January 31, 2012

January's Greatest Hits

Really, it can't be the last day of January. Crazy! 2012 has started off with a bang, and I think I might have preferred more of a whimper.

This month I joined two challenges, the Ultimate Blog Challenge and BlogHer's January NaBloPoMo. Both required daily posting. I'm exhausted, but also really proud of some of my posts this month.

According to page views, the following were our most popular posts in January:

* Art of No
* You Had Me at Goodbye: Movies I Should Have Quit
* On Stephen King
* Our New Baby

January Highlights

We reached our 300th post this month, and two January posts (On Stephen King and Art of No) were featured on BlogHer.

I'm looking forward to posting in February and starting my Month of Letters challenge. Please consider joining me in writing a letter a day in February (only on postal days, so Sundays off!).

Hope everyone had a lovely January. February, here we come...

January 30, 2012

Starting or Stopping: That is the Question

Since January is coming to an end, I thought I'd look over all the prompts I didn't use from BlogHer's NaBloPoMo this month. One prompt caught my eye: Which do you enjoy more--the start of a book or the end?

Hands down, the beginning. But not the first few pages, the beginning third of the book. I love the excitement of getting to know the characters and connecting with the storyline. It's the beginning of a vacation to a new land.

If I love a book, I don't want it to end. Even an enjoyable happy ending is an ending. The only time I enjoy an ending is if I'm glad the book is over. That's not good.

Totally different opinion when I'm writing a book. I enjoy the beginnings of putting a story together, but I also find them the hardest to write. The middle is tough, too. My favorite parts to write are the meat of the story (from halfway to almost the end).

But, then there is the dreaded ending. My book club friends will tell you, we complain the most about endings. Either they wrap up too quickly, fall flat, or disappoint. Rarely do we all agree that an ending worked or made the story better. Knowing this, I find writing endings especially stressful.

I would love some other thoughts, from both readers and writers. What's your favorite part of the book? The start or the end? Does it change as a reader versus a writer?

January 29, 2012

Creative Diversions: ROW80 Check In

My creative juices have been flowing in abundance. It's a wonderful feeling. Last night, two of my daughters performed in their elementary school talent show. My baby performed with five other first grade girls as the Samba Sisters while my middle daughter performed with her friend to Lady Gaga's Born This Way.


Since my last check in, I've been knee-deep in talent show plans and last minute practices. I've spent very few hours at home at a computer. But did I let that stop my writing? Usually I would. An easy excuse. But funny thing about those creative juices... when they are flowing, I can't stop them. I filled up pages of handwritten thoughts on both my WIPs. It all came pouring out so fast, I hope I captured it all.

On to the ROW 80 Update:

Writing: Lots of planning, but no time at the computer. I'm hoping the notes will result in extra words the next few days.

Blogging: Every day here. My post about the Art of Saying No (To More Than Just My Kids) was featured on BlogHer's site. And Thursday, I hit my 300th post here!!!! with You Had Me at Goodbye: Movies I Should Have Quit. Plus, I posted two reviews at Mom in Love with Fiction. I will be posting another one this week.

Reading: Less than I'd like this week. I'm falling behind on my reading goals.

Editing: On hold for a week. I had to be honest with myself and the people counting on me.

Exercise: If running around constantly counts, I'm burning calories galore. I need to fit in some dedicated exercise this week. I find it's such a stress reliever for me.

My goal is to join some #teamsprinty #ROW80 wordsprints this week. I need the motivation to force those notes into words and progress. Hope to see some of you there.

How have your 2012 goals been coming along so far?

January 28, 2012

A Month of Letters Challenge

When I was a kid, my sisters and I fought over running to the mailbox. Whoever got there first was privy to the contents and could hand out the letters and look at the magazines and catalogues first. My kids don't run, to them it is a chore.

Few people send letters anymore. The only time my kids run to the mailbox is the few days before and after their birthdays. They can't wait to see who sends a card or a present. My mother is great about sending them mail for every occasion and sometimes out of the blue. Their faces always light up when they receive something just for them.

Back in the day, I had pen pals assigned through school and Girl Scouts. It was so fun to find out about someone through letters. Sadly, it's a dying art.

I still love to get a letter, but it happens less and less. In the last few years, I've even noticed fewer people send Christmas cards. It's a shame. There's something so personal about a letter and knowing someone took the time to think of you. An email is just not the same.

So, when I heard about the A Month of Letters Challenge, I knew I had to participate. The rules are simple:

* In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch.

* Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.

I hope you'll consider joining me. And if you love letters as much as I do, please leave a comment with a way to contact you and we'll exchange addresses. Who knows what we might discover about one another.

Do you love to get a letter? When is the last time you got one unexpectedly?

January 27, 2012

Free EBook Fridays: WoMen's Literary Cafe

What could be better than free eBooks? How about free eBooks every Friday?

Simply join WoMen's Literary Cafe, and each Friday you will be treated to a couple of free eBooks. The kicker... you will also be joining an amazing group of readers and authors. And don't worry my male writer friends, it is a site for men and women.

The site's founder is Melissa Foster, author of several bestsellers including Come Back to Me which I recently featured here. She is not only a talented author, but she is committed to sharing her knowledge with the writing and reading communities.

If you click on the banner above, it will take you directly to the Free eBook page. But remember, you need to become a member. 

Make sure and check the site often. There's always something interesting going on over there, whether you are a writer or reader... or like me, BOTH.

Happy eBook Friday!

Note: A little birdie told me the site will be changing it's name soon to clear up any misconceptions about men joining. But it'll still be the same great site!

