Saturday, May 28, 2011


“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

- E.E. Cummings

Yesterday, something happened that I cannot stop thinking about.

I wound up being at the same school for the final student of the month award ceremony. Since October, I’d attended every single one, even though I had thought March would be my last one. Then April. The difference for May is that I'd be handing out awards for 6th-grade ELA (English Language Arts) instead of 7th and 8th-grade Social Studies.

The ELA teacher was out for two weeks because of illness, and I covered her classes nearly every single day. It was eye opening for me. I had fun coming up with lessons and hanging the students’ work on the walls. Since I love writing, it’s not a stretch to consider being an ELA teacher. But I hadn’t taught 6th-graders much, so it was an adjustment getting use to their level of maturity. And they had to adjust to me as their teacher instead of just a babysitter. After about 5 days, I felt like I’d always been with them.

It was kind of cool that several of the students were younger siblings of the students I’d just taught as an ETS (Extended Term Substitute).

For the ceremony, I e-mailed the teacher to find out whom to give the awards to. One student she picked made me pause.

I had her older brother when I was an ETS. He’s given up.

Her family's story is one of poverty and addiction.

Before this, I’d only noticed her when she was acting up, which was often.

These two weeks I’d taught her, she was nothing but lovely and hard working.

A few teachers handed out awards. Then we took a break for a speaker. Before we resumed the awards, another teacher came over to say this student was being dismissed.

I was disappointed. She was losing her moment.

“Wait,” I told her, and then picked up her certificate from the stage.

I held it in my hands. “Ms. ***** chose you to receive this award. But I want you to know, after working with you for these past two weeks, I’m not surprised she chose you. You’ve been a conscientious and hard-working student. You deserve this award.”

I handed her the certificate.

She stared at it. She looked up at me. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Then she put her arms around me. I hugged her back. She didn’t give me a quick hug. It was an embrace. Tears pricked my eyes.

Later, I found out she went to the office to meet her mother. She showed everyone her award as she beamed.

How many times had she sat in that auditorium, watching 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students receive congratulations for their work in ELA, Science, Math, Social Studies, Art, Music, Spanish, and Physical Education? How many times did she think she’d never stand up there, shaking hands and high-fiving teachers while music played?

How many times did she think she wasn’t that kind of student? That kind of person?

How many people from her background go to college? How many achieve the kind of the success their parents couldn’t muster because of addiction?

I wanted her to know for the short time I got to spend with her that she’s worthy.

I hope she believes it.

Damn, it takes no time at all for these children possess me. I miss them already.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sense of Place

“If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse gift will find a fitting place.”

- Margaret Mead

I live with my family in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We chose its location because when my husband completed his Ph.D., we had to move for his post-doctoral work. Our first two years of marriage were spent in Queens, New York. Cambridge reminded us of the neighborhood in many ways.

My first nine years of life were spent in Queens, NY. Then I moved to Long Island, living in a post World War II suburb (cape, split level, ranch, repeat). Although I spent the next fifteen years + a number of adult years in the suburbs, it never felt like home.

Though I do miss the beach. A lot.

For a couple of years, we’ve been looking for a bigger place. Four people in a two-bedroom condo is cramped, especially with a daughter and son. But to get the kind of place we’re looking for is out of our price range. We’re either sacrificing space inside our outside or in both spaces.

There’s a house we really like but the expansion potential it has won’t be realized until I land a full-time job. We’ll still feel like we’re a struggling to find our way instead of having arrived.

We’re considering moving to the suburbs – Salem specifically. For little more than our house is worth now, we could have a whole house with more than two bedrooms, a driveway, and property. We could even be closer to the beach. Like,blocks away or even with a view.

What’s stopping us?

If we move, we’d be another family that left before our children were older, draining the middle school and high school. I’m sure most of those families left because of space issues too.

Also, it takes time to have a place fit like a glove. New friends, new restaurants, new stores, new schools, new routes, new routines. At first, we’d lose more than we’d gain.

Then there’s commuting. My husband works five minutes away by bike. There’s so much we’ll lose with that loss of proximity.

I can walk to see the Red Sox play. I can walk to see the Celtics play. Okay, I can’t afford to go very often. But still.

When I lived an hour from Manhattan, I rarely took advantage of it. When I lived 20 minutes by subway, I did. Now that I’m a 20-minute walk to Boston I go all the time. The river is no obstacle.

