May the Fourth Be With You

May 4

Today is the most important of all holidays, especially with the reboot of the Star Wars saga this past Christmas. And if you didn’t know, Disney plans to release a new Star Wars film every December through 2019! I saw a tweet about this from YA author Victoria Aveyard:

“Mother, tell me what Christmas season was like?”

“We don’t speak of it. We call it Star Wars season now.”

Instead of Merry Christmas, it’s May the Force Be With You.

Hahaha! Of course, we’re being facetious. But to celebrate today, I’m teaching the Hero’s Journey to my eighth grade English students since Luke’s journey is one of the most famous examples. I thought it might help you with your story to see the specific plot points that conform to the structure.

The Call: Luke Skywalker receives the message from the Droid R2D2 that princess Leia is in trouble. He sets off to find Obi Wan Kenobi.
The Decision: Luke finds Obi Wan and learns of his Destiny. Luke’s decision is rendered irrevocable when his uncle and aunt are killed and his home is burned.
The Preparation: Luke sets off to aid the rebellion. Along the way, he gathers a crew of companions and learns the ways of the Force from his mentor Master Yoda. The concept of a Mentor is a reoccurring motif in the Hero’s Journey.
The Obstacles: Most of the second and third movies show intermediary steps that Luke must accomplish in order to become strong enough to defeat the Emperor. Along the way, he encounters a “Shadow,” an evil figure that mirrors those things the hero most fears or dislikes about himself. In Luke’s case, that “Shadow” is Darth Vader. During “The Obstacles” portion of the story, Luke is separated from his friends and forced to face the ultimate evil alone.
The Climax: Luke faces the “Shadow” and is able to overcome the Emperor without falling to the “Dark Side.”
The Return: Having overcome the enemies and returned peace to the galaxy, the major characters are reunited. Luke returns to his friends a changed man ready to move forward. In the final scene, Luke sees the ghosts of his fallen mentors Obi Wan, Yoda, and (in the remastered version) Anakin Skywalker, his father. In the final shot, Luke turns his back on the ghosts and returns to his friends.

Are you celebrating May the Fourth Be With You? If so, do share! 

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.

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Carpe Diem!

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. . . One of my favorite quotes that I wrote at the front of my current journal. I’ve been given a lot of author opportunities as of late. There was my presentation about writing at the Lee County Reading Conference.

LCRC 2016

The third annual authors conference that I organized for my middle school, where I teach eighth grade English Language Arts. Here’s me with authors Kyle Prue, Jeff Strand, Liz Coley, Krystal Wade, Wendy Mills, Teshelle Combs, Erica Cameron, and Lisa Colozza Cocca.

GMS 3

Riverdale High School Literacy Festival. One of my favorite parts is doing the panel in the auditorium with the other authors. This year I got to promote 18 Thoughts!

RHS Lit 2016

A book signing at the largest independent bookstore in my county (check out the amazing book bridge–I want one in my house!). This is me with my editor and friend, Krystal Wade, who also happens to be an amazing author!

Krystal and me 2

And I have another author event at a middle school this Friday, followed by a visit to a book club who read 18 Things later this month!

I don’t mention this to brag, but to remind all of us how each day it’s up to us to look for new opportunities, and not to just further our careers. Every person I meet is an opportunity to uncover a new story, see a different perspective, discover a new friend.

Each place I go is an opportunity to try a new route, enjoy the scenery along the way, explore the surroundings, create adventure.

Each book, meal, conversation-Each Encounter–is an opportunity.

We’ve each been given our own unique talents and gifts to share with the world. Nothing makes me happier than shining my light and helping others to do the same. You never know what tomorrow may bring, so CARPE DIEM!!

~How have you seized the day lately?

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

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Love Is In The Air

It’s February already? Time flies when you’re having fun! February means Valentine’s Day! I know not everybody celebrates this holiday, but hopefully you’ll show yourself a little love this month. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t stuck to your resolutions (especially those writing ones–you’re not alone!), treat yourself to a Starbucks, have a GNO (girls or guys night out), take a long bubble bath, or ignore some chores and read a good book instead! Speaking of good books, I’d like to show the love to one of my favorite authors!

