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One Heck of a Year

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It’s been a year or so since I last written anything on this blog. Mainly because it’s been a roller coaster of a year. Honestly, it felt like life is the table and I am Officer Hops waiting on a sloth.

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So here is what life is for my family and me.

welcome

I have 2 kids. Both have varying degrees of autism.

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My son is 9 years old, laughs loudly, and for the most part is non-verbal. He has mood disorders, a sleep disorder, OCD, ADHD, Anxiety, and GI problems. Actually, he has H. Pylori, chronic constipation, and esophagitis. He also has sensory problems where he cannot stand clothing, being in a bathtub, in crowds, and sitting on a toilet.

poop

The GI problems came crashing into our lives last July. He has been gaining weight, even though his appetite has decreased.

H_pylori

After seeing more than 1 doctor, the consensus is that he cannot take the medication to get rid of the H. Pylori, because of the sensory problems. He cannot handle certain textures in his mouth (or tastes).

This comes back to the diet where everyone says if you would take away the 10 foods he will eat, then he will get hungry enough to eat what is put in front of him.

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Really? You don’t think I haven’t tried that????

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Of course I have, you judgmental moron!!!! I have tried every way humanly possible (with the doctor’s help) to try to change his diet and to try and get the medications into my son so that he will feel better. It’s like that time I tried to sneak a stool softener into a Swiss Cake Roll. My son cocked an eyebrow, grinned like the Grinch getting all the presents in Whoville, and threw it across the room. That was my son’s way of saying:

No

He is still in a lot of pain, but we are managing it with the help of his gastro doctor, his pediatrician, his speech therapist, his occupational therapist, and his behavioralist. Plus my parents.

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My daughter, Lady, is finishing up the second grade in public school. Due to her autism, she had a teacher’s aide who helped Lady with academics and socializing (as a symptom of her autism is social-awkwardness). She had this TA up until a year ago, when Lady (who was 6 years old at the time) told her:

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Having the TA was on her IEP, but the administration still removed the TA as Lady was showing “independence.” This was NEVER discussed with me until after the fact.

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Anyway, her second grade year has been one drama-filled migraine of Lady’s grades going down and the rise of the era of THE BULLIES!!!

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I have gone into the school to try and get some type of help for Lady (both academic and the bullying), and all I have gotten was excuse. . .

excuses

 

. . .After excuse. . .

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. . .After excuse. . .

excuse

They even suggested that it was Lady who was the problem, so they wrote her social stories.Shit

I have even attempted to contact the district’s administration, who never called or emailed back. EVER!!! Not even when another kid told Lady that he wants to kill her.

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This Mama is done.

my reaction

Now I’m getting ready for homeschool next year.

I am scouring YouTube, Pinterest, academic websites, asking friends for help, and relying on prayers.

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When I get anxious and self-doubt creeps in, I push it out as self-doubt as it does no good. I tell myself I’m Wonder Woman as I have successfully taken care of 2 special needs kids without a husband (he left years ago and my parents have been helping us ever since). I have written novels, and have successfully gotten through my first year of graduate school for special education. I have even built a bookcase in was supposed to be my office, but is now our homeschool room.

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Yes. I did that because I’m awesome!!! Thank you very much!!!

I am also going to be starting my second year of grad school in the fall, homeschooling Lady, and helping T-Boy through all of his crap (literal and metaphorical).

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But I am WONDER WOMAN/WONDER MAMA!!!

wonder woman

 

 

Queries Are Like Bad Dates

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My daughter said while getting ready for school this morning, “I think you need to get remarried.”

Me: (saying in passing as I butter my son’s toast) “That would require me to date.”

My daughter: “It must be really hard to find a someone to date.”

Me: “That, my dearest daughter, is an understatement.”

I have always been awkward around guys. Well, people in general, and I’m okay with it. I do my thing, I always try to be myself and to love who I am. Though, when I actually have a good conversation with a guy, I play in cool. But in my head, I’m jumping up and down, clapping, and saying: “Yippie!!!”

