Saturday, August 27, 2011

My first YA Rebels Video

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you probably already know this, but my sister and my's first YA Rebels video went live today! Check it out!

Make sure to stay for the end; it's everyone's favorite part!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What I Learned Today

And by today, I mean from the time I woke up on 8/20 until now, at 3 am.

1) You all are awesome. I posted this tweet at around 7pm:

And at least 45 people RT'd it - most of whom I didn't even know. It's estimated that, at this time, that tweet has reached over 20,000 people. (Thank God I didn't make a typo!)

Also, there are over 54 of you who saw that RT'd more than seven times. I'm sorry.

(BTW: The reason I'm asking is I haven't been able to find a writers group within reasonable driving distance from me and the bookstore here just closed and I really yearn for face-to-face contact with other bookish people. Also, the reason I clarified about pursuing publication is due to a problem unique to Florida: most of the "writers" I meet here are elderly people looking to write their memoirs for their family to read. Which is fine and dandy, except it doesn't quite fill my needs.)

ALSO, yesterday (now, remember, by concept of "days" is slippery at best), several of my Twitter friends helped me figure out what country my MMC is from. And it's so perfect it's like my subconscious knew what country he was from all along and I just needed Judah to name it for me.

2) Out of the over 20k people who saw that tweet, none of them are or know writers who live in the mid to upper Florida Keys. I did find one person who is occasionally in Islamorada for vacation and another who has a 2nd house in Key West.

3) Nobody north of Miami has any clue about the geography of the Florida Keys. And that's OK. In fact, I don't really know why I expected them to.

But here's a quick crash course. I live in Key Largo. Do you see how far north that is? It's about 100 miles north of Key West (remember: at an average speed limit of 40). So, Miami is about half the drive as it is to Key West. Anything south of Tavernier really isn't close enough for me to drive with any sort of regularity.

4) Judy Blume lives in Key West. (Along with Meg Cabot, who I already knew about.) I would SO drive the 100 miles for that.

5) How to make a disposable razor last much longer:

6) My YA Rebels vlog-mate Leah Clifford and former YA Rebel Scott Tracey live together. I seriously don't know how I missed this, but ... anyway... stop judging me and go watch the video of what it's like to live with another YA author.

7) My YAtopia blogmates are AWESOME! Even if you ignore the fact that the posts at YAtopia are just getting better and better AND that we've hosted a ridiculous amount of agent-judged contests, here's something else: Two of them are sending me an ARC of two awesome books! It's no secret that I'm having a rough time financially, and one of the things I miss most is not being able to buy new books, so this just made my day. :-)

8) My dog is apparently perfectly comfortable sleeping like this:

OK, so I didn't JUST learn this, but I just took this picture like 15 seconds ago and I needed a reason to share it.

9) Carolina Valdez Miller is missing out on her calling as an actress. Seriously, check out the best book review I have EVER seen here.

10) My webhosting company has figure out what is wrong with my server. But they haven't fixed it yet. Which means I'm here on blogger for at least another day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Server Issues

Hey all. I just wanted to let you know that my hosting company has had some issues with my server and can't figure out how to fix them... so I'm hosting on Blogger for a while.

Most of y'all know, I was thinking about switching back to Blogger anyway, but some friends of mine talked me into giving Wordpress a second chance, but I had already half set up this site, so I'm glad I have something to fall back on. It doesn't have the last few posts and things aren't functioning exactly the way I would like, but I'm hoping they'll get my darn server fixed soon.

I'm going to try to get the Google Friend Connect switched over, but until I do, please don't "Follow" this site as long as GFC says I have 0 followers. I have no idea how this will affect subscriptions in Google Reader, but I will know as soon as I publish this post.

Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Design Me

When I first launched this website, I chose to build it. And lately, I've been regretting that decision. I chose WordPress because it is more customizable and you can do more with it than Blogger. But I HATE working with it. I think the interface is clunky and not intuitive. So, after writing this post over at YAtopia, I've decided to switch my site over to Blogger.

It's time for my favorite part of building a blog - choosing the template! I'm not too dedicated to having a unique design so I often use, where designers offer free templates in the hopes you'll choose them when you finally need a customized design.

I've narrowed my choices down to seven templates. When I chose this template, I was wanting to be "professional" looking. But now? I'm more interested in my blog showing off my and my writing's personalities. Check out the screen shots below and tell me which one is your favorite. You can also click on the screenshot to see a live demo.

[caption id="attachment_495" align="aligncenter" width="516" caption="Midnight Cats"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_496" align="aligncenter" width="502" caption="Sticker Theme"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_497" align="aligncenter" width="502" caption="Green Earth - This is the template YAtopia's design is based on"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_498" align="aligncenter" width="502" caption="Balikato"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_499" align="aligncenter" width="502" caption="Notepad Chaos"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_500" align="aligncenter" width="502" caption="Stubborn"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_501" align="aligncenter" width="502" caption="Night Sky - This is the one I used to use before I switched to using my penname."][/caption]


Let me know which one you think represents me the best! Once I get this decided on, I'll start building the site and attempting to move my posts and GFC over to it. If anyone has ever done this before and has tips, please let me know!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Am I a YA Rebel? I could be!

About a year ago one of my first twitter-writer-friends, ChristaCarol (you really should go visit her website to find out how you can donate blood to help her 2.5-year-old daughter who was recently diagnosed with leukemia), tweeted about the YA Rebels - and I've been watching their vlogs ever since. They are 7 YA authors who video blog about YA lit and other related & awesome things.

And now, my sister and I have a chance to join them! Leah posted this video on Tuesday, explaining that some of the Rebels are moving on and they are looking for new cohorts! Naturally - since K is a compulsive video blogger & a YA book reviewer and I'm a YA writer & love to talk about books - we jumped at the chance to audition as a sister/sister team. (I, of course, made sure this was OK with my YAtopian peeps and they're pretty much the most supportive people on the planet so they're cheering me on.)

Check out our audition video below: (and here's the YT link because I know the embedded videos don't translate to Google Reader sometimes)

The time has come for blatant, shameless self-promotion. You see, our competition is fierce. We're competing against charming accents, adorable people, hilarious senses of humor and unparalleled talents. So if you like our audition video? "Like" it. Favorite it. Comment. Tweet it. Share with your facebook friends. Email it to all of your 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins. Do whatever it takes to help us win this thing so we can continue to entertain you.

And just in case my sister's incredible directing/producing/editing skills have you convinced this vlog was effortless to make? Check out the hilarious out-takes:

Also, mosquitoes were biting me the WHOLE time. That's what they call dedication, folks.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

RTW: Five Senses? How about a sixth?

It's Wednesday so y'all know what that means...

This week's topic? The Five Senses. How you use them in your writing, how you are inspired by them, pictorial essays, that character with smelly socks, books that have used them well, the ones that are currently missing from your work, etc.