Starflight image

Melissa Landers, a fellow proud sci-fi geek who isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public (see why I love her?!) just released STARFLIGHT, the first in a brand new sci-fi series from Disney-Hyperion. I met Melissa two years ago at the first reading festival I did to promote my debut YA, 18 Things, and since she’s a former teacher who left the classroom to ‘pursue other worlds,’ I was immediately inspired by her (being a teacher myself).

STARFLIGHT (pitched to her editor as Overboard, a classic romantic comedy, meets Firefly, an amazing show that was tragically cancelled after one season despite the adorable Nathan Fillion) follows the misadventures of Solara Brooks, a penniless felon who indentures herself to her high school nemesis, Doran Spaulding, in exchange for passage to a new world. But when Doran’s memory is temporarily erased, Solara convinces him their roles are reversed—that she’s the master and he’s the servant—and leads him onto a renegade spaceship, where intergalactic shenanigans ensue.

If you love sci-fi adventure served with a side of romance, pick up a copy of STARFLIGHT, available in stores & online. Click here for the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Don’t forget to show some love to all the writers in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, a guy/ninja who is totally out of this world! We post the first Wednesday of every month to share and encourage and to offer a safe haven for writers of all kinds!

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I WANT CHANGE!

One of my favorite quotes is:

change

Why? Because I don’t think it’s right to notice or talk about what’s wrong in the world if you’re not going to do something to make the situation better.

As an author, one problem I’ve had with my last two books is lack of reviews.

18 Things, the first book in my YA trilogy, which released in January 2013, has 188 reviews with an overall 4.1 rating.

18 Truths released the following January. Two years later, it has only 50 reviews with a 4.7 rating.

Then, most pitiful of all, is 18 Thoughts with just 27 reviews and a 4.8 rating, which released almost one year ago.

So what did I do over my Christmas break? I was a bad writer (because I didn’t write a word in my WIP), but a very good friend, because I read six books by different authors I know and left a review! Now, most of you wouldn’t know I left you a review because if I use my regular name and email address, the gods at Amazon take my review down because *gasps* I’m a writer. SO WHAT?! I was being the change I wish to see in the world:-)

A writer lives and breathes by reviews and word-of-mouth! I keep getting all these reader surveys, which are nice, but my inner toddler stomps her feet and yells, “BUT WHY NOT PUT A REVIEW ON AMAZON INSTEAD AND HELP A SISTER OUT?” Because most of these people got my first novel for FREE and are wondering if/when the next two books will be free.

Can you hear my horrible Chewbacca growl from here?

By the way, if you don’t think reviews are important, then you might want to check out Kristen Lamb’s blog. Her last three posts have been about this topic, and I couldn’t have said it better myself (or funnier).

Any of you have insights on getting more reviews? Do you wish to be the change in my world (HA! See what I did there!). If you’d like to read any of my books in exchange for an honest review, just let me know!

Insecure Writer's Support Group

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Two FREE Gifts!!

Do you get mixed feelings of nostalgia and excitement before the new year like I do? I’ve heard many say they’re glad Christmas is over so life can continue as ‘normal,’ but not me. My house aglow with twinkling lights, spiced eggnog and warm apple cider drinks, surprise carolers from the neighborhood church, heartwarming specials on TV, more time with loved ones, our kids and their cousins dutifully performing their own play for the family on Christmas Eve . . . that, I could do all year. The world is different the week of Christmas, reminding us of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. We temporarily forget our obsession with warring and put away our weapons. We climb down our ladder to success to put up lights instead while remembering the light of the world who came to save us all. He is the reason for the season. Those who go through the year without giving him much thought suddenly hear the carol being performed by a group of children in the mall, “O come, let us adore him,” and tears swell up in their eyes as there’s a repenting silence among the crowd of shoppers who have paused to stop and listen.

Christmas lights

Now lights are coming down, shoppers exchange unwanted gifts, holiday decorations and sweets are discounted to 75% off, and the credit card bills are in the mail. Everything is back to our new ‘normal.’ The war of terror resumes.

I know celebrating Christmas year round wouldn’t really solve our problems. But I can’t help but wonder, if God can do so much with such apprehensive prayers lamely presented at Christmas time, how much more could he do if we truly sought him every day?