Dating my way

For me, choosing books to read, and writing queries are very simular to dating.

reading

Not only does the blurb about the book (whether your own or not) has to be enticing. The personality of the main character has to shine through like a big neon sign to get someone interested in the story or you (if your dating).

Neon sign sign

It can get awkward when you read a book jacket for the book that everyone is raving about, but it’s just…meh. Of course, you buy it, because who doesn’t like a shiny new book?

The jacket blurb gives your promises and sometimes it’s more reliable than the jacket. Like a blind date.

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Then there are those books that you know nothing about, but once you are the jacket, the desire stirs within you. Then there is that excited squeal that I found another book that makes me want to go home to my comfy chair and read to my hearts content.

excitment

Here are three books that pulled me in by the blurb on the jacket.

  1. Just One Wish, by Jennette Rallison

Just one wish  a

2. The DUFF, by Kody Keplinger

the duff

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

3. The Raven Boys (The Raven Cyle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Raven boys

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Then there are WRITING QUERIES!

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Querying is one of the hardest things to write. It’s like a bad first date where a person inevitably says too much. Instead of an enticing conversation, it can quickly become an awkward summery of useless facts and way too much oversharing. Don’t do that!!

Dating

Put your awkwardness away, because you have the fabulous novel that is aching to be published. But you need an agent.

gatekeeper

They are the gatekeepers to the New York publishing world. Yes, there are publishers who will do accept submissions without an agent, but you still need to write the query. And it better be good!

Here are what some agents say about queries (from the blog, Writers In The Storm):

“Spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. They just make me want to stop reading.” – Lisa Leshne, LJK Literary Management

“Unfocused queries and the term ‘fiction novel.'” -Melissa Flashman, Trident Media Group, LLC

“I’m sick of vagueness. I get so many queries every day that don’t tell me enough about the novel. If there’s no reason for me to say yes, then it’s going to be no.” -Bridget Smith, Dunham Literary, Inc.

Go to the blog to read more. It’s a very good post.

Agents are fantastic about telling you what works and what doesn’t. Kinda like a dating coach.

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A few consistent tips for query writing so you don’t be the awkward douche bag who everyone cringes at.

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  1. Be polite and professional
  2. No typos. Read your query three times over, then have five honest friends look it over
  3. Follow the submission guidelines
  4. Do your research! (because asking an agent to represent your book that they do not represent will only lead to awkward embarrassment for you)c
  5. No abstractions. Stick to the main conflict of the story. What are the stakes for the main character? Give enough reasons to care without oversharing.

Here are a few websites that I find to be helpful.

  1. Query Shark
  2. Agent Query
  3. Nathan Bransford’s blog
  4. Query Letter Success
  5. YA Highway

Like my sister told me when I was 16 (someone actually wrote a blog about Mr. Collin’s awkwardness), “Don’t be awkward like Mr. Collins,…”

awkward

“…but be awkward as Mr. Darcy.”

Follow the querying/literary social rules, and be a literary rockstar!

 

BAD MOVIES THAT ARE SO GOOD

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Two of my sisters and I love to watch terrible movies. In fact, we have a competition about who can pick out the worst of the worst. Here are four movies that we love to watch over and over again.

