Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

~Happy New Year!~

Photo Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

May the next year be even more friend-filled, joyous and exciting than 2013 was!

While that's a tall order, because my 2013 included many happy and exciting moments, I have faith in the universe that the best is yet to come - for each and every one of us.

Thank you so much for joining me on the journey!
Huge cyber hugs!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Squirrel!! Post: Can You Be Too Social On Social Media?

Today's post is supposed to be Theme Park, but I'm not feeling very thematic, so I thought I'd post about a writer's frenemy, social media.

As all writers know, we are encouraged to build "author platforms" on as many social media sites as possible. For the introvert and the socially awkward, this can be exceedingly painful.

I've taken the Myers-Briggs Personality test, and at one time had a 50/50 split in introvert and extrovert. As I've grown older, I've slid more to the introvert side, but I still enjoy talking with and meeting new people. It's even better when I meet people who have the same interests I do, and that's the wonderful thing about social media. We are able to connect with people who are like us - for me it's people you might find at a Comic-Con or library event - but we don't have to go anywhere.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

The bad thing is that if you're socially awkward, social media can lead to Social Media Distress (SMD). SMD is the feeling that you're an idiot, have no right to interact with other people on any level, that everyone hates you and you should go eat worms.

I have identified three recurring ways I can be afflicted with Social Media Distress. 

1. Where is everybody?

The feeling you are being social on social media to only yourself. I hate that feeling! Just by joining social media sites you are putting yourself out there to be ignored. Any insecurity you've ever had is magnified the moment you send your tweet or publish your post. It's like being the new kid in school, approaching the popular kids in class, and having them turn away from you.

2. Comment Diarrhea

I'm very talkative. I've had a therapist friend explain that I'm an "external processor" and I think he's right. I have to say "it" to process it and get it out of my head. It's probably why I'm a writer. However, I've had people be unkind about my inability to shut up. I've worked quite hard at learning to read bodily cues so I know when to stop. But, guess what?

You have nothing to help you out on social media. I can't see you! I don't know if your tone of voice is going "For God's sake, why doesn't she quit tweeting me!" I have no idea if I'm coming across as friendly, like some maniacal stalker, or, if I don't tweet back, as some arrogant jerk. Couple that with an Italian Grandmother who drilled it into me that we must be mannerly (How in God's name does one end a twitter conversation without being rude?), and social media conversations can totally set off an anxiety attack.

The sad thing? I love, love, love talking with people on twitter. I've met some really interesting people, but I don't want to freak anyone out by being too friendly. Does anyone know of some kind of cue people give to let you know you don't have to respond?

3. I Really Shouldn't Have Said/Done That

A past employer said I'm guileless. Many people who know me agree, and while that's a lovely trait to have, it also means that I don't have a good filter for what should remain unsaid. Add in being an external processor, and I have trouble, with a capital T.

I know enough to not talk about the hot button topics. It's more a matter of personal transparency and self-expression. Like, I express myself poorly, and make a fool of myself doing it. The moment after I push the publish button, I usually have a flood of thoughts like: "What did I just do?" "How stupid did I just sound?" "Is anyone ever going to be able to take me seriously again?"

For me, Social Media Distress occurs because I feel misunderstood. I'm really not a maniacal stalker, idiot, or arrogant jerk. Thankfully I am not important enough for people to really get uptight, but one misstep on social media for famous people and they can really be in trouble, which I don't think is very fair.

It's taken some time to figure out how I want to use social media to augment my personal and professional life. I've focused on a few sites for different purposes, instead of trying out every site for every purpose. I've tried to relax my personal and professional expectations for social media interactions. I'm learning how to enjoy social media, instead of letting it stress me out. And, amazingly, it's working.

Do you ever get Social Media Distress?
Do you have any tricks that helped you get over it?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Funny Friday Photos

Hello! I hope a great Christmas was had by one and all! Our was quite nice, as my parents and nephew came home and we were all together again. It's been different at our house since they moved, and it was kind of odd how it felt like they'd never been gone once they were back.

On the writing front, I have re-plotted Adven 2...again. This is the third time, but it actually sounds interesting this time, and I have an ending. The other two times I couldn't figure out how it all fit together into an ending, so I'm pretty hopeful this structure is going to work out. The bad news is that a good portion of what I've already written is going bye-bye. I guess that's typical, but I've never had to do that before, so I almost feel like I've passed some kind of test. In any case, when I reset the progress meter, that's why it's going to drop.