January 26, 2012

You Had Me at Goodbye: Movies I Should Have Quit

So far this month I have not used any of the BlogHer NaBloPoMo prompts because my brain has been overflowing with post ideas. Today, I jumped over to take a look and had to answer this one: What movies have you turned off in the middle, and why?

Previously, I've discussed the three books I put down without finishing: Books I Quit and Why. Only three to date. But I'm much more willing to quit a movie than a book.

Why? First of all, my commitment to a movie is less. I haven't spent hours reading and trying to identify. I'm not someone who can put a book down in the first 50 pages... the three books I quit, I was halfway through.

Second, I don't need to turn off a movie. My body turns off on its own. I've rarely gotten off the couch, gone to the DVD, and physically turned off a movie. I simply fall asleep from lack of interest. However, if it's a horrible TV movie and it's on a Saturday afternoon, I have no qualms about grabbing the clicker and finding something else. The choices are too vast to stick with a movie that's not catching my fancy.

But, no matter how bad the train wreck, I will watch theater movies until the very end. I have never walked out of a theater before a movie ended. If I paid my nearly $10, I'm staying. I'm hoping it gets better, or at the very least, I'm enjoying my $10 popcorn until the very last kernel.

The movies I WISH I would have walked out on (and my reasons might surprise you):

Legends of the Fall - Could a writer try and top the level of depression in this movie? It was brutal, yet I couldn't look away. I don't care how beautiful the actors and scenery were, I wish I didn't have that movie in my head. Scene after scene of watching characters find new sources of misery.

New Year's Eve - I wanted light, I usually do. A sweet movie about love and starting a new year. This was one of the rare movie watching experiences where the writer in me took over. I spent two hours rewriting the script in my head: if only this couple was written out, that couple was beefed up, this storyline was trashed, this actor was replaced. On and on. I wanted to leave there and write a romantic comedy. One that was smart and engaging. I didn't, but I sure as hell wanted to.

Get Him to the Greek - First of all, I find Russell Brand less and less attractive every time I see him. But, I don't need to be attracted to an actor to enjoy a movie. Actually, a well-told story can make a previously unattractive actor quite charming. Alas, this was not a well-told story. It seemed like a one-liner that some idiot movie executive turned into an entire movie. It was not funny, instead it was offensive and off-putting. I'm fine if you offend me and make me laugh (hello, South Park), but not if you are just offensive.

Shutter Island - I blame my sister. I don't like stuff like this. I go to the movies to be entertained, not to have nightmares for a week. To this day, I cannot shake the image of those children in the water. I could tell in the first 30 minutes that I should have left. Actually, I should have never walked into the theater in the first place.

There are more, but these are the ones that pushed to the front of my brain. Funny, I can take disturbing and deep in a book any day. Prefer it, in fact. But I can protect myself by creating my own images. I can't do that with a movie. The producer, director, movie executive, and actor/actresses have taken that power away from me.

I think that's why I don't like a lot of books turned into movies. My own version is special, and the movies don't usually live up to it. But that's subjective. I could be wrong. (Don't tell my husband I said that!).

What movie did you quit recently? And why?

January 25, 2012

Making Better Choices: ROW80 Check In

"Using the power of decision gives you the capacity to get past any excuse to change any and every part of your life in an instant." Anthony Robbins

ROW80 Update

Writing: Have you joined a #ROW80 wordsprint? If not, try it out on Twitter. Weekdays starting at 2pm EST, ROW80 participants gather to write for a solid hour. Yesterday, I joined in late (2:40pm) and still managed to write 325 words, bringing my Sunday through Wednesday total wordcount to 1,436. Still below my 500 words a day goal, but I didn't write at all on Monday because my kids were home from school.

Blogging: Daily here and one post since Sunday on Mom in Love with Fiction. I love blogging and keeping the creative writing juices flowing, but I'm finding daily blogging stressful. I'm not one to shy away from a challenge, and I accepted two in January requiring daily posts.

In February, I'm going to give myself permission to post 4 times a week here. It's a less stressful goal for me, and I'm working on the Art of No per yesterday's post. A huge thanks to Charlie Damonsing who commented on my No post: When you say "No" to something you are saying "Yes" to something else. Amen! I may be saying No to daily blogging, but it's only because I want to say Yes to writing more on my WIP.

Reading: Finally back to it! I'm shooting for reading 50 pages a night until Sunday to see if it works to have a specific reading goal.

Editing: Behind on several projects, but it's my own fault. I set unrealistic expectations of myself. You know you are over-reaching when even the client is suggesting pushing deadlines off. Note to self: it's better to give realistic deadlines than to think you are impressing someone by giving a hurried date.

Exercise: Nothing Sunday, Zumba (with my six-year-old, too cute!) on Monday, and 3.5 miles yesterday. Not too bad. Finally reached my goal weight. Now comes the task of maintaining and not letting bad habits creep back in.

How's everyone doing with their goals so far?

If you haven't read Gene Lempp's ROW80 post this week, Harvesting Our Creative Potential, please do. It's a great reminder that forward progress is the goal. We, as writers, need to define what that means. It's not always about how many words we've logged in a week.

January 24, 2012

The Art of No

The economy has touched so many people's lives. Many families have been forced to make hard decisions. Many moms have gone back to work to help out. In our school, volunteer positions are not getting filled.

My life is full of many blessings, one of which is working from home. My husband shoulders the responsibility of our financial well being. Although I'm constantly busy, I feel guilty. Guilty that I don't have to juggle a full time job and children.

