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Getting Back to Normal

I apologize for not being around like I normally am. I’m still trying to catch up after my 5-day vacation. Which, by the way, was awesome. In case you didn’t know, my spouse and I went to the Mountain Skillz with Matt Entz snowmobile camp. I’m putting together an article about my experience, so I’ll let you know when that’s out.

Until then, keep doing what you’re doing and being fantastically wonderful people. Next week we’ll get back on track.

Should I Defend My Characters?

In several reviews I've received for The Appeal of Evil, people have commented on how unlikable Katie is.  In fact, some have even gone so far as to say they hate her.  

My first reaction to that was that I needed to come to Katie's defense.  I felt like I needed to protect her like I would protect my own children.  I would explain that she acts that way because she's a 17-year-old girl or give some other excuse, like she's naive.  I was upset that they would attack her like that.

Then, I stopped.  I was talking to an author friend of mine about how not all main characters have to be likable.  The point of stories is to put characters in challenging situations and see how they react to them.  Not all of them come out fighting.  Some are more passive and maybe a lot more self-centered.  Some are unreliable.  You can't trust anything they have to say, and they often twist the truth to their own benefit.  Some are sneaky.  Like the real world, characters in fiction display a wide range of personality traits--not all of which are desirable.

Katie is young, naive, self-centered, needy, and whiny.  She has moments of being strong, but they are fleeting and quickly devolve into self-doubt and insecurity.  Katie is who she is, and she shouldn't have to apologize for that or explain it to anyone.  And neither do I.  If she was any other way, it wouldn't be the same story.

I understand that readers don't like her.  That's fine.  They don't have to.  She's not always my favorite either, and I know her really well.  I don't cringe anymore when reviewers write about how much they despise her.  In fact, I laugh.  To me, that's an awesome compliment.  I love to see that my character evokes such a strong emotional response.  It means I'm doing something right.

Writing News

Late last week, I uploaded book 3 in The Road to Salvation series.  It's called Good Intentions.  It is now ready for the editor, but she won't be able to get to it for a couple weeks.  I'm fine with that.  I need a break from the story.

People keep telling me that I got through this one really fast.  I've been working on it for 5 months, so it doesn't feel that fast to me.  Granted, if I consider that Dealing with Devils came out almost exactly a year after The Appeal of Evil, then, yeah, it probably was pretty fast.  Still, it didn't feel that way.

For some reason, it felt like a struggle to get through this book.  A lot of it was because I wanted it done.  I didn't want readers to have to wait forever and ever to read what happens.  It was also hard to write because self-doubt crept in.  The voices in my head kept asking me if what I was putting on the page was good enough, and the answer was almost always no.  But I pushed through and finished.  Now, I need feedback to see what can be improved.

I'm fairly happy with how the book turned out.  I think feedback from the editor and my book manager will help so I'm very happy with it.  It follows what I had planned in my head, with a few surprises along the way.  I hope that readers enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to it being released into the world.

Dealing with Devils is on Tour

Dealing with Devils will be on tour for the rest of this week and next.  Check it out!  And while you're at it, enter the giveaway for a chance to win the first two books in The Road to Salvation series or just Dealing with Devils.  You can enter at the bottom of the page.

Here is the list of blogs I will be appearing on.

February 9
Mythical Books

February 10
Lisa’s World of Books

February 11
Fantasy Book Lane

February 12
CBY Book Club

February 12
Books Direct

February 13
Deal Sharing Aunt

February 16
Shut Up & Read

February 17
The World of Sarah Lou

February 18
Eclipse Reviews

February 19
Roxanne’s Realm

February 20
The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom

February 23
Fang-tastic Books

Pushing My Boundaries

I was 29 years old when I got my first sled.  I'd never been on one before.  It was both scary and exhilarating the first time I rode it.  I don't think I went over 20 mph, but it felt like I was flying down the trail.

The sled wasn't much to look at.  It was 1986 Yamaha Exciter.  It had very little suspension, no shocks, and no reverse.  People laughed at us when we took it off the trailer.  But we didn't care.  We were there to have fun, and have fun we did.

As we spent more time in the mountains, it became evident that I needed better equipment.  So my next sled was a 2006 Polaris 600 RMK.  I still own that sled.  I love it.  Recently, it had a lot of work done to it, so now it runs like it's brand new.  It's even more fun to take out.

Mine is the red one on the left.

I won't lie.  I'm not an adventurous rider.  In fact, I'm rather nervous.  I'm afraid of wrecking or careening off a cliff.  And I have before--not careened off a cliff, thank goodness!  I've rolled my sled and gotten it stuck in some pretty deep holes.  It's no fun at all, but my husband assures me it's part of riding.  That may be true, but I don't enjoy it.

