Monday, December 26, 2011

2012--New Year or Apocalypse?

Christmas has barely ended and I'm ready to hit the ground running toward the new year. I can hardly wait for 2012 to start. I won't bore you with yet another New Year's resolution post. I'd rather talk about the 2012 apocalypse. First let me say I think the end of the world theory is BS. Yes, I know, the Mayan calendar ends, a ginormous explosion obliterating Earth? Or maybe we'll experience a Rapture-like occurrence? Or not. (On a quick side note, if that did happen, can I hand-pick a few who should poof out of existence?)

All joking aside, I do think there are a few things we do need to prepare ourselves for (no Mayan calendar required):

1) Reality show takeovers. Laugh if you must, but this is a serious--and potentially deadly--issue. Zombies don't have anything on reality show stars. Their brain-eating abilities are wasted on the folks who will humiliate themselves to prove they desperately want to win money or have their 15 minutes of fame. Prepare yourself by watching anything but these shows. I'm begging you. Take up knitting. Or baking. Or anything that averts your eyes and saves your mind from deteriorating into sludge.

2) Elections. If you cringed just reading the word, you're in good company. If you like to debate politics, you are at the wrong blog. I don't live in a bunker, but during campaign time, I want to. Frankly, I don't want to hear any politician tell me what they will do. I'd rather they not talk and just do it. *snicker* Okay, I know that's as likely as reality stars disappearing overnight. Prepare yourself by ignoring the incessant, useless campaign commercials (unless you want to make it part of a drinking game). But please do remember to vote.

3) Resolution Rebound. Have you heard of this one? It's the moment you realize your New Year's resolutions have fizzled out, and you console yourself by shopping, eating, napping, eating, weeping, eating, or some other activity that ultimately makes you feel worse. Prepare yourself by setting small, manageable goals. Better yet, don't set a specific goal, but instead plan to have a fabulous year no matter what comes your way. That's right, I'm talking fun, fun, and more fun.

4) Same old, same old. This one scares me the most. Whatever you do, no matter the situation, please don't resign yourself to another year of the same old existence. This includes staying in a job you hate, putting effort into a relationship that hurts you, or moving through your waking hours on auto-pilot (you know, that mindless daze that enables us to do the bare minimum with absolutely no joy). Prepare yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone. Do something out of the ordinary--drink chai tea instead of the double latte, drive a new route home, apply for your dream job, take a cooking class--anything that catches your fancy. The idea is to add depth and breadth to your life with no regard for the end of the world doom and gloom.

Make it one helluva a year, baby! Cheers for a fabulous 2012!
Jess

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Favorites

Happy Holidays! I hope you're all enjoying the hustle and bustle of the season, and also the winding down of 2011. I love this time of year. I love gift giving, hot drinks, warm blankets, happy kids on Christmas morning, and preparing for the new and exciting year to come. It seems everyone has traditions that are near and dear to their heart, and I'm no exception. Here are a few of my seasonal favorites:

1) Christmas shows. I record them all. Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Mickey's Christmas Carol, The Polar Express, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation...I could go on and on. I'd love to say I record them for my kids, but the sad truth is that I'm far more excited to watch them. Okay, my husband makes me watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation every year so he can recite every line, but it's still entertaining.

2) Hot chocolate. I drink this year round, but this time of year is different. Nothing beats nestling into a comfy chair or couch with a steamy mug of chocolaty awesomeness.

3) Wrapping presents. I know, this sounds weird. Many people find wrapping to be a chore, but it's a relaxing task for my creative side. I love curling ribbons, making elaborate bows, and packaging odd-shaped items. Yes, I need help. *grins*

4) Don't hate me for this one but...I love holiday music. Nobody--and I mean nobody--can sing holiday classics like Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. I could listen to those guys sing White Christmas all day long.

5) The smell of the season. Christmas trees, candy canes, holiday baking, all of those scents that create the warm, fuzzy feeling of comfort. Bliss.

What are some of your favorite things about the holiday season?

Best wishes for you and yours for a fabulous holiday!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Great Minds

I'm finally recovered from my time at the Emerald City Writer's Conference in Bellevue, WA. Nothing beats a weekend with writers. I can talk to them about my everyday writing life, and they don't think I'm crazy for having conversations with multiple personalities--*cough* I mean characters--in my head. The thing I love about the ECWC is that it's a big conference with hundreds of attendees from all over the U.S., and a few other countries. So cool!

My head is still whirling. Don't get me wrong. I love it. Love. It. But sorting through the hundreds of ideas and million-dollar snippets of advice takes a lot of brain power. I had grand plans to get to as many workshops as I could. I ended up spending more time talking to writers. Some published, some not. Some were NY Times Bestsellers, some were book bloggers. All were fabulous. Below is a picture of me with Amber Scott--She's a best-selling author,my co-author for Muse Food, and also co-presenter for our workshops. She's one of the most creative women I know! Her Halloween costume was a zombie Audrey Hepburn. I was a last minute fortune teller (you can't compete with Audrey Hepburn in any form).



Have you ever experienced a collective of creative minds? It's truly awesome. I'm biased, but I think romance writers are some of the most brilliant, generous people around. They share their knowledge without hesitation. They support each other unfailingly. And they're wicked smart. I met authors who are also attorneys, doctors, marketing executives, librarians and moms. All ages and walks of life.


We come together because we share a love of reading and writing. We also want to realize our dreams. And wow are these folks talented story tellers. I came home with a bag full of books and a TBR (to be read) list of many more to buy. I hope Santa's feeling generous this year.

I was able to spend time with some of my fellow Entangled Publishing authors, and also meet one of my writing heroes: Sherrilyn Kenyon. People, she's a rock star in my genre! I had an embarrassing fan girl moment, and she was so gracious. She's one of the coolest women I've met in this business (which is saying a lot judging by the women I know).


Sigh...now it's time for me to get back to work. I have a third and final book to finish. And thanks to the conference, I have at least three more ideas I can't wait to get started on...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Reviewers

I have to send a shout out to book bloggers/reviewers. I recently wrapped up the first leg of my blog tour for my latest series. It was a whirlwind of an experience, but one I learned a lot from and thoroughly enjoyed. I had the opportunity to work with some amazing people and here's what I learned:

1) These reviewers are serious about what they do and it shows. Their sites are well done, professional, and reader friendly. Don't visit their sites unless you want your TBR pile to grow exponentially. Yeah, they're that good.

2) They're honest. Every writer wants a great review. But I appreciate the negative ones just as much as the great ones because they're honest. Reviewers have to write a fair review, and it might not always be what an author wants to hear. However, these sites are geared toward readers, not writers. It's not an easy task, and I have to give them props for it.

3) They're gracious and fun. The few I did interviews with were a blast. They all asked at least one question that made me laugh, or made me think hard. The guest posts were fun because I was forced to be creative in a different way than I'm used to. All of them had amazing followers that were a joy to interact with. It's not easy to build a community like that, but they have.

4) They rock. They offer their time to read and review books. I imagine it can occasionally be thankless. As a writer, I appreciate the reviews--good, bad or ugly. I've seen writers rant and rave online about a bad review. So unprofessional, by the way. But a review is an opinion. How can you argue with that? They've donated their time, which we all know is a precious commodity.

These amazing reviewers read multiple books per week. Whether they love them or hate them, I can appreciate the time they took out of their busy lives to make those reviews available to potential readers. They help build relationships between readers and authors, and that's priceless (from an author's AND reader's perspective). So I offer my heartfelt thanks to book bloggers everywhere, and especially the bloggers who were generous enough to review my book and host me at their blog (in no particular order):
Read on, my friends.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bring on the Banned Books

Happy Banned Books Week! It's a fun week to celebrate. Hundreds of books are challenged every year. The people who challenge these books crack me up and piss me off. By challenging books, they only bring more exposure to them. And they also show how narrow-minded, controlling, scared, and... Okay, I'll stop there, but you get my point.

The American Library Association has a page devoted to Banned Books Week. Check it out here. You can see frequently challenged books sorted by year or decade. I'm sure you'll be as shocked as I was to see some of your favorites on the list.