That guilt propels me to say Yes, to try and make up for all the missing volunteers at school and to ease my own guilt for being luckier than others. I also want my children to get a top notch education, and part of that falls on me.

The other day I complained out loud, "Why can't I ever say No?" My middle daughter overheard me. Not one to hold back her opinion, she said, "Just pretend everyone else is one of your kids. You say No to us all the time."

"Come on, I don't say No all the time," I said, emphasis on all.

"Yes, you do," she replied. I should have noticed the evil gleam in her eye as she continued, "Can we stop and have McDonald's after swim practice?"

Little pistol had me over a barrel. She knew I had chili in the crock pot at home, but I wasn't going down without a fight. "Yes," I said. Ha, ha. Take that.

She smiled. After swim, I bought McDonald's for the girls. Even though my daughter was just playing me, she taught me a lesson. My dinner was put off a night, and I spent unnecessary money buying food I didn't need. All because I said yes. I didn't take the time to think about how that yes would affect my evening.

There is a lot of power in two simple words: yes or no. I need to use one of my favorite parenting stall techniques on adults. The next time someone asks me to volunteer or give of myself, I should say, "We'll see." Then go home and weigh my options, see how my answer will truly affect me (and my family).

I wonder if that phrase will upset adults as much as it always does my children!

What are your best techniques for not overcommitting?

January 23, 2012

Search 'N Find: Spot the Similarities

What's the best part about a vacation with girlfriends? Freedom. Now I know what you're thinking... freedom from children. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a break from kids' activities, homework, and fighting. But I mean freedom to be myself.

During my getaway, my girlfriends and I shared everything from silly kid stories to our hopes and fears about what's around the corner to our childhoods. It was a writer's dream. I'm convinced everyone has a story to tell. As I sat around listening to people spin tales, I wanted to record it. There were interesting pieces I knew would tie together into an amazing piece of fiction.

What I love about women is that we can be different and appreciate each other. We can play board games, hike, watch Denver get their butts handed to them by the Patriots, drink wine, and laugh until our sides hurt. All in a matter of three hours.

One of the reasons Mom and I wrote Depression Cookies was to showcase how differently two women could view the same events and still come together in the end. There are paths in life, and choosing to focus on people's differences is the easy one.

Still focusing on the beginnings of a new year, I want to spend each day on this planet finding what I have in common with people, what can bring us together. Every time I meet a new person, I want to walk away with something we share.

I don't care where you come from or what you want out of life, there's something to tie you to any stranger on the street. I truly believe that. Spend enough time talking to anyone, and you can find a commonality.

I've lived in many states and different communities, and I have known women and men from all walks of life. But, at the end of the day, we are all trying to figure it out. We all have a purpose and a focus. Who knows what we could accomplish if we put our energies into coming together instead of tearing each other down.

As a writer, I find people fascinating. Trying to find what can bring the most unlikely characters together puts a huge grin on my face. Even the villains in a story are more interesting if they have ties to the heroes.

The longer we listen to one another - with real attention - the more commonality we will find in all our lives. That is, if we are careful to exchange with one another life stories and not simply opinions. Barbara Deming 

Why are differences so much easier to spot?

January 22, 2012

Hello, Life: ROW80 Check In

Hello, Life. I knew you were lurking around the corner, but I was so busy and so motivated I thought I could outpace you. I thought wrong.

After five days away, I was rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running. No task was too big. Unfortunately, Life had other plans. I came home to three kids with Strep. If that wasn't enough, we also found out my baby girl has Lyme's Disease. We think we caught it pretty early, but she's on antibiotics for 21 days. We'll retest then and see if she has to continue with another round.

Fortunately for me, insert sarcastic tone here, my kids' energy levels are never affected by sickness. They were home all day Wednesday and some of Thursday, but they were running around like crazy people. Sickness wipes me out, but they take one pill and magically rebound.

Speaking of wiping me out, my husband and I both succumbed to Strep. It was, quite frankly, stronger than our will to avoid it. I hope with five bottles of antibiotics floating around our house, we'll all be back to normal soon.

In addition to Strep, I have a head cold. Nothing is worse than trying to sit at my computer and type while my head is throbbing and my nose constantly dripping. I spent way too long trying to invent a laptop that could be used while I was flat on my back. Didn't come up with anything!

I'd like to take this moment to thank Life for humbling me once again. Every time I think I can't be stopped, get a little too smug, Life makes sure to step in and teach me a lesson. I hear you, loud and clear. *whispers while looking around nervously * But, I plan to make up for lost time this week.

Hopefully, Life didn't just hear that!

Do you ever feel like Life lurks, waiting to humble you as soon as you get in a good groove?

ROW80 Update

A huge thanks to A Round of Words in 80 Days for being the "writing challenge that knows you have a life." Another thanks to the medical world for antibiotics.

Writing: I did some mental planning and note taking for my WIP. But not much in the way of words. I'm looking forward to getting back to regular writing this week. Maybe joining in some #ROW80 wordsprints for motivation.

Blogging: Thanks to a guest post from Mom, I posted every day for a total of 1,017 words. I also posted in Mom in Love with Fiction, although I'm behind on posting reviews. Planning to post several over the next two weeks, so stop by and check them out. Managed to keep up with blog reading and commenting, though.

Note: Thanks to everyone for their suggestions on reviewing books you don't like. It helped so much!