1. JUST VISITING

Just Visitng

Synopsis:

“Just Visiting” is an American retelling of the 1993 French comedy blockbuster “Les Visiteurs” in which stars Jean Reno and Christian Clavier reprise their popular roles for original director Jean-Marie Gaubert. In the film, A French nobleman, Count Thibault of Malfete (Jean Reno) and his servant André (Christian Clavier) find themselves in modern day Chicago — transported from the 12th century due to a wizard’s flawed time-travel potion.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 33% 

Thoughts:

Just Visiting is one of those movies that make you cringe, but you’re laughing so hard that it makes up for the bad script. Julia (Christina Applegate) is a pushover. Her boyfriend calls her bunny and is cheating on her. Count Thibault isn’t terribly clever and his manservant, Andre, is very stupid. Count Thibault accidentally kills his fiancé, Lady Rosalind, who looks exactly like Julia. Thibault needs a wizard. In comes Malcolm McDowell. He forgets a key ingredient in the postion that will send him back a few hours to stop the murder. Thibault and Andre are sent to modern day Chicago (Or the early 2000s). They meet Julia, and she takes them home (thinking he is a long lost relative). The boyfriend is a jerk, and it’s funny to watch Thibault and Andre navigate the modern world; including, killing a car, eating a “mint” from the toilet, and Andre eating at a table with is master instead of being thrown scraps. Julia learns to be more assertive and Thibault goes back to save his “one true love.” It’s fun to watch and worth the rental price.

Favorite Scene:

The restaurant scene where Andre mistakes a Clorox drop-in in the urinal for a dinner mint.

 

2. BATTLESHIP

BATTLESHIP

Synopsis:

Lt. Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is a weapons officer aboard the destroyer USS John Paul Jones, while his older brother, Stone (Alexander Skarsgård), is the commanding officer of the USS Sampson. Unknown to Alex, Stone or the rest of the U.S. Navy, alien invaders have arrived on Earth with plans to steal Earth’s resources. When a confrontation with the invaders knocks out the Navy’s radar capability, American and Japanese forces must work together to find a way to save the planet.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 34%

Thoughts:

I LOVE end of the world movies. They are awesome! I love Alexander Skarsgard. That’s why I went to see this. Totally worth it! It’s loud and completely implausible. We love it in my family. Hopper is an ass, but a hot one. Rhianna is good. I love how they use the grid system like the board game. I wish they had used the line: “You sunk my battleship!” It would have made the cheesiness more complete. I have referenced this movie in a novel that I wrote last year.

Favorite Scene:

The chicken burrito scene where Hopper tries to get Sam’s attention. He offers her a chicken burrito for five minutes, which at the end he gets tasered.

 

3. A CINDERELLA STORY

A Cinderella Story

Synopsis:

Sam (Hilary Duff), a teenager in California, is obliged to work as a janitor and dishwasher in the diner of her stepmother (Jennifer Coolidge). After a cell phone mix-up, Sam begins an anonymous text-messaging and e-mail relationship with a boy. They agree to meet at a school dance, but when Sam finds out that her secret pen pal is none other than Austin Ames (Chad Michael Murray), the cutest boy in school, she panics and looks for a way to make herself cooler.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 11%

Thoughts:

Two words: Jennifer Coolidge. She is very funny. I love her in Austenland and Legally Blonde. While they are good, my sisters and I picked A Cinderella Story because of the word “moist.” When this movie came out, we were watching Dead Like Me (seriously go watch this show). In the TV show, Georgia Lass’s mother thinks the word moist is pornographic. Then we went to see A Cinderella Story. The cookie scene made us laughed so much that the other people in the theater told us to shut up. It’s a good teen movie/chick flick.

Favorite Scene:

The cookie scene where the stepmother says the word moist. Did I mention how much I love Jennifer Coolidge?

 

4. BRIDE AND PREJUDICE

BRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Synopsis:

With four beautiful daughters of marrying age, Manorama (Nadira Babbar) and Chaman Bakshi (Anupam Kher) frantically seek out the perfect husbands for their children. Yet their eldest daughter, Lalita (Aishwarya Rai), is intent upon marrying at her own choosing, for love. Lalita endures a number of hopeful suitors, but the American William Darcy (Martin Henderson) seems different — and not always in a good way. Misunderstandings, schemes and lies threaten to keep the two from true love.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: N/A

Thoughts:

Bollywood isn’t for everyone, but this little gem is funny. I love the random songs, and Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite stories. The acting isn’t bad and I think mostly it is liked. My friend came to see it with us. Her and I were the only ones who liked it from our group. We still sing a couple of the songs.