I wanted to mention, as someone in the cyberworld is giving my blog credit for the funny photos (which is wrong), that most of the photos come from I Can Has Cheeseburger, with a few coming from Pinterest. A long time back I wrote to ICHC and asked if it was okay for me to use their photos, and they gave me permission as long as I kept their logo on the photos. Since then, they quit putting on a logo, but I've continued to use the photos. I just haven't done the best job with attribution. Any other photos not from ICHC are labeled.

Last week's funniest photo is:

And here are this week's selection:

It's eyes are steely. Like it means it.

I find this funny because I think about klepto-dogs every time I go into a Pet Smart or Petco.

What IS this turtle doing?

Why would anyone shave a guinea pig? The resemblance to a hippo is uncanny, though.

There are just no words.

 Instead of a pun, I have two science jokes. 

For those who don't know - 6.022 X 10^23rd is a mole.

H2O2 - bad, bad, bad.

I feel guilty, but my favorite is the seal meeting the window. Who knew. Do you have a favorite?

Have an excellent weekend!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Funny Friday Photos and "I'm Reading a Book"

Happy Friday and weekend before Christmas!


That's me and James Rollins! Hah! I was only a little ridiculous - I forgot my books after he signed them. He had to remind me to take them with me. We waited to be around the last people in line (because the boys were with us), so I didn't feel too stupid.

The only other potentially ridiculous moment was while I was waiting in line Boy 2 decided to let loose a burp that reverberated in the room (I kid not.) I initially started to say something about it, but realized I was making things worse, since he was about ten feet away from me with my husband, so I shut up and reminded myself that I'll never see any of those people again. It's a good thing most of life is anonymous.

I feel the need to say that Rebecca Cantrell, who coauthors the Sanguine Series with James Rollins, is on my other side, but in one picture my husband took, she does not look good at all. In the other, she looks better, but I look like this:

So, I cropped her out. I would want someone to do so for me, instead of being immortalized on the internet with a crappy photo. I will say, she was very friendly and funny. In fact, both of them were. It was a real pleasure to hear them talk and to meet them. I'm very excited about the Sanguine Series, and will be giving Rebecca Cantrell's mysteries a try next!

Last week's winner for funniest photo is:

And here's this week's photos!

He landed on his beak!

You can almost hear it gasp.

Not really funny, but certainly cute, and I love the tiger's face in the top photo. When it snows and the wind isn't blowing, sometimes I'll lift my face to feel the snowflakes melt on my skin, and I feel like the tiger looks. 

It does!

It's not my caption, but on Cheezeburger it was "Otterbatch."

Okay. Yes. You see Loki down there. The video, I'm Reading a Book, was on Cheezeburger and it really did make me laugh! The overdub is not the best, but it's still funny (especially if you listen closely to the words) and it's about two of my favorite things - Loki and books. So, I included it. You'll just have to think poorly of me, if you're inclined to do so!

And, continuing with the book theme, the pun:

I won't be posting again until next Funny Friday Photos, so I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

My favorite was I'm Reading a Book, but as far as an actual photo, my choice is Otterbatch. What's yours?

Monday, December 16, 2013

For the Writers: To Hell With Expectations

Ah, where to start? This is one of those posts that has been rattling in my head for a while-- about three weeks, at least--and ties in to the post It's Just Books.

I've been trying to sort out a lot since releasing Finding Meara and joining the race for writing success, and I'm finally to a point where I want to share another tidbit of my quest for sanity in the crazy business side of writing. I'm sharing this only because someone might relate to my feelings/thoughts. I'm not saying everyone has to feel this way or embrace my thinking. This post is about how I've changed to better cope with the highs and lows found in putting your work out there for public consumption.