I'm going to try to read one banned book a week through the end of the year. Every one of those books was created from blood, sweat, and tears. The writers poured a part of their souls into those words, and for someone to challenge their right to be on the shelf is beyond my comprehension. The only thing you or I can do is read the books. Savor the words. If the book could be considered inflammatory, be thankful. That writer had the nerve to write from the heart and say what needed to be said. When you're done, recommend the book to friends.

For me, this issue has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It has everything to do with the right to read whatever the hell I want to. Every reader has a different experience when reading a book. You might hate it, I might love it. How dare someone try to take that literary adventure away from another?

I'll step off my soap box now, but I implore you to read a banned book. Know that the story contained in those pages was powerful enough to scare someone into challenging it. You deserve the chance to experience that for yourself.

What's your favorite banned book?

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Death of My Routine

The day starts as any other. Get the kids off to school and hubby off to work. Write out a lengthy to-do list while juggling football practice and homework, with the hopes of actually getting it all done. Eat dinner, then herd the kids to the bath. Don't forget to schedule doctor's appointments and oops...I'll get to the yard work tomorrow. It's a regular routine. One repeated every week day. On the weekends, subtract school and appointments, and add football games, more chores, and family events. It's only one variation of a day in the life of a busy adult. I'm sure many of you can relate. We all have our busy days, our seemingly never-ending activities.

They quickly become routines, and even typing that word makes me cringe. For me, it's not the busy days that are awful. It's not the day that ends when the kids are in bed, the cleaning is done, the animals are fed, and the house is quiet. Although I do collapse into bed, exhausted.

Even that's not too bad.

The worst day I can imagine is unspectacular because it's routine. It's the day my needs fall by the wayside. No, I don't mean my desire for a pedicure and a vacation. I'm talking about the day I don't follow my passion and feed my soul. It's the day I made excuses and complained about a lack of time because I had so many tasks to do. I didn't make time to challenge myself and acknowledge the extraordinary chaos in my head (otherwise known as my creativity and muse).

My regular routine makes it easy for that nightmare of a day to come to fruition--the day my pen stays on the desk, untouched. My characters are forced to the back of my mind while I cook dinner and play chauffeur. I'm so focused on the inconsequential every day tasks--yes, I group dishes, laundry and such in this category--I forget what I love. The words sit idle and my story remains untold because I'm operating on auto-pilot.

I know better. I occasionally coach people to do the exact opposite of what I'm guilty of. It's all too easy to become stuck in a rut. We simply exist, go through the motions. I'd rather reach too high, fall hard, pick myself up, then eventually achieve. I want to learn, explore, taste, dance and try every creative endeavor that interests me. Especially writing. Dishes and laundry? Not so much.

I've been working hard to create ample time to write and be creative. It's not easy. I'm a mom first. My family's well-being is important to me. Yet so is mine. It's a constant battle to balance it all. Thankfully, I love a good challenge. I'm happy to go to war with my routine. It's great practice for my world domination plans, which have also been sitting on the back burner for too long... *grins*

What do you to get out of a rut?

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Crazy Monday

Happy Monday! Wait...has it been happy?

I'd say it's been a typical Monday at our house, which means it's been bizarre. My 8 year old stayed home from school with a temperature and sore throat. A few hours into our day he managed to run into the wall. He's now sporting a goose egg between his eyes, adding a headache to his list of symptoms. I have no idea how he did this. He claims he was crawling up the stairs, and ran into the wall. He must have been crawling pretty fast. It looks like he's trying to grow a unicorn horn.

After I got him settled with Mr. Happy (don't laugh--it's the name that came with the special ice pack), I sat in my favorite chair to take a breath. I admit I needed to laugh without him watching, because honestly, he ran into the wall. It was funny. But I digress... As I was catching my breath, I looked out the window and saw one of our hens mounting another hen. Yes, at this happy little farm, we raise our hens to explore life to the fullest. Actually, our rooster was literally henpecked, so he's chillin' in a separate pen while he heals. It's not the first time. We have him wrapped up in purple vet wrap and I've affectionately dubbed him the Henpecked Purple Cock. (This is the consequence of being a romance writer and living on a farm). The poor guy doesn't know that while the roo's away, the hens will play. Who knew the barnyard was so full of drama?

And in other Monday news, my husband has a few of his co-workers convinced he's the cover model on Stone Cold Seduction. I might be a bit biased, but my husband really is that buff. However, he's not the hot dude on the cover. Although now I'm giving serious consideration to making him gargoyle wings for Halloween...

How was your Monday?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bookstore Confessions

This is a new feature I'll be doing regularly. I frequent a couple bookstores on a weekly basis--for writing, reading, coffee and general people watching. I've seen some crazy stuff. And crazier people. I thought it would be fun to chronicle some of the most hilarious or horrible things I've seen. The good stuff doesn't all happen in the books! I've enlisted the help of a few bookstore employees. I'm keeping their identities a secret to protect the innocent (and the guilty). These men and women are awesome, intelligent and impressively patient to put up with readers and writers behaving badly. *Sigh* Sadly, it happens.

This week, I'll start things off with my observations and a few guidelines. Nothing beats a trip to your local brick and mortar store. I'm a book store junkie. If you are too, or know someone who is, here are a few handy tips to assist you with the perfect book buying experience (all taken from real experiences):
Don't pitch your partially finished, unedited manuscript to the manager at your local bookstore. They sell books. They won't pimp yours. Remember, you're there to buy or browse, not sell. Besides, if you think this is a great place to sell your book, your book is probably nowhere near ready for publication. Head on over to the writing section, and pick up a few books for aspiring writers while you're there.
Do act appropriately. For example, if you're interested in a book about adults who stray from their marriage, that's your business. Please don't ask the staff if they would consider cheating on their significant other, or who they'd consider as potential cheating material. No really.

Don't piss off the baristas. This includes ordering a latte that no one has ever heard of just to sound important. If you ask for a white chocolate mocha without chocolate, but with a dash of caramel syrup, no foam, and make it a cappuccino it's poor form. And ridiculous. If you then come back to complain that the temperature of your latte was supposed to be 165 degrees, not 167, you look doubly foolish. Even other customers want to bean you in the head by this point.

Do be respectful of the other bookstore patrons. It's great that you were on the local news station because you witnessed a burglary and called 911. But if you have a conversation loud enough that people two counties over can hear it, we're not impressed, only annoyed. Likewise for your amazing interview skills with potential wedding photographers, and how you discovered your husband was cheating. And along those lines...

Do bring your iPod and headphones if you plan to sit and read or write. Some conversations are fascinating, but many are better left unheard.

And finally...

Don't come in and sit to read a "new" book while drinking coffee a few days in a row. I'll admit, I think it's awesome a retired man would make such an effort to read a Nora Roberts book, but that's what libraries are for. The purchase of a cup of coffee doesn't give you the right to read a book without purchase. From start to finish. Three days in a row.

So there you have it. My first list of helpful hints for a wonderful bookstore experience. What's your worst/best bookstore story?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Multiple Personalities

Okay, I admit it--I have multiple personalities. Writing personalities, that is. It's not much of a confession. I'm pretty open about writing in different genres. Only recently has it become an issue, however. It requires me to shift gears for more than simple head hopping (switching from character to character). I have to stop and think about who my reader will be, and what their expectations are. I'm writing for characters of all ages and backgrounds while working on urban fantasy and middle grade, and even being a yoga teacher (planning a class is a lot like writing a script). It's easier said than done.
Here are the issues I'm currently running into:
  •  I'm not present during conversations because all I can think about is how your dialogue might look if I wrote it down. How I might tweak it, punctuate it, and fix the grammar. Don't worry, I'm not really going to use it. Unless you say something interesting or off the wall, and then it's fair game.
  •  I watch and listen to as many kids' conversations as I can. For the life of me, I cannot figure out the path their minds take. It's equally fascinating and frustrating. My 9 year old says the craziest things some times. She's currently fascinated with the...er..actions of our rooster with the hens. Out of the blue, she'll discuss the mechanics of it in a very matter of fact way, while I try to figure out if this is where I talk about bees, since she's already covering the birds.
  •  I forget--and I mean completely forget--to cook dinner, at least 4 nights a week. I've started using my crock pot to circumvent this issue, because my poor kids have done "snacky dinner" too many times now. It quickly loses it's appeal. Who knew you could get sick of PB&J or a fridge free for all?
  •  The employees at the bookstore I frequent think I'm nuts because I'll buy a few middle grade books, a few steamy romances, and one or two urban fantasy. I'm happy to admit they're all for me, but I can see why people would get confused. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda isn't great company for The Very Virile Viking.
*Note* I highly recommend both of these books. Origami Yoda is my new favorite character, and Sandra Hill, author of the viking series, is hilarious.
  • Sometimes when I'm writing or reading about paranormal characters, I get the urge to put them through a few rounds of sun salutations. Only because it might relax them a bit. Seriously, Professor Snape wouldn't have been quite so testy if he'd had a little OM in his life.
What it boils down to is wearing a lot of hats, and remembering to keep them on straight. And only wearing one at a time. Which is prudent, but not always as much fun. *winks*