90 % of Americans are visual learners.

So it makes sense that writers use a lot of the visual in their writing and as inspiration. Auditory learners are the second biggest group, so again... makes sense that we use sounds a lot in our writing as well as music to help us write.

The thing I really like though? Is when I get to make up a sense. For THE DEMONS YOU KNOW, Miranda is a Mage and has a magical sense. She can "feel" magic in the world around her. For example:

  • When someone starts using Psychic magic on her: "Miranda felt cold magic creep inside her brain. It reached out icy tendrils of Psychic energy, searching."

  • And this when she reaches the site of a massacre: "A tangible trembling of magic hung in the air like the sound of a muted television."

  • And comparing magics: "They felt like demons, the way Gadriel's magic felt like light and her father's had felt like fire."

  • And sensing Gadriel's magic: "His magic flared subtly and Miranda wondered again at the strangeness of it. It held calm notes of light, music and triumph – so different from the heavy waves of vigor and elemental forces the Mages expelled."

I used mainly the sense of touch to help create the magical sense, but I also used sight, smell, taste and sound occasionally.

What about you? Do you remember reading a book where the author created a sixth sense? How was it done?


Friday, July 22, 2011

My truck 'sploded and I became a statistic

After many questions yesterday resulting from people reading frantic short messages on my twitter/facebook, I decided to explain here.

Many of you know I was laid off in December (the third time in two years) and have had difficulty finding a job. I have a part time position that was barely keeping me afloat until a few months ago, when the available hours all but dried up and I was forced to exhaust my savings.

My parents asked me to move in with them several times over the last year, but I stubbornly resisted. Why? I felt like it would be admitting defeat, admitting I couldn't make it on my own. I pictured myself crawling back home (an entirely abstract concept to me, but that's another post) to lick my wounds - and I loathed the idea.

Not to mention, they live in the Florida Keys. I know what so many of you are thinking right now: "Living in the land of eternal summer, palm trees and beaches? Yeah Sarah, that sounds soo rough." A lot of people see the Keys as paradise but they don't realize how few permanent residents there are. And how little industry. Which means few worthwhile job opportunities.

I know countless people my age are having to do this same thing right now, but I thought I shouldn't have to. I was better than that... Wasn't I? Apparently not, because when our lease was up and I still didn't have steady income, I decided to accept my parents' offer.

But in a little while. After a few last-ditch efforts to find a job. After I wore out my welcome on several generous friends' couches. After a going-away party of epic proportions. Just a few more weeks to spend with friends whom I love like family and a writers group full of trusted people who would tear my writing to shreds.

But the universe had different plans for me. When I was driving to work Friday, my truck started shaking and making clanking noises. The gas pedal didn't respond. Steam bellowed from beneath my hood. Amidst a stream of not-so-lady-like curses, I pulled over on to the shoulder, momentum the only thing moving me forward, the rumble strips finally slowing me to a stop.

I called my daddy, the mechanic, who immediately said that he would be up to take me and my truck back home with him in 6 hours. (For most mechanical problems, even considering gas, it's cheaper for him to come up than to go to a mechanic.)

6 hours. And it took me four hours to get a ride back to where I was staying. No time for goodbyes.

While waiting for the tow truck driver, my battery died with my window rolled down. And this is July in Orlando: thunderstorms are compulsory. After I got towed to my old apartment complex, with a jammed middle finger (a moving-related injury), I began taping up my window. I tore the tape with my teeth. It fluttered in the hot humid wind and grabbed at my lips, ripping enough skin off to make them bleed in two places.

I nearly broke down right there. You know, last straw and all that. But I'm not usually one to let things get me down. Two weeks ago I served as my sister's maid of honor, moved both my roommate and me, and threw two parties that people will be talking about for years - all in 6 days while under the stress of having no job and no actual place to move to. When my roommate told her coworker about my situation she said, "How is she doing it? If I was her I'd be projectile vomiting." If I do say so myself, I pulled it off with grace.

So as I stood there in a baking parking lot with the threat of tears stinging my eyes, I said, "No! Not now. You can cry when you get home." And so I am, as I write this.

My dad tried to start up my truck before he put it on the trailer. After listening for a second he said, "That doesn't sound good." Coming from my dad, the guy who can fix anything?

Now I sit in my parents' house in the Keys with a future more uncertain than mine has ever been, so thankful I have a place to run to when so much is going wrong. I still hold hope of finding a job in Orlando and returning to the life I love there. But that hope is dwindling.

And I can't dawdle for long. With no savings and bills like student loans, storage, and truck insurance, I NEED an income. Fast.

So many of you have asked what's going on and I hope I haven't told you more than you'd like to know. I don't ask for anything but your prayers/well-wishes/mojo/whatever-you-believe-in. And job leads, if you have them. And if any of you happen to know Meg Cabot? (She lives in Key West) How about convincing her she needs an assistant and I would be perfect for the job? ;-)

But I still have hope. I'm a hard-working intelligent young woman with a degree in engineering, natural leadership abilities and a knack for words; someone has to hire me eventually. I have the best family and friends this side of the Andromeda Galaxy. I'm working on a new book that I truly believe in. I reflect on J.K. Rowling's story - writing what would soon become the most beloved children's series while almost homeless (ha! Beat here there; I was homeless for 8 days) and reusing the same tea bag over and over - and I know there must be a light at the end of this darkness.

I just I wish I knew how far away it waits.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

RTW: A villain is always a hero - in the villain's eyes

It's Wednesday and you know what that means...

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival hosted every week by the lovely writers of YA Highway where the contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. This week's topic?

Who are your favorite literary villains/antagonists, and why?

"Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story." ~John Barth

I'm not sure when I first heard this quote, but I have taken it to heart - especially when it comes to literary villains. For me, the best villains believe they are the hero. You'll see this in nearly every villain that I write or love to read about. I'm entirely enthralled when a villain is doing his evil deeds: because he thinks it will make the world a much better place, for love, to right a perceived wrong, etc.

In fact, I recently had a conversation with my writers group about the "villains" in my current WIP. I told them, "None of them are 'bad.' [air quotes were applied] They're just trying to do the best for the people they love."

My favorite villains aren't mean or cruel, necessarily. They're (in their own eyes) doing what they need to do to protect themselves/the ones they love/the world. That's why I love:

What about you? What do you love to see in a villain and who are your favorites?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Two For Tuesday: Project Wonderful &

It's time for another Two for Tuesday!

1) Kellie, one of our reviewers at Sift, told me about Project Wonderful and we've been using it at Sift for ads on our site. What is it? A much more personal version of web advertising where you can choose which ads appear on your site AND which sites your ads appear on. The cost of the ad changes based on how much people are willing to pay for it. What does this mean for you?

