Painting on the Canvas of Your Life

21 10 2014

I’ve been reading Panache Desai’s Discovering Your Soul Signature and wanted to share one of the meditations from the book:

Imagine that your life can be portrayed on a canvas….When you look at this canvas, you’ll see see everything that’s been placed there. And most of it doesn’t originate from you…. As you’ve moved on through life, external labels have been superimposed on the canvas…. People have told us who we are, and this fills the canvas too.

Now start pulling off those labels…. Peel away those limitations. Remove all of those different words that are getting in the way of being a blank canvas…. As you do this, experience the freedom (or perhaps the terror) of the blank canvas.

When an artist approaches a blank canvas, all that is possible is a single brushstroke at a time….
What splashes, splatters, or messes did you erase?

Now what will YOU choose to paint?
soul signature

(excerpt taken from p. 179-180, 182)





A Trip to the Maine Coast

1 11 2014

marcia-promo-final-close-upTo celebrate the start of a new month, I’m welcoming another friend with a book release, Marcia Strykowski. Marcia’s second book, AMY’S CHOICE, debuts today, so I invited her to tell a bit about herself and give some tips to aspiring as well as experienced writers.

So glad you could join us, Marcia. I have plenty of questions, so I hope you’ll settle back with a cup of tea and enjoy a long visit.
amychoice_front-smaller
Where are you from and how has that and/or where you have lived/visited influenced your work? I grew up in Massachusetts, but often traveled to Maine and New Hampshire. Most of my stories reflect my love for New England. Amy’s Choice definitely shows your love of the coastline. :-)

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Many things…from a ballerina to a puppeteer.

Marcia at 6

Marcia at age 6

When did you start writing? As a kid, I was always drawing little comic strips and making storybooks. And then in high school I was thrilled when they offered a new class called Children’s Literature. I also took creative writing classes whenever I could in college.

What advice do you wish you could give to your younger self? Don’t worry about the future, everything will fall into place. Or, as the old saying goes: Most of what you worry about will never happen. So very true!

What hobbies and interests do you have? I dabble in many things—mostly art, music, and crafts. For example, I love paper-cutting, such as wycinanki and scherenschnitte as the craft is called in Poland and Germany. Beautiful!
wycinankiRed - Copy

What made you write your novel? For Call Me Amy, strong memories of my grandparents’ home on the coast of Maine gave me a setting that needed a story. After that book was accepted for publication, there were still ideas I wanted to wrap up, so I continued to write her story in Amy’s Choice.

What is one thing you hope readers will take away from your book? To stand proud and be that special you and to know that everyone has a voice worth hearing.

Can you give us an idea of your writing process? Rather than outlining, I usually have a small story with a beginning and an end. From there I plump up all the middle chapters. I repeatedly polish until it’s a full-size manuscript. Unfortunately, I am not at all consistent with my writing schedule, rather, it comes in spurts with great gaps in between.

workspace 2 - Copy

Marcia’s writing space

Which authors have influenced your work? A collection of my favorite authors would include Harper Lee, L. M. Montgomery, Richard Peck, Katherine Paterson, M. M. Kaye, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Willa Cather.

Any tips for new writers? There is no one way to write. Many authors are long-winded and later they have to chop a lot of words. Others, like myself, write first drafts sparingly and then have go back in and plump everything up. Do what works for you.

Any tips for more experienced writers? Don’t give up and try not to submit your work until it’s as good as your favorite book.

Do you have any secrets/advice for dealing with rejection? It’s important not to take rejections personally. Writing is subjective and is really, after all, just ink on paper. Because someone doesn’t like your writing, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you.

What are you working on now? I’m working on a YA novel about a boy, Mateo, who lives in a big city and has a unique hobby. Hmm…can’t wait to find out what that hobby is!

If you had three wishes, what would you wish for? World peace, health, and food for all. :-)

What super power do you wish you had? The ability to slow down time. Now that sounds like one I could use too.

Have you ever climbed into or out of a window? Definitely. Both. Both, huh? I won’t embarrass you by asking about the circumstances, but I must admit, I’m definitely curious.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you choose to go and why? Probably Scandinavia to find my roots. Ah, so that’s where your love of the sea came from as well. Will you find you’re descended from the Vikings, I wonder.