Does anyone else run into similar issues when writing or reading multiple genres?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Eating Blues

Let me start this blog by saying I don't diet. Ever. I hate the word, and I hate what it stands for--deprivation. I love food far too much to ever deprive myself of it. Which is laughable, because I have so many food allergies and intolerances, my body has decided to deprive me of enjoying them instead.

I'm allergic to gluten. That's a big one. It's in every processed food you can imagine, and many you wouldn't think about--soda, dressings, anything in a box, chicken, latte syrup, medication and even body products like lotions and makeup. I'm a real drag to go out with because there are very few places I can eat. No beer (which is okay, because I hated it before I knew I was allergic to it), no pizza, no pasta, no fresh-baked breads. Those things I miss.

I also have an intolerance to dairy, broccoli, kiwi, and most other grains. The latest is corn. When your body won't tolerate most grains--including the ones normally used as a gluten substitute--guess what you're left with? Lean protein, nuts and seeds, veggies, fruit, and water. Everything nutritionists say we're supposed to eat.

I crave a cinnamon rolls and ice cream desperately. Corn chowder or pizza. I'd love to go out to dinner with my husband, or enjoy a pastry at a coffee shop. Instead I have to spend hours each week getting creative with modifying recipes. I have to make excuses to well meaning friends and family who want to help, but just don't have a clue how or what I can eat. Some days I don't either. I'd love to eat their cookies/pasta/bread/homemade ice cream, but I can't.

To make matters worse, two of my three kids have the same food issues along with a few of their own. School is a nightmare. I've made more than one teacher mad after blowing a gasket because they gave my child a treat that made her sick. Birthday parties and family get togethers are horribly stressful. Some relatives even try to sneak food to my kids when I'm not looking. It's a tough thing to live with. And let me also say we're very thankful to not be deathly allergic to these foods. My heart goes out to families who deal with the threat of anaphylactic shock.

I love eating healthy. This isn't much different than how I was eating before. But I miss the occasional treat. A lot. I'd love to have the luxury of cheating on a cookie or scone. Or half a pizza. When I hear someone complain about their current diet, I have to bite my tongue. Hard. I wish I could savor a cheat meal without getting sick.

Ah, well... I can't change it, so I roll with it. I'm currently in love with my crock pot. I throw in a bunch of stuff I can eat, add my fave herbs and spices, and I can trick myself into believing it's a cheat meal. Sure it's a far cry from Chinese take out or a juicy burger, but I'll take what I can get. My next goal is to find someone to do the dishes. *winks*

What's your biggest food complaint?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Things You Should Never Say To A Writer

Until I became a writer, I had no idea how mysterious the profession was for non-writers. For the most part, I'm happy to answer questions. I try to be gracious, but there are always a few people who throw out the most bizarre comments/questions you could imagine. They always take me by surprise, but I've crafted my responses to actual comments below with a little tongue-in-cheek humor:

1) How much do you make? I think this one makes the list for obvious reasons. I will happily tell you what I make if you'd like to whip out your tax returns from the last three years along with your debt to income ratio, current credit card statements, and balance of your checking and saving accounts. What? You don't want to because that's too personal? Huh. Go figure.

2) Will you use me as a character? No. Because you're not that interesting. None of us are. That's why I write fiction. As I've mentioned previously, the only exception to this is if you make me angry.

3) It must be so nice to work from home. Um...sometimes it is. Actually go ahead and say this to a writer. Unless they have a day job, which most do. If that's the case, you should say, "Wow, you find time to write on top of a 40 hour a week job? That's amazing." Because it really is. Please don't follow it with anything related to ignoring their children.

4 & 5) Publishing must be easy, right? Followed quickly by, I should write a book. Sure it's easy. For those of us who can write. Just like singing is easy for those who have an amazing set of pipes. Or being a first draft NBA pick is easy for guys with phenomenal basketball skills. Writers work hard to master the art of story telling. Anyone who tells you it's easy is a liar.


6) Can't you stop writing long enough for the BBQ (movie/camping trip/meeting/etc.)? Absolutely. As soon as you clear it with my editor, publisher, publicist, and the other people waiting for me to make my deadline. Also, next time you have a big project due at work, I want you to skip it so we can get a mani/pedi and a latte. Sound good?

7) Said with a sneer, You write romance (urban fantasy/YA/books about Bigfoot)? Why yes, I do. Tell me again why you sell nuts and screws for a living/sit on a tractor/make sandwiches/defend criminals/answer phones/draw blood? To each their own, my friend.

8) Will you recommend my book to your agent/editor/publisher? Nope. For two reasons. First, I have no idea how well or how poorly you write. When you ask me for a recommendation, you're asking me to put my reputation on the line. Second, published writers busted their butts to get where they are. Earn your own stripes. I'll happily recommend books and websites for you to get started.

9) Can I have a copy of your book? Of course. Feel free to purchase it at the nearest bookstore or online. I appreciate your support. Oh, you wanted a free copy? Wow, so do I. Guess we're both out of luck. Wait, don't you work on a car lot? How about I'll buy you a copy of my book, and you get me a newer car. Deal?

10) How do you do your research? *wink, nudge* My ideas and research are all done via immaculate conception, of course. Wait, that's not a real thing in writing? *Sigh* I have a fertile...virile...er...*grabs thesaurus*...abundant imagination. I'm a story teller. The details are important, so I research. The process is no different than the research you'd do for your latest investment/surgery/machinery. Don't be crude.

11) How did so-and-so writer get a book deal? Their writing sucks. Good question. Go ask their editor and agent, and be sure to tell them that you think the author sucks. You should also ask the thousands--or millions--of fans who bought the book. By the way, disgruntled writers are easy to spot. Instead of insulting another writer, why don't you focus on getting your own book deal?

And that, my friends, is a brief list of things you should never say to a writer. Did I miss any?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Muse Motivation

We all need a little--or a big--nudge every now and then. When you're engaged in a creative endeavor, your muse can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Here are my top muse motivators:

1) Chocolate. Did you really think I'd start with anything else? *grins* On a serious note, my muse revels in anything indulgent, but chocolate is at the top of the list. We have a fabulous chocolate shop where I live. They carry every kind of chocolate (imported and local) you could imagine. This is my writer fuel. Yum.

2) Reading a book in the genre I'm writing. I have to be careful with this one, because my TBR pile has a variety of genres represented. My muse isn't interested in working if I get distracted with a historical novel, or a book on nutrition. It's not that I don't love these books, but they don't help me with gargoyles.

3) Sam and Dean Winchester from Supernatural. 'Nuff said.

4) Yoga. Or more specifically, handstands. When the words aren't flowing, I go upside down for a change in perspective. Works like magic.

5) Music. I don't always listen to music while writing, but I do when I need a break from writing. Here again, my tastes are eclectic. I listen to a little of everything. If I can dance to it, all the better. Right now my playlists have songs from David Garrett's Rock Symphonies and Maroon 5, with a little classical piano from Glenn Gould thrown in. Yes, it's really that random.

6) Mixed martial arts. I love watching a fight (GSP, Kenny Florian and Ryan Bader are my fave fighters). The precision and athleticism of the fighters makes me think about my characters' strengths and weaknesses. I wonder how Jax and MacLean would do in a cage match? Hmm...