YOU can now advertise on Sift for pennies (or a penny) a day! Check out the ads in the sidebar at Sift for more info. This would be a perfect opportunity for you if you offer services helpful to a self-pubbed author like editing, cover design, web design, etc!

2) My former roommates and I are currently loving The Glee Project. If you have the Oxygen channel and you like Glee, you should totally watch it. There's a lot of TV news chatter on why this show isn't drawing such a big audience even though it's a good show so I wanted to share it with you - especially now that the contestant I couldn't stand is gone!

(BTW, it's not getting a big audience, oh TV geniuses, because (1) it's on the Oxygen channel! wrong demographic, people! and (2) it wasn't that well advertised. I only knew about it because my sister started DVRing it and my roommate only knew about it because I told her.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Auntie B's Book Club Contest

So I know I posted two weeks ago all ready to start blogging more regularly and all that... then dropped off the face of the earth! Well, my sister got married (I was the maid of honor)...

And me and my two roommates moved...

But now I'm back! And just in time to enter Auntie B's Book Club Contest! Since it's not a requirement that this be a completed manuscript, I'm going to enter with my WIP, Dragons Are People Too!

You can click through to the contest page for more information, but basically y'all have two days to help me get my entry in the best shape possible for our discerning  judges (actual, live teenagers!). So here goes... please provide constructive criticism in the comments!

Sixteen-year-old Kitty is a weredragon operative for the US government. When the government turns its back on the dragons, she must choose between loyalty to her country and allegiance to her family. (Keep in mind, the pitch must be 35 words or less! This is 34)

First 250 words
Well, crap. Mission Intelligence got it wrong. Again.

I mean, seriously? Heat sensors? When your operatives have a core body temperature of 142 degrees, that should be the first thing you check for. I daydream about ripping Simon a new one as I scale up the three stories of crumbling stone.

So now I cling to the east stone wall of the Lebanese embassy in DC with a diplomatic document pouch hanging from my belt.

I am overly conscious of the two security cameras aimed at my back, despite the full-body black catsuit with matching ski-mask that Draconic Intelligence Command (or, as I liked to call it, DIC) requires me to wear. Sirens blare, telling me security already knows we are here, but I still can't let them see my face. And, more importantly, I can't let them see me change.

Beside me, Wallace scrabbles, then loses his balance and falls twenty feet to the ground, hitting the wall at least twice in the process. Rookie. His breath comes fast, but he is uninjured. He could probably fall from three times that height without a scratch.

"Kitty," he whispers. Even his whisper has a British accent. He lies sprawled on the immaculate lawn of the Embassy and slowly makes his way to his feet. "I can't make it without changing."

"No!" I yell, then catch myself and lower my voice to something more like a hiss. "Absolutely not. Do you have any idea how many cameras are on you right now?"


SO... to the comments with the criticism! Thanks!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Two For Tuesday: Interview and Blogging

Today's Two for Tuesday is going to be a little me-centric! *shrug* It's my blog; I can talk about myself occasionally, right?

1) In case you didn't hear, Simon Royle, an indie book blogger and author, interviewed me on his blog on Saturday! I'm talking about books, book reviews and the publishing industry. Also, check out the Sift review (written by Kevin) of his novel, Tag.

2) I know I've been neglecting this blog lately and I really want to fix that. Since I always do best with a fixed schedule, I've come up with a weekly schedule. BUT the one I'm most excited about is the Monday/Saturday combo!

On Monday, I will post a writing prompt that can be answered in 500 words or less. On Saturday, I will post my result of said writing prompt AND I want you to post yours too! I'll either do a linky on the Saturday post, or just let y'all leave your links in the comments. I hope all of you will participate!

What will the prompts be about, you ask? Well, I guess we'll see! They could be to write about yourself, your writing or even some flash fiction!

As for the rest of the week, here is my "schedule." While I don't plan to post every day, I'm trying for 4-5 days per week.

  • Monday: Writing prompt reveal

  • Tuesday: Two for Tuesday

  • Wednesday: YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday

  • Thursday: Interviews! (Let me know if you're interested in being interviewed)

  • Friday: Follow Friday/Friday Reads

  • Saturday: Writing prompt response

  • Sunday: Six Sentence Sunday

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Loving the Language Blogfest

Remember a week and a half ago I talked about the Loving the Language Blogfest? Well it's a good thing I (a) subscribed to comments on her post and (b) picked out my sentences last week because I would have totally forgot to post this today!

I'm going to cheat a little because my WIP is pretty new and... well, it's a super-duper first draft, if you get what I'm saying. (ROUGH) So I'm going to do five from that one and five from The Demons You Know, which is the work I'm querying.

The Demons You Know

  • A tangible trembling of magic hung in the air like the sound of a muted television.

  • Miranda couldn’t identify the feeling in her chest then. It was so abstract and intangible that she knew it shouldn’t be capable of causing such profound pain. She had known this pain only once before – when her father died – and she finally recognized it; her heart was breaking.

  • Gaping mouths of concrete and steel soundlessly cried out in horror.

  • The crinkling of the ancient pages whispered in the quiet night, calling her name with a wordless voice.

  • She wanted to stay like this, lingering in his light for a while.

Dragons Are People Too (For this one, I gravitated toward the lines that represents Kitty's voice more than anything else)

  • I suddenly feel like I'm lost in a forest I've walked through many times. I stare at a point in front of me that I'm not entirely sure exists. But it must, because I can't seem to tear my gaze away.

  • Not for the first time, I wonder if the Secret Service teach their agents a class in how to frown with purpose.

  • Sani is calling my name but he sounds like he's above the waves of this ocean that's drowning me in nothing.

  • "Technically," I hedge, "I didn't do anything wrong." It probably would sound more convincing if I believed it.

  • Sometimes, I need my mom to be just my mom. And being semi-responsible for both an international event and the exposure of an entire species that thrives on secrecy? This would be one of those times.

Well, there they are. Five of my favorite lines from both The Demons You Know and Dragons Are People Too. I hope you like them. And if you participated in this blogfest, leave a link in the comments!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

RTW: The Roof is on Fire!



Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

Today's topic?

The house is on fire and you've only got time to grab five things. What are they?

1) Laptop. Hands down. If I only had one thing, this would be it.

2) My pearl necklace. Next to my laptop, it's probably the most expensive thing I own and it was given to me by my parents for my college graduation.

3) Medical records. I've moved around a lot and have been to over a dozen doctors, which means my medical records aren't all stored in one location (except for my filing cabinet) and it would take a LONG time to gather them again.

4) My signed books. Does this count? I have a large tote bag from RWA 2010 sitting right below my bookshelf that they would all fit in nicely :-) I'm not unreasonable: I realize I couldn't possibly get all my books out, but all my signed ones would definitely fit in that tote.

5) I would say my cell phone here, but it's already in my pocket because I'm addicted. So I'd say my purse because it has my wallet and my keys in it! All that stuff would be hard to replace.