Favorite Scene:

The scene is a musical number called “No Life Without Life.” We sing this a lot.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: CURSED

Cursed

Synopsis:

 In Los Angeles, siblings Ellie (Christina Ricci) and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) come across an accident on Mulholland Drive. As they try to help the woman caught in the wreckage, a ferocious creature attacks them, devouring the woman and scratching the terrified siblings. They slowly discover that the creature was a werewolf and that they have fallen victim to a deadly curse. Now that they have been sliced by the werewolf’s claws, they will be transformed into werewolves themselves.

 Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 16%

Thoughts:

I’m not going to talk a lot about this movie, simply because we don’t like it save for one scene where a werewolf flips everyone off. We still talk about this scene. Enjoy.

 

To the Movie Critics: Why All The Hate?

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Why all the hate, movie critics? Seriously, I know it’s your job to torpedo a movie through well placed words, even if it’s not a movie you would go see if it hadn’t been assigned to you. For example, the 5th Wave.

5th wave

Yesterday, my sister and I went to see the 5Th Wave. I don’t think I have to go into the synopsis, as it is based upon a young adult novel by Rick Yancey. It worth the read, but when I went onto rottentomatoes.com, I was pretty bummed that only 17% of critics liked it.

Really? 17% liked it? What about Twilight?

Twilight sign

Twilight at 48% of rotten! Like I said, where is the love?

Twilight

Here are a sample of what was said by critics about the 5th Wave movie:

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Can I just say that the N.R.A. (FYI: I hate the N.R.A.) has NOTHING to do in the 5th Wave, and if aliens did attack, I’m sure you would love to get your hands on one of them! I know I would.

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Nope.  Alex Roe was good too.

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Here We Go

Right……….

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for sale

You people who love YA, sci/fi, dystopia sound like mindless drones with a for sale sign on our faces. Like we don’t know what a good movie is. By the way, we can think for ourselves.

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Oh for the love that is holy!

Princess Eye Roll

Stop comparing every book and every movie that is in the young adult genre to Twilight!

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Not cool, because each stories are different. Yes, some stories uses old tropes and cliches, but they are not Twilight!

While some were mean, indifferent, or who was only at the movie so they could get a paycheck, some reviewers had nice things to say:

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Right. Well, my sister and I really liked it. We would give it 3 out of 4 stars. Someone parts were really funny, and I’m unsure whether they were meant to be funny or not. The acting is good.

We laughed about the army being trustworthy, because my sister is a vet and she yelled out: “Bull shit.” I knew, because I read the book. Still it was a funny moment that the others in the theater didn’t appreciate.

My point: Go see the movie and find out if you like it or not. Like books, movies are all subjective. I may love something that you don’t. That is okay! Don’t go by people who are paid to be cranky and find the worst in everything except artsy films like The Artist. 

 

Music to Write By and Querying

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I have recently finished and queried a young adult horror novel. I’m sitting here, like,

embarrassed

I have agents reading my work, and it’s worse than a freaking blind date! I want to tell you all about my novel. I want to be like i’m here world! Read this! In reality, I’m trying to act like I’ve got this.

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And whenever someone asks me about my novel, I’m like, “Yeah dude. I got this.”

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In reality, I’m back in my shell, trying to think about my novel in the hands of wicked awesome agents who could say no.

hiding

A friend of mine (who writes New Adult and you should totally buy her freaking awesome books, because I’m not a fan of New Adult, but I love her work) gave me the best advice. Start a new project!

I have so many ideas, that I’m like, oookkayyy…

Castle

So where do I start? A playlist, which inevitably gets modified as I go along. Here is the playlist for novel that I’m querying.

