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When the World Weighs Me Down

Last week wasn’t a good week. Hell, in a way, the last few weeks haven’t been good. It seemed that everything I read online was bad news. A pressure settled onto my shoulders, hope drained out of me. How was it possible that after all this time, the world was still in this state? Why are we still having problems with racism and feminism and constantly attacking one another? Has history taught us nothing?

It was depressing. It was scary. It was disheartening.

I felt the full effects of all this terrible news last week, and it made me want to crawl into my bed and cover my head until the world got its act together. I wanted to weep for all the injustices and do something so that my kids didn’t have to deal with the dysfunction. I wanted to make everything better for them.

My boys were in the living room, playing videos and watching Youtube videos, and I thought about their lives and how their world revolved around family, friends, and sports; about how they had some inkling of how cruel the world could be (they’ve had to deal with bullies); and what lay ahead of them. How awful would their future be? What types of cruelty would they have to deal with? 

I thought about how they tell me about their bad days and how someone was mean to them and how upset they would be and my heart would break because I couldn’t make it better for them.  But after venting their frustration and anger, they would move on.  They wouldn’t let the situation define them.

It occurred to me that as horrible as the world can be, it can also be a beautiful and amazing place. It can be kind. I thought about the things we did together—going to the movies, snowmobiling, or just watching TV together—and I smiled. I thought about how they are often protected and insulated from hardships. They’ve never known hunger or war. And that made me thankful.

If I focus on the negative, all I see is negative. I reminded myself that I get to choose what I read, what I focus on, and it doesn’t have to be terrible.

The horrible, awful things that occur in the world can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. That’s part of the reason they haven’t changed. They need to be addressed—no matter how depressing they are. It’s hard, it’s challenging, and it creates emotions and situations that are often uncomfortable.

But there are positive things that come out of tragedies and hate. These are the things that I need to focus on. These are what I need to share with my kids. The world can be depressing, but I can’t let it get me down. If I stop believing and hoping that something good will happen, it will.

Cover Reveal for Good Intentions

On July 28, 2015, Good Intentions, the third book in the Road to Salvation series, will be released into the world.  I'm super excited about it, and my team and I have been working hard to get it ready.

The cover was recently finalized, and I'm excited to share it with you now.  However, before I do, I also want to share the other two covers so you can see how it fits with the series.

Are you ready?  Here they are:

And finally (drum roll)

Weekend Fun with Jurassic World

Over the weekend, the boys and I, along with my sister and niece and nephew, went to see Jurassic World. I’ve wanted to see this film since I first watched the trailer, and I was not disappointed.

Jurassic World has been breaking records since it came out. Opening weekend, it made more than $511 million. But it’s not hard to see why. Who didn’t grow up loving dinosaurs? As adults, who doesn’t still want to see those dinosaurs? And since we’re all a little more jaded and cynical, who doesn’t want to see them eating people?

I absolutely loved this movie. But I’ve really enjoyed all the Jurassic Park films. It had everything I like: eye candy, monsters, and action. The film pays homage to so many different movies, including the original, it was amazing.

It wasn’t scientifically accurate, but that didn’t bother me. The purpose of the film was to be fun and entertaining, and it was certainly that. It’s hard to ignore science in a film like Jurassic World, especially since so much work and research has gone into dinosaurs. So, if you’re curious what they got wrong and want to educate yourself on the reality, check out this article.

While this information about what dinosaurs really look like is important, the other part of the science debate is being ignored. As usual, science and scientists are the baddest of the bad guys. They are to blame for dinosaurs roaming the island in the first place, and they created this horrible (albeit incredibly cool) dinosaur that is wreaking havoc on everyone and everything.

At one point, I thought the scientist was going to redeem himself and give science a good name. While conversing about the new dinosaur, Simon Masrani (the owner of the park) asks Dr. Henry Wu (the head scientist) who gave him the authority to create such a creature. To which Dr. Wu responds that he did. Wu says that he was instructed to create something new, something scary, something bigger and badder, so he was following instructions. He goes on to comment that everyone thinks they are doing “mad science,” but it’s the same thing they’ve been doing since the beginning.

And Wu is right, they have been doing since the beginning, but the question surfaces: should they be doing it? He tries to turn it around on the corporation, saying it was just to make a profit, thus making them the bad guys. However, that doesn’t last. Later in the film, Wu becomes a stereotypical scientist who is greedy, self-centered, and only focused on what he can accomplish in his research—even at the expense of humanity.