Also, I'm assuming my dog would follow me outside (because he follows me EVERYWHERE) so I don't have to count him in the five things.

What about you? What five things would you save? If you participated in RTW, feel free to leave a link in the comments!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Elevator Pitch

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic? You're re-reading one of your favs when someone asks the dreaded question: "What's that book about?" Give us your best off-the-cuff blurb of any book, any genre, and have your readers try to guess the title in the comments!


"In this world, some people can heal by pulling pain from an injured or sick person and then putting it in a special kind of metal, right? The main character can heal, but can only put the pain in other people (and not the metal), which is unheard-of - and possibly desired by the tyrannical ruler - so she keeps it hidden from everyone but her sister until her sister (who is a proper healer) disappears and a greedy man learns about her ability and she has to kick some butt to save her sister and her city. It's awesome."


That's right; for some unknown reason, when I verbally describe books, sentence structure bolts out the window without even bothering to open it. Run-on sentences, fragments, and parenthetical asides abound. I often worry that I'm not doing the story justice, but people generally tend to understand my ramblings. And (when describing my favorites) I often add "It's awesome" to the end of my description just to make sure they get it.

So do you know what the book I described is? Here's a link to the Amazon page if you give up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Two For Tuesday

So I'm aware that Tuesday actually ended an hour ago, but I haven't gone to sleep yet so this still counts!

What is Two for Tuesday? Post two of anything - they don't even have to be related!

1) I don't normally do blogfests but I saw this one on my YAtopian blog-mate Kelly's blog and I thought, hey why not? Reader's Digest version: Pick any five lines from one of your WIPs and share them on your blog!

Now I'm kinda nervous because I don't know if I have anything to post! yikes! If you sign up for this one, let me know!

2) Over on the YAtopia blog today, I used the last few months of experience reading submissions for Sift to talk about why agents and editors complain about some of the things you see so often. And if that's not enough to make you read the post? Every point is punctuated by lolcats. :-)

Thursday, June 9, 2011


In the final week of the Divergent Faction-of-the-week Challenge, we were supposed to embody the spirit of The Brave faction. What is Dauntless?
DAUNTLESS: fearless, undaunted.

Undaunted: courageously resolute, especially in the face of danger or difficulty; not discouraged.

In the book, they are the policemen, soldiers, etc. They ride the trains around town, jumping on and off of them while they're still moving. They also wear all black and have many tattoos and piercings.

What did I do for Dauntless week?

To start with, I worked out every day this week, which seems rather Dauntless-esque. I wore black shirts three days.

And I faced one of my fears... (look in the top right of the photo for a hint)

needles. While doing something very Dauntless...

It's a tiny tiger. Isn't he cute?!

And I faced my biggest fear! This one would dominate my fear landscape. (Thanks to my sister who put together the video!)

Here's proof of my open-eyed-status from the ride photo:

OH. And I was totally kidding about the tattoo. That's a stick-on one my roommate had hanging around. :-P I'd be a horrible Candor.

But the rest of it is true.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

And the rest will follow...

I don't generally do these kinds of things, but I'm feeling rather reflective today and I remember reading a "50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind" on my friend Matt's blog recently. So I'll take a crack at it.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

24. Yeah, I'm sticking with that. Don't ask me why; it just feels right.

Which is worse, failing or never trying?

Never trying! Definitely worse. I truly believe people are capable of so much more than they think they are - and if they never try? Wasted potential is a terrible, terrible thing. People let fear of failure imprison them in a box that, albeit comfortable, never even comes close to the realm of possibilities.

If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?

This is an easy one for me to answer. Because I've been trying to do the exact opposite recently and it's hard. Even if you're lucky enough to support yourself with a career that you actually love (I'm not... yet), the world will make it difficult for you. People will criticize you because you're not doing what's expected of you. They'll tear you down because they hate to see someone who makes all the "wrong" decisions and ends up happier than they are. And on top of all of that? Remember the fear of failure I just talked about?

When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

Does writing qualify as "saying" or "doing?"

What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?

I'd destroy apathy. While more people will probably be doing bad things, I think a heck of a lot more people would do good things.

If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

Reading, throwing parties & cuddling with puppies.

Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?

I'm trying for the first one. Really trying. Unfortunately, for my dream, it's not as simple as just doing it.

If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?

I wouldn't worry about saving for retirement. Which means I'd probably travel more, take low-paying jobs that I enjoy more than the higher-paying ones.

To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?

Oh gosh, I could write a book about this, but I'm going to try to keep it short. In some ways I have, but there are times when I've lost control. And getting laid off three times in two years doesn't help. Control is a fickle mistress.

Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?

I don't see any reason why I can't fully worry about both.

You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do?

This is a tough one and I hope you don't think it's a cop out, but I really do think it matters what they're saying. If it's something factual, provable then I would probably try to correct it. Gently, of course. If it's opinion or subjective, would my defending her really make a difference in their eyes? However, it would definitely make a difference in mine: especially my respect and admiration of them.

If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Figure out what you love most in the world, and center your life around it.

Would you break the law to save a loved one?

From death, injury, dismemberment? Yes, no question, no hesitation.

Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?

I don't think so. But I've often seen them in the same place at the same time. They're not mutually exclusive.

What’s something you know you do differently than most people?

Relax. If I'm truly stressed out I turn to activities that are logical and return a semblance of order & control to my world. (It's probably related to my OCPD.) For example, I play Sudoku or - in extreme situations - I count and roll coins.

How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?

My standing theory? I'm a weirdo. If you don't believe me, see my answer to the above question.

What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back?

(Traditionally) publish a book - I keep telling myself it's only a matter of time (and a little luck).

Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?

I skipped this question at first and came back to it because I couldn't think of anything. And I still can't. I learned pretty early on that survival often means letting go.

If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?

New York? Illinois? Colorado? Australia? Arizona? UK? California? I'd pretty much move to any stable place that isn't Nebraska. I like moving.

Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?

The floor button? No. The door close button? Yes. I don't know if it makes it faster, but it gives me something to do for a few seconds. :-)

Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?


Why are you, you?

Heavy question! I'm going to go with a brief, all-encompassing answer: passion.

Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?

Mostly yes, but every now and then no. I think this is true for most people.

Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?

Definitely the latter. It's worse because the failed friendship didn't have to happen; it's the result of apathy.

What are you most grateful for?

People with good hearts & good intentions. All of them.

Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?

Um. I can't... Crap. I don't even... uh. What?

Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first?

I think this question is what they call "leading." But no, I don't think it's possible to know the truth without ruling out other possibilities.

Has your greatest fear ever come true?

I honestly don't know what my greatest fear is.

Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now?

The one time that I remember from 5 years ago? Yes, it definitely still matters.

What is your happiest childhood memory? What makes it so special?

