Friday, January 30, 2015

To Blog or Not To Blog

I am staring at this lovely blank screen, debating what to write.... this feels familiar. It is amazing how in some very important ways blogging is very different from writing books. With books, one page leads into the next and the next and so on and so forth and next thing I know four hours and 50 pages have passed.

I will have tv or music playing in the background and have no clue what I missed (Seriously, made the mistake of starting Downton Abbey this weekend while writing. Realized I was on season one episode six and didn't even know who any of the characters were, and only got briefly excited when I recognized Rose Leslie's voice and immediately thought 'You know nothin' Jon Snow!')

But blogging is different. Blogging is short story-telling.... actually, shorter... man. And although I have seen so many bloggers pull things together in a neat and orderly fashion doing  Flash Fiction Friday, Teaser Tuesdays and the like, I just can't seem to pull that together. One, I have already discovered that I cannot do a book review a week, or offer teasers once a week, or get guest posts from authors once a week, or any of the other fun blog ideas I have come up with and wanted to implement.  Part of it is that I don't have all the time to get those things set up, but I think the bigger problem is that this doesn't match my style of writing.

I generally have an idea of my story's main points, but let the story flow and go. I am not such a structured writer as to have every point planned and just stitch it together with words. Doing that with the blog doesn't seem to work for me either.

So I will continue to randomly write my weird and special thoughts as they come. Hopefully most will be entertaining. If there are any random ideas you would like to see me write about, feel free to share in the comments below.

Until next time,

Keep Reading

Thursday, January 29, 2015

New Year's Resolution Fail

And January isn't even over yet. I missed my blog post Sunday due to... well, to me forgetting to be perfectly honest. Between my personal New Year's resolutions, our family resolutions, my other writing resolutions and life it has been quite the balancing act around here.  I think as far as resolutions go, I might have bitten off more than I can chew. There are only 24 hours in a day, and my body has already informed me that I am too old not to be getting my 8 hours.

I have failed all of my New Year's resolutions at least once already (and family cleaning up the kitchen after dinner fails a couple times every week!) And yet, I keep working on them. I pick myself up and start again. I push to do better each week. I plan and adapt to make it work. This is the difference between "New Year's resolutions" and goals. If more people treated New Year's resolutions as goals one makes at the new year, instead of declarations of things one wants to change in their life, less people would fail at their New Year's resolutions.

Which brings  me to one of my favorite quotes

Background image from

 Sometimes those deadlines are fluid. Sometimes life gets in the way. I was supposed to be taking the stairs at work every day... My second day back to work after surgery, I realized I couldn't do it straight out (it is 5 flights of stairs.) Did I throw that goal out and say Fahgeddaboutit? Nope, I looked at what little steps I needed to do to build up the stamina to do it. I am still working on it.

Which leads me to a new favorite quote:

The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.
John C. Maxwell

My first book in the Hell School series was supposed to come out this month. I realized somewhere around the time that I was scheduling surgery that probably wasn't going to happen. I didn't  throw my hands up and complain that it was too hard to be an author, mother and work a full-time job. (Ok, I might have told myself that a couple times, but EVENTUALLY I suck it up!) I re-scheduled my release date and made plans on how I can achieve that goal. 

Even if all you are doing is taking two steps forward and one step back, after 10 steps, you are still four steps further along than if you had done nothing. (I have to remind myself that when doing laundry!)

Until next time,

 keep reading!

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Maze Runner: Thoughts Pre-book review

So this is a thing I am going to start doing, as my new years resolution is to post three times a week, and post more reviews. I was hoping that the reading I did while out for surgery, combined with other posts would keep me going for awhile, alas here I am with a new post and no book review!
 Unfortunately, my time is being very thinly stretched between writing, book promotion, family, my full-time job and life in general (What was I thinking!) and I realize even between reading with the kids and reading on my lunch breaks there is no way that I will be able to read one book a week! Especially as some of the books I have been reading just haven't "grabbed me" as I had hoped. Something about age, but it is harder to make oneself read all night unless the book is just super compelling.