Reading: Little to none. Head hurt too bad. ;-(

Editing: Finished a major editing project and on time. *woot*

Exercise: Ran for 4 miles and thought I'd die, so I took a few days off. Hoping to head back to the gym tomorrow. Thanks to ice and now, I have to bid adieu to outdoor exercise for awhile. *sniff, sniff*

Want to find out what I love so much about the ROW80 community? Check out the ROW80 participants here.

January 21, 2012

FOMO: A Curable Condition

When I lived in Colorado, I was surrounded by a wonderful community. I moved there with three girls ages 6, 4 and 1. I needed to surround myself with moms and friends, and I'm so glad I did. I made lifelong friends during my four year stint there, and now consider it my home away from home.

I was quite young when I developed FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. I didn't know what it was called until Word Spy sent me an email. (If you love finding out new and interesting words, check them out.)

I believe FOMO is a predominately female issue. My husband never thinks twice about missing guy events, and there are even fewer of those.

The longer I stayed in Colorado, the worse the condition became. My wonderful friends were good about getting out. We all encouraged each other to remember to feed our own souls, and not just those of our families. Still, I became overwhelmed at times with social options.

My oldest daughter has a tendency toward FOMO problems. She would go to an event just to make sure she wouldn't be left out of future invitations. She's so her mother's daughter. A tendency toward guilt and insecurity are leading indicators of being susceptible to FOMO.

Constantly relocating during my teen years set me on the path to FOMO. I wanted to fit into each location so badly, I would accept any invitation. This wasn't necessarily the best way to fit in. Desperation can be a turnoff.

But once I left a location, I left. It's easier that way. The fear of missing out was then displaced to the new location. That is, before Colorado. I knew I could never make the easy, clean break with my Colorado friends, and I'm glad I didn't. I still refuse to drive by my house when I'm in town, it's just too strange, but I love the feeling of coming home. In some ways, it's like I never left.

This experience is finally curing some of my FOMO tendencies. I realize my girlfriends still take me right back in, even though I can't be at every event and we don't get to talk all the time. It's a lesson I hope my daughter learns by watching me. After all, they say they do what we do and not what we say.

It's a simple idea that took me thirty some odd year to figure out... your true friends won't stop caring about you just because you don't always say yes.

Do you suffer from bouts of FOMO?

January 20, 2012

Honest and Respecful Reviews

I'm passionate about books and writing. I love all aspects of creating a story, from the initial idea spark to capturing the words and finally editing them. I'm accepting of wandering muses and sentences that take weeks to get right. I don't know which came first, my love of reading or writing. They are so intertwined.

One of the many things I gained through publishing my own novel was an immense appreciation for writers. It's not easy to stay with that creative spark and see it all the way to a published novel. I have great admiration and respect for the hard work and determination required to see a book through to the end.

All of that being said, some books are not successful. There are many reasons: the story is weak or ill paced, the characters are one-dimensional and lack rooting value, there's such an extreme need for editing I can't get to the meat of the story, etc.

As a reader, I also take responsibility. Sometimes a book just doesn't speak to me. Is it my frame of mind? Would I like it if I put it aside and read it years later? Did it come with such a high set of expectations (thanks to other critics or friend recommendations) that it couldn't possibly deliver?

I review books here and on my Mom in Love with Fiction blog. I pride myself on finding the positive in most every book. I truly believe every book teaches us something, even if it's just teaching us what we do NOT like.

I recently joined WoMen's Literary Cafe Review team. As an independently published author myself, I want to give back to my writing community and review independent and small press books. Plus, there are some great gems to be mined in these books.

Unfortunately, one of the books I just read for them underwhelmed me. I am struggling with writing a review that will point out the positive while also being honest and forthright with readers. I want to honor the author's efforts while also providing input that might help them succeed with future efforts.

Ultimately, I want readers to respect my reviews and know I will be honest and fair. Not all books are four and five star efforts.

To be fair, there are many books (and movies) I end up loving that were panned by critics. I hope all readers will remember that reviews are opinions. Reviewers can be wrong, and I'm more than happy to be wrong when I give a one or two star review. I hope there are readers out there that will appreciate something in the piece that I missed.

How much does a review sway your decision to buy a book?

When I review, I like to err on the side of positive feedback. I give many more five star reviews than one star reviews. But, I don't pad it. If a book really deserves a more critical review, I feel responsible to be honest. If I read a review blog that only gives high ratings, I don't trust them as much.

Nobody loves all books equally. I try to save my five stars for the truly stellar books. I like to average in the three to four range.

Which do you respect more, a reviewer who gives more five or one star reviews?

January 19, 2012

Bulging Belly Buttons: Guest Post by Angela Silverthorne

It's always fun when Mom stops by, and today is certainly no exception. Take a moment to read her post, and enjoy the often humorous difference between the generations.


Belly Button Bulging Banner

On a recent visit to see Tia, I commented on a pregnant lady whose belly button bulged like a balloon. I said, “I can remember being so embarrassed of my bulging belly button I put duck tape over it and wore two pair of panties.” Tia chuckled and said, “Mom, you need to write about it.”

Well, honestly what’s there to write about? It must be the new fashion to showcase the button. But I wonder? Are the same women who wouldn’t show their non-pregnant abdomen in the dark to their husband now getting rather bold? There’s no doubt I was excited and happy about my pregnancies; I wanted to tell everyone. I would have considered wearing a banner on my forehead. I might have considered a shirt slogan. But belly button exposure?