I actually have a really bad memory for my childhood. I do have this one memory of my grandma taking me to the local library in the closest city so I could check out books once a week when I stayed with her for the summer. She actually had to limit me to six books per week! I remember climbing trees in our backyard in Key West and making "perfume" with my sister using puddle water and weeds. I remember my parents patiently suffering through endless hours of barbie fashion shows and singing performances.

At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?

I feel that way mostly when I help people. It can be something as simple as helping my friends have fun by putting together a great dinner party. Or raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that can be used to fund cancer research. Or proofreading a newsletter for a local non-profit. It's actually pretty convenient: if I need to feel alive, I just find some way to help somebody.

If not now, then when?

This isn't really a question so much as a life philosophy.

If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose?

There's always a chance you'll lose everything. But sometimes, the risk is worth the reward.

Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever?

I think everybody has. It's called cuddling. ;-)

Why do religions that support love cause so many wars?

Oh, my. I could right a bible-length thesis on this. Reader's Digest version: Religions are run by humans. There are humans who will seek power any way they can - and being the spiritual leader of a large group of devotees is one of the best ways to win power. But once you have power, you want more. Well... that's one reason anyway. There are many others.

Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?


If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job?

haha, what job? If I had one, probably.

Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?

more work. always more work. If I have empty time, I am compelled to fill it.

Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?


When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in?

When I created Sift.

If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?

My grandma.

Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?

No. There might be other things you could offer me that would make this decision harder, but not those.

What is the difference between being alive and truly living?


When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?

When you're sure it won't destroy anybody's world, including your own.

If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?

Because they suck. Nobody wants to be wrong.

What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?

I gave up on this about a year ago. Unless we're talking about people who are willing to pay me to do something. Then, I'd wear tshirts and jeans every day.

When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing?

Yesterday, when I walked up the stairs after walking the dogs. (It was heavy)

What do you love? Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love?

This may weird considering everything else I've answered here, but this is a little too private for me to post on a blog.

In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday? What about the day before that? Or the day before that?

Definitely yesterday - I went to Star Wars weekend at Disney!

Decisions are being made right now. The question is: Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you?

I always make my own decisions, much to my mother's dismay.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


This past week was Erudite week for the Divergent faction-of-the-week challenge!

I know this may not go over well with most of you who have read the book, but Erudite would definitely be my faction of choice. Before I talk about how my Erudite week went, I wanted to defend my faction a little. (The next paragraph might be a tiny bit spoiler-y, but it's so ambiguous  so probably not)

First of all, saying an entire group of people is evil because a few of them do evil things? Yeah, not cool. (and part of why our society is kinda effed up, IMO) Y'all read the book. Compare Eric to Tori. Same faction. That's all I have to say about that.

Secondly, there's a theme I've been seeing going around saying the Erudite just learn for learning's sake and do so randomly and without a purpose. Not so! Here's one example, though it should be all you need: Though the process is not discussed directly in the book, the author does say that Erudite developed the serums used in the simulations. You know what that requires? Focused study in one or two specific subjects (brain chemistry, specifically) for many many years - and then applying what was learned to create a solution.

Now look at me, getting all riled up defending an imaginary organization. I kinda view the Erudite faction as one big university campus. You may spend the first few years gathering general knowledge, but then you find your chosen fields of study and go on to learn more, but also to discover and develop new technologies.

So how did I celebrate Erudite week? By gathering a whole bunch of extra knowledge! You know what I learned?

  • To cool a 20,000 gallon pool of 90-degree water by 10 degrees using ice cubes you would need a whopping 8750 pounds of ice. So don't try that this summer. Not worth it.

  • You know the bright lights people see in near-death experiences? There are three scientifically valid things that cause this: (1) oxygen deprivation, which can affect the optic nerves; (2) trauma to the right temporal lobe, the area of the brain responsible for perception; and (3) the release of massive amounts of endorphins, which can override the optic nerves.

  • When the news reports a 6.8 magnitude earthquake, they're not using the Richter scale anymore, but a new universal measurement called the moment magnitude scale. The Richter scale is a relative measurement, whereas the moment magnitude is an absolute scale.

  • Rosa Parks was NOT the first black person to be arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person. Not even that year. But the first two to receive national attention for the same act? They were poor and had questionable family backgrounds so they didn't make as good a champion for the NAACP.

  • The phrase "Pie in the sky" comes from a song written by labor activist Joe Hill. The song was a satiric attack on the Salvation Army, whose preachers Hill criticized for lulling workers into complacency. "You will eat, bye and bye, In that glorious land above the sky; Work and pray, live on hay, You'll get pie in the sky when you die." (Which makes it exceedingly hilarious when this phrase is used by a North Korean diplomat criticizing the US)

  • The Strategic Petroleum Reserve? Stored in subterranean salt caverns, not tanks.

  • I learned the definition of the word ersatz, a word I'm almost certain I've never heard before.

  • The difference between a pardon and a commutation? The former is a forgiveness of crimes after the sentence is served. The latter is when the people are released from prison.

  • Members of Congress are given an absolute privilege to lie with impunity in the House or Senate. (That deserves a big ole WTF?)

So next week is DAUNTLESS!
DAUNTLESS: fearless, undaunted.

Undaunted: courageously resolute, especially in the face of danger or difficulty; not discouraged.

I have no idea what I'm going to do for it, but I'm game for almost anything that won't cost me a lot of money. (I wanted to do this, but it's expensive and I'm still ridiculously underemployed.) Leave suggestions in the comments!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

YA Highway: Research!

I haven't participated in a Road Trip Wednesday in a while! This week's topic: What is the strangest/weirdest thing you've ever researched?

While I can't think of a single thing that's weirder than all the others, I'm pretty sure my Google search history has me on some kind of government watch-list. I tend to write high-action urban fantasy, so I'm always researching strange weapons and injuries. Things like how long would it take for a deep burn to heal on its own? Or fighting styles that employ medium-length blades.

Or where is the Syrian embassy in Washington DC, how many floors does it have and does it have a fence around it?

Yeah, that's probably the worst one.

I search to find out how it feels to get shot in the leg, to find haunted historical sites, to learn about the speed and efficacy of plant-based poisons, to find the most isolated place in Ireland, and more.

Though I haven't done too much research in the way of going places or strange activities, anyone paying attention to my google search history might become worried about my mental health.

What's the strangest thing you've ever researched?

Monday, May 30, 2011


Y'all remember the Divergent Faction-of-the-week challenge, right? I know I missed talking about Amity last week, but I was really busy!

This week's faction was: Candor. The definition from the Divergent fansite is:

1. the state or quality of being frank, open, and sincere in speech or expression; candidness.
2. freedom from bias; fairness; impartiality.