My boys are at the age now where they have their own sleds.  They've always ridden with us, and they've always enjoyed it, but now they get to branch out.  And they have no fear.  They love tearing down the trails and going up hills.  They love playing in powder.  It's absolutely awesome to watch them. They have no fear, which scares the hell out of me, but seeing them out there on the snow is just absolutely amazing.

It became clear to me that if I wanted to spend quality time with my boys, I had to get better at riding.  I had to stop being afraid.  So, the last few times I've been out, I've been really trying to push my boundaries.  It helps that my equipment is running the way it's supposed to.  The rest is all mental.  

I've been doing pretty good at pushing my comfort level.  On Sunday, I even tried climbing some hills.  For me, that was a HUGE step.  I hate heights, so coming down is a bit scary for me, but if I'm going to hang with the boys, I have to be adventurous.  I still have a few limits with hills, however, and I found them while up riding.  But on the whole, it feels really good to try something new.  It made me feel brave.

Even my boys broke out of their comfort zones and went up some hills.  My oldest made it, but the youngest got stuck.  It happens.  And I'm proud of them for trying.

Next week, my husband and I are going to snowmobile camp in Colorado so I can learn new skills.  I'm tired of being afraid, and I'm going to do something about it.  Don't get me wrong, I'm more than a little nervous about it, but I'll be in good hands.  I'll let you know how it goes!  

“No One Cares About Any of Your Stupid Dinosaur Bands”

That quote comes from a Simpsons’ episode, and with what’s been going on lately, I think it’s incredibly fitting.

Bart: Dad, no one cares about any of your stupid dinosaur bands. You have the worst, lamest taste in music ever.

Homer: I'm just trying to party with you guys!

Bart: Homer, first of all, it's par-tay, and second, we wouldn't par-tay with you if you were the last dad on earth!

I’ve been there: revolting against my parents taste in music because it doesn’t jive with my own. It doesn’t matter how popular or cool the bands were back in the day, they aren’t what my friends were listening to, so they didn’t matter. And yes, may parents had terrible taste in music (not anymore, however; I actually like a lot of the same things my parents do), but I’m fairly certain they thought the same thing about me.

Recently, there have been some episodes in the social media spheres where Paul McCartney and Missy Elliot were mistaken as new rockers, and their appearance with Kanye and Katy Perry at separate events sparked a frenzy that they were now going to “blow up.”

For those in the world who knew who these artists were, it was a sad day. And many became upset and indignant that the younger generation had no freaking idea who they were. Personally, I thought it was hilarious.

Seriously, think about it. McCartney played with The Beatles, how long ago? For most of us, yes, we know exactly who he is. We were raised on The Beatles, our parents listened to their music. And they were like only one of the most popular bands IN THE WORLD!

Missy Elliot was popular in the 1990s. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t remember who she was when she came out, but I recognized the name. But for those who were/are fans, they more than likely love(d) everything she ever did and probably still listen to her music.

My point is that we shouldn’t get upset when kids don’t recognize the “classics.” It’s in their nature to rebel against anything their parents enjoyed back in the day, and music happens to be one of them. Today’s teens may know whoTthe Beatles are, but that doesn’t mean they know them by name. This was a band their parents and probably their grandparents listened to. How freaking lame is that?

Most musicians are versed in music history. They know the groups and singers that influenced the genre, and more than likely, they idolize them. I’m that way with authors. As an English major, I’ve read a lot of “old” writers that I really like (say, for example John Donne), but outside of an English class, I wouldn’t necessarily expect people to recognize who they are. But that’s okay.

Paul and Missy had incredibly lucrative careers before singing with Kanye and Katy, and for those of us who were around then, we know that. But kids these days don’t. And what these two venues did was introduced a whole new generation to an established star. It gave them new life with a whole new set of teens. It was kind of like what Run DMC did for Aerosmith in the 1980s.

My point is that yes, by pairing these “dinosaur” bands with contemporary musicians that this generation of teens knows, it is giving them a chance to “blow up.” It’s allowing them to be rediscovered all over again. It gives them a longer career life—no matter how long and lucrative their careers already were.

Some Days as a Parent are Tough

The other night after wrestling practice, one of the board members came up to me and asked if she could talk to me for a moment. She’s also the mother a wrestler, and I have had some interaction with her in the past. She’s very nice. I told her yes, so she started talking.

In a nutshell, she told me that my boys need to have more focus at practice, that they get off task and can be distracting to the other kids. Several of the coaches had mentioned this to her. They are in the advanced group, which is a privilege, and if they feel like they can’t handle it, they need to go back to the other group. She understood that their age might have a lot to do with their actions since they were young, and even though they have been in wrestling for a while, it might be more beneficial for them to be in the other group.