Did you experience anything new while researching your book? I attended a seal release at the University of New England. They have a Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center where they nurture orphaned baby harbor seals back to health and then when they’re strong enough, release them back to the ocean. Five pups who started out at about 15 pounds and now averaged 50 pounds were set free on a mild day in August. How wonderful to see the healthy pups swimming out to sea as nature intended.

seal four pic

Seals heading out to sea

Where can readers find out more about you?

Website/blog = http://www.marciastrykowski.com

Facebook = Marcia Strykowski

Twitter = MarciaStry

And here’s a blurb about Marcia’s latest book, Amy’s Choice, a sweet story that takes you back to the early ’70s,  followed by her booktrailer:

Amy’s freshman year starts with a new best friend, Cat, and a newfound confidence. But she misses her crush, Craig, who has gone to live with his aunt in Boston. Craig has promised to write, and Amy checks the mail daily, but to no avail. There are new adventures, even so. Cat’s brother, Ricky, seems interested in Amy, but is she interested in him? And a new friendship with Finn, the lighthouse keeper, who Amy discovers is a talented artist, keeps Amy and Cat busy as they arrange for him to exhibit his work. But things get complicated when Craig returns from Boston and Finn is accused of arson. There are more questions than answers for Amy as life becomes as turbulent as the cold and stormy ocean of her coastal Maine town. Ideal for preteens, this novel is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Call Me Amy and touches upon issues of friendship, boyfriend troubles, and the power of believing in oneself.

“Well-drawn, sympathetic characters and the developing spark between Amy and Craig combine to create a pleasant, satisfying read.”—Kirkus for Call Me Amy.





Halloween Madness: Little Dead Riding Hood

31 10 2014

Because it’s Halloween, I wanted to showcase something scary and literature-related. What could be better than announcing a friend’s new book called –yep, LITTLE DEAD RIDING HOOD? So welcome to Amie and Bethanie Borst, who agreed to talk about the book and share some of their secrets about how they came up with such a creative idea for their SCARY EVER LAUGHTER series, which also includes CINDERSKELLER and SNOW FRIGHT.

Oh, and be sure to read all the way to the end for a chance to win a free copy. Just enter your info in the Rafflecopter and maybe it’ll conjure up an autographed book just for you.

So take it away, Amie & Bethanie…

Thanks so much for inviting us to your blog, Laurie, as part of our tour for LITTLE DEAD RIDING HOOD! We’re glad to be here!

You know things are going to suck when you’re the new kid. But when you’re the new kid and a vampire… well, it bites!

Unlike most kids, Scarlet Small’s problems go far beyond just trying to fit in. She would settle for a normal life, but being twelve years old for an entire century is a real pain in the neck. Plus, her appetite for security guards, house pets and bloody toms (tomato juice) is out of control. So in order to keep their vampire-secret, her parents, Mort and Drac, resort to moving for the hundredth time, despite Scarlet being dead-set against it. Things couldn’t be worse at her new school, either. Not only does she have a strange skeleton-girl as a classmate, but a smelly werewolf is intent on revealing her secret. When she meets Granny—who fills her with cookies, goodies, and treats, and seems to understand her more than anyone—she’s sure things will be different. But with a fork-stabbing incident, a cherry pie massacre, and a town full of crazy people, Scarlet’s O-positive she’ll never live to see another undead day.
Not even her Vampire Rule Book can save her from the mess she’s in. Why can’t she ever just follow the rules?
Add Little Dead Riding Hood to your Goodreads to-read list here Purchase LDRH at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite Indie bookstore!
***
Bethanie was only 9 when she came up with the idea for our first book, CINDERSKELLA. She had written the title on a packet of paper and drawn a skeleton in a casket. I knew immediately that she was combining the Cinderella story with a skeleton. Images of Tim Burton’s THE CORPSE BRIDE came to mind, and it only felt natural to write the story as she intended it.
But that was the hard part. There weren’t a lot of monster stories in middle-grade novels. There were plenty of fairy tale retellings, but finding other comparable books was difficult. We knew that the story needed to have this paranormal element for it to work properly, so we went with it despite the odds!
Coming up with the series was easy at that point. We brainstormed cool monsters, our favorite fairy tales, and then tried to come up with ways to change their titles to reflect the monster element. LITTLE DEAD RIDING HOOD with her red cape just had to be a vampire.
Currently we’re working on book three, SNOW FRIGHT, where Snow White will be a zombie!
We hope middle-grade readers will love our paranormal/monster stories as much as we do. Hopefully they’ll find a laugh or two, as well!
About us:
Amie Borst is a PAL member of SCBWI. She believes in Unicorns, uses glitter whenever the opportunity arises, accessorizes in pink, and eats too much chocolate. 
Bethanie Borst is a spunky 14 year old who loves archery, long bike rides, and studying edible plant-life. She was only 9 when she came up with the idea for Cinderskella!
Little Dead Riding Hood is their second book in the Scarily Ever Laughter series. Their first book, Cinderskella, released in October 2013.
You can find them on facebook. Amie can be found on twitter, pinterest, and her blog***

