “word of mouth” hype. Usually, these screenings are a few weeks before the actual release of the film and are used to build a buzz around a production.  These screenings are for the press but also for an audience of people who win tickets on the radio or receive them through some other promotional source. When I see a movie, it is in a crowded theater of people so I can gauge their response and measure it against my own. I don’t take notes. I do varying amounts of research beforehand but go see the films the way that any movie-goer would. I bring a friend or my children if it is a family film.  I get popcorn and candy.  I experience the movie.   
My work starts once I am walking out of the theater and I start to distill from my immediate impressions that recommendation of what to expect from a film. I relate my biases upfront and then try to present as balanced as possible a review. I am not picky when it comes to which films I will see. I keep a calendar of all the screenings I can possibly attend and then attend as many as I can. If I do not write about a movie for my regular column then I will usually write something freelance for another outlet about the film. I will see anything because every movie that I see is potential income for me.

 What is it like to leave the theater knowing you are going to write a negative review? Do you feel guilty at all or is all business? 

  Too many critics seem to me to be professional contrarians. I try to be balanced in my criticism of a film. In the end, I am such a fan of film that there is very rarely a movie that has nothing redeeming in it to me. If there is only one worthwhile performance then I will not fail to mention it. Movie-making is a marvelous thing to me and as a critic, I can be like someone watching prestidigitation at a stage show and trying to guess at how the tricks are done and pointing out the wires. In the end I still want to be amazed. I still want it to seem magic.  I still appreciate the art of making-believe. I mean as a writer, I appreciate the magic behind the creation of worlds from whole cloth.  I have such a reverence for film and every part of the process.  I hope I show that in my criticism.

 You also write fiction. What genre? Tell us about one of your work in progress. 

 I am not sure. I call myself a speculative fiction author. I am writing in the genres that I am drawn most to read. My fiction is some combination of horror and sci-fi, maybe the horrors of science (although my science is as much psychological and social science as anything else).  Hanging a name on a story and categorizing it is limiting it to follow certain tropes or expectations. It has been suggested to me that I write slipstream fiction. I am not quite sure what slipstream as a genre really is exactly but I like what Bruce Sterling wrote about it: "...this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility”. I get that.  Out of place or out of your mind is sort of what I am shooting for in the atmosphere of my writing.

 What authors have shaped your vision of what you want your writing to be? 

I am currently reading through everything in our local library written by Philip K. Dick. Immediately before that, I was rereading the short fiction of Lovecraft. I have very few books as I tend to pass them on quickly but I am literate and an autodidact so I consume the resources of my library voraciously.  I would probably say Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut are huge influences on my thinking and writing right now. However, my overall vision is colored by piles upon  piles of yellowed pulp  science fiction and fantasy novels that my parents had collected.  My first advice to anyone who likes to write besides ‘Just write’ is to read. Just read.

 As of now, you are unpublished in fiction. How do you keep yourself motivated and writing ? 

 I have published very little in fiction (a few short stories in independent small press magazines). I have written however quite a lot. I spend most of my week working on freelance journalism.  After the freelance journalism work is written, I take time every day for my fiction.  The time varies on my workload. I am starting to feel a pull in the direction of submitting my fiction work and investigating places to publish (and self-publishing options) especially as I get close to finishing my novel.  I really feel like it isn’t hard to get motivated to write, it is hard to do the work of getting that writing seen by others and making a living from that writing. That is daunting. The writing is the easy part in comparison. The process of submitting that writing and getting it seen is what takes motivation. 

 Where do you see yourself going in your writing path? Five years from now, what do you hope to have accomplished? 

Writing. I want to be writing. A few years ago, writing was a hobby for me. I was a retail manager for a big box store. I hated my job and I used writing as an escape. I was stuck in a profession that I found tedious and I was absolutely “adequate” at. I decided not to settle for being mediocre and feeling trapped. There was better money in retail but my heart was in writing. That sounds like a bold choice and may be the best move of my life if I can somehow make writing my career. I am a freelancer. There is a certain grind to freelancing but it doesn’t pay a lot and you have to really work it to make it work. The five year plan is to make the most of every freelance opportunity that I have and to start taking more “meetings that I don’t belong in” with fiction editors.  Keep working on my craft and keeping my fingers on the keys. If I am really living the dream, then I am going to combine this freelance journalism gig with a fiction writer gig. Ultimately, to be a working novelist and write to support myself would be the dream fulfilled. Any way that it happens, I am going to keep writing.