So, we are going to do check-ins on the books I am reading for review before the actual review is posted. This week is The Maze Runner. My boys got the box set for Christmas after seeing the trailer at The Mocking Jay. They seemed really excited. Despite starting the book on New Years day, we are only on chapter 11... less than 1/3 of the way into the book....

I am not drawn in, and apparently neither are my boys. Usually as soon as dinner and chores are done they are hounding me to read. They typically push me to keep reading past the bedtime hour, and guiltily I will give them "just one more chapter."

We haven't gotten there with this book. At first I thought "It's just a slow start. World building and all that," but we are on page 72 here.... and we know what is happening because of the trailer. There is no anticipation. We kind of feel like we already know.

Throw us some suspense, please, or this is going to be a VERY long read!!!
Have any of you read The Maze Runner by James Dashner? What are your thoughts? Does it pick up? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Talk to Me Readers

I had a strange experience the other day. An old friend (ok, really a past acquaintance) noticed that I "had a real job" and asked "So, you've given up the whole writing thing?"

I was completely flummoxed on how to respond. My emotionally irresponsible part wanted to get very huffy and explain that NO, I had not given up on "the whole writing thing!" I am hard at work on a four part series! I only took that job to pay for marketing!

But since it is very difficult to throw an adult temper tantrum via Facebook message, even with the happy little emoticons.

 I took several deep breaths before responding. The cool logical part wanted to explain that as an indie author I have to wear many hats, including paying for all the services that a publishing house would provide such as cover art, editing, marketing, promotion, etc, etc, but then I realized that this individual would then probably ask "Well, then why don't you traditionally publish?" and that would have led to less logical conversations, and me chewing my finger off rather than resort to the temper tantrum it would almost certainly lead to.

I don't know if I am being oversensitive, if somehow my passion for writing has been jaded by a general lack of response, or if the whole industry is going through a down slope as traditional publishers have begun to learn to combat indie publishing by lowering their expected profits on e-books while more and more books are being produced at a seemingly never ending rate.... but it seems like everywhere I turn I am being inundated with the message that I will not be a successful writer.

I have other friends in the writer world who are going through similar experiences. They aren't getting picked up by traditional publishers, they aren't seeing a return on their investment of indie publishing, they feel like they are screaming at the masses and no one can see or hear them. And I have read their work. They are all very creative story tellers. They have done their due diligence. They have had their work edited. They have released polished stories.

And still I am seeing samples on Amazon of poorly worded, tragically edited, and cliche books hitting the top charts. What is going on here?  Am I just so out of tune with my potential fan base? Are readers less concerned with the quality of writing?  Do readers no longer pay for books unless they are from a "known" author, or from a traditional publisher? What do we authors need to do to entice you to read our books?

I appreciate my wonderful friends (mostly on Facebook) who are sharing my articles, but I would love to get some comments on this dilemma from the people who actually matter, readers. I cannot bear to read another LinkedIn article about how the Indie press is dead, or how readers are no longer interested in indie books, or how E-reader sales are up and the paperback is dying, or heaven forbid how the newer generations just don't READ.  I am ready to go to the source.

Talk to me readers, tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Quarantined Planet By John Allen Pace, a Book Review

Genre: Science Fiction

Synopsis: Food doesn't grow easily on New Earth. Much of it arrives on massive supply ships and when one goes missing, the planet's few thousand inhabitants are in grave peril. Chloe Meeks, a beautiful and gentle soul longing for a human utopia, is a rookie space pilot who doubts her abilities. Putting those insecurities aside, she joins her stern British captain Gordon and Nix, a wise-cracking young man vying for her affections, to find the lost craft. Dodging asteroids and other dangers in a rickety spaceship, they find the supply vessel drifting, its crew dead. Chloe is soon confronted with the horrifying knowledge that her former lover Amon Earl is responsible. She later learns that New Earth has been quarantined as a galactic threat and even worse, Earl intends to eradicate the few humans remaining as atonement for Earth's demise. To stop him, Chloe will have to do the unthinkable; murder the man she loved.

