Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gratitude/ Blog Tour De Troops

Hello! I hope you’re enjoying the blog tour de troops. You were probably just on Judy Gaine’s blog Writing After Dark where you learned about her fast-paced thriller Perfect Copy. After you’re done please visit author of young adult lit, Jeremy Rodden, at his site, Toonopolis.

Both of their books look great, and personally I can't wait to read them!

Today if you comment on my post you will automatically win a free electronic copy of Starring in the Movie of My Life. Read a review of it on Susie Kline’s wonderful motherhood blog, here:
She is also rewarding anyone who comments on her review today a free copy of my novel, so tell all your friends! 

I am very proud of this book; it was recently honored in the International Book Awards for two categories: Women’s Fiction and Young Adult Literature. It was also honored in the Indie Excellence Book Awards in the category of Chick Lit. That means a lot to me, because I know just how many FANTASTIC indie authors there are out there, so I’m sure the competition was fierce. I’m also very grateful to be working with the wonderful indie authors who are also involved in the tour de troops this weekend.

Gratitude is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Last weekend our neighborhood in North Minneapolis experienced a tornado. It happened at around the same time as the one in Joplin, but luckily here there was only one fatality. However, people’s homes were destroyed and streets were literally ravaged. 

The above picture doesn't really do the storm justice. Trees were down everywhere, and pavement was torn up. Lots of people are now homeless. It's very sad.

I was at the library with my six-year-old, Eli, when the tornado struck.

We were told to go into a windowless meeting room to wait out the storm. After about half an hour it was safe to leave. We checked out our books, and I held Eli’s hand in the parking lot to make sure he wouldn’t run in front of a car. On our drive home we talked about ice cream and the books we checked out. Emergency vehicles sped by us, but I still had no idea just how lucky I was to be driving home with my son, safe and happy.

Our house is fine, and my husband Rich and our baby Pauline are also okay.

Of course I’m grateful, because had we lived half a mile down from where we do, or had one of us been stuck outside or in our car when the storm hit, it might be a different story. Life is so random, and part of the unique joy of living is in the knowledge that at any moment our luck can change on a dime.

This weekend I focus my thoughts on the people who are struggling from the aftermath of the storm. I donated to the Red Cross relief effort, which is an excellent cause, and if you’re interested in helping the victims in Joplin or here in North Minneapolis you can find out more on their website.

Of course, another great cause is supporting our troops! For more information on how to help go 

Please comment, and LEAVE YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS so I can send you the code for the free e-book. Then continue on with the tour, or even go back to the beginning at Amber Scott's site so as many troops as possible can receive e-books and kindles. Each time you comment you are entering to win a free kindle for yourself, and you're also winning another e-book for another troop! Stay safe, and count your blessings!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bumped Review

I loved Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling series, so I was excited to hear she had begun a new series, Bumped. Then I went on Amazon and read some advance reviews. Although some liked it, people were disappointed; they had trouble connecting to the characters and the slang. A lot of reviewers compared it to Handmaid’s Tale.
Since I had never read Handmaid’s Tale I decided to tackle it first. And I can now say there are definitely some similarities. Both novels are about young women who must reproduce soon or risk being shunned by society. These women are in situations where they can’t be with the man they love, and were they to have a baby it would immediately be taken away to be parented by someone else. Both novels question both the nature of motherhood and freedom itself.
But that’s where the similarity ends. Bumped is marketed as a young adult novel, and rightly so. There are no adult characters for the reader to relate to; all the adult characters are superficial baby-snatchers who encourage teens to procreate at an early age, without regard for their safety or emotional well-being. The story takes places some time after 2025, and a virus has spread which has made anyone over the age of eighteen unable to have kids.
Because of this teenagers must shoulder the burden of propagating the human race and everything from their slang to their clothing is designed to put them in this mindset. One thing I had trouble with is how completely the teens in the novel had bought into this. Sure, the future of the human race is dependent upon them, but most teenagers are naturally rebellious. If adults wanted them to have sex and babies, wouldn’t they just naturally be against doing so? Also, I’m not sure what sort of statement this book is making about adoptive parents; it almost seems to imply that the bond isn’t as strong if the parents aren’t a blood relative.
Whatever. These are picky and perhaps unfair points. Overall, I liked the book and I thought the Amazon reviews were a little harsh. McCafferty created an intricate new society in this book and I marvel at her creativity. The action snowballs towards the end, and I was definitely kept guessing. Yet I thought the two main characters, Harmony and Melody, stayed true to how established them to be while still giving them the ability to grow. I wish the perspective of people who were trying to adopt had been represented in the book as well, but that’s not where the author decided to go with the story.