Thank you so much for doing this, Sean. It was such fun. 
You can find Sean at his blog:   http://verynovel.wordpress.com/ or like his Author page on Facebook.

You can also ask him questions in the comments here. Feel free to ask him about me in high school. He may know where some of the bodies are buried, but I've got pictures, so I ain't scared! 




What I did on summer vacation...

Thinking about Thursday
So, school starts on Monday. Well, it starts for the kids on Monday. It started for me two weeks ago. Two weeks of sitting in meetings and being reminded why I never had the urge to join the corporate world.

I love teaching.
I hate meetings.

All and all, it was a good summer.

I spent a night sleeping on a  sloped floor, staring  at these guys, hoping the glass was as strong as we were told it was!



Swam in the ocean for the first time in my life. Prayed my friends from above didn't tag along!
And I got to go here!!!!!

So, what did you do on your summer vacation? If you didn't do anything, feel free to make something up. I won't judge.

R.J. Thesman

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday
WELCOME

It is a pleasure to have R. J. with us today to discuss her new release  
The Unraveling of Reverend G
 and a special topic dear to her heart. 
Let's get to know R. J.!
 

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
As a bi-vocational writer, I work part-time at GateWay of Hope Ministries. My title is Program Director for this incredible women’s center that focuses on counseling, groups and prayer. Then I come home, have a bite to eat, exercise and write.
Since the time I first opened my Big Chief tablet and scribbled my first story, I have been a writer. But it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I attended a writers’ conference and learned more about the business side that I became a professional freelancer.
I am constantly writing – whether it is observing people for future characters, using the experiences of life in personal experience articles or unloading my soul in my journal. I can’t NOT write.

Your current release is 
What is it about?
This is my first novel, and it is about a woman minister who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She struggles with forgetting part of the Lord’s prayer and losing an entire gallon of Chunky Monkey ice cream. She has to retire and goes to live in assisted living where she meets a colorful cast of characters. The greatest fear of Reverend G is that she will forget how to communicate with God and thus – lose her faith.

You have deeply personal experience with Alzheimer's. How did that influence your writing process for this book? Did it challenge you more in anyway?
Because of my father’s trauma-induced dementia and my mother’s Alzheimer’s – I wondered what they were thinking about while they dealt with gradually declining health.  What was really happening inside those damaged brains? So I wanted to pursue that question by writing about Reverend G from her viewpoint, in first person.
Many of the experiences that Reverend G has are similar to the ones I have lived with and observed with my parents. The challenge was that in writing the book, I lived it so closely that I grieved for my parents all over again.

This is not your first book. Tell us about some of your other writing experiences.
Most of my writing has been in the nonfiction genre. My first book was an autobiography of my missionary experiences in Honduras, “The Plain Path.” My next three books were curricula for teaching English to international students, using the Bible. Except for an occasional short story, most of my articles have been nonfiction. So it was a great surprise to suddenly wake up with this novel in my head.

Does your process for writing fiction differ at all when writing non-fiction? 

I have always been an outliner and a planner, but with Reverend G – I just sat down and let her write the book through me. And it was so much fun! I think I have discovered my true calling.
With nonfiction, I always did research at the beginning, outlined, wrote the first draft, queried a publisher, then continued to rewrite until it was polished.
With Reverend G – I wrote the entire thing in 6 months, then did some additional research and went back to add it to the text. After the final edits, it was completed. Currently, I have enough characters and plot ideas for another two books in the series.

