A Few Words

Scrounging up confidence, battling insecurity, and facing internal and external opposition is a day-to-day struggle for some writers. Myself included. And it’s not only with writing – it can bleed into other aspects of life, as well.

It has been difficult lately to sit down and write and work on queries. Nagging “what ifs?” and an abundance of pressure settle on my shoulders whenever I open up my MS, and I can’t stop worrying about whether or not it’s good enough to put out there. It’s self-sabotage, I know – but it’s like black clouds converge upon my brain and I can’t shake them off, and it spoils all of my efforts.

20180916_2142191762263572.jpgBut sometimes, all it takes is a few words to fend off the cold shroud of discouragement. I found this little note, from an old friend of mine, tucked into a book on my bookshelf the other day while cleaning my room.

And it was like a small dose of sunlight, scattering the storm. I pondered the words, mulling over them like a stream over pebbles, and thought, maybe the world does need my voice. I want to share it – and really, nothing external is stopping me. The only one holding me back is me – so I need to push myself, if I want my voice to be heard.

Sometimes, all it takes is a few words. One little post-it note can pack a lot of power. Now, when I look at this little green reminder tacked above my desk, I can battle those “what-ifs?” with renewed confidence, and remember that I have support.

Hopefully, a new story is on the horizon. I can’t wait for you all to read it.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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DNF

As an avid reader, I try my hardest to adhere to the policy that if I start a book, I must finish it. I am far more strict when it comes to films – especially if I am seeing them in theaters – but still have similar standards for books. I don’t like leaving unfinished business when it comes to literary or cinematic endeavors, and I loathe having to brand a book with the much-hated “Did Not Finish” or “DNF” label.

If a book is “meh” to me after the first few chapters, I am often capable of powering through. Some books take a bit to really kick it into gear, and it’s often worth it to persevere. But, on the flip side, if a book fails to really sink its claws into a reader as the pages pass, they can fall into the “DNF” category.

I recently abandoned a book, and though I felt awful doing so, it was the right decision. I know it’s a normal thing to do – no book is universally loved, and I’m sure my own book has been branded as the dreaded “DNF” for some readers. I gave the book a fair chance to win me over – I read a little over fifty pages during an elliptical session at the gym – but ultimately decided to shelve it. It’s the first book I have abandoned this year. The content of the book and the nature of some of the plot elements were not something I could endure, so I gave up and moved to the next book on my “to read” list, which I am enjoying much more.

However, I think it’s important to distinguish that “DNF” does not necessarily mean that a book is bad. The book I just gave up on wasn’t bad – in fact, the quality of the writing stood out to me as a major plus. It just wasn’t the book for me. I didn’t give it up because it was an atrocious abomination, or a jumbled mess – I just realized that I didn’t really fit into the target audience, and that’s okay. I gave it a shot, and it wasn’t a good fit, so I didn’t rate it and didn’t review it because that wouldn’t be fair. If someone were to ask me my opinion of the book, I wouldn’t lambaste it – but I would be honest about my reasons for giving it the “DNF” stamp, and would offer my reasoning in case they would also prefer to avoid books with such content.

I’m curious to know, as fellow readers, what are your potential “DNF” red flags? What makes you want to give up a book? Too much flowery prose? Explicit or undesirable content? Frequent comma abuse? And if you “DNF” a book, are you quick to warn your fellow readers, or does it depend on the specific book?

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

Jury Duty

Parking garages should not be so full this early.
The clock says “7:11.”
And the paper said be here by “8.”
I knew I should have stopped at Starbucks.
Though the world’s strongest latte could not prepare me for this.

No phone, no computer, no internet, no outside contact.
Just a room, 200 strangers, and a series of uncomfortable chairs.
We have no names, only numbers.
I am 0075, a badge pinned to my chest.
Hours pass, but feel like eons.
Endless, with the insistent buzz of idle chatter.
And incessant, whispered whining.
Book #1 is finished by lunchtime.
An hour and a half for a burrito and some chips,
and an iced coffee to battle fatigue.

At last, a list comes through.
42 numbers are summoned,
but not mine.
I remain in my chair, listless and tired.
Book #2 conquered before the clock strikes 4.
At dismissal, we stream from the doors, eager for freedom,
like cattle after a long winter.

Day 2 begins much the same.
My back aches, my legs are stiff.
Two lists are called before lunch,
but 0075 has not yet surfaced.
At this point, I pray for a taste of variety,
of a different room, and a different scene.
How random is it, really?
Book #3 is knocked out over a PB&J.