I’m the one who grew up with the I Love Lucy show. When Lucy was pregnant, she wore a tent. Her attentive husband didn’t see her bulging belly button; he couldn’t. And her demure nature caused him to be so gracious. He wouldn’t even allow Lucy the uncomfortableness of having to sit or disgrace herself by having him take her bag to the hospital, giving the impression she might be an invalid. Character was on the line. Protocol was sacred.

Have we turned an era curve? Something like the 1960s? Those brazen hussies had love-ins, sit-ins and sex anywhere. Skirts rose up to heights of no imagination. Bras were burned. Is this the new feminine badge of honor, the belly button bulging banner?  I’ve noticed a few proud women sporting the ultimate banner, displaying a stripe of brown pigment drawn straight down to the exit sign which could serve as further proof of brashness or braveness. Now the idea is taking on a new meaning.  

Maybe it’s a new form of freedom? Bare bellies are shining proudly in Zumba classes, beaches, and on the red carpet by some of our favorite stars. All of this makes me wonder... if I were young today, would I? Could I?

What’s next? Bare Breasts Bouncing Bodaciously?

January 18, 2012

Our New Baby: ROW80 Check In

My life is truly blessed. I am the oldest of three girls and now have three girls of my own. My sisters and I have all girls... seven in total. Until yesterday.

Congratulations to my sister, and Blog/Webmaster, Dana Newbrough on the arrival of her second daughter. I can't wait to meet baby girl #8!

Welcome to the world, Sydney Mae Newbrough
Born January 17, 2012 at 6:36pm
7lb 3oz and 19 inches long
She joins big sister, Samantha Paige Newbrough

ROW80 Update

I arrived back in Maryland last night at 11pm, so my Sunday to Wednesday update is not too exciting. Still, I managed to accomplish some goals. More importantly, I'm rejuvenated and ready to tackle my writing in particular.

Writing: Trying to use my airport time effectively, I managed 750 words yesterday. 750 words written in a notebook. I should post a picture of the writing. So messy. The words were coming so fast, and I didn't want to try to find a plug for my laptop. I'm excited to write more tonight.

Blogging: I managed to repurpose some old posts while on vacation, but I wrote a new one yesterday for this blog and Mom in Love with Fiction. I even managed to stay on top of my ROW80 comments and sponsor duties.

Reading: Score! I read two books and several articles I've been meaning to read. One of the books was really disappointing, and I'm struggling with how honest to be in my review.

Editing: Made a lot of progress on two different projects.

Exercise: Two hour-long hikes in gorgeous Breckenridge, Colorado. It doesn't get any better than that.

Hope everyone is having a great week! I'm excited to check in with some word counts on Sunday.

January 17, 2012

Blog Tour: Come Back to Me, Melissa Foster

My love of words comes from years of reading. Few things make me happier than reading a good book. Even better, knowing the author cares about her readers and fellow writers.

One such author is Melissa Foster. This past November, I read her newest novel, Come Back To Me. It's a pleasure to share more about Melissa and her wonderful book with you today.


From Melissa’s website: Tess Johnson has it all: her handsome photographer husband Beau, a thriving business, and a newly discovered pregnancy. When Beau accepts an overseas photography assignment, Tess decides to wait to reveal her secret—only she’s never given the chance. Beau’s helicopter crashes in the desert.

Tess struggles with the news of Beau’s death and tries to put her life back together. Alone and dealing with a pregnancy that only reminds her of what she has lost, Tess is adrift in a world of failed plans and fallen expectations. When a new client appears offering more than just a new project, Tess must confront the circumstances of her life head on.

Meanwhile, two Iraqi women who are fleeing honor killings find Beau barely alive in the middle of the desert, his body ravaged by the crash. Suha, a doctor, and Samira, a widow and mother of three young children, nurse him back to health in a makeshift tent. Beau bonds with the women and children, and together, with the help of an underground organization, they continue their dangerous escape.

What happens next is a test of loyalties, strength, and love.

When I think about this book, I still get overcome with emotion. I read this book in two evenings. The last evening I was clutching my IPad, tears streaming down my face, until past midnight. I couldn’t put it down. I needed to be with Tess until the end.

There’s so much I want to tell readers, but so little I want to give away. From the first page, we are thrown into Tess Johnson’s life, a vibrant woman who has just found out she’s pregnant and soon discovers her husband is presumed dead. She fights desperately to hold onto him, refusing to believe he’s gone.
The reader knows he’s alive and trying to get back to her, but it’s her desperation and heartache driving the story. Her husband, Beau, is in a foreign land, facing challenges he can only begin to understand. The family he encounters there deserves freedom, and I felt for them and their struggles, but I wanted him to make it home to Tess. He survived a helicopter crash, but could he survive the escape to freedom?

My heart ached through every phase of Tess’s grieving process. Two friends stuck with her through everything: Kevin, Beau’s best friend, and Alice, her co-worker and best friend. Their mutual affection brings them together, ultimately in a way they weren’t expecting. A new friend, a potential client named Louie, enters the picture and helps Tess move forward.
The ending is exhilarating and heartbreaking. We journey through Beau’s trek home and Tess coming to grips with reality only to be thrust into them finding their way back together. The results are not cookie cutter or expected. No simple running into his arms. When they come back together, nothing will ever be the same again.

Melissa Foster crafts such a fine story woven around people we can relate to and care about, that you trust where she takes you.
Every reader defines a good book differently. But if you rate yours based on memorable characters who pull you into the pages with them, like I do, this is the book for you.  

Rating: 5 stars

Please note: I read this book as an ARC and will be participating in the blog tour, but in no way was a positive review guaranteed or asked for. My opinion is just that, mine.