While it’s common practice in horror films to make science the bad guy, it makes me sad. I mean, science has given us so many incredible and wonderful things, why are they always the villain?

I know, I know, they’ve created some pretty destructive things too. But for the most part, science helps humanity, it’s not trying to destroy it.

It would be so freaking awesome if they could actually create dinosaurs! Could you imagine everything we could learn from them? According to some, that reality may not be that far-fetched.

While science was the baddest of the bad guys in the film, the military was a close second—as is also typical in horror films. There’s this notion that we can’t trust any type of authority system. Mainly because they’re out for their own selfish ends and will do whatever they can to obtain them.

This makes me sad too. After all, without the military, we wouldn’t have the freedoms we enjoy. And, technically, they’re the ones who would have the training and weapons to combat a threat like this. But, as is typical of many horror films, science and the military can’t protect us from the threat. Either they don’t want to or they don’t have the capability.

There’s a reason science/scientists and the military are always the bad guys: it allows the “common” people (the kids, the woman, and the retired military man) the ability to rise up and fight against the threat to become the heroes. It makes it so the audience can relate on an emotional level and enjoy the film that much more because that could be them saving the day. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I totally expected science and scientists to be the bad guys in the film. After all, without science, they wouldn’t have been able to create the dinosaurs at all. And I still really liked it. The most important thing to remember is that this film is pure fictional entertainment. And it left me highly entertained.

One Step Closer to Publication

Earlier this week, I uploaded Good Intentions to be formatted. It was a bittersweet experience. It always is. I’m so excited that the book is done and ready for publication, but scared to death something is wrong with it.

Since that part of the process is done, the next step is to have readers/reviewers check out the ARC. I have a secret group on Facebook where we discuss the story and questions can be asked. I have a fantastic group of readers, but I’m always looking for more. If any of you are interested in reading the ARC, drop me a line and let me know. The only stipulation is that you have to post a review—preferably on Amazon when the book goes live, but anywhere will make me happy.

Good Intentions is the third in the series, and you have to read the other two to know what’s going on, but I will make those available if you haven’t checked them out and want to. If you’re interested, drop me a line!

Here’s what Good Intentions is about:

Katie has been through Hell—literally—and discovered that it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. In fact, she kind of enjoyed it. She got to be with Josh, found out about her past, and discovered who she wanted to be as a person. Katie didn’t care that her actions went against social norms. She was happy.

But things are changing—again. Wes has come back into her life, and that can only mean trouble. His presence threatens to unravel her new-found happiness. She can’t allow that. She won’t let him back in. Yet, Katie can’t push him away.

Thrown back into a state of confusion and uncertainty, Katie is once again forced to pick sides, and in the process, she may lose herself.

Book Reviews Are a Complicated Process

I can’t get the topic of reviews and reviewers out of my mind, so here are a few more thoughts I have on the subject.

An author’s relationship with reviews is complicated.

On one hand, we’re told that reviews have nothing to do with us, they’re the reader’s reaction to our work and what they have to say is never personal.

I totally agree with this. And every reader/reviewer is entitled to their opinion, whether good or bad.

On the other hand, the publishing industry judges an author’s worth by the amount and types of reviews our work has received.

Amazon, along with several other factors, uses reviews to decide how they are going to advertise our books on their site. Readers use them to decide if the book is worth reading (and they totally should). Agents will even use them to decide if an author is worthy of representing.

A few years ago, when I was querying agents with The Appeal of Evil, one of them asked me if any of my books had reviews from an established reviewer. My middle grade book, The Ifs, did, so I sent the agent a link to Amazon to read the reviews.

At the time, there was one review on there that was more critical than the others, and the agent made that one the focus. I was asked if I had taken the review to heart and applied it to my writing. The agent basically insinuated that I needed to learn from the reviewer’s opinion of my book and write to make them happy.

I’m going to be honest, I was livid. I broke the cardinal rule of responding to the agent and asking questions (to which I never received a response). First of all, what did a review for a middle grade book have to do with the YA book I was querying? And secondly, everyone is going to have varying opinions of my work, writing to make all of them happy is impossible. I can’t please everyone.

But that’s the nature of the game. That’s what authors deal with. And it’s frustrating. However, that does not give authors the right to lash out at reviewers for not liking their work.

Reviews are such a big deal in the publishing world that companies have cropped up and promised to give authors 5-star reviews for a fee. This is not recommended, of course, because it’s obvious when someone has paid for a good review.