After lunch, we are subjected to a comedy/romance film from 2005.
I focus instead on book #4.
I don’t know how much more I can take,
of crawling time, and a rock-hard chair.
One more list passes through,
but I don’t make the cut.

The third day arrives,
but nervous tension lingers in the air.
My fellow number and I wonder,
What if we are called this late in the week,
and must return on Monday?
Such hell would be unbearable.

Five days of this would be too much,
no matter how important it is to learn,
how our judicial system works.
Really.
I’ve seen enough Law&Order and Forensic Files to know,
the importance of justice.

A list does not come through until after book #5,
a dramedy film from 2007,
lots of tears, and tissues passed around,
and another burrito, no chips.
This time, I do not yearn for change as the microphone drones.
Number, after number, after number.
Groans, and trudging feet leave the room.
No, not mine I pray. Please don’t call mine.
It’s Thursday, dammit.
I want to go home.
My neighbor is called,
and I wish her luck as she disappears.
My number does not ring out.

Midway through a family comedy from 2003,
New faces enter, with a basket of envelopes, and an empty box.
Could it be? we wonder.
Anticipation ripples through the room.
And the magic words are uttered,
“You are dismissed for the week.”
We cheer, deposit our badges, collect our envelopes,
and flee for the parking garage.

I am not 0075 anymore.
I have my name back.
I performed my civic duty.
I had no hand in justice.
Yet, that’s probably a good thing.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Viva Las Vegas!

When my sister and her fiance announced that they planned to hold their wedding in Las Vegas, I was… apprehensive. My image of Vegas has always leaned in the “den of debauchery” direction, where I would be a fish out of water. I barely drink, I’ve never gambled, and I have no interest in strip clubs or anything of the sort. I’m not morally opposed to any of that, it just isn’t for me. But, since my sister graciously bestowed the title of Maid of Honor upon me, I had no choice but to go.

Just from walking along the strip each day I saw an Elvis impersonator on a motor scooter, was verbally accosted by a male stripper dressed (well….partially dressed) as a cowboy, was called a “naughty girl” by a female stripper in a risque police getup, politely rebuffed all folks attempting to hand out fliers, and saw numerous feathered and glittery showgirls strutting among the crowd. But Vegas really is what you make of it.

img_20180901_0744021300954137.jpgThough I didn’t indulge in much stereotypical “Vegas” behavior, I still had the time of my life.

First of all, dry heat is SOOO much better than the soupy, jungle-esque humidity that’s been assaulting south-central PA all summer. Yes, it’s the desert out in Nevada, and it is hot – but it’s not a gross, heavy heat like it is here. However, the brilliance of the sun pierced my 50spf sunscreen like scissors through paper, and I was very close to having noticeable tan-lines for the wedding ceremony. Fortunately, frequent slatherings and protective sunglasses kept the worst at bay. The lack of rain probably sucks long-term, though, so I doubt I’ll be moving west any time soon.

img_20180906_211505747688568.jpgThe food is great, if expensive… but if you’ve ever vacationed in a big, bustling tourist destination, that’s no surprise. The best meal I had was probably the shrimp and grits at Pub 1842, which is the restaurant of chef Michael Mina located in the MGM Grand. It was expensive, but it’s the one meal I had that I felt was 100% worth the high price tag. My other favorite meals were the french toast at PBR Rock Bar and Grill, which is very reasonably priced, and Pink Box Donuts, which are sinfully delicious. The poutine appetizer at Robert Irvine’s was also spectacular. I wish I’d made it to one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, but I did get a photo op outside of Hell’s Kitchen. $56 for a Beef Wellington is a bit outside my price range, regardless.

The food might be pricey, but the cost of alcohol in Vegas is insane, so if you’re ever planning on partying it up out there, plan your budget accordingly. I can count the drinks I had over the course of the five days on one hand, and one was at an open bar, but it still hurt my wallet. For reference, I got three drinks at the pool one day (not all for me) and my bill was $60. At breakfast one morning, my meal was $8 and my drink was $13. I mean, I totally get it – it just made me glad I’m a lightweight. And the drinks I did get were fantastic.