7) Crafts. Yes, I'm a craft geek. Knitting, scrap booking, sewing, making bath and body products, origami, collages--you name it. I've even been known to steal...er...borrow one of my kid's coloring books. The projects don't always turn out perfect, but the repetitive process of knit/purl, or the task of coloring in the lines calms my muse and gets the creative juices flowing.

8) Pulling weeds. Seriously. If I'm frustrated with a scene or sick of looking at the computer (or both), I head out to my garden to weed. Much like my writing, it always needs to be done. For some reason I don't understand, I planted a huge garden. I mean huge. Thankfully, weeding is cathartic. I hated doing it when I was younger, but now it's strangely satisfying. I don't understand that either, but it works, so I'm not going to question it. *grins*

How do you recharge, inspire or otherwise motivate yourself?

Jess

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Let the Countdown Begin...

I've been so busy with edits, writing and blogs, that I'm behind a few days or weeks. *hangs head in shame* However, when I emerged from my muse cave, I checked the calendar and noticed STONE COLD SEDUCTION is out in 20 days! September 6th, to be exact. Here's a peek:


Available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, and Books on Board

I'll be a guest on numerous blogs and review sites in the weeks surrounding the release, so check my Facebook and Twitter pages for links to win a copy. I'm kicking things off early at Badass Book Reviews on August 26th, so please stop by to comment.

I'm also part of the Qwillery 2011 Debut Author Challenge.

~and~

Parajunkee's Supernatural Smackdown starting in September. Stop by and vote for Jax! Hot gargoyles need love too. ;-)


Whew, that's all I have for now. I have to get back to those guest blogs and finishing STONE COLD DESTINY. Thank you for your support. It means the world to me.

Jess

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Reading Style

I am, first and foremost, a reader. I think all writers are. With the first book in my recent trilogy out for reviews, I've been thinking a lot about the kind of reader I am. I'm not picky, I'm loyal to my favorite authors and...

I read for the story.

We all do, right? Wrong. Some people live to find plot holes. Others love the technical stuff--sentence structure, punctuation, and pacing. While others want a character driven story. You might want all of the above. I'm mostly interested in the story. Sure I fall in love with characters, but my favorite kind of story sucks in me into the entire world. I want to fall in love with all of it. I rarely pay attention to typos and punctuation. Nor do I care abut plot holes (unless I can drive my SUV through them). I'm a forgiving reader, which would make me a horrible reviewer. I can count on one hand the number of books I've been unable to finish.

When I read, it's for the experience of the story. Of course, when I critique, it's a different matter (and another topic). I have a hard time rating books when I'm reading for pure enjoyment. If I can't give it 4 or 5 stars, I don't leave a review.

I simply want to read a book and be entertained, horrified, educated, or enchanted.

Books are magical. I don't want to ruin the magic by focusing on typos or dangling modifiers. That takes away all the fun. And by magical I mean the most moving, sweet, funny, scary, educational or powerful book you have on your shelves. We all experience the magic in different ways. It might be the characters, the writer's technical proficiency or something else.

What is the most magical book you've ever read and why?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Apologies To An Editor

I feel the need to post a broad, sweeping apology to my past, present, and future editors. Why, you might ask? Editors put up with a lot. As a writer, it's easy for me to slap words together and call it a story. An editor has to take those words and make them sparkle. It's a messy, sometimes thankless process--and that's being generous. Editors have to deal with divas, whiners, and OCD authors on top of making the book beautiful. I don't envy them, but I sure do appreciate them. I'm convinced they all possess a magic wand, a thick skin, and some serious coping methods. So without further ado...

1) I'm sorry for my irritating writing habits, such as multiple instances of eyes rolling. No, not on the floor, just with attitude. I can't seem to stop with just one character. Or two. Or five. They all have to do it. I try to catch the worst of it, but the rolling eyeballs are a compulsion. Same goes for characters drinking coffee. And sitting at a table. And...sigh...you know the rest. If it helps, please know I started an Editing No-No Notebook. I might need a second one soon.

2) I'm sorry for the plot holes big enough to swallow a town of 20,000 people. It's not intentional. The holes don't exist in my head. Don't laugh--what I mean is, those plot holes don't exist in my mind as the story unfolds. There seems to be an occasional 5 second delay from my brain to my typing fingers, during which some information seems to get...um...what was I saying?

3) I'm sorry for joking about hemorrhoid cream. No really, I am. On the bright side, at least I didn't try to write a poem or a song verse to plug into the story. That would be far more painful to read, trust me. Your brain would need serious exfoliation after that.

4) I'm sorry for my bad habit of mixing up "me" and "my." I really do know the difference--cross me heart and hope...ahem...cross MY heart and hope to die.

5) I'm sorry for my dyslexic tendencies. In the 5th grade, I missed getting 100% on my periodic table test by one question. I put "5" instead of "F" for iron. The teacher made fun of me for such a "stupid" mistake. He was a rat bastard, but fortunately, you are far more understanding. Funny enough, the character I killed off in Ch. F...er...5, bears a striking resemblance to him.

6) I'm sorry for the late nights you spend fixing my mistakes. I feel like I should buy you a monthly subscription to a wine club. Or coffee club. I guess it depends on whether you need to dull the pain, or barrel your way through it.

7) And last but not least, I'm sorry I twitch whenever I read or hear the phrases, "Revise," "Please revise," "Cliche, please revise." and "Not another &*%! cliche!" I'm also sorry you have to type it.

Editors don't get the credit they're due (though they're very popular at writing conferences). With my apology, I'll also extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to the hard working editors out there--especially mine. And for the record, I received my first pass edits BEFORE I wrote this, so this shouldn't be considered a bribe. *cough*

Jess

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lasting Impression

We've all have that book (or books) that made such an impression on us, we come back to them again and again and again. We have lovingly worn copies on our bookshelves, and recommend it to friends without fail. These are the books we refuse to lend out because we don't want to risk not getting them back. You know the kind of books I'm talking about. Here's a list of my top books:

1) The Wolf and The Dove by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. This is the first romance book I ever read (though not one I recommend for a 12 year old). She will forever be one of my writing heroes. She was a pioneer for the genre, and a master story teller of her time.
2) The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. Every time I read this book, I'm blown away by Mr. Coelho's ability to write such a powerful tale, in such simple, poignant words.

3) The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King. Not everyone enjoys the master of horror, but this series is one of my favorites. I also enjoyed his book On Writing. It's a must for writing hopefuls.

4) Steering by Starlight by Martha Beck. For anyone who has lost sight of their path, this book is amazing, frank and fun. Ms. Beck has a way of making you feel like you're talking to your best friend.
5) The Key Trilogy by Nora Roberts. This is one of my all-time favorite fiction series. I lo-o-ove mythology. This book prompted my very first email to an author. I had to know if the myth was real or a creation of Ms. Robert's imagination. Her publicist was kind enough to answer my questions.
6) The Stephanie Plum Series by Janet Evanovich. Any time I want to laugh and be thoroughly entertained, I pick up one of these books. And I don't care if I ever learn if Stephanie picks Ranger or Joe. This series has me howling with every new book.

7) The Dark Hunter Series by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Nobody knows how to write an alpha male quite like Ms. Kenyon. She's also a world builder extraordinaire. Love, love, love her writing. And I get to meet her in October. It will be my first official, geek out, fan girl moment.

8) Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss. This book is my favorite inspirational book of all time. My kids think it's weird that I read it often. What's not to love? It's upbeat, short and sweet, and it rhymes! I have to give props to Dr. Seuss, lyrical master.

This list is by no means complete. I have utmost respect for so many talented authors out there, I don't have time to list them all. Needless to say, I do my part to keep starving authors off the streets. And as a reader first, I'm thankful they've shared their talent, and fed my reading addiction *cough* I mean hobby.
Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite book?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stress free? Not a chance.

I teach yoga and I used to be a life coach. It stands to reason that stress should be easy for me to handle. If you listen closely, you'll hear everyone who knows me laughing hysterically. I work well under pressure. I don't deal well with stress. I'm living proof that the two are not mutually exclusive. I do yoga, I try to meditate, I exercise, I eat clean and I take my vitamins. So what gives with the stress?