And yet, places like Kirkus and Publishers Weekly offer “expedited” review services. An author can submit their book for free, and it may or may not get read. If an author wants better chances of actually having their book reviewed within a few short weeks, they can pay to have it looked at. They don’t guarantee a 5-star review, but the author is still paying to be reviewed!

Amazon has cracked down quite a bit on reviews and who can give them on their site. Authors are rarely allowed to give other authors reviews, which is weird because authors are also readers. But there’s also a trend going on where authors will trade good reviews with other authors—the if you give my book a good review I’ll give yours one game. There’s this notion that Amazon wants to keep the review process “pure,” so they police who is reviewing.

Aside from paying for reviews or asking another author to help out, the process of getting reviews isn’t easy. It’s a submission process like everything else in the publishing world—one that is littered with rejection. But that’s because there isn’t enough time in the day for reviewers to read every book out there, and they have their favorite genres. On top of that, there’s a fear that the author could lash out at them if they give them anything less than a favorable review.

And that’s when reviews become complicated for reviewers.

Honestly, there have been times when I’ve received a less than favorable review and probably didn’t handle the situation well. I didn’t attack the reviewer directly, but I vented my irritation in a passive-aggressive way—either on my blog or to friends and family.

I’m still human, and I get upset. After expressing my anger, I got over it and moved on with my life. The reviews are still up for others to read. As they should be. Again, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. 

For those of you who know me, you are aware that I’m incredibly opinionated and I’m not shy about expressing it. And reviewers shouldn’t be either.

I highly doubt that most reviewers pick up a book thinking, “I’m going to trash this when I’m done.” Why would they do that? They agree to read the book because they find the blurb interesting. They think it’s something they’re going to like. 

As a reader, I’ve been disappointed by books before, and it’s not a pleasant feeling. But that doesn’t mean I can’t express my opinion about why I didn’t like it. And reviewers are allowed the same courtesy.

Most authors want readers to be honest—I know I do. I want them to express their opinion without being afraid of how I am going to react. Who’s going to read my books if I yell at them? It doesn’t help anyone. 

Bad reviews don’t necessarily mean that other readers won’t read your book. They are usually well aware that it is one person’s opinion, and they often want to form their own. If it’s something that interests them, they’ll give it a chance. But only if they know there aren’t repercussions for doing so.

The review process isn’t perfect, but it’s necessary. Both readers/reviewers and authors need each other. We don’t always have to agree with each other, but we can work really hard at getting along.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of negative things lately that pertain to authors and readers/reviewers. The first was about an author attacking reviewers on Goodreads. I read part of it, then had to stop. It was insane. What the author was saying bordered on harassment and threats. Despite the harsh treatment, the reviewer replied beautifully. 

This wasn’t the first time an author  attacked a reviewer for their opinion on a book, and I highly doubt it will be the last. It’s good that these situations are brought to light and other authors can learn from them. Otherwise, the cycle will never stop. And it needs to.

I love getting reviews—whether they are good or bad. It means that people are reading and reacting to my work. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t read reviews, I do, but I honestly don’t do it very often. If I’m sent a link to a review, I’ll check it out. Every once in a while I’ll go to Amazon or Goodreads and check out what’s been written there. But I don’t do it every day.

In addition to the main article, I read a lot of different reactions to how the situation was handled, and I totally agree that every reader and reviewer is entitled to their own opinion—even if I don’t agree with it. There have been times when I’ve wanted to defend my work and respond to a reviewer, but I didn’t. (Well, not directly. I probably passively aggressively replied to it on my blog or to one of my friends, which may not be much better.)

Some people argued that authors shouldn’t have any contact with reviewers at all—not even thanking them for their review. That seems a bit extreme, but at the same time, I understand where they’re coming from. I liked the reviews I received on Goodreads for some of my books (not all), but maybe that was going too far. I liked them all, good and bad, but since I don’t read them very often, how does it look if I don’t go back and like the new ones? Maybe it was better for me to just stay away.

As for the thanking, again, if I’m sent a link and the review appears on their blog, I’ll thank them in the comments. They took the time to read my and give their opinion, it doesn’t take much to say thank you. And I’ve done that for both positive and negative reviews.

So that dealt with an author being a jerk, but the other one I read talked about readers going to the extremes.

The article talked about fandom and the reactions to two specific authors’ work. In it, they talked about how fans can get mean with each other and with the author, sending them threats and telling them they aren’t worthy of owning the characters.