The Boston skyline is beautiful.

We love watching Fireworks on the Fourth of July.

But I really think my resistance is more than the new, alien feeling of a place. It’s more about who I am.

I’m a city girl. I love saying I love in a city. I believe in my city. Do you know that we live a few blocks from the compost place? We almost make more compost in a week than we do garbage. We now have one bin recycling. And we can recycle nearly everything now. Our family does fine with a small car And the city is as diverse and inclusionary as it gets. It’s home.

Our family, friends, school, after-school activities, routine – it’s all here.

But we’ve visited Salem a couple of times in the last couple of weeks, and I can see fitting in there too. Maybe?

How do you decide where to live,

what that means about who you are,

how you want your family to fit?

On another note, thank you for your kind comments and support of 100 Stories for Queensland.

Congratulations to Vicki Tremper who won a copy of White Glove by Holly Black !

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Contest for a Cause

Here’s how:

Today is the official online launch of the paperback of 100 Stories for Queensland.

Readers are invited to purchase a book on Amazon, in a nominated 24-hour period, with the intent to capitalize on the volume of sales to move the book up the Amazon bestseller list. The higher up the chart it is (we’re aiming for a spot in the top 100) the more visible it becomes, which may lead to even high sales.

The more books sold, the more money raised.

If you can’t buy on the day, you can add it to your wishlist. Every little bit counts.

Me and Holly Black

To enter to win a SIGNED copy of White Cat :

- Be a follower (1 point)

- Promote the contest or the 100 Stories Amazon link (1 point each: blog, twitter, facebook)

- Tally your points in the comment box and be sure to provide your e-mail address.

Optional to earn extra points: buy the book on Amazon TODAY (5 points)

100 Stories for Queensland is a charity anthology to assist the victims of the Queensland floods. Stories were donated by writers from across the globe (like me).

100% of the profit from the sale of the anthology will be donated to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal.

Thank you for your support of this worthy cause.



P.S. Contest ends midnight EST, 05/18/11

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Silent Scars

“Mothers are all slightly insane.”

- J.D. Salinger

For most of my childhood, I knew something was off with my mother. Her behavior would embarrass me. When I turned 13, something clicked and I understood that there was a problem beyond embarrassment.

Sarah Fine has a definition for my mother’s condition on her BLOG:

Schizotypal Personality Disorder--odd behavior and thinking

But that doesn’t tell you much.

As a teenager, if a friend visited my home for the first time, I’d be filled with anxiety. I’d warn them. How people reacted after meeting my mother would determine how strong our friendship would be. If people couldn’t understand my mother, then they couldn’t understand me.

Those who see her at family gatherings or at her workplace, mostly view her as a character. I have no tolerance for the trite comments they make. When she was in charge of me, I protected my sister from the sinister side. So I can’t pretend nothing worse lurks behind the veneer.

Yet she’s not a wicked person. She loves her grandchildren. She’s one of my biggest fans of my writing. She’ll compare me to authors who write nothing like me, but the sentiment is there. And as soon as I told her about my short story in 100 Stories for Queensland anthology, she requested a copy. Repeatedly. Unfortunately, she also requested a copy from my sister, so we both unknowingly bought her copies. That’s part of her problem.

I have friends and acquaintances who have no idea about her. It’s my choice whether or not to share that part of my past and present. When it does come up, I have to figure out how much to reveal. I can make a blanket statement, but it feels like avoidance. If I reveal more, it’s too easy to descend into maudlin.

When people do hear snippets, they often say something like, “You should write about it.” And I do. Sort of. My manuscripts always have fractured relationships. I write for teens because I get that trapped feeling. Parents are in control of much of a teenager’s life, and it’s a teen’s job to loosen the grip so they can become adults. But what if the control is a chokehold? I hope my stories give teens the message that these hard times will pass.

I also write YA because I remember that time vividly. The reason I know a few exchanges with my mother by heart is because I’d repeat the words in my head to survive living in a house where words were twisted or forgotten.

I wrestled whether or not to share a specific story. My husband thinks it’s not right to write anything I wouldn’t say to her. That’s fair. I’ve only eluded to her in two posts, both many months ago. And with time, I can appreciate the good things she instilled in me:

- A love for reading.

- Seeing a person beyond race, religion, and sexuality.

- Feminism.