Be sure to stop back tomorrow, when I participate in the blog tour de troops. You'll win a free  electronic copy of Starring in the Movie of My Life just by commenting on my post, and you'll also win a free e-book for a troop. For more information, visit

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blog Tour De Troops

This Sunday I will be participating in the blog tour de troops, along with many other indie authors. It actually starts on Friday; we'll be linking to each other blogs, and posting about gratitude. If you visit my blog on Sunday and comment on my post, you'll automatically win a free electronic version of Starring in the Movie of My Life (format of your choice). You'll also be winning an e-book for a troop! Plus, you can visit other author's blogs, comment, win their e-books, and more e-books for more troops. It's a win/win for everyone. The bloggers are sponsoring it, and the money will go to giving free kindles to the troops as well. So be sure to stop back on Sunday.! For more information, go to

In addition to that, a new review of Starring in the Movie of My Life will be posted over at

But if you can't wait that long, check out my latest review at A Tale of Many Reviews, .

Greek vs. Friday Night Lights

Two shows I’ve been watching recently are Friday Night Lights and Greek. I’ve seen every episode of each of them. I started watching Friday Night Lights back in 2008, during the writer’s strike. Since none of my usual shows were on, I ordered the discs off of Netflix because Entertainment Weekly so highly recommended it. Even though I don’t like football, I quickly became hooked on the stylistic filming, raw acting, subtle yet dramatic storylines, and the music that would accompany each episode.

Greek is another show I Netflixed based off of high praise from Entertainment Weekly. I figured it would be a good show to have on in the mornings while I worked out, because it would be entertaining and easy to follow. Since it was produced by ABC Family I assumed it would be okay for Eli to see should he get up and join me while I exercised. Well, I was wrong about that last part, but it is cleverly done and funny, the characters’ lives are involving, and even though I disparaged sororities while in college, I got into the show. Now that I work out down in the basement (so I don’t accidentally wake Eli up), I’ve been streaming episode after episode, and I watch while I’m chugging away on my elliptical machine.

So yeah, both shows are most likely written with a demographic in mind that is younger than the one I belong to, especially Greek. But it’s actually Friday Night Lights that has been alienating me lately. I really dislike Tami’s storyline this year. She’s the coach’s wife, and she’s the new guidance counselor in this tough, poor high school that isn’t unlike where I work. Her whole thing is you don’t need funding to help these kids, and let’s create homework centers after school and have the teachers volunteer their time, and we shouldn’t be suspending kids for fighting because they’re the ones who need to be at school the most.

I won’t go into why I disagree with all that (you can see other, past blog posts on similar subjects if you’re interested). But I will say this; while the show isn’t exactly vilifying the teachers who don’t see eye to eye with Tami, they’re not really representing their point of view either, at least not in a way I feel is equal. Nevertheless, at the end of a long day, watching this show does not help me unwind. But I’ll still watch it; I’m too involved in the characters to stop this close to the end. Besides, it’s a quality show. My personal feelings/biases aside, there is no denying that it is well done.

Greek I’ve been enjoying more and more. I’m getting close to being done with it; there’s one more season after the one I’m on, and that’s it. Some characters have already graduated, and others are facing graduation. I love how the characters have been allowed to grow, and most of them have grown a lot. The show’s central theme has become how hard it is to become an adult and figure out who you are and what you want to be. They’re all afraid in some way of letting go of the freedoms attached to being young. Who isn’t? When I watch it I don’t feel like it was so long ago that I was facing those dilemmas, even though it’s been a very long time. Nevertheless, watching it while I work out is a great way to start my day.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Are Men Really Like That?