You also do public speaking and workshops. What message do hope those who hear you and/or read your work take from it?
I absolutely love teaching about writing – especially for the Christian market. I believe it is so important that we keep the message of Christ’s love alive with our words. Whether I am speaking about the Reverend G book or teaching a workshop, I hope to convey the joy of writing and the importance of keeping the message clear and readable.
When I speak specifically about the Reverend G book, I hope to share encouragement and hope with caregivers. Their role and their burdens are incredibly difficult.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing or speaking?
I love to read, read, read and I love nature. My favorite place is out on my deck with a good book. I also love to watch the sun set and praise God that He chooses different colors and textures every night.
I like to cook, but often don’t have time to do it justice. I also love to eat out with my son – especially great Mexican food.

What's your next step?
The 1st draft of the second book is completed, so I am now editing it. I’ve titled it “Intermission for Reverend G.” The third book will be “Final Grace for Reverend G.” After that, I’m already working on ideas for another novel – a secret!

How can our readers get to know you better?
My blog is on my website at: www.rjthesman.net. I’m on twitter: @rjthesman. On FB, my author page is RJ Thesman and I also have a group for caregivers and those dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia: Facebook.com/SometimesTheyForget. I’m also on LinkedIn as Rebecca Thesman and I have an author page on Amazon: RJ Thesman.

Thank you so much for being with us today.
 Do you have a question for R. J. about her writing journey or experience as a caregiver? 


Say What?

Thinking about Thursday
Say What? 

  If you ever meet me in person, it takes approximately .03 seconds to to realize, I'm from Texas. 
Yes, I have an accent. I say "y'all" for singular and multiple pronouns. I've also been known to throw out a "Howdy" or two. One of the reasons why you'll probably never see a VLOG from me. The camera makes it worse.

But, let me tell you what annoys the fire out of me. 

Southern characters created by someone who has obviously never been here. An actor with a fake Texan accent is enough to make me turn off a movie. There is a difference between "southern" and "hick", if you don't know it then you shouldn't attempt it. But, it grates on me just as much in books. 

I have never, in my life, said, "Boy howdy! Am I glad to see you!" nor have I called anyone "Partner". But, yesterday, when my mom referred to someone as being "all hat and no cattle," I got  thinking about some of our phrases and how they might work their way into my writing. 

Here are a few of my favorites:

Fire~ This is usually used to replace a word that I shouldn't say in front of my kids. Of course, I realized it might be less than effective when one of my girls told her sister, "If you don't stop that, I'm gonna knock the fire out of you." 

Fixin'~ Yes, this is a reference to time. It is used as in, "I'm fixin' to go to the store."

 *Some phrases for you:
"This ain't my first rodeo." 
"Like a chicken with his head cut off."
"All hat and no cattle."
"Bless his/her heart."
"That dog ain't gonna hunt."


*Definitions for those listed above available upon request. 

 So, how 'bout it y'all?
 What's your favorite colloquialism? 
What stereotype about your area do you hate to see in movies or books?


 


Lipreading Mom

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

WELCOME


I am very excited to have Shanna with us today. She and I went to college together, um, a few years ago. Her life has changed infinitely since then. Today, she's sharing with us about her debut release, Lip Reader, as well as her hearing loss and a cause close to her heart.

Let's get to know Shanna!
Your blog is Lipreadingmom.com
Tell us about what led to your Deafness and how you chose to face it.

At age 27, I had just given birth to my first child, a healthy boy. While sitting at home with him, I noticed in quiet rooms that my ears rang uncontrollably. Conversations became distorted, and I had difficulty hearing voices on the phone. When I was diagnosed with tinnitus (ringing of the ears) and progressive hearing loss in 2001, I attributed the loss to hormonal changes from pregnancy. Later, I investigated my family history of hearing loss and discovered that genetic deafness went back several generations on the paternal side of my family. Exploring this family history and journaling about it helped bring me out of the initial denial, anger, and funk of having hearing loss.

What has been the biggest challenge of losing your hearing while raising three children?

