Monday, March 23, 2015

Wanted: Reviewers, Readers, and Book Bloggers

Book III of the Afterlife Series is just about ready for release and I'm currently looking for readers who are willing to read and review an ARC. Honest reviews only, of course. I've got very thick skin. 

Here's the blurb: 

In the third and final installment of the award-winning Afterlife Series, she’s got nothing left to lose; he has everything to gain…

A longtime resident of the Afterlife, Xavia Donovan has vowed to do whatever it takes to get out of the realm of the dead and move on. She didn’t expect “whatever it takes” to mean counseling the baddest bad boy to cross her path—in life or death.  

On Earth, Osiris Cavanaugh spent lifetimes betraying his country, betraying his compatriots, and betraying the one person now assigned to help him become a better soul: Xavia.

With the help of an unusual child on Earth, they’ll conquer their pasts. But now that they’ve come together, will their futures tear them apart?

If you're interested in reading and reviewing this (or any of my books), please contact me for information.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

When Does Inspiration Become Theft?

Throughout time, all artists have been inspired by those who came before them. But when does the use of someone else's idea blur the line between "inspiration" and "theft?"

Note I'm not talking about plagiarism, which is a worse crime in the publishing world. In this post, I'm referring solely to the theft of ideas.  

Anyone in the publishing world will tell you, you can't copyright an idea. And there are many instances of synchronicity: when more than one artist releases a similar concept at the same time. Check out these movies, with similar plots, released in the same year. Remember Dante's Peak and Volcano? More recently, there was Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down. How about No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits? Synchronicity does happen, and it's never intentional.

Many authors happily admit they first began writing when they read a particular story and thought they could do it better, or came up with a stronger idea based on it, or wanted to somehow pay homage to the characters or authors. When it's complimentary, this can be a wonderful honor. Look at the sudden influx of erotica novels that have some of the same elements as Fifty Shades of Grey, or the post-apocalyptic YA series like Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, Uglies or Penryn and the End of Days. Ideas can always be twisted and rewritten into new settings, new sub-plots, new stories. That's what an inspired artist can freely create.

But there are times when an artist takes an idea or project, recreates it with little to no change to the original work, and never admits knowledge of the source material. Now, in many of these instances, the "inspired" artist doesn't really know or remember their inspiration. I would hope, when such a lapse is pointed out, the artist will have the grace to take responsibility. Case in point: In 1997, the Rolling Stones planned to release a single, "Anybody Seen My Baby" off their new album. When several people who previewed the song mentioned the similarity to kd Lang's hit, "Constant Craving," although the band didn't willfully copy the chorus from Lang, they opted to release a different single and gave Lang writing credit on the album. 

Sometimes, though, an artist intentionally copies another's work without permission, without giving credit, without admitting their inspiration came from some other source. In my mind, that's theft. If you're guilty of such a theft, it's never too late to admit your mistake and make amends to the victim. If not, well, eventually, karma will catch up to you.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Winter Blows...I Mean Blues

Anybody else tired of winter? I mean, here it is the first week in March and here in my hometown, we're gearing up for not one, but two (!) snowstorms over the next forty-eight hours. I still have the same snow reaching up to my mailbox that fell at the end of January. It's time for Old Man Winter to move on to that great nursing home in Antarctica. 

I miss seeing the blacktop on my driveway. 

I miss every other color but white.

I miss skirts and dresses.

I miss my feet being dry.

I miss blue skies.

I miss the sun, dammit!

Oh, spring, where are you?

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

It's Valentine's Day! Get Your Romance On!

Does it surprise you to know I'm a hopeless romantic? And today is the perfect day for me to share some of my favorite romantic lines from literature. These are the bits of perfection that make me sigh just thinking about them. 

Stuck for something romantic to write in your love's Valentine's Day card? Take some help from the pros. (Just be sure to credit them!)