But most of her lessons were inconsistent. While she read to me, she also plopped me in front of the TV for hours. While she preaches equality, she’s also said some pretty inappropriate things while trying to relate when meeting a person of another ethnicity or religion.

Now that she’s older, I have different worries about her: health, decision-making, and job retention. It’s a battle. I have to work on keeping my patience when I talk to her. I should call her more. I should be many for her things I’m not.

But I’ve made great strides from the girl who hated her. Who worried that any moments she’d become her.

When I was around 17, after a pretty horrific scene, I called a friend in tears. He said, “That’s who she is. It’s not a reflection of you.” I exhaled for the first time in many years.

Yet I see pieces of her when I look in the mirror. When I was young we want to break free, be my own person. I can’t remove the physical characteristics my mother and I share. I could copy her speech patterns in a heartbeat. But I am not her. I strive to take the best of what she’s given me while I learn from the worst. But I also have to acknowledge that the good and the bad are part of me.

All these years later, Mother’s Day still resurfaces conflicting emotions. But I’m not embarrassed anymore. What to reveal? I’m still figuring that out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nicole Zoltack Talks E-Publishing

Curious what it's like to write for a small e-publisher?

Nicole talks about what it's like here.

(See below for a chance to win swag!)

Nicole Zoltack loves to write fantasy/paranormal, romances, horror, historical, for adults and young adults, novels, short stories, and flash pieces. She doesn't want to get boxed in by genre -- she might be claustrophobic!

When she isn't writing about girls wanting to be knights, talking unicorns, and zombies, she spends time with her loving family. She loves to ride horses (pretending their unicorns, of course!) and going to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, dressed in period garb. Her current favorite TV show is The Vampire Diaries.

To learn more about Nicole and her work, visit her website at or her blog at

What is the name of your small e-publisher and how did you find this publishing company?

I'm published through Desert Breeze Publishing. I first learned about DBP through a publisher chat on a yahoo group. As the chat was winding down, Gail Delaney (the EIC) mentioned that she loved series, especially for fantasy and a few other genres. I mentioned to her that I had an unfinished manuscript that would be part of a series and briefly described it to her. She said to send it to her when it was finished.

The story I had mentioned was a Nano story (National Novel Writing Month when authors around the world try to write a 50K in November). I abanonded all other side projects and focused on the novel until I completed it. After finishing it, I submitted to Gail and waited. Shortly thereafter, she emailed me an acceptance for Woman of Honor.

Gail and I worked together to figure out the direction that the series could take so that the entire series was fantasy romance, each book centering on a different couple.

What made you go the e-publishing route?

I like to think of the journey to publication as a ladder. I thought that by having as many publishing credits under my belt as possible would help me to find an agent and, through the agent, land a publishing contract with a NYC publishing house. To me, e-publishing is another rung on the publishing ladder.

What are some of the benefits of e-publishing?

Anyone anywhere can read a book that is e-published. There aren't any shipping fees that you have to worry about. People in other countries have read my books, and that excites me.

You also don't have to worry about returns with an e-book. If someone returns a physical book to the bookstore, it affects the royalties of the author.

With e-publishing, you don't need an agent. You can submit directly to the publisher. Most of the bigger publishers don't allow unsolicited manuscript submissions.

As an author, you receive a higher royalty percentage for e-books than you would for print books.

There is less of a wait from contract to release date. With traditional houses, you may have to wait two years (sometimes less, sometimes more). Depending on the e-publisher, the wait could be significantly less than that.

What are some of the downsides of e-publishing?

Some e-publishers do not have the best quality with editors and covers. People have told me that they have purchased my books based on the cover alone. Covers are so important. As is editing.

Also, the author has to do most, if not all, of the marketing themselves for their book when you publish through an e-publisher. This is becoming more and more true even with more traditional publishing houses, but is especially true with e-publishers.

There are very few, if any, e-publishers that offer writers an advance.

Piracy steals money from the author.

Tell me about your Kingdom of Arnhem series. Is this third book the last one?

The Kingdom of Arnhem trilogy is a fantasy romance series for young adults and adults. It is about the final war between two kingdoms - Arnhem and Speica.

Woman of Honor is about a young girl who wants to become a knight. Aislinn is willing to give up everything for the kingdom of Arnhem - her childhood, her life, even her heart. No matter the pain it brings.