Part of it is the sheer volume of my workload. I'm writing a 90,000 word novel right now. It sounds doable. Except from start to finish, I'll have written a 90,000 word novel in about 45 days. A few of those days will be spent editing. At least 7 of those days will be spent editing a previous book in that series. Yet another 5 days will be spent finishing details on the first book in the series, answering emails, promotion and any other number of things. None of this includes my full-time mom gig. Or the invites, phone calls, etc., I receive. Or life in general (hello mountain of laundry). If my calculations are correct, I'll be cranking out that novel in about 30 days, give or take. Ever tried to write 3000+ words a day, every day for 30 days straight? This is why many writers are raging alcoholics.

Instead of going completely crazy, I'm looking at it like this: Every day brings a new set of opportunities and challenges. Stress is a fact of life. You'll see countless books, articles, CDs, and workshops on how to eliminate it. Eliminate it? Give me a break. Stress is necessary. I'm not talking about the disgustingly high levels of stress many of us carry around on a daily basis. *raises hand with guilt* I'm talking about the ebb and flow of good times and stressful times. It's cyclical, which gives me hope.

I don't know about any of you, but I always learn from my stressful times. I've learned a LOT over the past couple months. Including how necessary it is to take a day or two off each week. I've also learned that friends and family have a difficult time understanding when I say, "Sorry, I can't go do that because I'm working," or "I'm not answering the phone because I'm on the floor in the fetal position having waking nightmares about deadines," they don't know I mean it literally.

I love my career, stress and all. I love that I gain a clearer perspective with each stressful day. I love that I had a brief affair with coffee, but learned we just couldn't get along. I love that I have my yoga mat to go to when I need a little break. I love that my kids and husband are so understanding of my 12-17 hour days on the computer. I don't know how to live a life 100% free of stress, but I don't think that's the point. The idea is to take each day, and roll with it. Stress happens, but it doesn't have to derail you. Here's what helps me:

1) Don't forget to breathe--it's crucial for things like staying alive, but it also combats stress.
2) Don't forget to eat--proper nutrition is more than dark chocolate, coffee and more coffee.
3) Decompress with a show--my guilty pleasures are reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
4) Exercise--this does not include walking to the coffee pot for a refill, or chasing magpies out of your garden because they keep eating the damn...*inhale, exhale* Did I mention breathing also works for anger management?
5) Sleep--I haven't mastered this one yet, but I hear it's important. If you get 8 hours a night, let me know if it helps.

What is your best stress-reducing ritual?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Happy Half New Year

We're halfway through another year. Can you believe it? I don't do the typical New Year's resolution, but I'm a big goal-setter year round. The halfway point of the year is a great time to look at what you've accomplished and what you have yet to achieve. Here are my mid-year goals:

1) Read more. I read every day, but recently that has dwindled down to a mere page or two. This is a big deal for someone who can read three single titles a day. My excuse is good--I've been busy writing. But writers are always readers first. Not to mention my TBR pile is out of control.
2) Finally submit my middle grade. This is the story nearest and dearest to my heart right now--and the one I hope will catch an agent's interest.

3) Meet my August 1st deadline for Stone Cold Destiny with a smile on my face. I've never had to write 90K in 2 months (less if you count the days I'll spend editing Stone Cold Seduction and Stone Cold Revenge). It's a beautiful opportunity to test my limits. And a learning experience that back-to-back releases aren't for the faint of heart.

4) Enjoy my family. This should have gone at the top of my list. My husband has Saturdays off for the first time in a year. After I meet my deadline, I'm not going to let those August Saturdays go to waste. I might even brave an amusement park for my kids. *cringe*

5) Shop for a pair of killer heels. Superficial, yes, but something I haven't done since high school prom. Don't ask how many years ago that was. I'm ashamed to admit it out loud.

6) Chase 3 more professional opportunities that are so crazy and out of my comfort zone, I can't help but be freaked out over them. I have a few ideas, but haven't settled on how high I want to reach. I think I'll pick the most impossible, improbable goals of the bunch. Why not?

7) Take the entire month of December off (not including edits, if necessary). I'll need the down time after the busy, productive year. :)

What are some of your goals for the rest of the year?
Jess

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Essential Writing Tools

Writing these days requires much more than a computer and a vivid imagination. Surprised? I was too. I began compiling a list of essential tools every writer needs to make it in this business. The real nuts and bolts of the industry, so to speak. A few items might surprise you...

1) A picture of Johnny Depp dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow (bonus points for a life size cardboard cut out). Motivation is key, as any fellow writer will tell you. Johnny Depp doesn't motivate me to write necessarily. But he's parked next to my laptop, so naturally, so am I.

2) A good thesaurus. The four inch thick kind, but not for looking up synonyms. Puh-lease. It's the perfect superlative desk accessory to make you look learned erudite AND it doubles as a great perch platform for your coffee/tea/cocoa mug to rest. Okay, maybe also for synonyms.

3) Internet access. If you can't spend countless hours on all forms of social media and email, you're not really a writer. It's not a waste of time, despite what you're thinking. We're networking, learning dialogue, and how noticing how people socialize. And...and...oh, we can also look at different pictures of Johnny Depp dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow. Yup, it's a must.

4) A stress ball. You know, one of those balls you squeeze the hell out of when you can't find more pics of Johnny...er...when your work-in-progress is frustrating you or the thesaurus doesn't have propound the right word for your scene. It's also handy when your kids/spouse/dog tries to interrupt you. Make sure your aim is good.


5) Scratch paper. Not a notebook, notepad or any other form of organized paper. I'm talking about tiny scraps of paper ripped from a magazine, notebook, checkbook or even a napkin. Writers know the best ideas come when you have nothing handy to write lots oodles of words on. Only scraps will work suffice.

6) Music. This is a biggie. Most writers I know have their favorite music they write to. Some create fussy elaborate play lists. I use it to drown out the sound of the kids fighting. It's all about concentration.

7) Coffee, tea, alcohol or your beverage of choice. A drink is super duper critical for a writer's success. Why? I have no idea. We type, we drink. It's a addiction dependence thing we writers have. Take up writing and you'll understand. It's how we cope come up with our best creative work.

8) A cell phone headset. This comes in handy when you're writing at your local coffee shop (like all cool writers do), and you get weird looks for talking to yourself. Or your characters. Ahem. When you get strange looks, point to the ear piece, smile and shrug, then resume your imaginary conversation.

Do you have any great items in your writing tool box?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wanna Get Lucky?

Until recently, I haven't been a lucky person. I've never found a leprechaun, and I think colored rabbits' feet hanging from a key chain are nasty. I could comb through a field of clover for days and never find a four leaf clover. If I entered a giveaway that allowed unlimited entries, and I had 99 out of 100 of the entries, I'd still lose. Twice I've attended writing conferences with a table full of beautiful baskets you could enter to win. Two different friends told me with all confidence, "I always win a basket." To my disbelief, they did. Now, they might have rigged the whole thing. One of the women dropped enough money on tickets that she could have gone out and purchased half of the items she was trying to win. But that's beside the point.

They had Lady Luck on their side, along with the unwavering knowledge that they would win. It paid off. So recently I decided to give it a shot. I stopped saying "I never win anything" and changed it to, "I'm going to win something without dropping $200 or sleeping with the judge." (You have to be specific like that).

Guess what? In the last month alone, I won a gift basket at a conference, recent releases for the entire month of June from one of my favorite publishers, AND a year's supply of chick feed and accessories. Don't laugh--we raise the most awesome chickens you'll ever meet. Seriously, how can you not love a chicken that looks like this:

Sorry, I'm easily distracted...getting back on track... My point is, when I changed the way I thought about it, I started winning (though I haven't managed to nail the winning Lotto numbers yet). Wayne Dyer said, "If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." I believe it. This has been a year full of huge, fantastic changes for me. It's the combination of serious, hard work and the belief that Lady Luck will shine down on me. You might have a different name for it, and it doesn't really matter. The main idea is to believe that it's possible. Now, I wasn't all that attached to winning chicken supplies, but it was still a fun prize. I also wasn't specific about what I would win, just that I would win. And I'm thankful for it.