  1. MERCY, Duffy
  2. I PUT A SPELL ON YOU, Jeff Beck (featuring Joss Stone)
  3. FEELS LIKE RAIN, John Hiatt
  4. IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT, The Five Satins
  5. ALL I WANT, Kodaline
  6. STAY WITH ME, Sam Smith
  7. YELLOW, Coldplay
  8. CREEP, Stone Temple Pilots
  9. DEMONS, Imagine Dragons
  10. HURT, Johnny Cash
  11. PEOPLE ARE STRANGE, The Doors
  12. RUNAWAY TRAIN, Soul Asylum
  13. COMING FOR YOU, The Offspring
  14. EVIL WAYS, Blues Saraceno
  15. QUIET LITTLE VOICES, We Were Promised Jetpacks
  16. SUITE FOR SOLO CELLO NO. 1 (PRELUDE), Yo-Yo Ma
  17. LIGHTNING CRASHES, Live
  18. PUSH THE BUTTON, Amy Lee
  19. SEVEN DEVILS, Florence and the Machine
  20. THE PRETENDER, Foo Fighters
  21. THE GHOST OF YOU, My Chemical Romance
  22. BRING ME TO LIFE, Evanescence
  23. ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, Blondie
  24. NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, Fred Astaire

How do you start a new work in progress?

ThrillerFest 2015

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I know I have been MIA for months, but it was for a good and very personal reason. Now that everything is resolved, I’m starting up again. Within the last few months, I have been to ThrillerFest in July and after that is when something occurred that needed my full time and attention.

ThrillerFest

ThrillerFest is Manhattan and is one of the best writer conferences I have been to. It’s also where I pitched my novel, THE WHISPERING.

NYC 1    NYC 2

After PitchFest, which was really brutal. I’m the type of person has a hard time communicating verbally about books or movies or my feelings. I stutter when I get nervous, and sitting in front of agents and pitching them my novel. After that very stressful afternoon, I did fine as it turns out. Not just that though, an agent (who I did not pitch) gave me the best advice I wish I had before I went into Pitch Session.

The Advice was: APPROACH YOUR PITCH LIKE A GOOD PIECE OF GOSSIP. MAKE IT JUICY ENOUGH THAT THE AGENT/EDITOR WILL WANT TO PASS IT ON.

I was really good at gossip from middle school to high school, so that advice would have worked better than my really crappy logline and pitch that came out of a trembling voice.

After PitchFest was the rest of ThrillerFest. It was interviews and panels of authors, including Lee Childs and Christopher Rice.

The Young Adult Panel was the most interesting to me.

ThrillerFest Event 1

Included on the panel was Kelley ArmstrongCJ Lyons, Elle Cosimano, and RL Stine.

Charleine Harris and Karen Slaughter

Karin Slaughter interviewing Charlaine Harris.

It was an interesting conference, but it really wasn’t for young adult writers. That was a bit of a problem for me. I write YA and I mainly read YA, and they were talking about genres like military thrillers. Frankly, subjects I’m not interested in. ThrillerFest is good for people who aren’t interested in young adult.

Fifty Shades of Hashtags: The Stage of #AskELJames

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Caffeinated Constellations

As a group, Twitter feeds are the new 16th century courtyard. With the rise of technology, the internet has become the proverbial stage, and as we have seen today, hashtags are the rotten tomatoes with which we throw.

When I first saw the #AskELJames hashtag, I chuckled to myself and liked a few statuses. Much of the sarcasm rang true, and though I have never read the Fifty Shades series, I have heard enough to know that it perpetuates harmful portrayals of abuse with incorrect notions of BDSM. But as I sought out the hashtag and continued reading, I felt a pinch in my conscience that didn’t resonate well with me.

Instead of using this hashtag to ask legitimate questions that may have prompted thoughtful discussion, the restless crowd raised their pitchforks and threw the rotten tomatoes in the form of snark and sarcasm and ironic abuse.

Yes, EL James…

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