Knight of Glory. Geoffrey leaves Arnhem to find her allies for the war against Speica and finds secrets, lies, and rumors that could tip the war in Speica's favor. He also finds himself torn between two very different and mysterious ladies.

Champion of Valor. Selliki loves the mage Gabrael but she is a selkie and love has never treated her race kindly when they love someone from the land. The final war between Speica and Arnhem threatens the entire world. Lucifer has aligned himself with Speica and wants nothing less than to bring about the Apocalypse before its time. Only one kingdom will prevail; that is, if the world doesn't end.

Do you have any other publishing credits?

I've sold nine short stories/flash pieces for various anthologies, including a short story in Mertales from Wyvern Publishing and several collections from Pill Hill Press. I also have another series, but I talk more about that in my answer to your next question.

What’s your next project?

I'm revising an urban fantasy and a fantasy YA with the hope of securing an agent. I'm also working on the last three short stories in my What You See is What You Get series from Echelon Press. This paranormal YA series is 6 short stories about Ana and the summer when she learns that she is a seer. There's a veiled mist between our world and the paranormal one filled with mythological and fantasy creatures, a mist that only few people can see through. Ana's life is never going to be the same again.

What are your long-term writing goals?

I want to secure an agent and land a publishing deal with a bigger house. Bottom line, I just want to keep writing books that my readers will enjoy. That's why I write in the first place.

Any advice to unpublished writers? 

Never give up. Write when you can. If that's every day, great. If it's not, don't sweat it. Pour all of your emotions into your story, and never stop reading.

Quick writing questions:

Plotter or panster? Panster

Quiet or music? Quiet

Laptop or desktop? Desktop

Mac or PC? PC

Coffee or tea? Tea (Actually water, but that's not an option)

Wine or other? Wine (but only blushes)

Day or night? Day

Be sure to leave a comment to be entered to win some signed post cards and magnets. Each comment during the Champion of Valor Blog Tour gives you an entry for the grand prize: a copy of the entire Kingdom of Arnhem trilogy - Woman of Honor, Knight of Glory, and Champion of Valor.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Breaking News!

100 Stories for Queensland has come out in paperback and is available on Amazon!

Or you can buy an Ecopy!

If you want to order it at your local bookstore, here’s the info:

Publisher: eMergent Publishing

ISBN: 978-0-9871126-3-7 (ebook)
ISBN: 978-0-9871126-2-0 (paperback)

Size: 229x152mm
Weight: 520g
Pages: 308
Genre: Various/Flash Fiction
Available as: eBook and paperback

Recommended retail prices 
A$4.99 (ebook)
 A$19.99 (paperback)

Reasons to buy this book:

1) It raises $ for the Australian flood victims.

2) My short story “Daisy” appears inside.

3) Old Kitty/Jennifer Domingo has a story in there too.

4) Jessica Bell has a short story in there as well.

Happy Weekend!

Happy Mother's Day!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blooming May

“I plucked the petals off the wilted daisy and whispered, ‘I tell him. I tell him not.’ Even though it was childish to put the weight of such an important decision on a daisy, I’d already proven to be incapable of deciding any other way.

My voice croaked as I pinched off the last petal. ‘I’ll tell him.’”

- Beginning of my short story “Daisy” in 100 Stories for Queensland

On Sunday, I posted my query of Naked Eye on my 2nd blog, Earnest Writer's Excerpts . Feel free to visit and comment. I want to polish it for the NESCBWI Conference I’m attending next week. (See below.)

Tuesday was a good day.

100 Stories for Queensland was released as an EBOOK. Kindle and paperback editions coming soon.

My contract from Wyvern Publications arrived. Can’t wait for those line edits on my short story “Allured”, which will appear in the upcoming anthology Fangtales. I figure line edits on a short story is like training wheels for the whole novel I hope to I’ll get published someday.

Next week, I’m attending the NESCBWI conference in Fitchburg, MA. I’m going to be busy with a query and 10-page critique sessions. And I’m going to be a handler for 3 workshops. My writer friend, Judy Mintz is going too. Check out her funny BLOG !

Anyone else going to NESCBWI, Fitchburg?

In other news, Ebysswriter hosted a 250-word pitch contest. The honest feedback led me to combine chapters 1 and 3 into chapter 2, and now chapter 2 is chapter 1.