My Take: First of all, this book is really short for a sci-fi book. The price for such a small book is outrageous. The cover art is, meh. A lot better than a lot of self published work, but nothing that makes me go: I have to pick this up! Sorry, been a bit self-conscious about cover work lately! 

But a book isn't about the cover, or at least not just about the cover! Unfortunately, as a sci fi fan, the cover is the best part for me. There are whole scenes that are almost completely ripped off from Fire In The Sky, a really bad 1993 sci fi movie that told the reportedly true story of three men's alien abduction. Yeah, there are plenty who can argue that it gives validity to the story. Lots of sci-fi stories have taken elements from "true encounters" to do the same, but there is taking aspects and then there is almost verbatim scene copying. 

And that wasn't the only thing about this book that was taken from others. Now, there is nothing new under the sun, I know. I am sure that there are plenty of things in my own books that hearken back to other works, intentionally or otherwise. But when the entire book feels like a mish-mash of a bunch of other stories, even to the point of the way that it flows? There is formulaic, and then there is not having a new or original spin on anything. 

Sorry, The Matrix was a massive rip off of several other themes and concepts, and yet it presented it in its own original and brilliant light. That is why it is still being watched today. This book did not do that.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sneak Peek, Hell School Fresh Meat

I am going to start offering sneak peeks into my current projects. As I mentioned earlier this week, my current focus is the first book of my four-part series Hell School: Fresh Meat.
Tentative Cover title. Thoughts?

This is one of the hardest books I have written to date. I actually started working on this book in 1999. The reason I have struggled over the years is that this series is based on a true story, MY true story.

It has a very personal note for me because most of the stalker stories are based on my own experience. Yes, the book is listed as fiction and the finale is fiction, but only based on my deepest fears. All through high school I was plagued by a stalker and no one was able to do anything for me. I approached teachers, the police, counselors and even the principal and vice principal. But since my stalker had not already done something, there was nothing they could do.

A lot of my friends made fun of me and some even suggested that I was paranoid and watched too much TV. Things like that didn’t happen in our little town. Fortunately my mom taught me to be smart and cautious. I never went anywhere by myself, trusted my gut, and did everything I could to stay off of his radar. Unfortunately, I missed out on a lot of what most high school kids do. I never went to a high school party, because I was afraid he might show up. I went to two football games, but then he found out that I was going and showed up at my third and last football game.

I did go to my proms, because I found dates who wouldn't be a problem. But I never had a boyfriend from high school. There were a few guys who were interested, but he would invariably threaten or scare them off. I wasn’t worth pursuing when they had to deal with a six foot four behemoth who had such pleasant nick names as Wolfman Jack or Lumber Jack from Hell. (No, I did not make those up.)

As soon as I graduated I booked it for the least likely college that he could get into and made sure that no one except my closest friends and family knew where I was. That Thanksgiving I got a call from one of my friends. She asked if I had gotten the newspaper. When I said no, she said she would be at my house in ten minutes.

There was an article about my stalker in the paper under arrests.  Apparently when I had disappeared from the scene he started stalking a beautician who had a boyfriend.  My stalker beat her boyfriend half to death!

Image from Customer Lobby Blog

The problem with our society is that “Stalker” is a term that has been thrown around so loosely that people do not know when to take it seriously. Unless a stalker actually physically does something there is nothing that the police can do about it. Women are attacked, raped, beaten and often killed because of what someone at some point labeled as “just a stalker.” Those of us who have had a stalker and survived are lucky, but I still feel so much guilt that if someone had just listened to me and paid attention that girl and her boyfriend would not have gone through that.

The way a stalker changes you is permanent. Even if they do not actually attack you, your perception of the world is very different. My husband now laughs at me because for the longest time I would not have a facebook/myspace/twitter account. He thinks it is because I am a technophobe, but the truth is: I am afraid. Sane people should not put their private information out there for the predator’s to see.