Think about an area of your life that could use a little luck, and believe it can happen. Be specific (especially if you don't want a bunch of chicken supplies). Or don't be specific and simply imagine that something--anything--amazing will happen.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear about how you want to get lucky. If you've already had a streak of luck, what was it?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Top 10 Reasons Why I Write

At the urging of my fab writing partner, I've compiled my top 10 reasons why I write to show you why I do what I do. Please seek the advice of your physician before attempting to recreate any of the following suggestions. Side effects may include dizziness, nausea, confusion, irritation, and a sequin allergy.

I write because...

1) It's the perfect cover for being crazy. If you say "I hear voices in my head" followed quickly by "because I'm a writer," it's a green light to be crazy. In fact, you can even...shh...they're talking, hang on a second...

2) I get to read as much as I want and pretend I'm doing research. Same goes for ogling...er...perusing covers with bare-chested men in the name of creating cover art. Ahem. But back to research; I can write off some of these books on my taxes. This is a no-brainer, people.
3) I love that people think you're a "world famous author" if you've published a book. I rarely bother to correct them. Hey, I'm famous in the world where I live with me, myself and I.

4) It's perfect if you're anti-social, which sadly, I am. I can avoid makeup, people and traffic. That's my ideal day.
5) It beats a regular 9-5 job. I've tried a number of them, and have come to the conclusion it's better if I'm the boss. Being the Queen of Everyone makes it difficult to take orders with any kind of grace.

6) I can get out of housework by pretending to log working long hours on the laptop.

7) It beats running for office. I'm not good with cheating, taking pictures of myself or rewriting history. I'll leave that to the experts.

8) I would rather deal with fictional drama, than the BS of real life any day. Plus, anyone who irritates me enough gets an instant cameo in one of my books. You have been warned.

9) My career as a Vegas showgirl and Rockette never panned out. All of those beautiful sequined outfits, wasted...

10) Last but not least, I love it. I love creating characters and letting them unfold in all of their imperfect glory. I love late nights writing (most of the time). I love typing The End. I love the sending the last set of revisions off. I love the whole messy, brilliant, agonizing, heart-wrenching process. Even if no one gets to see my high kick.

What do you love about writing?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Writer's Struggles

Writing is my passion and my career, and I love, love, LOVE it. But as every artist will tell you, the creative process holds it's fair share of agony. For me, the writing part is easy. I even hold a certain fondness for the editing process. But putting myself out there via the world wide web? Not so much. In fact, the thought of promoting myself keeps me up into the wee hours of the morning. mind racing with anxiety.

So I've decided to come clean about my struggles.

I love public speaking and plan on doing a few video blogs in the near future. If you put me in front of 10,000 people to give an impromptu speech on tighty-whities versus boxers, I'll wing it and probably enjoy myself. If you ask me to sit in front of 3 people and tell them why they should buy my book, I might have a panic attack. Seems ridiculous, doesn't it?

My writing is personal. I believe that's true for every writer. We write from our soul, regardless of the genre. This fuels some writers to a place where promoting themselves is a no-brainer. They believe in their work so much, that spreading the word is effortless. A labor of love, but a fun one. I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum. I joke about world domination and tiaras as a way to poke fun at the ego. I have a strong personality, which sometimes translates as being arrogant. I believe in my writing, but I never know if readers will too. I can't tell you how you're going to react to my book, which is, in essence, an extension of me. Self-doubt is an insidious, ever-present energy in my life. Far more so than arrogance.

I recognize that promotion might never be a strength of mine. Publishing isn't a solitary journey. Each author has a team who works their butts off to make a book the best it can be (a fact I'm eternally grateful for). Does that make promotion easier knowing I have so many amazing people on this journey with me? No. It freaks me out. What if I let them down? What if I let readers down? What if, what if, what if?

Damn that self-doubt.

One of these days, I'll figure out how to tweet effectively. I'll learn how to blog better. I'll engage readers and create a strong web presence. Maybe I'll even find someone who can give me a tutorial for dummies. But for now I'll stress. I'll worry and wonder. And I'll write every day, hoping it will be enough to make up for my fear of putting my books out there. I'll face it all head on, hoping it will work out beautifully. At the end of the day, I'm still a writer. My fear of promotion gives me the neurotic edge I need to fit in with the writing crowd. ;)

As a writer, what's your #1 struggle?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Writing Is For Mad Scientists

I'm often asked about writing formulas. It never fails to make me smile. What you might not realize is that writers are actually mad scientists in disguise. There's an art to it that requires a heap of crazy, a dash of lucidity, and a whole lot of stubbornness. Here are a few of my ingredient lists. Keep in mind, I take a minimalist yet haphazard approach to writing. I never measure, I never plan, I just toss it all into my head, shake it around, and then see what happens.

* The (Im)Perfect Writing Recipe*
-Caffeine. Any kind will do, but fully loaded keeps creativity running at optimum levels. Acceptable substitutions include alcohol and hot chocolate.
-A great idea. Run this by a trusted friend first. It doesn't always sound great once it's out of your mouth. I speak from experience.
-Music (optional). I have a thing for Maroon 5 and old school hip hop. Sir Mix-a-lot was a lyrical genius.
-Time. Yes, I realize this is laughable. Who has time? Alas, you must hoard this coveted, mystical ingredient. You don't have to travel far, but it will require stealth, sacrifice and a barricaded door.
-Talent. This is debatable, but I do think a modicum of talent goes a long way toward a tasty result.
Mix these ingredients together and shake well. Add a pinch of humor and a dash of determination until you're satisfied with the finished product. Find multiple taste testers. Expect sour faces and bad feedback. If any taste testers require medical intervention due to a bad reaction, please toss it all and start again.

*The Editing Recipe*
-A thick skin. Alligator skin is not a viable substitution. It's all mental, making it nearly impossible to find.
-Time. I recommend keeping extra time around. You'll need it.
-Caffeine (see Writing Recipe for appropriate substitutions).
-A large cache of curse words, tissues and a pillow to scream into.
-Paper bag for hyperventilating is optional.
Read thoroughly, and then grab the pillow. Curse. Repeat as often as needed. Find your thick skin and keep it in place. Add generous amounts of time and caffeine. Pray your editor will be happy with the result. Curl up in the fetal position and cry if needed.

*The Character Creation Recipe*
-Go to your nearest mall, park, and/or family reunion. Take notes on every batshit crazy person you see.
-A baby name book or telephone book. Chose names.
-Read Frankenstein.
After taking notes and choosing names, piece together your masterpiece, limb by limb. Think flawed. Apply the electric shock of creativity to bring your characters to life. Reattach traits and limbs as needed. Drink more caffeine. Note--Don't create a story with characters who are all beautiful, wealthy, perfect, etc. This creates nausea in many readers.

Disclaimer: Do not attempt these recipes unless you're under the watchful eye of a trained, jaded writing mentor.

Another disclaimer: This is ALL tongue-in-cheek humor. I've been told that some people aren't sure if I'm serious or joking. I'm rarely serious because it's not as entertaining.

What are your crazy writing recipes?


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Tiara & Me

I've mentioned my plans for world domination. These plans are still at the forefront of my mind, and I've come to the conclusion I need a tiara. A big one. I plan to wear it every day. In fact, I might even have multiple tiaras for various tasks. A grocery shopping tiara, a writing tiara, a holiday tiara and even a coffee date tiara. It's a known fact people take you seriously when you're wearing a tiara.

Here's why I'll be wearing one:

* A tiara is sparkly. Sparkly things have a mildly hypnotic affect. The better to enthrall you with.

* A tiara screams royalty. We've established I'm the Queen of Everyone. Now I need to look the part.

* A tiara is like a hat on a bad hair day. You save time and don't have to worry about frizzy, unkempt hair. Well, you should, but I won't.

* It's the new accessory. However, if your tiara is bigger than mine, I will ask my minions to remove it. They'll replace it with an "Always a Minion, Never a Queen" baseball hat free of charge.

* A tiara is a better focal point than forehead grooves or chin hair. Or so I hear.

* A tiara makes a better first impression than a hooded sweatshirt from your high school years. Trust me.