From Melissa's Amazon page: Melissa Foster is the bestselling, award-winning author of three novels, Megan's Way, Chasing Amanda, and Come Back to Me. She has also been published in Indie Chicks, and anthology. She is the founder of the Women's Nest, a social and support community for women, and the WoMen's Literary Cafe. Melissa is currently collaborating in the film production of Megan's Way.

I am the proud owner of Megan's Way and Chasing Amanda, and I can't wait to read them. Melissa is not only a talented writer, she's someone who wants to build up other writers and give back to readers. She seems to have boundless energy! Please check out WoMen's Literary Cafe for first looks at amazing indie books.

And now, enjoy the Come Back to Me video:

January 16, 2012

Footloose: A Lesson in Voice (Rerun)

One more rerun... I'm in Colorado enjoying some me time. I hope you'll enjoy this blog post rerun from October 23, 2011.


I've been looking forward to the Footloose remake ever since it was announced, back when Zac Effron from High School Musical was attached to the project. Footloose was one of my favorite movies as a teenager. So much so, it's featured as one of Krista's favorite movies in Depression Cookies.

As I sat there with my middle school daughter, memories swirled and I missed my youth. Okay, I felt old. Plus, it was surreal to be watching the same movie I saw as a teenager with my preteen. Did I say I felt old?

In a post earlier this week, I asked readers to help me with voice. Specifically, "Do you think your voice has changed much since your teenage/young adult years? How so?" Most commenters agreed the voice doesn't drastically change, but the focus does.

I remember Footloose being a fun, teenagers-teach-adults-something movie full of dancing and great music. The remake struck me differently. I'm a mom now, and I found myself focusing more on the parents and their grief, the unbearable loss of their own child, than the kids and their dancing. Again, surreal. I still enjoyed the dancing and music, although I think the original had better music, but I got teary-eyed several times. Never felt like crying watching Kevin Bacon strut his stuff in the original.

So there you go, embracing life taught me something about writing. The priceless extra... I spent a fun afternoon with my preteen daughter.

What movie from your teen years would you like to see remade?

Just Breathe: ROW80 Check In

Taking time to smell the roses, to take a deep breath of life, is important. This is day three of my five days of getting away. I can say I've finally decompressed. My body has accepted the time difference and altitude change, sea level all the way to 9,600 feet and back to 5,495. I can finally breathe, figuratively and literally.

Breckenridge, Colorado
I wish I had something more profound to say about the need to relax. Something that would convince people like me, the ones that really need it. If you are wondering who people like me are, feel free to jump over to my post about Embracing Couches.

Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to the moment my kids run to me at the airport. I'll get a kiss from hubby, and everyone will tell me how much they've missed me. I'm not foolish enough to believe I've acquired the magic key to balance while away. Nor am I foolish enough to believe my kids' promise to stop fighting if I'll just come home.

One commitment I have made to myself this year is to enjoy life, to find a balance between what I love to do and who I love to do it for. Sometimes the best way to start is to reboot. Clear the mind of clutter. I didn't realize how much mental clutter I had accumulated.

Interesting thing about taking a break, the world didn't stop spinning. These few days of getting away have been my clutter cleanse. No crazy juice diets for me... just a few days with girlfriends.

I only hope I can bring my lessons home with me, and not let myself get caught back up in the web of life. Or at least not caught up enough that I can't figure out how to break free when necessary.

What clears your mind and allows you a chance to breathe?

ROW80 Update

I'm so proud of my progress this week, yet I've written few words. I've done tons of reading and lots of laughing and bonding. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I managed to prewrite posts and keep things running, but I've really disconnected from social media. I've realized, and it was quite the eye-opener, how much time I spend on Facebook, Twitter, emails, etc.

While I've been away, I have spent thirty minutes in the mornings and one hour during the evenings checking in. Guess what? I used my time effectively and did what I really needed to. I didn't have time to get distracted, because I wanted to get to the best distraction of all... fun.

Hoping everyone had a great week. I'm off to spend thirty minutes checking on all of you. See you Wednesday!

January 14, 2012

Rerun Saturday: YA Literature and Parent Involvement

I'm on vacation, so today is Rerun Saturday. Enjoy this post from early June 2011.


WSJ Article Suggests Darkness in YA Literature: I Say Parents are the Light

I woke up to Twitter buzzing with #YAsaves and commentary on the YA publishing industry. Not only do I have YA readers in my house, I read YA and write the YA voice (I wrote the 13-year-old point of view in Depression Cookies and am working on a YA novel). Intrigued, I clicked on the Wall Street Journal article causing all the stir.

"Darkness Too Visible" had a screaming tagline: "Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?" The article starts by identifying a 46-year-old mom of three looking for a YA book for her 13-year-old at a Barnes & Noble.

The article goes on to detail her horror at the book selections and states, "Profanity that would get a song or movie branded with a parental warning is, in young-adult novels, so commonplace that most reviewers do not even remark upon it." Then find new reviewers. I, for one, review YA books (as does my daughter) on my Mom in Love with Fiction blog and indicate if I think a book does not fit within Amazon's suggested reading ages. But, it's only my opinion. A parent should monitor what their child reads and watches on television by judging the material themselves or finding a reviewer they trust.

My other issue right out of the gate was the fact this mom was in a chain bookstore hoping for YA guidance. This is where readers are feeling the gaping hole left when smaller bookstores closed down. But, at the very least, head to your library and speak with the Librarian about appropriate book recommendations. Don't let the major chains and traditional publishers push anything down your throat, much less your child's. A great site for reviews of lesser known YA novels is my fellow Blogathoner's BooksYALove blog. She also has a great post today about this very topic.