1. "You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

2. "I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is not that strange?" - William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

3. "Soul meets soul on lovers' lips." - Percy Bysse Shelley, Prometheus Unbound

4. "At his lips' touch, she blossomed for him like a flower, and the incarnation was complete." - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

5. "It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight." - Vladamir Nabakov, Lolita

6. "I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly and then all at once." - John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

7. "Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches." - William Goldman, The Princess Bride

8. "Love of man for woman, love of woman for man. That's the nature, the meaning, the best of life itself." - Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage

9. "I don't want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want you." - Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of the Island

10. "I see you everywhere, in the stars, in the river. To me, you're everything that exists, the reality of everything." - Virginia Woolf, Night and Day

And because I do happen to write romance, I thought I'd share a few of my own.

1. "With all my heart, for all our lifetimes, I forgive him!" - Eternally Yours

2. "I can’t fight the unknown. And Vivi, here’s the thing: you’re worth fighting for. So get ready. No matter what you meant by sending this to me, I’ll be coming for you." - Duping Cupid

3. "Love was a risk, a dare, a challenge that had to be overcome. Because, in the end, love was the greatest gift one person could offer another. It wasn’t to be taken lightly or abused. Love was meant to be cherished." - Charming for Mother's Day

4. “Put up with you? No, sweetheart. I told you. I intend to worship you. To discover your dreams one by one and spend my life making them come true.”- Nobody's Darling

5. "Any woman who claims to love me had better be ready to announce it in the Sunday New York Times. She should know how I feel about her without needing reassurance. She’ll want the world to know we’re together because that’s exactly what she’ll get from me." - Duet in September

Now, go forth and woo the one you love!

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

RWA National: Are You Ready?

So I got my hotel confirmation about an hour ago. I'm guessing that makes it official: I'm booked for RWA's National Conference for this coming July.

It's an event I look forward to attending every year. The workshops, the Literacy Signing, the opportunity to meet authors who turn me into a squeeing fangirl, the chance to connect with old friends, the creative buzz, the books. 

Whether this is your first time or your fifty-first time, there's something for every romance writer to enjoy and learn from. Over the years, I've discovered so much about the business, the genre, and myself at each of these conferences. I can't wait to learn something new this year.

If you're going, look for me in the crowd. If not, stay tuned to my blog, FB, and Twitter for anecdotes, observations, and the usual sarcasm.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Like WEN, But Hate the Price? May I Suggest...

I've been a WEN user for years. I love the idea of cleansing my hair without the harsh sulfates that strip the natural oils. And WEN keeps my color strong for a good long time. But...

The price. 

Oh, the price. And the subscription packages. See, I really like the conditioning shampoo, the refresher mist, and the styling creme. But in order to get those three items, I have to buy the packages that include other items I don't use often. (Honestly, I have fourteen jars of deep conditioner. Fourteen!) And honestly, I've never liked any of the scents WEN had.

After a while, I just couldn't justify the cost vs. the waste. So I unsubscribed (a major pain in the butt because you have to do it via phone and the salespeople keep hassling you to hang on to the subscription) and began the search for something similar, but cheaper and more convenient. I started in my local beauty supply stores then moved on to the discount stores. I tried versions by Aveeno, L'Oreal, Organix, Paul Mitchell. Nothing seemed to give me the same results. Until I found...

...Wait for it...

ASIAM Coconut Cowash!

It's made with tangerine, coconut oil, and saw palmetto. It smells terrific and leaves my hair silky, shiny, and so soft. It's available at Amazon, but I've heard rumors you can also find it at your local Target or drug store. So, if you're interested, give it a shot. It's made a huge difference to my hair and my wallet.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

How Modern Medicine Almost Destroyed My Life and How I'm Finding My Way Back

Warning! Long post. But it could be worth the read for a lot of you.

Sometimes, doctors don't know best. 

Seventeen years ago, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, a hyperthyroid disorder that, in my case, had become so acute, I was urged to undergo radioactive iodine therapy. After the therapy came years (no, decades) of specialists and pills and bizarre new ailments. From the start, I was deceived by the medical community.

I was told if I didn't immediately undergo the RAI therapy, I was at high risk for a stroke. And the only other treatment available for me would require me to take medication for the rest of my life. And because the dosage levels of this medication were inconsistent and fluctuated, I would have to be under constant supervision by an endocrinologist who would adjust my dosages according to my routine blood test results. What I wasn't told was that, after RAI therapy, I would still be on medication for the rest of my life (just a different medication.) And because the dosage levels of Synthroid were inconsistent and fluctuated, I would be under constant supervision by an endocrinologist who would adjust my dosages according to my routine blood test results.