Last week Sarah Callender wrote a wonderful, totally relatable post on Writer Unboxed called Becoming a Roses-Smeller. She talks about enjoying the writing journey instead of focusing on the end goal of writing success. What I especially appreciated about the post was this quote:
"The funny thing? I knew it would be tough to get published. As a no-name without fancy connections or credentials, I was aware the odds were small and low. I knew this.
But I was someone who Accomplished Goals. I was a High Achiever, a Hard Worker. When I got my first agent four years ago, I really and truly believed my hard work and goal-accomplishing would result in a book deal... I had done my 10,000 hours of practice, and while getting a novel published was hard, I figured it was hard for those who hadn’t worked their tails off."
Why did I appreciate it so much? Because it's almost identical to what I thought when I self-published Finding Meara. I said all the right things (and believed them, too) but my thoughts also went something like: Sure it'll be hard. But I'll be different. I'll be amazing! I'll be fantabulous! Watch out world, here I come!

And then, when things didn't go as I expected them to, I had a bit of a reality crash. What did it mean that my expectations weren't met? If I changed my expectations, did that mean I was giving up? Was I letting go of expectations or letting go of my dreams? 

It didn't stop there, either. I'm ashamed to admit this, but my own sense of self was wrapped up with being "more" and "different." I wasn't sure, when my expectations floundered in the mud, if I could be just me in the world. The social worker, mother of two, wife of one. Forever, and nothing more.

That's about when I wrote the It's Just Books post. I was struggling to figure out exactly what it all meant. I also struggled hard against changing my expectations. If I didn't have the expectations that others did for my writing (selling X amounts of books per month, having X blog visits, etc...) it felt like giving up.

One night I was thinking hard on all the dreams I've had in my life, and it occurred to me that the only dreams that have come true is marrying my husband and having my kids. And I realized that, as far as dreams come true, those are two pretty good ones, and if those are the only dreams that will come true in my life, I had to be pretty grateful.

Then Thanksgiving free days happened, and I rode the emotional roller coaster up that little incline, and then I got a couple of three star reviews and rode the emotional roller coaster back down, and then I got a couple of five star reviews and back up I went... And somewhere along the way, I decided I had to embrace being nothing more than me in the world, because the emotional roller coaster ride was taking away more than it was giving me.

So, I decided to hell with expectations - mine, other's and everyone's. I quit obsessively following my Amazon rank or reading reviews, I backed off of the stress of having to be present everywhere on social media, and I quit daydreaming my life. I have much to be thankful for, and living in expectations takes away from that thankfulness. Nothing is enough when you need more. And that is where I was. I needed more sales, I needed more reviews, I needed more stars, I needed more followers, I needed more time, I needed so much so I could meet the expectations of a successful writer. It was never ending.

Today on Twitter (because I really do like Twitter) I retweeted this:

I hope to be a good writer. I hope to write stories people will enjoy and relate to. I hope that I will find readers who enjoy my stories. I am willing to wait for the dawn to come, though, instead of expecting the sun to rise on my timetable. And if the dawn never comes, so be it. I will have been writing, and creating, and living, and loving the whole time - and so I will still be the winner.

How do you deal with disappointment and/or failed expectations? What do you hope for?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Funny Friday Photos

Oh heavens, am I ready for the weekend. My husband has been out of town, and when that happens I don't sleep. It's like I'm on alert for any bad thing that might happen. Added to the fact that I have to get up earlier to get the boys to the bus before I get to work, and it's the weeks before Christmas Break at school... I'm just tired! Consequently, my brain isn't working and writing on Adven 2 has been a struggle. I'm still writing, though! Slowly.

I'm so excited for tomorrow! I am going to see James Rollins (and Rebecca Cantrell) at one of the stops on their promo tour for The Order of the Sanguine Series. I get to see my favorite author in person! James Rollins came through Denver a year or so ago (a two hour drive), but it was at night and in the middle of the week, so I decided to skip it. This year he's going to be in Fort Collins (much closer to me) on Saturday afternoon (he's in Denver today). Woohoo for me!

Because I tend to get really ridiculous when I meet people I admire in that kind of a situation, I'm not sure I'll do the whole "sign my book" thing. Honestly, I don't know what they're doing - if it's just book signing or if there will be some sort of presentation. It's at a library, so I'm hoping there's something else besides book signing going on.