We’re having two great giveaways as part of our blog tour! The first is for a copy of LITTLE DEAD RIDING HOOD! So be sure to enter the giveaway by following the steps on the rafflecopter form below.a Rafflecopter giveaway
THEN – as soon as you finish that, be sure to stop by my blog for a second contest! I’m having a SCAVENGER HUNT that you won’t want to miss with lots of extra great prizes! All you have to do is make sure you enter the contest below first then hopping over to my blog and filling out the rafflecopter form there! Super easy! Here’s the rafflecopter form for my blog just in case you missed it!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

See you soon!

Fingers crossed that YOU are the lucky winner.
And thanks so much, Amie and Bethanie




Domestic Violence Victim Speaks Out

9 10 2014

For more information:Advance Praise for Almost President, by Scott Farris
Jessica DeFranco
203/458-4646
jdefranco <at> rowman <dot> com

 

Domestic Violence Victim Speaks Out

Former abuse victim Alexis Moore helps abuse and cybercrime victims.
Now she shares her secrets in her book Cyber Self-Defense.

To tweet this news, copy and paste: http://bit.ly/1rjG05m to Twitter with #noexcuseforabuse

Everyone wonders why Janay Rice didn’t just leave. Alexis Moore, a former abuse and cyberstalking victim has the answer. “Deep inside many victims blame themselves for the violence, and leaving is no guarantee the abuser won’t track you down and kill you,” says Moore, who endured a nightmare life before founding Survivors in Action (SIA) to help other abuse victims who, like her, often found little help from domestic violence organizations.

Every day Moore is contacted by hundreds of people who need help, but many people are afraid to reach out for help. Concerned about these victims, Moore has written a book that she hopes will help people break free from the cycle of abuse.

Cyber Self-Defense, co-written with Laurie J. Edwards explains how to:

Cyber Self Defense book cover

Cyber Self-Defense

⦁    identify possible abusers before getting into relationships

⦁    safely leave bad relationships

⦁    effectively stop cyberbullying, cyberstalking, stalking and other forms of abuse that often occur after leaving

⦁    recover emotionally and financially after being attacked

⦁    combat embarrassing leaks of personal information

⦁    restore a damaged reputation

⦁    protect yourself online

Many abuse victims suffer from PTSD, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts. Moore herself even reached the point of suicide, so she understands the emotional pain people face. Cyber Self-Defense offers many techniques for healing the devastating psychological wounds of abuse.

All of the case studies in the book come from Moore’s years as a victim advocate with Survivors In Action. She has helped many victims escape from seemingly impossible situations. Those stories are recounted in Cyber Self-Defense to give people hope that they, too, can break free from even the worst forms of abuse.

Moore’s poignant story has been told on Stalked: Someone’s Watching, and she frequently appears on news programs to offer helpful advice to domestic abuse victims. Her advice has been packaged in an easy-to-read form in Cyber Self-Defense: Expert Advice to Avoid Online Predators, Identity Theft, and Cyberbullying, which she hopes will help the millions who are trapped in this cycle and see no way out.