I’ve never been a big Schwarzenegger fan, but even I couldn’t ignore the headlines from last week. How does a guy in the public spotlight hide an illegitimate child from his wife for ten years? Maria Shriver seems reasonably intelligent – perhaps more intelligent than he is – so I don’t get it. I’d like to think, were I in her position, that I’d have figured it out. Hopefully I’ll never know the answer to that question.
So this morning I read an article in the New York Times about how there is a certain type of man who is attracted to power, and who also starts to believe the typical “risk-reward ratio” doesn’t apply to him. In other words, they start to believe that they’re superior to everyone else, so it’s okay to take whatever they want without repercussions.
The good news? Not all men are like this! Whew. What a relief.
Because earlier this morning I was accused by an Amazon reviewer of not understanding men well enough to write about them in first person. When I told Rich, he laughed. “That’s probably true.”
I do believe there are fundamental differences between males and females; for instance, guys don’t hold grudges the way girls do. I’ve learned this from eleven years teaching experience. However, guys also don’t remember personal interactions in as vivid detail as girls do, if they even remember them at all. This I’ve learned from nine years of being married.
Oh well. This is a topic for more personal introspection.
Now for some shameless self promotion:
Last week I got some great news; Starring in the Movie of My Life was made an award winning finalist in two categories in the International Book Awards (women’s fiction and young adult literature) and it was honored in the Indie Excellence Awards for Chick Lit.
One other thing… over Memorial Day Weekend I will be participating in the Blog Tour de Troops to raise money for Kindles and free e-books for the men and women fighting overseas. Please stop back this weekend to read my post about gratitude, and to link to Susie Kline’s (at review of Starring in the Movie of My Life. You’ll be able to win free e-books just for commenting!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blog Gang - Kids

I was thrilled to be invited by Susie Kline at MotherHoot blog

to be a part of her blog gang. This week's topic was kids, and below is my entry on the tooth fairy. If you are here because of that, I apologize for my ineptness... I couldn't figure out how to add the code in a way that actually WORKED. So please leave a link to your blog in the comment section... I promise to visit and comment as well!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gotta Love the Tooth Fairy

Eli lost a front tooth this week. It had been a LONG time coming. For quite a while this tooth had been literally hanging by a thread, bouncing around in his mouth like a weeble wobble (it just wouldn’t fall out). Several times he bumped his mouth and blood would flow from his gums, threatening to stain our living room furniture. I’d try to convince him to yank that tooth out, or twist it out like the stem of an apple. He never would. Eli is far more patient than I when it comes to anything that might cause physical pain. I’m more of a “get it over with” type, but he was adamant about letting it fall out on its own.

He also has supreme confidence in the tooth fairy. At one point it looked like his tooth might fall out during a sleep-over with his grandparents. But he wasn’t worried about the tooth fairy finding him, because as he put it, “The tooth fairy can just use her GPS.”

He also wasn’t worried about his new bunk bed. “Eli,” I said, “are you sure the tooth fairy is going to want to climb all the way up to your bed? It’s pretty high up there.”
“Are you kidding?” he responded, with a hint of disbelief at my naiveté, “The tooth fair has wings! She’ll fly up there.”

He was also confident the tooth fairy would come through with a little something extra, because Max, who lives next door, told him you get two dollars (as opposed to just one) when you lose one of your two front teeth. Rich and I kept warning him that probably wouldn’t happen, but in the end she left him a dollar and a quarter.
I sometimes wish I could adopt Eli’s patience and confidence, especially in my work life. No need to rush, good things will come, we can avoid pain yet still benefit from rewards, and people who promise to come through for us, ultimately will. Maybe it’s wrong of me, but I hope to preserve that attitude in him for as long as possible. Eli believes in the tooth fairy, but he’s in no rush to lose all his teeth. He knows it will happen, and when it does, the tooth fairy will find him and she won’t let him down.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Belated Blog Post about Mother's Day

I hope everyone had a nice mother’s day. I did; I was able to celebrate both with my mother and with my children. However, as much as I love my mom and my children, that's not what this post is about. I feel more comfortable expressing my love in a less-public way. Instead, I just wanted to share a three-bullet point ramble about my thoughts on motherhood.

• A week after Eli was born we had his bris. Our family and friends were all gathered, and it was time for the ceremony. So my innocent baby was about to be introduced to the concept of pain. I had trouble handing him over, but my mom came up to me and suggested we stand out in the hallway. That way I wouldn’t have to watch him get cut. While we were waiting she said, “That’s the thing about motherhood. There will always be someone whose well-being you value over your own.”

I had only been a mother for a week, but I knew without a doubt she was right.