I get this. I really do. If I like a character or world, I become obsessed with it. I think of them as real people, and I get emotionally invested in what they do. Sometimes I get upset and angry if a character is killed off.

The point of writing is to evoke emotions in our readers, and authors love when that happens. It reinforces why we do what we do.

Don’t get me wrong, we all love our readers and our fans. You are amazing and wonderful people, and you’re the reason we do what we do. But if you want us to continue to do it, don’t be violent and hateful. Don’t threaten us.

It scares me to think the lengths some of these readers go to.  (In reality, it’s not a huge amount. But you know the saying: One bad apple ruins the bunch.)  I mean, sending threats? How is that okay? It reminds me of Misery by Stephen King. Which he may have written because he had the same types of run-ins with his fans.

Interestingly enough, years ago when Coming from Nowhere first came out, I asked Piers Anthony (who is one of my idols) to read and review it for me. Much to my surprise, he agreed. But he told that reading his fans’ novels was difficult for him because if he didn’t like it, he could lose a fan and make them angry, which could, in turn, cause them to bad mouth him.

I understood that. It’s definitely a fine line. And he didn’t particularly like the book, but that was okay. He was entitled to his opinion, and I still like him. He’s still one of my favorite authors and made an impact on my writing. To this day I’m still thrilled he actually read the book!

It makes me sad to see this much negativity floating around. And it makes me really anxious. At this point I’m not well-known enough to have these issues, but they make me not want to get to there. They make me want to stay in my small bubble and unknown to the world. They make me want to become invisible.

As authors we put ourselves out there with our work, and we open ourselves up to criticism. Most of us know this and can handle it. It’s part of the game. But there’s a difference between creative criticism and being hateful. And no one—neither readers nor authors—should be subject to the vitriol.

I love the passion that both readers and writers are capable of, but keep it civil. We’re all humans, we’re all imperfect, but we can still be nice to each other.

A Laid Back Week

For the next 8 days, I will be without my boys. I took them to their grandma this morning to spend some time hanging out and doing fun things. They are going to go to the planetarium and the museum and enjoy the fire pit in the backyard. I’m actually kind of jealous I don’t get to be with them. I could use a vacation.

It’s so awesome that my family lives close and the boys have the opportunity to do these kinds of things. They love to hang out with grandma and grandpa, and they were chomping at the bit this morning to leave. It’s always a bittersweet moment for me. I always miss them.

However, I have big plans for this week, including shampooing my carpet. (Hey, I said BIG plans, not fun ones.) I’m also hoping to get some writing done, along with lots of laziness. It’s going to be weird not having to rush kids to baseball games and practice, but I’ll cope.

And I always have the dogs to take care of, so I won’t go too insane. Here’s to a wonderful 8 days—for both me and my boys!

There’s Not Enough Time in the Day, but That’s Okay

I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately. There’s too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

I received edits back for Good Intentions and Life After the Undead within a week of each other. While I don’t mind doing edits, it takes me at least a week to get through each novel, and the editor and I go through it twice before it gets sent to the proofreader. Being focused on these meant that I didn’t have time to work on the biography, which made me feel guilty because I want to get it done. However, they are one step closer to being ready for release, so that’s a bonus.

My middle grade book The Ifs Return came out in May, and I had to get some promotional material for that done. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I had hoped, mainly because I was busy working on other things, so I felt guilty for not promoting it the way I should. I got a children’s workshop flyer drafted and mailed out, but I feel like I need to do more.

I’ve been doing some Facebook takeovers here and there, and writing some blog posts for other sites, which is a lot of fun, but I feel guilty for not participating in more and reaching new audiences.

I was also working on submission material to propose turning Life After the Undead into a movie. I had to come up with a movie pitch and about 10 pages of a screenplay. Never in my life have I done a screenplay, so there was a learning curve. I got that sent off last week, but I have no idea if it was what was needed/requested.

After finishing edits, I finally got back to working on the biography.

This is all in addition to working a full-time job, taking care of a family and two puppies, along with cleaning my house and doing laundry. You know, life stuff.

My fur babies playing.

Guilt has consumed me because I feel like I’m not doing enough to promote the books I already have published. I feel like if I don’t keep them in the public eye, people will forget about them. But at the same time, I just don’t have the time or the resources to promote them how I really want. It’s a case of knowing that there’s always more I can do, but being unable to do it, and that tears me up inside.

Recently, I was talking to my book manager (hi, Pam!) about projects I have planned for the future. Here’s my short list:

1. Another zombie novel with a male protagonist—I already have some of the chapters done (they came from another novel I was working on), but I want to change it to YA.