The book’s publisher, Rowman & Littlefield/Lyon’s Press, released Cyber Self-Defense in October because the Department of Homeland Security has named this month National Cyber Security Awareness Month to increase the public’s understanding of basic cybersecurity practices.

Cyber Self-Defense is packed with information to help businesses, individuals, schools, and organizations who need up-to-date information on preventing cybercrime, cyberharassment, and cyberbullying.

REVIEW COPIES AND INTERVIEWS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

###


For review copies and interviews:
Jessica DeFranco
Rowman & Littlefield
203/458-4646

jdefranco <at> rowman <dot> com

About Alexis Moore

Alexis Moore is the founder and president of Survivors in Action and collaborator with state and federal legislators worldwide for Internet legislation. She is considered a lead pundit on cybercrime and has appeared on CNN, Fox, Headline News, and Good Morning America.

About Laurie J. Edwards

Laurie J. Edwards, a freelance author and editor for more than twenty years, has an MA and post-grad training in creative and emotional recovery techniques. She speaks at school, libraries, and conferences around the country.

About Survivors In Action

Survivors In Action (SIA) is a non-profit, all-volunteer victim-advocacy organization based in the United States.

Praise for Alexis Moore:

“Alexis you have singlehandedly changed the landscape for women (and men) survivors and I couldn’t be prouder!” ~Linda Lowen, writer, journalist, radio host, and 2009 Recipient of the EMMA award

“Ms. Moore is dedicated and works diligently to assist in changing legislation. Her commitment to helping victims of crime and her expertise in Internet crimes will be helpful as criminals are increasingly using electronics to monitor and stalk their victims.” ~Betsy Ramsey, author of Stop the Stalker: A Guide for Targets





Feeling Overwhelmed by Life?

2 10 2014

Sometimes when problems pile up, it’s easy to get discouraged. Here’s one family’s refreshing way of teaching their daughter to never quit, never say can’t. It’s amazing what someone with a “can-do” attitude is able to accomplish. After watching this, you’ll never look at your problems in the same way again. And often, life has even greater surprises in store.





Turning History into Stories

1 10 2014

BRD CoverI’m honored to have award-winning historical fiction writer Bobbi Miller as my guest today. She and I have several connections that make this a special opportunity for me. We’re both graduates of Vermont College (yay!) and both are historical fiction writers. My most recent release, Grace and the Guiltless, was set in the Wild West, so Bobbi’s talk of the frontier is close to my heart.

Bobbi’s latest book is set in Gettysburg, and I lived a short distance from there when I was in high school. We’re both also busy with the booksignings, school visits, and conference talks that go along with our 2014 book releases, so I’m extremely grateful that she found time to write such an inspiring post.

So here’s Bobbie’s wonderful advice on using history to create stories:

Growing up in the American West, I was surrounded with the bigness of everything: big sky, big mountains, epic stories about larger than life individuals. I’m also a longtime student of American history. The Frontier is one of the most significant events in American history. It marked the edge of the civilized world. Beyond that edge was the rough and tumble place full of outlaws and pirates, fanciful and alien creatures, rivers of gold and prairie seas. It was a place and life full of possible imaginations, a near incomprehensible vastness of landscape, extraordinary fertility of the land and a variety of natural “peculiarities” that inspired a humor of extravagance and exaggeration. The frontier is ripe with stories. And what intrigued me the most were the stories about the little known or the forgotten or the unexpected.

A good story makes history personal. History isn’t dull or dry, as textbooks would have us believe. It isn’t a list of dates and names, like a shopping list that no one remembers once the task is complete. History is real and relevant. The study of history, in essence, is a way of making sense of the present. As David McCullough once said, in one of my favorite quotes, “We are raising a generation of young Americans who are by-and-large historically illiterate. [But] there is literature in history.”  History enlarges our understanding of the human experience, suggests Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and as such, it needs to include the “stories that dismay as well as inspire.”