My children---ages 11, 8, and 4---have adapted by speaking to me quite loud. When they can't get my attention, they also tap me on the shoulder (best case scenario) or scream (worst case). My daughter took baby sign language classes with me and seems to be more proactive in speaking clearly, facing me when she speaks, and using sign gestures so I can understand her. The challenges are there. My home is filled with loud voices, but also laughter. I remain concerned for their safety. At the swimming pool when I can't wear my hearing aids, I pay close attention to them. My eyes are my ears.

You focus on lipreading, but you also use sign language. How do you decide which communication mode to use in each situation?

My daughter is likely to use her hands while she speaks to me. My oldest son speaks clearly and has a deeper voice, so he is easier to lip read. My youngest son has quite a loud voice and is more inclined to place his chubby hands on my cheeks to get my attention.

At church, a woman and I sign the worship songs, and I teach Bible verses in sign language for my daughter's Sunday school class.

Tell us about Lip Reader. What was your inspiration? Which character did you enjoy writing the most? What do you hope your readers take away from the story?


Lip Reader is a novel loosely inspired by the genetic hearing loss in my family. The book takes place in Oklahoma where I was born and raised. My intention with writing Lip Reader was 1) to explore the history of my family's hearing loss and 2) educate and entertain readers with a compelling story about a special abled family. The main character, Sapphie, is a 12-year-old girl coming of age when she first meets her deaf family. The lesson she receives is one of inclusion, tolerance, and compassion. Sapphie also learns sign language from her warm-hearted Grandma Bebop. There is an unexpected surprise about secret-keeping that readers must discover for themselves.

What led to your decision to self-publish? What would you tell someone thinking of taking that step?

From start to finish, the book took just under two years to research, write, and publish. I felt a sense of urgency to share this book with others because it sheds light on hearing loss. More than 34 million Americans face hearing loss, and that number grows annually due to aging baby boomers with age-related hearing loss and noise exposure. After researching self-publishing options, I found an independent editor who proofread my manuscript two times before I submitted it for publication.

Self-publishing isn't for everyone. There is a cost involved, and the writer must pay for copies of the book to sell at signings. For the determined writer who can market the published book and has the financial means, self-publishing is very rewarding. It can open doors to speaking opportunities, media coverage, and community networking. A self-published author must take on these responsibilities: 1) hiring a professional editor to proofread the manuscript before publication and 2) setting up a marketing plan and following through with it. Social media, blogging, and online book events open up plenty of marketing possibilities. It's hard work to promote my book, but I like the sense of control and creativity that come with being a self-published author.

What has been your favorite moment while speaking about your book?

At speaking events, I use some sign language and plenty of drama! One of my favorite events was bringing by oldest son and daughter on the stage during a college speaking event in Missouri. They acted out a typical day with me as their hard of hearing mom. My son was shy, but my daughter stole the show with her honesty and smile.

You are also passionate about captioning services. What have you accomplished in that battle and what challenges are still ahead?

Captioning is vital to all people with hearing loss, as well as individuals learning to speak English as a second language. I became involved with captioning advocacy after repeated trips to the movie theater with my family. None of the movies were captioned. While watching Toy Story 3 at the theater, I sat stone-faced while my husband and kids laughed at Woody and Buzz's antics. What were the characters saying? I relied on my kids to repeat missed dialogue. That wasn't fair to them or me. After that trip, I partnered with the Hearing Loss Association of America  in contacting theaters about the importance of movie theater captioning. Since then, AMC Theatres, Cinemark, and others have begun showing first-run movies with captions.

I became concerned about the lack of online captions after watching YouTube and Disney.com videos with my kids. What could my kids hear that I couldn't? My responsibility while my kids are at home is to guide and nurture them in their choices. Without the ability to understand the videos they watched online, I wasn't fulfilling that job. I partnered with the Collaboration for Communication Access via Captioning  to inform websites about the importance of captioning all online video content. The 21st Century Video and Communications Accessibility Act of 2012 is a landmark ruling by the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that news websites and other sites caption their videos. The challenge is with captioning individual videos on all websites, particularly YouTube. How is it possible to enforce the captioning of so many videos? Yet it is important, and the CCAC and I continue to work together through the Lipreading Mom Captions Campaign  and other efforts to promote universal captioning.