Now, I want to get to the actual point of this post, so we’re going into bullet-point mode for a bit…

  • img_20180902_1548112035817839.jpgThere’s a ton of things to do/see on and around the strip for folks of all dispositions. There’s even a Chocolate World, which was a shock to me – someone who is from an area near the actual Hershey, PA.
  • Every casino/hotel has enough inside of it that you technically don’t even need to leave the place you’re staying to have a fulfilling vacation. I stayed at the Tropicana, but also explored Caesar’s Palace, the MGM Grand, New York, New York, and The Cosmopolitan, and wish I’d had time to see more.
  • The Bellagio Fountains are so cool to see. We watched “The Star Spangled Banner” and  “Time to Say Goodbye,” which were brilliant, but my sister got to see “My Heart Will Go On” at night, which I’m sure was a treat.
  • Walking past the Hard Rock Cafe on our last morning, ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me” started to play. It’s like they knew I was walking by.
  • Everyone working at the various hotels, restaurants, and attractions were all pleasant and nice, and I don’t recall personally encountering anyone who was grumpy or rude. Basically, the hospitality in general is five-star.
  • My parents and I decided to check out a Cirque du Soleil show, and we settled on KA. It was a beautiful performance and top-tier quality show and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for an entertaining night out. My aunt and uncle saw the Beatles-themed show, LOVE, and raved about it as well. They also saw Penn and Teller, but you probably don’t need me to tell you that they were impressed.
  • I won $20 on a slot machine at the airport, though it was technically a net profit of $18. I like slot machines now, but I can see how they are addicting and know to quit when I’m ahead.

img_20180901_161944_578907505970.jpgBut the true highlight of my trip was getting to spend time with friends and family, some of whom we don’t get to see very often, and – of course – getting to see my older sister marry her soulmate… who is now her husband! I know when folks think of a Vegas wedding, they imagine a tacky chapel, a gaudy, rented dress and pale-colored suit, and a short ceremony officiated by an Elvis impersonator.

I mean, it could have been like that – but it wasn’t.

It was simple and lovely, well-thought out, full of joy and enthusiasm, and I’m so happy that they included me in their special day. The ceremony, out on the terrace at the Tropicana and put together by some very patient coordinators and planners, was beautiful. About 30 friends and family members made the trip to see the nuptials, which is impressive for a destination wedding. And the reception at Robert Irvine’s afterward was wonderful, though, while we were waiting for the room to be ready, the wedding party (except for me, who could not care less, and a few others) and guests were all crowded around the restaurant’s television watching the Penn State game, and I’m pretty sure everyone in the establishment knew that we were from PA after some very ardent reactions. It was rewarding to see my sister and her new husband enjoy their day and get to start their life together. And the cake was bomb.

I know they say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas… but I couldn’t resist writing a post about this trip because I’m so happy for my sister, and look forward to seeing her and her husband star this new chapter in their life.

 

 

 

Literary Love Quotes

In honor of my beloved older sister getting married TOMORROW, I thought I’d whip up a post on some of my favorite, and most poignant literary love quotes!

jane-eyre-2011-x-400-x-4“The world may laugh—may call me absurd, selfish—but it does not signify. My very soul demands you.” – Edward Rochester to Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

“I’ll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams…” – Lyra to Will, The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Westley-and-Buttercup-the-princess-bride-3984050-465-300“My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.” – Westley to Buttercup, The Princess Bride by William Goldman

“When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.” – Loras to Tyrion about Renly, A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

“You’re not getting away from me. Never again.” – Percy to Annabeth, The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

“You love me, real or not real?”
I tell him, “Real.” – Peeta and Katniss, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk through my garden forever.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

“I, Geric-Sinath of Gerhard, declare that you’re beautiful and you’re perfect and I’ll slay any man who tries to take you from my side. Goose girl, may I kiss you?” – Geric to Ani, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

Books I “Hate”

I mean… “hate” is a strong word, and it implies a whole slew of negative things, which is not my intention with this post. All of the books mentioned here are great books, most with legendary authors who have more talent in their pinkie fingers than I have in my entire body. I just didn’t enjoy reading these particular books. But “Books I Didn’t Really Like But Lots of Other People Did and for Good Reason Because They Have Significant and Enduring Literary Merit” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, now, does it?

Also, for perspective, these are books I was assigned to read for various classes, which might have affected/skewed my overall opinion. Maybe I’ll give them another chance, someday. Probably not, but you never know.

1.) The Old Man and the SeaErnest Hemingway 
You know that scene in Silver Linings Playbook where Bradley Cooper is reading A Farewell to Arms and when he gets to the end he says “WHAT THE F*CK?” and chucks the book out the window? That’s how I feel about this book. This 1952 novel about an old Cuban fisherman battling with a massive marlin won a Pulitzer Prize, so it’s obviously an excellent book. But Santiago’s struggle and the whole Jesus parallel did not resonate with me at all when I read it in 9th grade English class. For the record, I enjoyed A Farewell to Arms, and admire all other Hemingway works that I have read.