2. The Road to Salvation series needs to be expanded.  Katie’s story is not finished.

3. A third YA zombie book that goes with Life After the Undead and Death to the Undead.

4. A third Ifs book for my boys.

But before I can work on any of these, I have to finish what’s already on my plate. I also feel like I should take some time off just to promote my published works instead of working on something new. In a way I think that it’ll alleviate some of that guilt, but I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. I feel like no matter what I do, it won’t be enough.

All of these thoughts have been swimming around in my head lately, and they’ve been hard to deal with. So, over the weekend, I decided to take a break—well, as much of a break as I can take with family coming to visit and housework to do.

Anyway, my spouse and I watched Zombeavers and Love in the Time of Monsters. Both of these are completely mindless movies with very little plot and awful special effects, but they were a lot of fun.

And they reminded me to stop taking myself so damn seriously.

No one has enough time during the day to accomplish everything they want. Everyone has to find a way to balance the things they want to do with the things they have to do. I think I do a pretty good job of it. I find time to take care of my family and still write. Even though I could always do more promoting, I do what I can when I can. I don’t just sit around and hope it will take care of itself.

Writing is supposed to be fun for me, not a source of stress. And if I’m not having fun, then why do I want to do it? If I want to work on my other projects, why can’t I? If I want to take a break, I can do that too.

It was incredibly freeing to have these thoughts, and it helped put everything into perspective. I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing and have fun with it. Life’s too short to do anything less.

The Summer of Zombie 2015

I am pleased and honored to be part of the Summer of Zombie 2015! It’s awesome to be among so many amazing and wonderful zombie authors.

There are interviews and giveaways and a t-shirt! Who doesn’t want a t-shirt? I’ve already ordered mine, and I can’t wait for it to get here!  You can order yours here.  They are only available for a limited time, so don’t delay!

So, if you looking for some zombie mayhem and a lot of really cool authors, check out the blog and see what cool things these zombie lovers are up to!

Here is the list (and schedule) of the authors participating:


Here (for your convenience) you will find all of the various posts for the #SummerofZombie 2015 event… and we’re looking at over 100 posts!
Feel free to reblog and/or share any and all of these posts to help promote the zombie authors as well as letting new readers know what is out there!
Monday June 1st
Tuesday June 2nd
Claire C. Riley Interview
Wednesday June 3rd
Leah Rhyne Interview
Rebecca Besser Interview
Melanie Karsak Interview
Shawn Chesser Interview
Thursday June 4th
Saul Tanpepper Interview
C.A. Verstraete Interview
Joe McKinney Interview
Mark Tufo Interview
Dave Lund Interview
Eric A. Shelman Interview
Friday June 5th
Jaime Johnesee Interview
Jake Bible Interview
Armand Rosamilia Interview
Justin Coke Interview
Eli Constant & B.V. Barr Interview
Julianne Snow Interview
Saturday June 6th
 John O’Brien Interview
Shana Festa Interview
Jolie Du Pre Interview
Timothy Long Interview
Jay Wilburn Guest Post
Sunday June 7th
Check back often as more interviews, guest posts and teasers are added!

Summer is (Finally) Here!

The boys’ last day of school was last Friday, and they were soooooo excited to be done. They are absolutely looking forward to summer break.

The weather is finally nice, getting up into the 60s and 70s this week. It’s about damn time. I don’t mind the snow, in fact, as a snowmobiler I look forward to it, but there’s a time and a place for that. And May isn’t that time and place. I also enjoy a few months of not having to wear my winter coat.

Having warmer weather puts me in a really good mood. It gives me and the boys (and I’m including the dogs too) a chance to get outside and frolic. We do that in the winter too, but it requires a lot more preparation…and clothes.

Baseball season is in full swing, and the boys are busy busy with games. They had three last week and three this week. It’s fun to watch them, but it isn’t always that warm. I’m hoping this week will be a little better. However, I live in Wyoming, so I’m not holding my breath. Last week’s last game, which was on Thursday, I was bundled up in my winter coat and a blanket. It was that chilly. I’m hoping this week I won’t need my blanket.

There are so many exciting things happening this summer. Good Intentions (the third book in The Road to Salvation series) is coming out, and I get to go on vacation with my mother-in-law and boys to Seattle! I really love Seattle. I can’t wait to go back.

I hope all of you have a fun summer planned. I will keep you informed of our fantastic adventures.