When do you manage to write? What is your writing routine like?

During the school year, I write when my kids are at school---usually mornings. During the summer months, I tend to write more at night after the kids are in bed. Occasionally I can grab a few minutes during the day to write a blog post or work on a book chapter. While writing Lip Reader, I waited until my kids napped or had afternoon quiet time to write. My goal was 20 minutes a day, five days a week.

My new book, Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom, is my true story of juggling motherhood, hearing loss, and the unexpected twists of life. It will be published by CrossRiver Media  and should be available in 2013. I spent four months writing two hours a day on the book while the kids were at school. Much of the fodder for Confessions came from my blog . Besides hearing loss and parenting, I deal with family depression and two unexpected deaths of loved ones. There is a lot of humor mixed in with the serious subject matters. Plan for a few laughs, tears, and shocking twists.

How did your stories in the A Cup of Comfort series come about ?

Writing true stories is cheaper than hiring a therapist! I love to share stories and inspire people from my life. One of my stories, "Signed, Scared, Delivered," was about delivering my daughter without the ability to hear the doctor or nurses. Once I began working with two different A Cup of Comfort editors on projects, I gained the confidence to repeatedly submit my short stories for publication.

If you had a week to do whatever you wanted with no consideration to cost, what you do?

My husband and I would have unlimited babysitting and would stay in a bed and breakfast way out in the middle of nowhere. The innkeeper would provide all the luxuries of home without all the chaos of home! 

Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Shanna!
Would you like to know more about Shanna? 
You can connect with her at her blog, Facebook or @lipreadingmom on Twitter.



A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California

Thinking about Thursday

Book Review

Tuesday, I interviewed Keli Gwyn about her debut release. If you missed out on that fun, you can read it here. Now that I've had the opportunity to read A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado,  California, I can't wait to tell you about it.

First, let me say, as an inspirational romance set in the old west, this book was WAY out of my normal reading. But, since I've followed Keli's journey to publication, including crying with her when she opened her first shipment of books (Did you miss that? You can see it here.) I felt so invested in this book, I did little dance in the kitchen the day  I opened it. 
Sorry, no video of that. 

About the Book

An ever-resourceful widow, Elenora Watkins arrives in El Dorado ready to go into partnership with Miles Rutledge. When he refuses, Elenora becomes the competition across the street. Is this town big enough for the two of them?
Miles can’t help but stick his well-polished boot in his mouth whenever he comes face-to-face with Elenora. Can he find a way to win her heart while destroying her business?
Miles’s mother, Maude, is bent on Elenora becoming her new daughter-in-law while Elenora’s daughter, Tildy, thinks Miles would make a perfect papa. How far will these meddlers go to unite this enterprising pair?

Check out Keli's video of the real life inspiration for her story. 


What did I think?  
Let me just say, I smiled like a loon through most of this book. The characters are immediately real and loveable. There is one particular scene where the men in the barbershop are teasing Miles that made me realize people in that time were real. They had lives not so removed from ours. They weren't all gunfighters and staunch lawmen.  They loved their families, flirted with their wives and the men, because they are men, still showed affection by dogging on each other. 

Having been accused (or praised~ whichever way you want to take it) in my life of being a "stubborn, independent woman", I loved the character of Elenora.  Her quick wit and resourcefulness instantly drew me to her. The banter between her and Miles adds a delightful flavor of humor and authenticity to the story. 

This is an inspirational romance, but the message of faith is by no means heavy-handed. References to the Lord and prayer arise organically and do not pull the reader from the story as I have seen in other inspirational works. 

There is also plenty of "romantic tension". Enough to keep you turning the page to find out "Will they?" or "Won't they?" for just a kiss!
  

So, my question to you is, what have you ever wondered about the old west? Can you imagine the people you know living there? If you were there, what would you be? A shop owner? Sheriff? Outlaw? 

The names of those who  leave a comment today will be combined with the names from Tuesday and entered in the drawing for an autographed copy of Keli's book.