But I bet you're ready to look at photos! Last week's winner for funniest photo, by a landslide, is:

Here's this week's offering:

I have to tell you a really cute kindergarten story. Earlier today, I was playing a therapeutic game which has rubber alligator pieces with a little boy. He said something about the alligators being bad and we'd have to kill them and skin them, and then they'd become alligator bags and it'd be funny because they'd be fashion. How does a five year old boy in a title-one school even think about the word fashion? So, when I saw the horse, that's the first thing I thought. "It's funny because it's fashion." Okay, maybe you had to be there, but it really cracked me up.

It is an uncanny resemblance. 

This is just wrong looking.

Aahhhhhhh! Run away!

Please just let me have some eyeliner. That's all. Just some eyeliner.

Can this count as the pun?

And finally, a public service announcement:

Do you have any fun plans for this weekend?
Which is your favorite photo this week?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Something Bizarre Happened: Animals Acting Crazy

Two stories for you today. It was a weird November.

Demon Dogs

All through November I’d left work late, and by the time I got out to my children’s school to pick them up, it was dark. Because both boys’ classrooms are near a back entrance, I’d park near the door, we’d grab their things, and then just go out the back.

One night we left at the same time as the boys’ former kindergarten teachers. We were chatting as we walked out the door, and the boys went down the sidewalk ahead of me. Boy 1 stayed closer, but Boy 2 went all the way to the curb, about twenty/twenty-five feet away.

All of a sudden, two shiny black dogs popped around the corner of the school. 
I have tall children and the top of these dog's heads reached their shoulders. They were leggy, thin, retriever-looking dogs, and they were surprisingly aggressive.

One stopped near the kindergarten teacher and began barking at her, hackles up. The other, also hackles up, crossed behind me and Boy 1 to where he was a few feet away from Boy 1 and barked at him. Before it could get too close, I pulled Boy 1 behind me, and started to move cautiously down the sidewalk toward the car, and where Boy 2 waited on the curb. I didn't want to move too fast and set off the dog's chase instinct. 

Photo Courtesy flickr/creativecommons/EddieB55
The dog that was barking at the kindergarten teacher was too fast, and I was too far away to do anything more than watch, when it stopped barking at her and ran at boy 2. Thank God the dog stopped about a foot or two away from him, hackles still up, and just looked at him. 

Boy 2 flinched like he was going to run and I yelled to him to stay still. He did, but the tension in his body and face screamed that he wanted to get the hell out of there. I pulled Boy 1 faster down the sidewalk and prepared to get bit, because there was no way I was going to let the dog bite Boy 2. I was in a quandry because I didn't want Boy 1 to be in the middle of a dog attack, but because of the other dog, I had to make sure I knew where he was.

The other dog solved that problem, though. It came up on the other side of boy 2 and then the first dog started to bark at him. I honestly thought "Oh no you don't!" I let go of Boy 1 and rushed up behind the one dog, shouting in as deep a voice as I could and waving my arms around, "You go home! NO! Go home!" I must have startled them, because both shied away, and went beyond boy 2 into the parking lot.

I continued yelling at the dogs, grabbed both kids and got us to the car, and then the dang dogs came around the car and barked at us some more! I'd already gotten the door open, so the boys piled in and I yelled more at the dogs, which worked to keep them away and I rounded the car and got into the drivers seat.

Sad to say, but I figured the two teachers were on their own. I heard them yelling at the dogs when I started yelling at them, but as far as I know they never moved from the spot where they initially stopped when the dogs came around the corner.

The scariest thing is that both dogs went straight for the littlest people. I'm just grateful that they didn't actually attack either boy. I was prepared to beat the crap out of both of them if they did, but I shudder to think of what might have happened if they both attacked at once. There was no question in my mind that I'd do whatever I could to stop them from hurting the boys, even if that meant I'd be the one to get hurt. It was crazy how non-emotional I was. It was just a fact.

Scary Squirrels

Have you seen the commercial where the squirrels attack the man in the white shirt and tie? If you haven’t, let me describe it for you. There are ten to fifteen squirrels on the ground and they slowly approach this man, tails twitching, with expectant expressions on their faces. The sheer number of squirrels kind of freaks the guy out and he starts to back up and that’s when the squirrels attack. They jump onto his chest and back and sink their sharp little teeth into his neck.