• Below is a passage from Starring in the Movie of My Life – forgive me if it’s pretentious to quote myself. But when I wrote this I tried to capture how I felt when I heard Eli’s cry for the first time. It’s my best shot, even if technically it’s fiction.

Have I ever given anything, everything I’ve got? “Everything” is one of those concepts that is beyond the human imagination, like the endlessness of outer space or the finality of death. I don’t even begin to know what everything is. But now is the moment to find out. Now is the time to push ahead because going back is impossible or at the very least, ill-advised. So I push and in an explosion she’s here, crying and suddenly, her cry is the best sound I have ever heard. It means she’s real, she’s complete; she’s alive. And now I know what everything is.

• One of my favorite parts of the Harry Potter series is Rowling's understated focus on the love between mother and child, how a mother will sacrifice herself for her son, and love him even in death. This passage moved me to tears the first time I read it:

Lily’s smile was widest of all. She pushed her long hair back as she drew close to him, and her green eyes, so like his, searched his face hungrily, as though she would never be able to look at him enough.
“You’ve been so brave.”
He could not speak. His eyes feasted on her, and he thought that he would like to stand there and look at her forever, and that would be enough.”

-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by JK Rowling - page 699

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How I Celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week

Did you know that this is National Teacher Appreciation Week? Don’t feel bad if the answer is no. I’m a teacher, and it wasn’t even on my radar. I still celebrated though. Here’s how:

Monday: In the afternoon there was an e-mail message from my principal, wishing the entire staff a good week, and telling us to celebrate by eating some complimentary pizza before we all work late into the evening for parent/teacher conferences. That was when I first realized it was my week to feel appreciated.

Tuesday: Early in the morning another e-mail in my inbox; this one was sent to the entire district staff from the wellness committee to let us know we’re all getting a free bottle of water on Wednesday. Well, that spurred a huge chain reaction. Some people thought this was a bad gift because it’s not environmentally conscious, others thought it was petty to dismiss any sort of gift. Then there were the people who commended other people for standing up for what they believe in, and finally there were those who sent sarcastic e-mails making fun of the entire issue (something about organic hemp hankies to wipe away the tears spilled by mother earth.) It was all very entertaining, and turned out to be a far better gift than the bottle of water I drank as I wrote this.

Wednesday: I ran into a newly hired teacher in the copy room. I asked her how it was going.
“Oh my God!” she said, with a laugh. “I worked for years in the private sector. I had no idea how hard this would be. Nothing can prepare you for this job.”
I told her to hang in there, and as I walked back to my classroom to prepare for the final hour of the day I was reminded of my early days teaching, and how far I’ve come.

Thursday: My Creative Writing students had their final short story due today. They were to get ten points extra credit if they read it aloud. I also brought bakery cookies to encourage them to read. Still, only a handful read. They’re a particularly shy class. Expecting to have a lot of free time at the end of the hour, I printed up the last chapter of a book I’ve been working on, but haven’t touched since Pauline was born eleven months ago. I read it aloud to them, and asked for their suggestions on how to proceed. I got a lot of really great feedback! Now I’m excited to write the next chapter, and I have them to thank for it.

At lunch my good friend Jarren was sick and needed to leave school to get antibiotics. She worried that she shouldn’t neglect her after school responsibility of keeping score for the Lacrosse team. I encouraged her to take care of her health and not worry about her job. She hung her head in despair, and talked about how she wants to dig in her back yard in hopes of finding abandoned money, because her full-time teaching job, part-time tutoring and score keeping gigs just don’t pay the bills.

Friday: I plan to go to Eli’s school carnival in the evening, and tell his teachers how much we appreciate them.

I didn’t go into teaching expecting constant praise, or huge perks (like pizza on a night when I’m required to work late or a free bottle of water), but I also didn’t anticipate the national climate we are now in. I can’t remember a time when teachers have been more under attack.
But if I left the profession I would miss it. Every day it seems there is at least one moment when a student makes me laugh. Sometimes I see a kid’s face light up with new knowledge, and occasionally one will contribute an insight into a class discussion that is truly brilliant. And a handful of times, I have had students thank me for being their teacher. Those are the moments I will always carry with me.
So if you want to celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week, contact a favorite teacher, and thank them. Believe me, it will mean a lot.