He laughs, because I always take my keys out before I leave a store: The truth, I am always hyper vigilant and have to have something (even just a key) that could be used as a weapon.
I don’t like to go out to clubs unless I’m in a group. I don’t like shopping at night and will avoid it like the plague. I hate big shopping days like Black Friday. I don’t go out much and I never just drive around. I am constantly checking in and I want him and my children to do the same. He says I am a control freak. I say I am a survivor.

My kids love to have What if: discussions such as “what if there was a zombie apocalypse, what could you do to survive?:
What if a burglar broke in what would you do?
What if you were in a slasher movie, how would you survive?

My answers awe, mystify and even sometimes scare them. I don’t have to think about what I would be willing to do, because I have already evaluated that a long time ago and I know what I would do. I took women’s self-defense. I won’t leave my children out of my sight in public for two minutes. They cannot hang out with kids I don’t know, or go to a friend’s house unless I know the parents. (And I’m not talking about a quick five minute conversation over the phone, I’m talking hung out with and talked with and even done research on "know".)

My husband thinks I am a paranoid control freak. I know I am a paranoid control freak. The world is a scary place and people don’t want to see it in their own little communities. Refusing to see it or thinking that would never happen here is exactly what allows these predators to continue to hunt and harm others.

I hope this book opens your eyes. I doubt you will think it is fun, but I do hope you will think it is a good read. I hope you will find it educational and I hope it will help you become a survivor, not another victim.

That is my introduction to the book. The Preface, if you will. 

I have struggled back and forth on how to tell the story. I have debated bringing it to current time, telling the whole story in one book, telling it in first person, versus writing in third person, but really the hardest part is telling the story. The first several times I started the story, I would have PTSD-like recurring nightmares, would feel like I was being watched, and be afraid of being alone. 

Time heals all wounds, and I am finally ready to focus on how to tell the story. I look forward to sharing more as I progress! 

What do you think of this story? Would you like to learn more? Share in the comments below! 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pretty-Shield: Medicine Woman of the Crows by Frank B Linderman, A Book Review

Genre: Biography, memoir, anthropological study

Synposis: Pretty-shield, the legendary medicine woman of the Crows, remembered what life was like on the Plains when the buffalo were still plentiful. A powerful healer who was forceful, astute, and compassionate, Pretty-shield experienced many changes as her formerly mobile people were forced to come to terms with reservation life in the late nineteenth century.
Pretty-shield told her story to Frank Linderman through an interpreter and using sign language. The lives, responsibilities, and aspirations of Crow women are vividly brought to life in these pages as Pretty-shield recounts her life on the Plains of long ago. She speaks of the simple games and dolls of an Indian childhood and the work of the girls and women—setting up the lodges, dressing the skins, picking berries, digging roots, and cooking. Through her eyes we come to understand courtship, marriage, childbirth and the care of babies, medicine-dreams, the care of the sick, and other facets of Crow womanhood.

My Take: OK, my mom got this book when she was in college, and I read it when I was very young. I loved it so much, that I still have that copy and have read it about a dozen times! Something about Native American History calls to me. It always has. (No one has noticed that many of my books have Native Americans in them, have they?)  Perhaps it is the need to connect with my heritage, perhaps it comes from growing up in Montana, so close to the reservation. Maybe it is my Underdog complex, I don't know. 

But this book is an amazing view of Native Americans. It not only shows the culture and history, but how that changed with being forced to live on the reservation. It is not about legendary characters, or massive game changing events (though they do briefly discuss her memories of some events that may not be big in the collective memory of Native American history, but were catastrophic for this tribe.)

Pretty Shield focuses on the every day, and makes it beautiful. She shares stories of her youth, stories of her People. It is simple, elegant, and enlightening. I am sure I will read it again soon. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Best Laid Plans

Hello my lovely readers, we have an exciting guest post today from author Anne Conley, sharing her story. For those who are fans of romance, this looks like a fun read! 

Let me let Anne tell you about her story.