And there is no more powerful story to tell than that of the American Civil War.GIRLS

As I was researching another book, I came across a small newspaper article dated from 1863. It told of a Union soldier on burial duty, following the Battle at Gettysburg, coming upon a shocking find: the body of a female Confederate soldier. It was shocking because she was disguised as a boy. At the time, everyone believed that girls were not strong enough to do any soldiering; they were too weak, too pure, too pious to be around roughhousing boys. It was against the law for girls to enlist. This girl carried no papers, so he could not identify her. She was buried in an unmarked grave. A Union general noted her presence at the bottom of his report, stating “one female (private) in rebel uniform.” The note became her epitaph. I decided I was going to write her story.

Researching this story was a daunting task because no other battle has been studied so thoroughly. I read A LOT to get these facts right. But then, there’s the emotional truth, the story behind the facts. This is the heart that belongs to Annie’s story. Historical fiction makes the facts matter to the reader. For me, the only way to discover this emotional truth was to walk the battlefield of Gettysburg, and witness that landscape where my characters lived over one hundred and fifty years ago. I walked the battlefield and talked to re-enactors and the park rangers.

I studied with the master storyteller Eric Kimmel while a graduate student at Simmons College. That tutelage continued while I was a student at VCFA, when he became my advisor. He remains to this day my Master Guru, as I call him. And, I am so very lucky and honored to call him one of my best personal friends. Likewise, I studied with Marion Dane Bauer, whose stories remain some of my all-time favorites, and I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher to show me how to find the heart of a character, or the soul of a story. The key to writing Girls of Gettysburg was finding the soul and voice to each of my three main characters.

As I began to piece the story together, I took notes. I am a great fan of purple and pink post-its. I also like anything neon colored! I outlined everything. I wrote my first drafts in longhand. I find the relationship between pen and paper much more intimate, and demands me to go deeper into the character. Then, I transferred the story to the computer. But even as I edited the manuscript, I had to print the story out, and work with pen and paper again. I use recycled paper, to be sure!

But as we know, stories tend to be organic, and sometimes outlines, research, and all the “great plans of mice and men” need to be tossed as characters take over. In which case, I tag along for the ride. Even in historical fiction, with its challenging blend of story and fact, It’s as much about story-building as it is about story-creating. Mollie Hunter explores this process in her book Talent is Not Enough in which she offers: “The child that was myself was born with a little talent, and I have worked hard, hard, hard to shape it. Yet even this could not have made me a writer, for there is no book that can tell anything worth saying unless life itself has first said it to the person who conceived that book. A philosophy has to be hammered out, a mind shaped, a spirit tempered. This is true for all of the craft. It is the basic process which must happen before literature can be created.”

CABIN

Bobbi’s cabin

Storytelling is the oldest invitation to the human experience. Stories have been told for over 100,000 years by every culture in the history of the planet. Not all cultures had a written language or codified laws, but all used stories to frame their cultural experience, history, and rituals. Heroes and heroines, like all aspects of story and myth, answered a basic human need: to explain the unexplainable. And we writers, like those ancient storytellers, are the keepers and the tellers of those “sacred” stories. Such stories do not always have a ”happily ever after.” The best stories, in fact, reflect the whole human experience. And the resolution comes because the protagonist’s choices are made when life no longer fits into her definition. Such heroines are then free to be who they need to be, and such stories empower the adolescent reader to seek, and ultimately discover, the heroine within herself.

At least, I hope my stories do.

Yes, they do! Thanks for sharing your inspiration, Bobbi! BTW, I see that your home reflects your love of the historical.

Here’s where you can find out more about Bobbi, her writing process, and her wonderful stories:

Please visit my website for more information about me and my books at: http://www.bobbimillerbooks.com/

For more about my research process, see my discussion at Donna Marie’s Peace and Poetry: http://donnamariemerritt.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/bobbi-miller-folklore-artist-extraordinaire/

Also see my discussion on Historical Fiction at Yvonne Ventresca’s blog, http://www.yvonneventresca.com/1/previous/2.html)

Holiday House, my publisher, lists where you can buy the book here: http://www.holidayhouse.com/title_display.php?ISBN=9780823431632
And I couldn’t resist adding this fun Lego promotion created for Bobbi’s book release:
LEGO Girls photo





Too Much to Do?

5 09 2014

Here’s some great advice to fit the most important things into your days,

 

Some of the best advice ever for becoming successful.








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