On the teaching front, I’ve (temporarily) returned to my old job last and this week. Don’t ask. And I’m doing all the planning and lessons and grading on daily sub pay. I've told the students so many times that it’s my last day that they don’t believe me anymore. Now I’m telling them “I’m just like The Terminator, I don’t die.”

I did a lesson on The Columbian Exchange, which led to a discussion about tomatoes leaching lead from plates, making Italians think tomatoes were poisonous and the potato blight leading to the Irish Potato famine because the British government still forced the export of wheat to England and the conquistadors and their treatment of the Aztecs and when people decide a group is less than human, they can justify treating them any way they’d like. They were riveted. It may have been the stifling heat in the classroom that made them docile. Hard to tell.

By the way, on May 10th, Nicole Zoltack will visit my blog to tell us what it’s like to write for a small e-publisher.

How’s your May so far?

Anything you're looking forward to this month?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Elana's Answer Awesomeness

Remember my 500 followers contest? Well, Natalie Aguirre came up with the winning question for Elana:

After seeing the debuts of your friends in the Class of 2011, what have you learned about creative ways to market your book and what are you using from what you learned?

Here’s her VIDEO ANSWER!

I was impressed with many of the questions, so here’s an interview with my commenters and Elana. Enjoy!

Question from Nicki Elson : At what point did Possession possess here---what was the moment you KNEW you had to write it?

Well, I drafted it very fast, so there weren’t very many moments to contemplate. It was my third book, and I left it alone for almost a year before I decided it would be the next book I queried. At that point, I’d written quite a few novels, and I was wondering which one I should clean up and query.

I chose Possession.

Question from Lydia Kang : At some point in writing Possession, did you just know, "This is it!"?

No, definitely not. Not during the writing phase. See, I’m a pantser, and when I wrote Possession, I was the worst kind of pantser. Meaning, I had a lot of revising and rewriting to do.

The “This is it!” moment came much later, when I was querying. I really thought Possession was good, and that it should be published. Thankfully, I found people who thought the same way I did.

Question from A. Rick : How did you pick the name Zenn?

My names just come to me. I don’t labor over them, and I don’t use a website or baby name finder. I just know. Lame answer, I know.

Question from Nicole Zoltack : You can tell a lot about a person by the clothes they wear. Can you tell us about the clothes of your main characters in Possession?

Well, I’m not sure if that’s true in Possession, because someone else dictates what the people wear. There is no free choice in that department. So Vi wears—and has always worn—jeans and a beige, long-sleeved shirt.

There’s actually a scene in the book where Vi examines her appearance in clothes she’s not used to wearing. She sees a stranger looking back at her.

Taffy's Question : If you spent the day with Vi, what would the two of you do?

Oh, I’m sure we’d spend most of the morning dishing about Jag. After that, I think we’d just do whatever. I like to think I’d do the same things I do with my sister: sit on the couch and talk about bad TV (in this case, projections), eat Oreo pie, talk about our parents (especially Vi’s), and hug when it’s time to go home.

Question from Nicole M. White : I know what you like about Vi, what author doesn't love their MC, but if you were her friend (not creator) what one trait about Vi would annoy you?

Actually, there’s several things that bother me about Vi. I do love her, but she’s not perfect in any sense of the word.

The thing that annoys me most about her is her complete and utter lack of ability to make choices. It’s not really her fault because someone else has always chosen for her, but sometimes I just want to yell at her, “Just choose already!”

Jess's question : If you COULD live the life of any YA character, who would it be?

Hermione. She’s a wicked-talented witch, gets to go to Hogwarts, and hang out with Harry Potter. How cool would that be?

Karen Lange's question : What are you going to do to celebrate the release of your book?

Uh, hide? No, but I sort of feel like it. I’ll probably go out to breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Tuesday, June 7.

The next day, June 8, I have a launch party at the indie bookstore in Salt Lake City, and on June 11, I’m signing at my local Barnes & Noble. I’m counting all of that as the official celebration of the release of Possession.

Most pressing question Lola Sharp : How many times a week do you eat bacon?

Oh, it’s not even a weekly activity, sadly. Although, I did eat a BLT for lunch today, because I had leftover bacon from breakfast-for-dinner last night. I know, I know, you’re thinking: “Leftover bacon?? Impossible!”

Thanks again, Elana Johnson , author of Possession coming out in 36 DAYS!

And thank you commenters. Because of you, I didn’t have to think of my own questions. (They wouldn’t have been as good anyway.)