She wasn’t being mean about it, just straightforward—these are the facts. As she spoke, my stomach fluttered, and heat crawled into my face. Mama Bear was ready to lash out, to defend my kids, to yell at her for criticizing them. It was all I could do to keep my emotions in check.

My response: I nodded and said that there had been times where my husband and I had talked to them about needing to focus and work hard. I told her I would let my husband know and we would talk about it. I left practice feeling incredibly embarrassed, hurt, and angry.

The boys kept asking what she had said, and I told them I would tell them in the car. And I did. I told them exactly what she had said and asked if they wanted to go back into the other group. Of course they didn’t, so I asked them what they had to do, and they told me they had to stop messing around and pay attention.

Later that night at home, I wasn’t feeling any better about the situation. In fact, I was even more angry. I told my husband what had been said, and his initial reaction was also anger. He commented that our kids didn’t act any different than some of the others and that if she wanted to single out misbehaving kids, he could point some out to her. I agreed with him, but then said that we can’t control other people’s kids, we can only control ours.

He asked if she had given specific examples of what they had done, but she didn’t. I didn’t ask for any. He then asked if she had spoken to other parents, but I didn’t know because that wasn’t any of my business.

The next day, I was still upset about what had been said. So many ideas of how to react to the situation ran through my head. I thought about pulling the boys out of wrestling and asking for a refund or I could ignore everyone there and just do my own thing or I could send an email and express my concern about how the situation was handled. All of these seemed like viable options. But as I showered something else occurred to me: how would any of these help my kids?

When I asked if the kids could be in the advanced wrestling group it was for two reasons: 1) because I thought they could handle it and 2) so they would be challenged. This is their third year of wrestling, and I wanted to give them the opportunity to grow. The other group is much more focused on the basics of wrestling (which are incredibly important), but I watched my kids getting bored and they would start messing around when they were supposed to be paying attention. I felt if they were in a group that was more challenging, they would focus more.

What I found was that the kids enjoyed being there, but it was hard for them. They actually had to work at practice, they couldn’t mess around like they had before. They would get tired. They would ask if they could take a break, and I would tell them no. I would tell them that if they were going to be there, they had to participate. Either I or my husband had to stay on them to get them to practice. They would get upset, and I would get frustrated.

There are two wrestling seasons, and before the second one started, and I asked the boys if they wanted to participate. I told them that if they weren’t having fun doing it anymore, then they shouldn’t do it. I gave them the choice of continuing to be there or not, and they decided to be there. I told them that if that was the case, they needed to work hard at practice and they couldn’t mess around.

While my husband and I were talking about the situation, he commented that when he sees the boys screwing around, he’ll go over and stand by them so they stop immediately. Which was a signal to me that maybe they weren’t doing what they were supposed to do. Maybe there was some truth in the woman’s words.

I’m going to be honest, I don’t pay that much attention to the boys while they’re at practice. I use that hour and a half to work on my own things, whether it’s writing or editing or just reading. I feel like I shouldn’t have to hover over my kids and make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to. They should know what’s expected and obey the rules or pay the consequences. They made the choice to be at wrestling, so they need to live up to expectations.

It sucked having that conversation after wrestling, I’m not going to lie. Like I said, it was embarrassing. It made me feel like I was a bad parent because I couldn’t keep my kids under control. No one wants to have that kid. It felt like she was attacking me, and it was hard to fight back the urge to defend my children. It was hard not to point out that they acted just like the other kids.

But saying these things would not have helped the situation. First of all, she wasn’t attacking me or my parenting. She was just bringing to my attention that there was an issue. Like I said, I don’t pay that much attention at practice, I don’t really know what the boys are doing. If several coaches mentioned it and my husband has to hover over them, maybe there is a problem.

While I want to believe that my boys are perfect and she’s just singling them out and being mean, I have to look at the whole picture. What benefit would she get from doing that? There are a lot of kids at practice, and they all deserve to learn and grow in the sport of wrestling, but if the coach constantly has to focus on mine, the others aren’t getting the attention they deserve. And, again, it’s the advanced group. My kids should know how to behave at this point in time.

My knee-jerk reaction to the situation was to pull the kids out of wrestling and ask for my money back, but what does that teach my kids? That shows my boys that if they ever encounter criticism or are called out on bad behavior, they can just quit and never have to take responsibility or change their behavior. But that’s not what I want to teach my kids. I want them to take responsibility for their actions and do what is necessary to make it right.

The same thing can be said for my other idea of just ignoring the other parents. That’s not teaching them proper social skills either. We are all part of a team, and we have to work together to make that team successful, and sometimes that means swallowing our pride, admitting when we’re wrong, and fixing it.

I can’t fix a problem if I don’t know it exists. And even though the situation and discussion was hard for me to hear and handle, it will only lead to something better. It will allow my boys (and me) to grow, and that’s what I really want for my kids.