Once upon a time, I wrote a short story for an anthology.  The anthology didn't do all that well, and after about six months or so, I decided to re-write the story, and make it longer.  It's a cute story, fluffy, not like most of the Stories of Serendipity.  But I like it, and the readers that I've heard from so far like it too.

This go-around, I'm trying out KU, so at the moment, The Best Laid Plans of Boys and Men is only available on Kindle.  But it's FREE to KU members, so I'm hoping it will help me gain some exposure and maybe even a few new fans...
The Best Laid Plans of Boys and Men tells the story of the whirlwind May/December romance between Taylor and Alexander. While Taylor is completely caught off guard by Alexander’s maturity and the difference between him and every other boy she’s dated, Alexander’s busy trying to figure out how to tell her he’s the lawyer suing her pants off. 

Here is the Amazon Link I hope everyone enjoys this little story of mine, about Alexander and Taylor.  I sure did enjoy writing it!
Excerpt from the first chapter of The Best Laid Plans of Boys and Men:
The bell tinkling over the door announced his entrance into The Unique Hairtique, and Alexander was immediately assaulted by the scents of chemicals and shampoo.  Why did women put this shit on their hair?  This was why he went to a barber shop for his trims.  Clean smells were what he was used to, not this…
“Hi!  Can I help you?” He looked into the eyes of an angel—eyes which were a deep hazel, moss green fading to an earthy brown at the edges.  She was standing at the station nearest to the door, sweeping hair from the floor.
“Uh…yeah.”  He found himself swallowing past a sudden lump in his throat, wondering where it had come from.  Alexander Gibson was never at a loss for words, but the dark blonde hair piled into a messy bun with tendrils artfully escaping called to him.  “I need a trim.”
“I can get you.  Come have a seat.”  She emptied the dustpan into a trash can and opened a drawer on a rolling cart, whipping out a smock for him to wear.  “Same style, just a little shorter, right?”  Her fingers ran through his dark hair, sending a tremor of goose bumps up his arms.  They toyed with the silvery hairs at his temples, lightly plucking the shock of hair over his forehead.  “You like this long on top?  Or do you want it out of the way?”
“What do you think?”  For some reason he wanted her opinion.  She was quite a bit younger than him, but he was fascinated by her—her lips, her eyelashes, the rosy bloom on her cheeks.  He’d always had that shock of hair there; he didn’t particularly like his hair super-short.  It was one of his best features, not that he was vain about it, but women seemed to like to play with that particular part. 
“I think it’s sexy,” she grinned at Alexander, and he felt a stirring under the smock at the way her lips formed the word.  He thought she was sexy too, but he kept that to himself.
He grinned back at her, suddenly feeling twenty years younger.  “Then I’ll keep it.”  He watched as she grabbed the spray bottle from the cart to wet his hair.  “Um… can I get the works?  A shampoo and everything?”  He suddenly wanted to prolong this experience.  What had started as a chore had turned into something he needed to savor.  He’d never had everything done for him at his barber shop, but the need to feel this angel’s hands in his hair was suddenly extreme.
Her eyes widened in surprise, but that was the only reaction to a man asking for the pampering afforded by a place like this.  Most men he knew only let the stylist wet their hair and then cut it.  She swiftly hung the spray bottle back on the cart and smiled again.  Her smile aligned something in Alexander’s insides.  This woman was doing something to him, and he couldn’t explain it.  Nor did he want her to stop.
“Sure.  Follow me back here.”  She turned and strode to the back of the shop where a row of sinks waited.  He watched her backside move under the tight black capris she wore, pretending he had ex-ray vision, ridiculously glad for the smock hiding his stiffy.
Five minutes later, Alexander was officially in some erotic heaven he’d never experienced before, and he’d completely forgotten why he’d come here in the first place, only that he never wanted to leave.  “…Christ…”  Words could not describe the feelings of her hands on his head, massaging his scalp, running through his hair, lathering it up.  “That feels so good.”  He looked up at her to see a smirk on her face.
“It’s the best part of the whole hair-cutting experience.”  Her smirk turned to a wicked grin, and Alexander was helpless to stop his raging boner.  He crossed his legs to hide the bulge.  Instead, he focused on what he could see of the woman hovering over him, rocking back and forth with her movements.
This was quite possibly the most sensual thing he’d ever experienced.  While she washed, his eyes crept to her exposed cleavage and the black lace peeking from the black v-neck t-shirt she wore.  He watched the cleavage bounce—smooth white skin, marked with a tiny mole at the top of her left breast—as she lathered his hair vigorously.  Her toned biceps and forearms flexed with the movements, and he was powerless to do anything besides close his eyes and relax with a groan.  As soon as his eyes closed, her scent overwhelmed him—a light floral scent, mixed with an underlying musk that screamed female.  He inhaled deeply, desperate to cling to the images of skin sliding across skin, tangled sheets, and sweat that suddenly invaded his mind.