* Hair always looks better dripping with jewels, faux or real.

* Finally, tiaras just make me happy. Who needs a better reason than that?

Jess

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Long Road Ahead

Osama Bin Laden is dead. I feel equal parts relief and fear of retaliation. More than anything, I think about the long road ahead. I want to see our troops come home. I want to see our nation come together regardless of politics, religion, race, social status, etc. I hope we come together to heal.

The psychological wounds and scars are the ones we need to address. This should be priority #1 when we get our troops home. Mrs. Obama has launched a new campaign called "Joining Forces." This concept rocks. And it's critical to support this campaign (again, regardless of your political preference). I think we should extend this to include everyone affected--the entire nation--but especially those struggling on a daily basis. I think you'd be unpleasantly surprised to know how many do.

Pay it forward. Pass on a kindness. Help your neighbor. Hold open a door for a stranger. Let traffic merge. Ask someone how they're doing and be interested in the answer. Listen and care. Take coffee or a meal to a single parent or military family. Mentor a child. Write a letter to a soldier overseas. Better yet, write a dozen. There are hundreds of ways we can each help. What will you do?

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” ~Helen Keller

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Living Juicy

I once read an article about a woman who approached life with the motto "Live Juicy" (as far as I know, this should be credited to SARK). I love, love, LOVE this idea. Ideally, we should squeeze every last delicious drop out of life with the time we have. Not to mention, saying I live juicy is a great way to raise eyebrows. *wicked grin*

How can we all Live Juicy? I spend as much time as I can with ideas, actions and events that burst with flavor. For me, it's writing, reading, doing yoga, tinkering around our mini farm and dreaming up wild new projects. I also try to surround myself with people who share this same zest for life. And I never take things too seriously (which drives serious people crazy--an added bonus). Here are a few tips for squeezing the most out of your life:

1) Laugh often. Unless you're being tortured with tickling, laughter is the perfect way to feel better instantly. Call a friend who makes you laugh. Watch a hilarious movie. Read a funny book. Do anything that makes you dissolve into those deep belly laughs that roll through your whole body. Don't drink too much liquid before doing this.

2) Decide to enjoy life. It really is a choice. Bad things still happen (an unfortunate fact) but you can choose to be happy. Or wallow. Wallowing is a lot less juicy.

3) Be creative. Whether you enjoy creating new spreadsheets or sculptures, indulge in the pursuit of creativity often. If you go with spreadsheets, use lots of color. And pie charts--they're juicy.

4) Socialize. The trick here is to be around people who make you feel great. You might have a standing coffee date or a dozen scrap booking divas you meet with. As long as you look forward to the get together, you're living juicy.

5) Get a hobby. Something you do just for YOU. Purely selfish, purely fun. Maybe you have a thing for hiking. Or what about baking? Whatever feels juicy should be a priority (bonus points if you can combine all of the above!)

The point is to feel great most of the time. Life has a lot to offer, but it's up to you to enjoy it to the fullest. Why not make it juicy?
Jess

Monday, April 25, 2011

Difference of Opinion

One thing I loathe about social networks--people go nuts over a difference of opinion. Allow me to explain my point of view (and yes, this is all my opinion). Dictionary.com offers multiple definitions of the word opinion. The two that support this blog are 1) a belief or judgement that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty, and 2) a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.

Please note it says a personal view, which means it is unique to you. The person next to you might share your opinion about one subject, but disagree completely regarding another. Does that make them stupid, evil or wrong? Nope. Not even a little bit. Nor are you stupid, evil or wrong. Opinion isn't right or wrong. As the first definition states, it's a belief (not fact) you have, though you may be unable to substantiate it.

I've recently seen polls circulating on Facebook regarding religious, political and hot button topics (like Coke vs. Pepsi). I LOVE that people are willing to share their opinions. It doesn't mean I agree with all of them. Others are appalled and immediately unfriend that person. If someone fires off an offensive statement, I hope you remove him/her from your cyber life. However, if you are offended because someone holds an opposing view on, say, religion or politics, that's a big red flag. To check your ego. So what if they don't agree with you? Who cares if they prefer red and you prefer blue? What does it matter if you drive a Ford and they drive a Chevy. If these things cause you to freak out, you have a problem.

It's called intolerance.

It's not your job to change anyone's mind. Don't waste energy being judgemental. Life doesn't end if you buy organic and your neighbor prefers conventional. The world still turns if you're a cat person, and your sister likes dogs. The world is a big enough place for every belief, every opinion, every taste. Why not appreciate the differences? You don't have to agree. You have the right to choose your personal view. That's all an opinion is.
Jess

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Friends

I've mentioned my brutally honest amazing friends before, but I feel the need to whine elaborate a little more. Over the years, I've made, lost and remained friends with some awesome people.  They're I'm lucky. This is one truth I have no problem admitting.

My friends:

1) Tell it how it is, even though they're sometimes wrong when I can't see it for myself.

2) Lift me up with a verbal bitch-slap words of wisdom.

3) Understand my plans for world domination quirks.

4) Laugh at my jokes because they think  I need validation I'm hilarious.

5) Threaten me with bodily harm inspire me to move forward with my dreams.

6) Pretend to listen while I vent about life's irritations.

7) Think I'm as brilliant as they are and I can't believe they bought it.

In a nutshell, they seriously rock. Without them, I'd have way too many conversations by myself. I'm so glad they don't miss out on those. *grins*

Jess

Friday, April 22, 2011

Supernatural Creatures

I can now officially say my urban fantasy series will be released this fall (Sept 5, Oct. 5 and Nov. 5 respectively). Woot! In honor of that, I've made a list of my favorite supernatural creatures of all time. Why? Because unlike vampires, werewolves and demons, these creatures are often overlooked. I have a soft-spot for these supernatural underdogs.

1) Phoenix. I have a fondness for anything that can go up in flames, and then rise from the ashes as a younger version. I guarantee women would line up for miles if they offered the process as an anti-aging treatment. Phoenix also rock their bright colors. And they fly!

2) Gargoyles. My all-time favorite. They're stone. They live on top of castles. They offer protection from demons (or they're awesome rain spouts, depending on who you ask). Either way, what's not to love? Sure they look creepy, but they can fly!

3) Griffins. Super cool, mythological half-horse, half-bird of prey with a few lion traits thrown in. My three favorite animals all in one. And they can fly!

4) Harpies. Okay ladies, be honest. Who hasn't wanted to turn into a screaming, raging, beast who rips up any man that pisses them off? While flying! Wait...I'm the only one?

Oh. Moving on...

5) Pixies. How can you resist a small, quick, magical troublemaker? Who flys? Kim Harrison has forever changed the way I view pixies. If you enjoy urban fantasy and haven't read her Rachel Morgan series, you should. Stat.

6) Dragons. Shimmering scales, dagger-like claws, the ability to breathe fire AND they can fly.

7) Supernatural, the TV show. Sam & Dean Winchester. They don't fly, but they don't have to. And the writing is awesome.

This is a brief list--there are so many more! But for now, I'm distracted and must go watch Supernatural. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.
Jess

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Genius or Crazy?

I know I've discussed taking risks before, but I believe the topic should be revisited on a frequent basis. Why? Because if you want amazing things to happen, you have to take risks. Willingly. I try to do scary things often. And by scary, I mean the kind of risk that makes the butterflies in your stomach go nuts, your hands shake and your heart beat faster. You might even feel nauseated from the combination of nerves, fear and excitement.

There's a fine line between genius and crazy.

The genius of taking a risk is this--you stand to benefit in ways you can only imagine. The crazy part? You can also lose big. Personally, I'm okay with crazy. I once had an elderly man I'd never met before walk up to me and say, "You're not normal, are you?"

What, do I have a crazy beacon? Wait...don't answer that.

On most days, I'd take exception to a comment like that. For some reason, on that strange day, it was one of the greatest compliments I'd ever received. You want to know why? This gentleman was a writer. A poet, actually. He sensed the creative spirit in me (what some might call the "crazy"). I don't remember the man's name. I only remember the impact he had on me. He inspired me to start writing again.