I think Tris (the main character) was completely right when she surmised that being in Candor requires quite a bit of bravery itself. It's just a bravery you exercise verbally, instead of through actions like the Dauntless do. While I've never been one to provide false compliments or empty flattery, I don't believe that honesty is always the best policy.

The truth hurts people, often needlessly.

But sometimes it's needed, even if it does hurt.

Most of y'all know that my boyfriend and I broke up last week. I told him the truth: that I didn't see how it was going to work. And he agreed. I'm not looking for sympathy; we're both better off this way - but it did teach me how tough it would be to live in the Candor faction at times.

And for those of you wondering how my Amity week went... I did ok. I think I would be fine living in the Amity faction, but trying to live it in my actual life is tough - especially that week. I did watch this awesome TED talk about learning to put yourselves in your enemy's shoes.

And when I really felt like my sense of peace was failing? I went to a book store :-)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Abnegation? Amity?

Some of you may have heard about this new book called Divergent by Veronica Roth? Well Houndrat is hosting a blog fest of sorts and I signed up for it so, for the next few weeks, I'll blog about my attempt to embody each faction featured in the book. You should really just go read her post about it because she sums it up so much better than I.

Except here's the thing: despite waiting FOREVER for this book to come out AND buying it the very day it came out, I only started reading it last night. I know, I know... but so much of my reading and time has been dominated by Sift Book Reviews (seriously, if you haven't checked it out yet, you really should. Like now. It's called "open in a new tab," people.) That little fact didn't exactly stop me from doing Abnegation last week, but I wasn't as excited about it as I could have been.

But now I'm all in. So I'll tell you about my weak attempt at Abnegation last week and then I'll start strong this week with Amity.

According to the Divergent fansite, Abnegation means:

  1. To refuse or deny oneself (some rights, conveniences, etc.); reject, renounce.

  2. To relinquish, give up

I have three roommates. Our apartment was a disaster. I think you know where this is going. So my one act of Abnegation last week was to do a thorough cleaning of the apartment. It took two days - long enough for me to realize that this was as selfish as it was selfless. Sure, I was doing all the work even though everybody had shared in creating the situation ... but I REALLY like a clean house. And even though it took all of one hour for it to become messed up again, I enjoyed it while it lasted. I do think I would have made more of an attempt at Abnegation last week if I had already read the book and been able to fully understand what it means to be in a faction, but this is what I did.

I would like to say, however, that our modern society (especially in the area of the country I live in) makes it very difficult to be selfless. For one, doing good deeds has become incentivized by the true Abnegation members to the point where you can't do much without getting something in return.  Also, and probably more locally, people really doubt your motives when you try to do something nice. I'm about halfway through Divergent now and I'm realizing this second point is something the Abnegation faction faces as well.

This week, I'm trying to embody Amity. I'm looking forward to it.


Quick semi-related note: I'm putting Year of Months activities on pause. Don't worry, it will come back, but right now I have a lot of other things I need to focus on. Like finding a job. And writing a book. And querying a book. <3

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hey, by the way: You're Awesome


You know how it feels when someone says, "Hey, by the way: you're awesome" and truly means it?

You know how it seems like people are doing less and less of that these days?

Sure, you may get recognized if you get a book deal or write a really awesome blog post, but what about the little things you do every day? Those are worth some recognition too.

Well I'm going to try to work my way back to recognizing the small things. And I'm starting with a new little project I call "Twitter Awesome Person of the Day." Or #awesometwit for short. Or something like that. *name is subject to change. I don't know how many times I've told you I'm terrible at naming things.

Every day (starting today) that I'm on Twitter, I'm going to try to recognize someone who was particularly cool that day.

And some of y'all may know that (due to my rotating work schedule) my concept of "day" is a little wonky. So by "day" I mean the time in between when I woke up and went to sleep, whenever that may be.

This should be fun! Feel free to join me! :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Launch of Sift Book Reviews

Some of y'all know this, some of you don't... But I started a new website!

At Sift Book Reviews, myself and four other talented people review self-published science-fiction and fantasy novels. You can read about our fantastic contributors and why we decided to start this blog!

If you're a reader of any sci-fi or fantasy genres, I'd appreciate it if you would go check out the site and click on that "follow" button on the right sidebar if you like what you see. Also, let your reading friends know about it and I might love you forever!

You can follow us on Twitter @siftbookreviews.

If you are/know a SFF self-published/indie author who would like us to review your book, please check out our Terms and Submissions info.

The first review is live today; I reviewed Linda Welch's Along Came a Demon.



Friday, April 15, 2011

Shatter Me, I'm famous!

Yeah, this post is about two topics that really have nothing to do with each other - but they make for an interesting blog post title, don't they?

Ok, so I'm not really famous. But I was interviewed by Brad Jaeger for his Aspiring Author Interview series... so that's close enough! Go check it out!

Secondly, Author Tahereh Mafi is holding an EASY AS PIE contest where you can win an ARC of her debut novel, Shatter Me. I've been wanting to read anything this girl wrote since the first day I read her wonderful blog so I'm definitely entering. I suppose you can enter too ... but I call second dibs if you win!


Here's the Goodreads summary:

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old-girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

This is war!

We've had a prank war going on in my house over the past week or two. It's still going on, but I thought I'd post the videos of the prank to date.

It all started when my sister did this to me. Notice the guy laughing so hard he can't stand up? That's my caring boyfriend. (Sorry I can't embed them for whatever reason... but they're SO WORTH the click-through)

Shower Prank

On the same day, my boyfriend dared my sis's fiance to do this:

Peppermint Extract

Then I tried to get her back but my accomplice and I were way too loud and K's not nearly as heavy a sleeper as I am. It's still a funny video.

Prank FAIL

FYI: If you're able to seal the door up, it creates a vacuum when they open the door and everything flies into the room. At least, that's how it's supposed to work.

My sister retaliated for my failed prank....


Then I finally got her back.

Sweet, sweet revenge

Since today is April Fool's Day, I'm a little worried about what might happen in the morning.

Also, there will be another non-prank (but awesome!) related video up soon, so keep an eye out on my sister's youtube channel for it.

Here's a hint:


PS: You might have noticed it's a new month. Which means a new Month. It's going to be Sketch Month! I'll try to sketch something every day - this should be interesting! I can't really draw anything but stick figures.

Meditation Month went really well. It's something I think I'll continue on a semi-regular basis. I definitely felt more centered and my mind felt clearer. I'd recommend it!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Me? Creative?

As most of y'all know, I'm currently vastly underemployed. That means I have a lot of time & very little money. I also happen to have a big box of jewelry-making supplies....

So I started an Etsy shop. At this moment, it only has four items on it, but I'll be adding more as I have time to make more. I'd really appreciate if you go check it out and - if you see anything you like - consider making a purchase. Thank you.

Also, when my sister gets the last few prank videos uploaded (we're having a prank war in my apartment right now) I'll be doing a post with all of those! :-)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

AWESOME Pitch Contest

Just popping in to say we're hosting an awesome pitch contest over at YAtopia.