Christmas has come and gone, but there are actually a thousand reasons everyday to be happy, but if we don’t have peace in our hearts, we’ll never be happy. John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Whatever 2016 brings, don’t submit to circumstances. Submit to the Lord who controls circumstances. Unlike worldly peace where we wish for the absence of conflict, this peace is confident assurance in any circumstance. With Christ’s peace, we have no need to fear the present or future. There’s not enough Christmas traditions to bring lasting peace. Only God can.

Emmanuel. He is with us. God came near. That’s gift number one. And he will be with us allll year round; not just in December. I hope we’ll all remember that in 2016.

Gift number two is my book, 18 THINGS, is FREE today and tomorrow! Please help me spread the post-Christmas cheer:-)

Sample social media post: 

Love, faith & bucket lists! Looking for an excellent YA book for the ? 18 Things by is FREE:

 

*HaPPy*nEW*yEAr*frIEnds!!!

Another Year In the Books

It’s that time again already . . . reflecting on the past year. In preparation, I read my blog posts from last December. 2014 was rather crappy, and I looked forward to 2015 being a lot better. And the truth is . . .

IT WAS AMAZING!!!

It's been a magical year!

It’s been a magical year!

But not for the reasons I anticipated. This time last year I was still really focused on writing. The last installment of my YA trilogy, 18 Thoughts, was getting ready for release, and I anticipated an increase in sales and a fulfillment in my professional life I’d never experienced before.

Except even though I had more book sales this past year than in my previous two years combined, that fulfillment never came. Instead I felt empty and unmotivated in the area of writing. So after my media blitz, I took a break. In the past, if I didn’t have my daily writing time, it’d send me into a FULL DOWNWARD SPIRAL, eating cookies in a corner, nearly ODing on sugar, and making horrible Chewbacca howling noises. Probably not a healthy place to be. But I didn’t write again until mid-July, and then I finished a stand alone novel in a month. In August, school was back in session, leaving no time to edit as I taught eighth grade English for the first time. Maybe I’ll find editing time before 2015 ends (I do have 2 weeks off starting December 18th, but there’s also Star Wars, and NOTHING will take that away from me).

Sooo maybe I won’t.

And that’s okay. I’ve been so focused on writing, writing, writing since 2009 . . . from trying to get a book deal to getting a book deal to honoring that book deal and all it entails. This year, I finally felt like I had my life back. I’ve spent way more time with my wonderful family. I even made my 15yo daughter smile sometimes instead of scowl at me. So yes, this year has been a miracle.

How about you? Any surprises in your life this year? (Good, I hope, not like an unexpected incoming FaceTime or discovering your Starbucks app is empty. There’s nothing more terrifying than that.)

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This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

 

Happy, Happy, Happy

Two weeks ago I left on a 4-day cruise to the Bahamas with the cast of Duck Dynasty. It was something I won on the radio last May. If you’ve ever watched the show, you know Phil is famous for saying those words in my blog title, “Happy, Happy, Happy!”

cruise montage

It got me thinking, is that the legacy I’m leaving behind for my own kids? Will they look back on their childhood and think Mom was happy, happy, happy? I try to be a positive person, but if I’m honest, being happy is something I’ve struggled with these last few months. Most of it is stress related around circumstances I can’t control. But the more I thought, the more I decided that if the situation can’t change, why have a bad attitude about it? Might as well be grateful for all the good things I have. And with Thanksgiving right around the corner, then CHRISTMAS, it’s the perfect time of year to change my stinkin’ thinkin. Because make no mistake, your thought life comes out in your real life. Just like if you eat junk, your clothes will get too tight to fit into them (I’m starting my diet on Monday, I SWEAR!). Natural cause and effect relationship (there’s nothing more annoying than a teacher who just won’t stop😉

I don’t know what struggles you have today, but whether it’s writing related or not, I encourage you to be happy, happy, happy. Then all those positive thoughts will spill out into your life and eventually, YOU can be the change you wish to see in the world (Gandhi).

Oh, and I’d be REALLY happy, happy, happy if you’d download my first YA novel, 18 Things, FOR FREE November 6-7th. Apparently, it’s a Pixel of Ink special, which I’d never heard of until my publisher notified me of the sale. And please feel free to share the good news on social media. THANK YOU!