But that's not all...

No one told me that after the procedure, I would have to quarantine myself from everyone in my household. I had a newborn at home and had to scramble to find someone to take him from us for a week. My laundry had to be done separately from the rest of the family's. I couldn't use the same silverware, dishes, and glassware, and all my things had to be washed separately. I had to watch my iodine intake. I'd suffer from excessive dry mouth. No one mentioned the need for dental care prior to the procedure or warned me that the teeth in my mouth might crack in half, due to radiation in my saliva.

I won't go into the details of the treatment itself. (Just picture someone in a lead suit handing you a pill in a lead container with six-foot long lead tongs and saying, "Here. Swallow this. But wait 'til I'm out of the room.") From the moment I was put on Synthroid, I complained to my various specialists that I honestly believed the thyroid medication was not working for me. And over the last seventeen years, my symptoms and complaints have been ignored or dismissed.  

Since the RAI treatment, I've had seven different endocrinologists. I've never remained on the same level of thyroid hormone for more than six months. I gained fifty pounds--weight I still struggle to lose and can't, no matter what diet I try or how often I go to the gym. I went through peri-menopause for thirteen years and dealt with excessive hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. I've battled with depression. I've suffered fibromyalgia and arthritis and constant pain that sometimes had me curled up on the bathroom floor, too debilitated to move. I have herniated discs and bursitis. My hair falls out at alarming rates. And TSH levels are considered within "normal range."

Two years ago, I finally said, "Enough. There has to be someone out there who can help me." I found a naturopath and, after reviewing my history, she agreed with me that the thyroid meds had not only not worked for me, they'd pretty much shut down my metabolism. My adrenal glands were overworked and underperforming. Big time. Don't believe me? Take a look at this chart:

These are my actual results. Start with the numbers. Column 1 are my numbers, column two are the normal ranges for each item. For example, in the morning, the normal range for cortisol levels is 13.0-24.0. What were mine? 5.7. During a typical day, the normal person has a cortisol sum of between 23.0 and 42.0. Mine was 11.9.

Let me repeat that: 11.9! Below normal by nearly half!

Numbers not your thing? Need a visual? Read the graph. The top line on the chart (with the triangle) is considered "high," the middle line with the diamond and circles is considered "low." Normal range would be a line somewhere between those two. The bottom line, with the Xs? Those are my results. What does this say? In essence, it says I'm already far below normal levels of adrenal function when I get up in the morning, and I'm slowly fading from that point on throughout the day, every day.

In other words, I was a walking zombie. And not the fun kind of fictional zombie. Clearly, I was right. And all those specialists were wrong. There was something seriously wacky going on with my thyroid meds. 

I started doing some online research, read several books on the subject (I highly recommend STOP THE THYROID MADNESS!I found out I was not the only one who'd fought with her endocrinologists, and my prolonged symptoms were actually quite common in others who'd undergone RAI and then been placed on Synthroid.

Time to take charge.

Together with my naturopath, my personal trainer at my gym, and a brand spankin' new endocrinologist who had an open mind, we developed a new health regimen for me. Bye-bye Synthroid. Hello, Thyroid Armour. Bye-bye dairy, sugar, and most (but not all) gluten. Hello, protein. Lots and lots of protein.

It's only been about six weeks, but I've already noticed the changes. The fibromyalgia is gone. Gone! I'm finding less hair on the floor after a shower. The nice me is back, and I smile a lot more. I sleep better, and I wake up refreshed. The weight's still an issue, but I have hope. I'm a work in progress. I'll know a little more next month when I go back for my follow-up with my endocrinologist.

Whether or not you're a thyroid patient, whether or not your symptoms and story are similar to mine, take note of the moral of the story. Doctors don't know everything. Doctors don't know your body the way you do. If your doctor won't listen to you and help you find answers, find another doctor! And keep looking until you find the right one for you.