Super agent Ammi-Joan Paquette (WHO, BTW is currently CLOSED to queries!) is our judge.

So hop on over as soon as possible because it will be capped at 150 entries. Only YA and childrens entries will be considered.

ALSO, this contest has pushed us over 200 followers, so that means I'll be doing a giveaway on my next YAtopia post - so keep an eye out for that!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Facebook and Open Discourse

A while back, a friend of mined posed this question to his Facebook friends: Have you ever unfriended someone due solely to something(s) they posted? If so, why?

I answered that I had unfriended one person I only knew through Student Government due to the vulgar and misogynistic nature of his posts. But what surprised me? What other people answered.

One girl said she unfriended people if they were "boring." I sympathize with that (the other day one of my friends posted about how she had given her toddler just a little more cereal than usual but she ate it all and wasn't she such a good girl? You'd think the kid had invented a perpetual motion machine or something) but I don't understand removing them entirely from your network. Of course, I'm assuming these people are actually her friends so I'm wondering why you would cut off what is probably the only form of interaction with a person because everything they post doesn't entertain you.

And here's where I really start getting to the crux.

Another woman said she hid friends from view if they had different political views from her. That stopped me cold in my virtual tracks. I literally raised my hands and shouted "What?!" at my laptop. I'm fully aware that I'm more open-minded than most people, but I still can't believe someone would choose to isolate themselves in this way. This is a slap in the face of democracy and it's something I would expect only from cult members or extremists. I wanted to respond with so many snarky comments, but I don't know her so I held back - and am posting my response here instead.

Do people really do this? I don't know about y'all, but I welcome differing viewpoints. How else do you discover the difference between something you truly believe and something you were led to believe because you're lacking insight? And if you don't allow this difference of opinion in friends, what hope does that leave for intelligent political discourse between strangers and politicians? This is one of the things I think Facebook is good for - so long as both sides are open and peaceful (no name-calling). Maybe I'm overreacting, but this made me a little sick to my stomach. And it reminded me of this TED video that I hope everyone will watch.

(Now, it can be argued, and I know someone will, that maybe she only meant the type of people who are hateful and vulgar in the expression of their opinions. Like little wannabe pundits. But I'm pretty good at reading between the lines and I didn't get that feeling from her, so we're going to pretend this isn't the case.)

Anyway, I'm not really sure what the point of my post is. I just want to encourage everybody to be open-minded and to welcome thoughtful, peaceful discourse on all divisive matters - no matter what side of the spectrum you fall on. Because where the discourse ends, that's often where violence begins. And I think we've all seen enough of that lately.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Twitter Pitch Contest!

Lovely British writer and fellow YAtopian Chanelle Gray has an awesome contest going on right now. So polish up your short pitch and head on over to her site for the chance to pitch to Michael Carr of the Veritas Literary Agency. (Note, you don't have to be on Twitter to enter the contest)

Wanna know what mine looks like? Here's my Twitter pitch for THE DEMONS YOU KNOW:

When supposedly-extinct demons kidnap her mother, Fire Mage Miranda must partner with a young Holy Knight on a cross-country rescue mission.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is 140 characters exactly. I should so get extra points for that :-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RTW: A ?4U

I don't have much time today and I haven't participated in YAHighway's RTW in a while and I really wanted to do it today. So I'm going to cheat a little and post a link to my YAtopia post from Tuesday as a precursor to this post. Today's RTW asks you to post a writing question for others to answer.

The question posed by me is: Are you a Plotter or a Pantser? Or somewhere in the middle. Either way, don't let anyone tell you you're wrong. Not even me.

Leave your answer (and/or link) in the comments!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Valentine's Day Doesn't Suck

I'm going to ignore the beleaguered and muddled history of Valentine's Day for a few minutes. Because what I'm talking about is the present, the Valentine's Day of the 21st Century. There's a sort of subculture I've been noticing pop up in February of the last few years: The "Intelligent Single Girl Hates V-Day" subculture. (BTW: If you feel like this post is coming at you a little early, that's because it is. Mainly because we're having a V-day party at my house today and I'm posting on YAtopia today about First Kisses for our Love & Lit celebration - so I've got V-Day on the brain.)

If you're a smart single woman these days, it's almost expected that you'll hate (or feel sad on) February 14th - and most will rant for as long as you'll listen about how Valentine's Day is a sham. Ignoring how this really only makes you sound bitter (especially when you publicly gushed about your romantic date the year before), I'm going to have to disagree with you.

Let's get this out of the way first: I'm single this year and have been about as often as I haven't when February rolls around. My first year of college, my boyfriend broke up with me two days before Valentine's Day (Don't cry for me; he came crawling back in a spectacular way). In short, my V-days haven't always been marked by roses and chocolates.

But Valentine's Day doesn't suck.

And I'd appreciate if you would stop being so hard on it. What is the meaning - the true spirit - of the modern Valentine's Day? It's the only secular (yes, it has some roots in Christianity, but just as many in paganism and the modern celebration has nothing to do with religion) day we have to celebrate love. It's an entire day devoted to letting those you love know how you feel. Why are you so desperate to stomp on that?!

I'll concede that the relatively recent commercialism of the holiday serves only to cheapen it. Not only do companies like Hallmark and Russel Stover make millions off the holiday every year, companies like Zales and Kay jewelers try to convince men that they should spend thousands to make their girl happy on February 14th.

I still argue that this isn't what Valentine's Day is about. I remember when I was a little girl, being sooo excited about the box of candy I knew my daddy would bring home for me that day. The Valentine's Day gift I remember most fondly was a simple balloon. On my first Valentine's Day in college (mentioned above), my friend Mike invited me to watch his intramural softball game and then we went for pizza and, though I was a little heartbroken, I was thrilled to officially introduce Mike to my lovely roommate, who had been crushing on him from afar for a while.

I think a lot of the reason there's so much hate for this day of love is the expectations surrounding it. We're all expecting this perfect day with a romantic dinner and a dozen red roses. With the level of perfection that's expected, it's no wonder things get complicated. But it doesn't have to be complicated. It can be so simple.

Did you know that the tradition of Valentine's Day started with people simply writing hand-written, original love notes to each other? Why don't you take a few minutes this week and try your hand at writing something like the original "valentines" for a person you care about? Even if your writing is sloppy, your poetry doesn't rhyme and it's written on a torn-out sheet of notebook paper, it will mean more to the receiver than a pretty commercially-printed card-stock valentine would.

If you're in a relationship this Valentine's Day, take a step back and make sure that you're focusing on what's really important: the love (or the spark of something that may grow into love) you share with that person.