Reading on, ". . . a careless young readeror one who seeks out depravitywill find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds." Wow! What a generalization. A careless young reader is only as careless as his/her parental guidance. Yes, a child can come across explicit material outside the parents' control, but responsible parents will follow up with a discussion.

I just read Max & Menna, a wonderful YA novel by Shauna Kelley. A great book, but not for young readers (I wouldn't let my 11-year-old read it for a few more years). The problem with the YA classification is its broadness. What category can really encompass 12- to 18-year-olds and consider 9- & 10-year-old advance readers? Movies aren't just PG and R, there's the middle ground of PG-13. Even then, a parent has to use his/her own discretion. Why should books be any different? Assuming no better labeling system is forthcoming, parents need to arm themselves with information. CSI is full of disturbing images and is ranked TV-14. It's a guideline. I've seen episodes I wish I hadn't seen, much less a young teenager.

The article then points out what they consider the flip side of the argument by stating young-adult novels "validate the teen experience, giving voice to tortured adolescents who would otherwise be voiceless." Amen. Kids suffer inexplicable horrors and some need to know they are not alone. More than that, kids (considering their maturity levels as judged by their parents) should understand we don't live in a utopian world where bad people don't exist. But wait. "Yet it is also possible . . . that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them . . ." Nothing normalizes rape, incest, abuse, etc. Nothing. To suggest that is preposterous.

As a kid, I devoured Judy Blume books. When Forever hit the shelves, I begged my parents for it. The answer was No. They did their research. I snuck a rogue copy anyway, and guess what? My parents were right. I wasn't ready. Hmmmm. I'm sensing a theme about parental involvement.

The article then goes on to respond to an author's quote comparing books to what kids see on the Internet: " . . . one depravity does not justify another. If young people are encountering ghastly things on the Internet, that's a failure of the adults around them, not an excuse for more envelope-pushing." But the material kids read is NOT a responsibility of the adults around them? I'm confused.

Finally, a ray of light. Politics & Prose, an independent Washington, D.C. bookstore, is singled out for provided a special "PG-15" area for books. An independent bookstore with a better system. Interesting. Yet the article criticizes this by saying, " . . . creating a separate section may inadvertently lure the attention of younger children . . ." Come on! Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Again, parents are you listening? Monitor what your children read.

For those who argue we need a system in place for parents who don't take responsibility for their children, I agree. Let me know what you come up with that actually replaces good parenting!

I'd love to know what you think. Please comment below.

January 13, 2012

Who Comes Up with These Days?

Superstition suggests Friday the 13th brings bad luck. According to Wikipedia, the fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom "Friday" is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen). So, no, it's not just the fear of a man named Jason.

But that's not all today is. January 13th is also:

* Blame Someone Else Day
* International Skeptics Day
* Make Your Dream Come True Day

Am I the only one who sees a contradiction?

Source: Wikipedia
My mind conjured up the Sesame Street children's song:

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

All in one day, you are supposed to be skeptical, blame someone else, worry about bad luck, and... make your dreams come true. Maybe my mind doesn't follow.

To make your dreams come true, you must put in a lot of hard work but many times you must take a leap of faith. A very difficult task for a skeptic. I guess you could blame someone else if your dreams didn't come true, but that's not until after your attempts at success. And dreamers can't focus on such silly things as bad luck.

I choose to think of today as Make Your Dream Come True Day. For me, it will be a day of reflection. What are my dreams? What steps do I need to take to fulfill them?

Do you ever wonder who comes up with these special days?

January 12, 2012

Lessons from Wonder Woman

Earlier this week I posted about the lessons I learned from my youngest daughter's first grade basketball game. Then, last night, my oldest daughter asked me to sit down and watch Wonder Woman with her. My daughter has been obsessed with superheroes, particularly Wonder Woman, since a very early age.

Source: Wikipedia
This past weekend I found Season One of the Lynda Carter television series, Wonder Woman. I was so excited to share it with my daughter. We sat down for some mom-daughter bonding and watched it.

I was struck by several things:

* Lynda Carter is gorgeous. Still is, actually, if you've seen an updated picture of her. She's a classic movie star beauty, in the same category as Natalie Wood, Doris Day, and Grace Kelley. These actresses were before my time, but I'm grateful for a mother who shared their movies with me.

* The television series is cheesy and flimsy. Really, Diana Prince is somehow in military intelligence and glasses alone keep Major Steve Trevor from figuring out who she really is. Then again, Clark Kent only hid behind glasses while surrounded by reporters. Yet my daughter loved it like I loved it. Good, clean fun.

* I get that it was campy, but I was offended by how lightly they took World War II and the Nazis. Everything was so glossed over and softened. I would rather them have made up a fictitious war than used the real thing. I never noticed this as a kid.

* In the late 1970s, woman had real bodies. At first, I found myself gawking at the size of the women. But they were gorgeous and, well, round like a woman should be. It's a shame that my daughters are growing up in a generation that thinks Angelina Jolie is the epitome of beauty. A strong wind could blow her away.

A blogger friend* recently wrote a wonderful post: Nostalgia Ain't What It's Cracked Up to Be. She nailed it. We think the "good old days" were so much better. They really weren't. They just remind us of our youth and what made us happy. But we also have to remember we looked at these events through inexperienced eyes.

I watched my daughter soaking in the fun of Wonder Woman. I knew she'd remember it as time with mom. When she grows up, she'll drag out things from her youth to bond with her child. I hope I'm around to enjoy the moment with them.