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

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Fear Not

negativeLast night I met a teen who told me she put up some stories on Wattpad and asked if I could give her some feedback. She then said something like, “I don’t think they mean anything though. They’re probably not even good.”

I swear, if I hear one more soul saying those words, I’m going to repeat Bloody Mary into a mirror just for a break (and because it is October! BOO!)

Thing is, even after publishing three books, I still have those negative thoughts. Especially last month when I didn’t make the top 20 entries in this contest where 10 agents were making offers on multicultural manuscripts. I admit, I felt like I wasn’t good enough to make it and didn’t touch my manuscript for two weeks. Then I realized . . .

Almost everyone I’ve talked with or listened to on panels took five years or five books to truly ‘make it.’ Why, after three books, would I give up? We have to put in the work if we want to reap the reward.

Don’t ever be intimidated to show off your work. Each one of us is unique and has a story to tell. And if we never share, we’ll never get feedback, and we’ll never improve.

There’s a Bible verse I kept reminding myself of every time I hear about another mass shooting, and I realized tonight it applies to sharing our art as well. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 . . . which is why saying Bloody Mary in the mirror doesn’t frighten me😉

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

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The Page Is A Mirror . . . Or Is It?

Most of you have seen the Twitter storm surrounding the “We Need Diverse Books” campaign within the past year. At GeekyCon last month, I attended a panel titled The Page Is A Mirror, and authors spoke on the power of representation, and how we see or fail to see ourselves reflected on the page, and what we want from YA moving forward . . . more diverse books!

Now Lee & Low, the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the US, started an information-collecting tool: a diversity survey for all publishing companies.

“It’s quite clear this data is essential, and the fact we don’t have it…problematic. This lack of information blinds diversity initiatives.”

Why do I want the big five to sign on? I teach English Language Arts to mainly eighth graders. The first day of school we discussed why as children in elementary school, they LOVED reading. Then they got to middle school, and they are in a FULL DOWNWARD SPIRAL when you ask them to read a few pages.

Holy Howling Dogs!! What went wrong?!

Many claimed they didn’t have time to read anymore. They have more responsibilities, more activities. To that end I asked how many watched reality TV and played video games on a regular basis. Almost all raised their hands. I told them they still had time to read.

But one class in particular got real. We spent 45 minutes discussing how they DID NOT see themselves reflected on the page in YA literature. They’re tired of seeing the same story over and over again. It’s the end of the world and another white girl or white boy is saving them all. All of whom are extremely good-looking. Most girls are skinny. Most guys have six-pack abs. Sure, some are poor, some live in a violent area. Maybe a few are gay. But where are the heroes with learning disabilities, physical handicaps, the ones who were physically abused by their parents, or molested by a creepy uncle, the ones who self harm to escape the real pain, the girls who weigh 150 pounds or more, the boys whose faces are covered in acne?

And I felt their pain. The first two novels I TRIED to publish? Number one was about a sixteen-year-old girl who cut herself to escape her horrific childhood, most notably a rape by a family member (*written in 2010). The second was about a biracial ballerina dealing with the prejudices of a hick town when she was forced to move there the last semester of high school (*written in 2011).

Responses from agents? Most often along the lines of, “Though these stories are important to tell, they’re hard to sell.”

Okaaay . . . so I wrote a YA romance with a paranormal twist and a love triangle. Guess what? Harlequin Teen, Sourcebooks, and TOR (a division of Macmillan) all requested the full. While I waited to hear back, I submitted to a contest on a whim and consequently, offered an immediate contract with a small publisher called Curiosity Quills.

In January 2013, CQ released the first novel in my trilogy, 18 THINGS. Two and a half years later, I feel we live in a different world. Change is in the air, and I hope the publishing industry changes with it. I hope we don’t miss this opportunity to create books teens want to read, pages that reflect them like a mirror, that speaks to THEIR experience. Imagine a world where teens rushed home to read a book instead of watch reality TV or inhale violent video games. Wow . . . what a place that would be. I’d want to live in that world.

Oprah quote

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!:-)

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*This was also my post for the #BigFiveSignOn bloghop . . . it’s a busy time of year for me with the start of school, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone. You can sign up for that bloghop at SCWrite’s website.

lee and low