I found the commercial quite humorous until my sons and I went to the park the other day. We took a dirt pathway off the main pathand
Photo courtesy James Barker/freedigitalphotos.net
soon boy 2 said, “Hey, look, squirrels.” About four or five squirrels slowly approached me and boy 1, coming right to the ends of my shoes. They looked up at us with beady little eyes agleam with hopes of peanuts being handed out, I guess. However, what flashed through my mind was “Are they rabid and are they going to attack us like the commercial?”

Uneasy with exactly how close they were, and by the crow sitting up in the tree watching us like a harbinger of doom, I pulled the kids further down the pathway. And they chased us! Some kept cover behind trees, while others followed us brazenly down the pathway. I have to wonder what they would have done if we did have peanuts to give them. Maybe being peanut-less was the only thing that kept us from being attacked.

Did you have any bizarre goings-on in the last month?
Tell us about it in the comments!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Funny Friday Photos

Happy Friday to one and all! It's here. The weekend has arrived and is waiting with anticipation for all the fun to be had. I plan to write my little fingers off. And put up Christmas decorations.

Why the renewed energy toward writing book two? Because over the thirty-six hours Finding Meara was free, it was downloaded approximately 4,300 times worldwide and even moved into the Top 100 of the Free Kindle E-book chart in the US. It may not sound like much to some, but to me the weekend was monumental. Thank you to all who did download the book and I hope you enjoy the heck out of it! And thanks to all the people who have bought the book since. I so appreciate you, as well.

Another interesting statistic is that every post in November that had a picture or video of Tom Hiddleston in it has gotten over one hundred views. That's about double of what the other posts have gotten. I'm contemplating putting pictures of him on every post. Just kidding! That would be so wrong.

So! Here is the winner of last week's funny photos. I used the comments on Facebook as well to determine the winner.

Here are this week's photos! As most always, the photos come courtesy of Cheezeburger.

One warning. The meme-maker needed a copy editor for these first two, but they were still so funny I included them. There are many  I don't include because the grammar on the meme is so terrible, even though the concept/photo is funny.

To be honest, I don't try to be sexy. I already know if I did I'd look like the dog.

Actually, the top one is how I wish I looked!

And people still say dogs don't feel emotion.
I guess they've never looked closely at doggie expressions.

"I am?!"

My husband said I should include this one. Wonder what that means...

I love, love, LOVE the bottom right photo.

The way we look out here on the plains of the West, with nothing to stop the rapid air currents.

And the pun...

Satisfies both the science nerd and word nerd in me.

Do your plans for the weekend include holiday decorations?
Which is your favorite photo this week?

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Theme Park: Parenthood

My mother tells a story of when I was three years old and had gotten mad at her for something. Obviously I didn't believe she was doing a good enough job at mommy-ing because, in my anger, I yelled "I'm going to be the best mommy ever." She asked, as grown-ups do, "How do you know you'll be the best mommy ever." She says I looked at her, solemn as a heart attack (how's that for a cliche!) and said "Because I was a mommy, before."

Cut to several decades later, and I didn't think I was going to be a mommy, ever. First it took me forever to find my husband (that's a story in and of itself), and then I didn't seem to be able to get
Photo courtesy of artzenter/Freedigitalphotos.net
pregnant. Maybe I've mentioned it before, but I don't wait well. It was less heart-breaking to give up on the idea of having kids, and we got ready to move on to a life of just the two of us.

To make a long story short(er): we went to Cusco, I touched the fertility waters and within the year I was pregnant. Weird, huh? I found out I was pregnant on Mothers Day. Then, after Boy 1 was born, we decided that we'd try to give him a sibling, but only for three months and then give up. By that time I was getting old enough that the risks for all kinds of defects were increasing. But, the fertility waters were still working because I got pregnant in the first month. Boy 2's due date was for Mother's Day that year.

I call Boy 2 my bonus baby because I honestly never thought I'd have two children. I felt so lucky to have had one. And that is what spills out into my stories. My absolute adoration of being a mother. And my absolute belief that children are the best thing that can happen to people and deserve to be treated like the gifts they are.

Also a pretty constant theme (at least in the last several stories) is how parenthood will change a person. One of the first stories I wrote about that change is Bear Hug (which you can read here on Wattpad.) I don't want to say much because I don't want to give any spoilers to any of the stories I've written, but because I am so awed by the magic children weave into the lives of adults, it can't help but show up in my writing.

Do you think fantasy stories have room for characters who have children?


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