Do you ever watch shows or movies from your youth and end up amazed by your adult reaction?

*If you haven't had a chance to check out Ramblin' with AM, please do.

January 11, 2012

Embracing Couches: ROW80 Check In

There's something seriously wrong with me. I cannot sit on a couch. I'm someone who has to stay in perpetual motion or risk melting into a pile of overtired, overworked goo. I don't sit down for fear my mind will register the need to take a break.

I joke with my husband that he has a magnet in his butt that immediately engages with the matching magnet in the couch if he's within ten feet of it. This isn't entirely true, but my husband does find plenty of time in the evening and on weekends to sit on our couch.

Constant motion keeps me on task. I don't even love sitting down at my desk, but I get so mentally stimulated that it still feels like motion. When I sit on a couch, I feel tired within fifteen minutes. There's no getting back up. I know this about myself, so I rarely sit.

Soon guilt has its say... my oldest daughter was talking to me the other day, following me from room to room. She finally stopped and asked if she could just have ten minutes with me standing still. It was all I could do. I literally felt jumpy. That's sad.

One of my New Year's resolutions is to embrace life, especially time with my family and friends. I have to fight my own "get it done" personality to do this. Since I work from home (as a writer and mother), I don't get to leave work and refocus. I feel like I live at my office, constantly reminded of all the tasks I haven't completed.

I'm really working on resetting my all work and no play mindset. Just the other day, my daughter was goofing off. I needed her to get some stuff done, like her homework, reading, and trombone practice. Frustrated, I told her she'd never be on her deathbed wishing she'd sat on a couch more days of her life. After I said it, it hit me. Wait, I think the saying is supposed to go more like, "Nobody ever sat on their deathbed and wished they had worked more."

I have to find more balance, play more. I know it makes me a better person when I find time to disconnect.

What are your suggestions for striking a balance between responsibilities and living life to the fullest?

ROW80 Update

I am going to Colorado to visit my girlfriends for five days starting tomorrow. Five days! I've never left my kids for five days. Plus, I've been really focused on goals since this round started. I'm terrified of losing momentum.

I think this will be good for me, all fears and worries aside. I need to find ways to unwind and disconnect. If I don't, I'm just going to end up burning out. Hopefully I will come back refreshed and ready to balance work and family, having missed them both.

On to my update...

Writing: Surpassed my minimum 500 words a day with a total of 1,682 words from Sunday through yesterday. My goal while I'm gone is to write a couple of days. No pressure. The point is to unwind and enjoy.

Blogging: Posted daily here and already three posts this week on Mom in Love with Fiction. I'm keeping up with checking on everyone. I need to spend some time on Twitter, but I'll set that goal once I'm back. I will still post daily while I'm gone, thanks to a marathon session of prewriting and scheduling posts.

Reading: I let this slide this week knowing I'm heading to vacation with my Kindle and a couple of books. I also joined another reading challenge: 2012 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge

Editing: On hold until I get back. I'm taking my laptop, so if I'm up at night... we'll see.

Exercise: My Colorado friends are great motivators for a healthy lifestyle, so I'm not worried about keeping up my momentum here.

Hope everyone is doing well this week and finding time to work and play.

January 10, 2012

Fangs or Claws: It's All About Characters

On my review blog today, I am hosting Sallie Lundy-Frommer. She's the author of Yesterday's Daughter, "an emotionally laden paranormal vampire romance novel woven with layers of betrayal, love and loss."

Since her book is in the paranormal genre, I asked her to speak to people who don't like this new wave of paranormal books. Her post was interesting and hit the nail on the head. It's really all about characters and story. If the character is memorable, who cares if he/she has fangs or claws?

I'm always intrigued by people who only like one genre. To me, a great story is all about the characters. Even with books I love, the characters stay with me more than the plot line. The reason I never want a good book to end is because I've become attached to the characters. I want to know what happens to them after the last page.

My husband would disagree, he's all about action and story development. I can look past a slower-paced book with vivid characters. But there's never enough action for me to endure weak, one-sided characters.

Memorable Characters Need to Be:


No character, whether human or not, is interesting without personality traits that lead them astray. I'm a sap, so in the end I want them to come out on top. But I don't mind if that fulfilling end takes books to reveal. For me, the flaw has to be something the character can ultimately overcome, but not without hard work and dedication.


Even a vampire is relatable if done right. When reading Twilight, I often forgot that Edward was a vampire and Jacob a wolf spirit. They were two boys fighting over the girl (who in my opinion wasn't interesting enough for either of them!). Love, fear, disappointment... these are things all of us can relate to on some level or another.


I like a good tease. Truly. A good person with shady moments is so much more entertaining than a clearly defined hero or villain. I don't mind being confused, as long as there's a believable excuse for straddling the fence between good and evil. Being one-dimensional is a death sentence for a character.


This goes back to the idea of the flaw, but it gives the reader a reason to love the character flaw and all. I need to know why the character struggles, not just that he/she does. Did they make a poor choice and are dealing with the aftermath? Did Fate hand him/her a raw deal? There might be a better word choice, but I see my character saddled with an event, something they can't easily shake off.

Of course, it's hard to truly define why one character stays with me and another doesn't. But the attributes described above are always part of that memorable character. Then there's a pinch of magic thrown in. Sometimes it's the mood I'm in when reading a particular book, sometimes it's something I can't put my finger on.

What makes a character memorable for you? Or do you find yourself more wrapped up in story and action?