If you're not in a relationship: remember, this day isn't meant to torture you. It's not meant to draw attention to your single status; in fact, nobody but you will even notice. So try to celebrate the love surrounding you this year: the love you have for your family and friends, the love your friends have for each other and their loved ones.

And, please, don't piss all over your friends' happiness by talking about how much February 14th sucks. Because Valentine's Day doesn't suck. When you really think about it, it's kinda awesome.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Paying It Forward

Shelli over at Market My Words is doing a "Pay It Forward Contest." if you write YA or MG and are looking for an agent, you might want to go check it out before 5pm EST today. Shelli has one of the coolest requirements I've seen in a blog contest: you must write your own "Pay it Forward" blog post talking about someone who has given back to you. I have so many people who have helped me out so I hope it's ok if I talk about more than one.

  • VeryMuchMeg is a blog/Twitter friend of mine. This winter she saw I was having a tough time and randomly sent me a care package full of books, socks, chocolate and random personalized things. I can never thank her enough for how I felt that day.

  • Nina is another blog/Twitter friend of mine who is so often there with an encouraging text or tweet that I can't pick out just one instance.

  • John-Michael is a good friend of mine from college. Late (and, remember, I studied engineering, so my definition of late is laaaaaaate) one night I was sitting at home by myself, very upset about something. As soon as I mentioned that I was crying, he dropped everything to come sit with me on my very uncomfortable futon and cheered me up with his goofy jokes and random singing.

  • Eamonn went to my high school. We weren't really friends; we didn't belong to the same social circles, you might say (me = nerd, him = not). A few months before we graduated, a good friend of mine took his own life in his home a half-dozen houses from mine. God, I was heartbroken. My best friend had a soccer game that day and I accompanied her. I still remember how at least half the girls on the field were crying, the gray drizzle falling on us all amplifying the mood. On the sidelines, I tried to hold back the tears but I couldn't find the strength. Eamonn went to all the girls' soccer games. He saw me crying and just kinda put his arms out in the universal gesture for "you look like you need a hug." He hugged me while I cried a sobbing, angry kind of cry. It was such a small gesture - and we still weren't really friends after that - but, ten years later, it still sticks out in my mind when I think about that day.

  • When I was laid off and struggling to find work, two of my sorority sisters offered to lend me money. I didn't need it, but it meant a lot just the same. I'm not going to name them here, out of respect, but they know who they are.

  • I had been at UF for three weeks when I turned 18. I hardly knew anyone but my roommate Lola threw a party for me, inviting all her friends because I didn't really have any yet. That weekend my neighbors (Akshay, Brandon and Blake) took me out to dinner, a movie (Zoolander) and my first ever Coldstone experience! I expected it to be terrible, but they made it awesome.

  • Lori & Maurice - who I knew from a writing group - adopted me (and Jasper!) for Thanksgiving in 2008 when I was stuck working in New York. It was my first Thanksgiving away from my family, but it was lovely.

  • I met Chris Novak once in college. It was my freshman year and I think he was a senior. When I found out I'd be moving to St. Louis five years later, I found out he lead the Gator Club there. I contacted him through facebook and (thought he didn't really remember me) he welcomed me into his circle of friends and even helped me move a few months later.

  • Reiko, Kathy & Suzanne helped me so much even though I don't think they were quite prepared to receive that email that said, "Hey, I have a dozen girls and we want to start a chapter of your Sorority 700 miles from the closest chapter."

  • I know I've said it before, but all the wonderful women at RWA 2010 were so nice to me and welcomed me with open arms that I was kind of overwhelmed by it. Especially Leigh, Constance, Shay, and Janice, who put up with my fan-girl-ing :-)

  • Kelley Vitollo gave me the opportunity to become involved with YAtopia, which so far has been a great experience with great people. With every post and tweet I realize how lucky I am to share this blog with DJ, Sharon, Leigh, Kelley, Chanelle and Wendy. I keep thinking they'll realize their mistake and kick me out, but it hasn't happened yet! ;-)

  • My Egyptian friend James who gave me the last of his awesome (maybe magical?) flu herbs even though you can't buy them in the US.

  • My freshman year I asked my neighbor/friend to help me move a Foosball table from my car to my apartment. His roommate (who I didn't really know) also volunteered to help and ended up staying to assemble the thing (twice - but that's another story) for me. Nate and I ended up dating for a long time after that day.

  • Kelly, Emily, Kris, Mike, David, Kayla, Ashish, and Paddy took me in and really made St. Louis feel like 'home' in such a short time. Some of them even helped me move within days of meeting me!

And I really could keep going for a looooooong time, but I think you'd get bored with me eventually - if you're still hanging around now, that is. I really am thankful for everyone who has helped me in my life - even if you're not listed above. If you would stick with me for a few more minutes, I'd like to mention two more things:

  1. The Bloggess is one of my favorite internet people. Her blog is usually hilarious, but a few weeks ago she shared this blog post that I'd like to share with you. If you're struggling, please don't be too proud or embarrassed to ask for help.

  2. I've been reading a lot about Zainab Salib since watching her TED video last month and ... well, talk about paying it forward in a big way! She's amazing and I'd love for all of you to read more about Women for Women International and Join Me on the Bridge on March 8th for International Women's Day.

So what about you? Do you have someone who has given back to you? Made your life a little better, a little easier? Leave your stories or - even better - blog links in the comments!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Twenty Minutes Can Change You

I thoroughly enjoyed TED month and I'll (again) encourage you to check TED out if you haven't already.

I've watched some good videos, some not so good videos - and then there are the other ones. The ones that claw deep into your gut and perform a hostile transformation. You see the description and you think, "Yeah, OK. That could maybe be interesting." Next thing you know, you're fighting back the sting of tears and your heart is aching with a physicality that shouldn't be possible. The words of the speaker pierce the soul you weren't entirely sure you had.

There's a good chance you think I'm being over-dramatic. How could a fifteen to twenty minute video on the internet possibly have that kind of effect in a world where nothing is off limits to the television programmers? But I dare you to watch Zainab Salbi talk about the women on the "backlines" of war, and tell me you're the same person you were before you started the video. (I'm entirely serious about this one. If you only watch ONE of these videos, make this the one.)

[caption id="attachment_360" align="aligncenter" width="295" caption=""How casually we treat casualties""][/caption]

And if you're heart isn't broken enough, take a look at the images of the nearly-decimated Lakota tribe captured by Aaron Huey in his presentation: America's Native Prisoners of War. For a different kind of experience, watch some of the most amazing African wildlife footage taken by Beverly and Dereck Joubert, who have lived fascinating lives. (And during the elephant scene: Trust me, it's worth it to watch it through to the end.)

I've been watching these videos all month. I've blogged about some and tweeted about some, but I wanted to put them all in one place - both because I want to share them with you and because I want to be able to have them in one easily accessible location for myself. :-)

♥ = my favorites

Let me know if you watch/watched any of these and what you think!