2.) The Scarlet LetterNathaniel Hawthorne
Though I appreciate the messages this 1850 novel teaches about unfair judgment, sin/guilt, and the complexity of human morality and relationships, reading it felt like slogging through a dense swamp barefoot and without any supplies. It was just so tedious. The story of a woman branded with a scarlet letter “A” after committing adultery while the father of her illegitimate child grapples with his own sense of consuming guilt explores various themes and offers unique perspectives, but my god… I fell asleep reading it more than once because it was such a chore to get through. Each page felt like 1000. And I read it in 11th grade, when I wasn’t tired all the time, like I am now.

3.) Great Expectations Charles Dickens
Give me A Tale of Two Cities or A Christmas Carol any day, but keep this 1861 novel about the life of an orphan named Pip away from me. Granted, I read this book in eighth grade of my own accord for an assignment, which was a mistake. This book, like The Scarlet Letter, felt like it was 10,000 pages long. At times, it almost felt like a punishment. I appreciated the imagery and the themes, and it has a score of memorable characters – like the bitter Miss Havisham. But I was not a fan of the style – though, since I read it so long ago, this might be the one that I give another chance someday. Not any day soon, but someday. Maybe.

4.) Anthem Ayn Rand
I’ll be honest… I don’t remember a lot of this book, which I read in 10th grade. But I distinctly remember not liking it while I was reading it. I’m a big fan of dystopian books – Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 are two of my favorites, for example – but this one failed to resonate with me. However, I did appreciate the messages about individuality and freedom of thought.

5.) The Catcher in the RyeJ.D. Salinger
I think, for me, this book suffered from overhype, much like The Perks of Being A Wallflower. I kept hearing, before this book was assigned to me in 11th grade, that I was going to LOVE this book, so by the time it actually came to it… I felt mostly “meh” about it. I mean, this book will forever be my #1 reference point for the unreliable narrator, and it’s impossible to deny the influence this book and Holden Caulfield had on literature and popular culture, and I hope a film version never, ever gets made. But I didn’t enjoy reading it all that much.

How I Learned to Love to Read

I’ve already told the horrible story of Lucille, but before that dastardly purple horse, I was brought into the wonderful world of reading with a series about a character known as Little Critter, created by Mercer Mayer.

If you are unfamiliar with Little Critter, this is what he looks like:

all_about_lc3

A bit frightening, but he sure as heck rocks those overalls. I loved these books as a child. The first one I read unassisted was called I Am Sharing. I plucked it off the shelf one day, sat down, and read through it all on my own. From that moment on, I was a reader.

Other than Little Critter, I also devoured the Berenstain Bears, by Jan and Stan Berenstain, the Eric Carle books, and a lot of Doctor Seuss… my favorites being And To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, Yertle the Turtle, and The Lorax. I was also a big fan of Owen by Kevin Henkes, Corduroy by Don Freeman, and Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. I even had several books on tape (Yes, tape – I am old enough to remember using tapes), which I listened to over and over again to fall asleep at night. These types of stories are the ones I hope still appeal to young readers, a couple of decades later.

220px-The_Tower_Treasure_(Hardy_Boys_no._1,_revised_edition_-_front_cover)After, I worked my way into more difficult series – two of the big ones were The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mystery books, written by a variety of ghostwriters under the same pseudonyms while working for the Stratemeyer Syndicate. My dad is responsible for influencing my love of mysteries and suspense stories, as he also introduced me to old radio detectives like Sam Spade and Richard Diamond. To this day I can’t resist a good mind-bending mystery. I was also drawn to The Babysitter’s Club stories by Ann M. Martin and The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. My shelves were full of these books, and I even read some of the adventures multiple times in order to recapture the magic.

Call of the Wild GIC.jpgAfter that, I had classics like fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and abridged and illustrated versions of stories like Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London, and The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss. I used to try to recreate the drawings in these books, which also helped foster my love for drawing. I enjoyed these sort of “watered down” versions of the classics because I got to experience them at a young age, and when I grew older, I could read the “real” versions and feel nostalgic about the editions I read in the past, and appreciate that those stories are made accessible to younger readers. I don’t think I’d be as much of an avid reader if not for any of these books, way back to that first Little Critter book.

These books made me love reading. These titles and series are the cornerstones of my love for reading, and the foundation of my reading habits – and I’m curious to know what sparked your love for reading!

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.