And let's face it--I'm not normal. I work hard not to be. Normal is fine if you're looking for a boring, pale and safe life. Yes, I put boring and safe in the same category. I'd rather experience every crazy thing life has to offer in bold, brilliant detail. Safety be damned.

Many of us have heard of historical figures like Thomas Edison, Rosa Parks, Henry Ford, Joan of Arc and Ben Franklin, but did you know that before they were considered geniuses (accidental or intentional), they were first called crazy? They dared to step out of the box and take a risk. They dared to fail. In the end, it paid off. They each changed history. Genius or crazy?

Don't get me wrong, I don't put myself in their category. Yet. *wiggles eyebrows* My point is, they led by example. You can't dispute their genius, their nerve or their success. I would much rather be a crazy genius, then a normal dud.  How about you?

Jess

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gratitude List

I think gratitude is underrated. Sure we have a day devoted to worshipping turkey, stuffing and pie (and that rates right up there as one of my favorite days of the year), but I'm more interested in every day gratitude. What are you thankful for this minute? This week? This year? Here's my top 10 list:

1) The endless supply of amazing opportunities just waiting to be grabbed. I've received an abundance lately.

2) My husband and kids. They offer love, support and hugs. You can't beat hugs, especially if they come with messy faces and grubby hands. Those are the best.

3) My friends. Mine seriously rock. They make my heart smile. Often. They also keep me honest and real. Who needs a therapist with friends like that? (that's a rhetorical question)

4) Sleep. Oh, the delicious feeling of a nap or a full 8 hours of sleep. I hope I get some soon.

5) My yoga practice. It has saved my back, my breath and my mind on many occasions. Seriously people, without yoga, I'd be one stiff, cranky woman.

6) My home. It's my sanctuary. As a wannabe introvert, it's the place I most love to be. And it's a good thing too, since I work from home.
7) My creativity. On any given day, I have a multitude of ways to express myself. I've recently expanded my creativity to coloring. Relatives, please expect a number of crayon drawings for Christmas.
8) Sunshine. When the warmth of the sun touches my skin, I'm instantly in a better mood. Too bad I live in an area where sunshine has been more rare than a Bigfoot sighting.

9) Chocolate. My family knows that without it, I would need to be humanely euthanized.
10) Books. I've mentioned I have an addiction to reading and it's one I feed on a daily basis. I read almost anything I can get my hands on. Including, but not limited to shampoo bottles, appliance manuals and the occasional anatomy book.

What's on your gratitude list? Feel free to post in the comments.
Jess

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tough Love

I'm a fan of the tough love approach when learning a new skill or working toward a goal. Compassion and understanding are all well and good, but a pat on the back is meaningless if you haven't really accomplished anything. Don't get me started on the growing epidemic of entitlement. Failure is a necessary part of life. The big test is whether or not you keep going. I'm going to follow my 10 Things theme and attack the top 10 excuses with a tough love approach. *laughs with evil glee*
Excuse #1--I don't have enough time.
Give. Me. A. Break. We all have 24 hours in a day. Do you really think an extra hour or two would make much difference for a person who can't prioritize? Nope. Not a bit. Make time. You have absolute control of your schedule (argue all you want, but it's true). If you have a goal, make time. If you're not willing to make time, pick a different goal.

Excuse #2--I could never do that.
You're right. With a defeatist attitude, you can't do it. Positive thinking--constantly--makes all the difference. Ask yourself, why can't you do it? And after your brain has filtered through the million BS excuses you create, ask again. Why can't you do it?

Excuse #3--I'm too old.
Again, you're right. You're so old, I'm surprised you can even walk upright. In fact, maybe you should go sit down. And while you're resting your ancient bones, think about this--when you hit 40, 50, 60, and 70, I want you to tell everyone why you're too old to do anything. I doubt they'll buy it either. I haven't heard of any medical studies that prove wrinkles and gray hair prevent you from accomplishing anything. Age is a number, not an excuse.

Excuse #4--I've got kids/dogs/plants/dust bunnies who need me.
Okay. But what's your excuse? Once again, there are no medical studies that prove kids/dogs/plants/dust bunnies prevent you from doing what you dream of. Kids/dogs/plants/dust bunnies don't want to be your scapegoat. In fact, dust bunnies prefer you to be occupied elsewhere.

Excuse #5--I'm scared.
I doubt you'll admit that out loud, but if you do, I'll give you credit. The biggest dreams we chase might inspire fear. As long as it's coupled with excitement, you're on the right track. If fear is paralyzing you, get a friend to administer a swift kick to your backside. Pronto. Fear is good as long as it doesn't stop you.

Excuse #6--I've tried before and it didn't work out.
Obviously you didn't do it right. Try again. Try as many times as it takes. Don't wallow in failure. It's not an attractive place for anyone to be. Besides, it doesn't get you any closer to your dream. Failure allows you to fine tune your approach. It forces you to get better and better. Appreciate the opportunity.

Excuse #7--I don't have the energy.
What do you have energy for? Watching your favorite show? A latte run? Breathing? Chasing your dreams energizes you. The first step is always the most difficult, but as you get closer and closer, your energy will increase. Either that or you need to exercise more.

Excuse #8--I don't have any support.
Then you're not surrounded by the right people. Limit or eliminate time spent with negative friends/family, because their negativity can do a number on your confidence. A negative attitude is contagious. That's one thing you don't want to catch. Find a great support system.

Excuse #9--Someone else has already done it.
And? Unless your goal is to be 15th President of the United States or Founder of Microsoft, who cares if it's been done before? Do it better. Do it with your unique flair. Do it regardless.

Excuse #10--I have a lot of other reasons why, but you wouldn't understand.
First, they're excuses, plain and simple. Second, you're right. I don't understand how you can spend so much time and energy thinking about why you CAN'T do it, instead of focusing on why you can, should and will do it. It's a mindset, my friends. Start with baby steps if you have to, but make sure your mind is pointing in a positive direction.

The formula for success is simple. Think positive + Move forward + Ignore the excuses your brain creates + Reward yourself along the way + Never lose sight of your goal = Celebrate reaching your goal.

It works. I promise.
Jess

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

10 Things--World Domination

I couldn't wait for Friday to post this one.

The second installment of 10 Things involves an idea that's been at the forefront of my mind this past week: World Domination. No, I haven't been reading comic books. I'm serious. I have compiled a list of the top 10 reasons and rules for my World Domination plans, in no particular order.

1) I'd begin with a platform of honesty. I will make no promises I cannot keep. Forget lower taxes and elimination of the national debt. I'm only interested in personal gain and want to be upfront about that.

2) No politics whatsoever. I won't campaign. I won't take out obnoxious ads or indulge in a smear campaign. You don't have to vote. In fact, I won't give you a choice. I'll just take over. Simple, right?

3) No division among the classes. I would be the Queen of Everyone. You would be my minions. You would be allowed one group called ME. Minion Equality (ME) would be responsible for making all minions feel equally subservient. To me.

4) Education would be required. My minions must all read and write. The Queen of Everyone has an image to uphold. Intelligent minions are a must.

5) One minion would hold the esteemed position of He Who Kills Spiders For the Queen of Everyone. To simplify, I would call you "Bob" which doesn't stand for anything, it's just easy for me to remember.

6) Reality shows would be banned. Forever. Remember, intelligent minions are a must.

7) Chocolate Fridays will become law. Every Friday meal must have chocolate listed as the main ingredient. Why? Because I'm the Queen of Everyone and I happen to love chocolate.

8) All minions must be able to spell and use proper grammar. Anyone caught using "text speak" or some variation will be forced to read the complete works of Shakespeare and translate each line into "text speak." Ten times.
9) A minion group known as MIU--Minions in Uniform--will be established. This minion group will still be viewed as equal to other minions. However, MIU members will be ogled. Often. MIU will also perform various tasks that require heavy lifting, bending, twisting and flexing.

10) All minions will be eligible for benefits including but not limited to medical, dental, vacation, sick time and obnoxiously large bonuses. Why? Because I understand that a happy minion is a productive minion.

If you're considering World Domination, you're welcome to use any of the above ideas. Keep in mind, I will use them against you when I eventually rule the world. Until then, best of luck with your grand plans.
Jess