Who knew haircuts could be so steamy?!

Anne was kind enough to send me a copy and I will be reviewing it in the coming weeks. Anyone want to read along and do a group review? Go download your free copy and let me know in the comments below. I will get in touch with you before my post to get your thoughts on the book as well! 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Book Review: Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary

Genre: Midgrade Fiction

Back of the Book: Ralph, the adventurous mouse, sets out for a children's summer camp on his motorcycle after being teased and chided by his family.

My Take: I loved this book as a kid, and am amazed how well my garage sale copy held up! My youngest picked it off the shelf for our family reading time as we are in between series until after Christmas ;)

It was unfortunate timing, as we had just put out poison because over a month of live traps had not cured our mouse infestation. But the book was as fun and as charming as I remember, and left me feeling very guilty when my son begged me to go back to the live traps and pleaded to keep one as a pet. Alas, the poison did its job. 

Cleary's writing is far from brilliant, but her storytelling is superb. She breathes life into her characters and now I have a bit more insight into why I don't like cats, I feel guilty for putting out poison to kill mice, and I always dreamed of going to summer camp!  Still loved it after all these years! 

Until next time, 

Keep Reading!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy New Year: My Goals for 2015

Image from Happy New Year Wallpapers

Hello lovely readers, if there are any still out there. I do apologize. There have been some major changes in my life this last year.  Because of them, I have struggled with reorganizing my limited time and making time for writing. But I am actively working on my Stalker series, and plan to publish the first book in the series, Hell School: Fresh Meat, this year.

I have been doing A LOT of thinking on whether to pick the blog back up, how I would go about it if I did, and if it was truly beneficial to my writing, or would only distract from my limited writing schedule.  Here I am, so I guess we are going to do this!

My goals for 2015 are around focusing on my writing. I had to take a "real job" in 2014. (You have no idea how hard it was to write that. I have published 5 books, but can't consider it a real job since I am not making a real living from it... yet)  On a plus note, this job allows me the money to pay for decent covers, to pay for marketing and to pay for promotion. The downside is that it takes up 40 hours a week. That's a lot of writing time. But in 2015 I will be working on making writing a priority outside that 40 hour work week.

I am focusing on putting my marketing dollars to work; getting my books out there more, and building up a readership. I have great reviews from those who have read my books, but two years working social media has shown me that it isn't enough to get out there and build up my reputation. There are too many other authors competing for the free space.  I am not going to completely disappear from social media, but as I am sure many of you have already noticed, I don't have as much time. I will be there more in 2015, but my main focus is going to be producing quality writing to entertain you. That doesn't necessarily include clever posts, pretty pins, or 124 character tweets.

I have seven books beating around in my brain. The four-part Hell School series, the sequel to The Hunters, the Third book in the Clear Angel Chronicles and an Infection story I actually wrote two years ago, but lost in the move. I don't expect to finish them all in 2015, that would be insane! But I definitely need to get them going!

That, on top of my personal goals will keep me pretty busy! Look forward to staying in touch with all of you in 2015!

 Until next time,

Keep Reading!