Ehlers-Danlos In Fiction

I never meant to drag my illness into fiction. In fact, it’s been something I’ve intentionally avoided. Ehlers-Danlos is a weird genetic mutation. The things it does would make most editors frustrated.

It turns out: it does frustrate editors. A lot.

Without planning on it I accidentally gave the Lee sisters in BODIES IN MOTION Ehlers-Danlos symptoms. Arnoia’s pregnancy is threatened by a late-stage placental tear, something that ended six of my mother’s pregnancies. My mother miscarried in the later part of the second trimester with each one. With modern medicine I might have had older siblings, but with what was available in the late 70’s and early 80’s there was nothing to be done.

Rowena has the fragile Ehlers-Danlos skin although it’s protected by her augmentation. And that’s what my editor picked up on. She noticed a later chapter of BODIES IN MOTION where Rowena cuts the palm of her hand with her nails. “Not possible,” my editor said.

I looked down at the scratches on my hand, deep grooves left from a midnight mosquito bite and itching in my sleep. Nails can most certainly cut skin! But not all skin. Just skin like mine… papery thin, velvety to the touch, changed because of a mutation in the body’s connective tissue.

Changing Rowena and Aronia would have required very little. I could have given Aronia other pregnancy problems, there are many. I could have had Rowena express her rage another way. But I’m not going to.

I won’t name Ehlers-Danlos in text because BODIES IN MOTION is not an Earth-centric novel. There’s no mention of Earth, or the cultures we know, and I want that separation. I am not dwelling on the disease in the book. No one is getting magically cured. No one is going to be debating the worth of their life because of having Ehlers-Danlos. This isn’t a novel for the inspirations market, it’s unapologetically SF and SFR.

But it will be in the series.

So, if you are an EDS spoonie and want a book with a hero like you (or anti-hero/antagonist/whatever Rowena winds up being), here’s a pair of fighter pilots and warriors with genes like you. Ehlers-Danlos is found the world over in every genetic group. It’s hard to diagnose, autosomal dominant, runs in families, and can be undiagnosed for years if not generations. It’s a disease that will undoubtedly follow humanity where ever we go. Now it gets a face to go with it. I have full faith Rowena will Ehlers-Danlos regret trying to hold her back.

 

Pre-order the print/ebook combo now from Inkprint Press. 
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Add BODIES IN MOTION to your GoodReads shelf. 

Saying Good-Bye to My Moose

Alaska…. what a crazy adventure.

I’m realizing that most the good things in my life weren’t things I planned for. I didn’t plan to get married in my 20s, or have four kids, or become a writer, or move all over the country every few years. I had my heart set on staying near the equator, working on a boat, and studying marine life. But good things fell in my path and I took a chance. Which led me down curious roads and to places I never imagined going.

Like Alaska.

The Land of the Midnight Sun was never on my itinerary. Not even as a vacation spot. Now it’s hard to believe we’re leaving.

I can’t help it! I’m used to having this view out my window almost every morning. I used to the moose! The long summer days and the clear, blue skies are beautiful! There’s of me that loves a part of Alaska. The summer part. Not the winter part. Definitely the summer part. But I do love it, and I’m going to miss it.

By the time this posts I will probably be in Canada driving through Yukon Territory. I have no idea what’s out there, although I hear bears are common.

I’ll try to take some good pictures and share when I get back to the states. In the meantime, enjoy wherever you are. Bloom where you’re planted. And be ready to go when it’s time to make like a tumbleweed and travel!

The Silliness of Butterflies

There’s something a bit magical about butterflies, isn’t there? The bright colors, the paper-thin wings, the way they glide and flit across a summer glade like broken rainbows… I find them fascinating. This little guy (gal?) had an injured wing and was crawling through the grass near a playground full of kids. I took a few pictures and found some nice bushes safely away from small feet. This is a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, native to Canada and Alaska.

Look at that cute furry body! Aren’t butterflies extraordinary?

What are the little things in life you find magical even though they’re ordinary?

 

 

 

 

How To be Successful

It’s been said before by far more brilliant people than me, but there is a single key to success in any creative field: DON’T QUIT.
The difference between every bestselling author and everyone out there who says they want to be those authors is one person hit that goal already and one person hasn’t yet.
People complain about mediocre writers and wonder why their amazing work isn’t getting published, and then they give up. And that’s the answer right there. The writers who give up because it’s too hard, or no one understands their genius, or they aren’t selling well, or they can’t find the market are giving up.
 
Stick with it. Keep publishing. Eventually your backlist will be “discovered” and you’ll sell.
 
People talk about GRRM, and Tolkien, and McCaffery like they always sold well. They didn’t. GRRM has a zillion books. Tolkien wrote short stories and essays on fables before Lord of the Rings. McCaffery has at least three series that only die-hard fans have even heard of.
 
Harry Potter wasn’t a phenomenon until Book 4.
 
Twilight wasn’t big until Book 3.
 
Harry Dresden took 5 books to become huge.
 
The authors people talk about being bestsellers don’t realize most those authors published 5-10 titles before they became recognized, and usually have 20 failed projects unpublished before that. Most of them have been doing this for 10 years before you even know their name.
 
If you quit because your first book was rejected, or you’ve only sold two and your agent can’t sell three, or because it just seems so hard you won’t succeed at publishing. You can’t. The odds are not in your favor.
 
What you have to do is roll with the rejection and write the next book. Find a new way to market. Maybe switch agents. Or genres. Or pen names.
 
Kim Harrison has a wildly successful career that most people say started with DEAD WITCH WALKING. Did you know she published two fantasy novels before DEAD WITCH WALKING and the publisher refused to buy the third? She could have quit writing and done something else, but she didn’t. She switched genres, switched pen names, rebranded herself and came out even stronger. I don’t know her personally, but I know there had to be tears and doubts. I know she was tempted to quit, but she didn’t. 
The path to success is littered with the people who fell down and quit.
If you want this: KEEP GOING.
Keep writing. Even if your progress is slow. Even if there are setbacks. KEEP WRITING. KEEP WORKING. KEEP GOING.

Do I need to buy your book? A Quick Guide To Supporting Authors…

I originally published this list in April of 2012. A new friend had found out I’d written a book but at that point the only books I had out were romance. She wanted to be supportive, but didn’t want to read romance. Not every book is for everyone, so here are some (updated!) ways to support the authors you know and love even if you don’t want to read their books.

Here’s the thing, every author wants you to buy the book they’ve written. It’s how authors work. We write things down, edit like frantic marmots on meth, and then beg, plead, and cry until someone publishes our work. Then we set our hair on fire worrying if everyone will hate our work. What I’m saying here is: authors are lunatics. We really are.

And because authors are lunatics, we’ve set ourselves up with the expectation that no one will buy our beautiful book. Why? Because we know there are millions of wonderful books out there and readers only have time (and money) for a small percentage of those wonderful books.

In this instance, this person is a good friend from my writing group who doesn’t like romance or e-books. She likes mysteries and hardcovers. I get it. EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE isn’t a book she can buy and donate, it isn’t a book she wants to read, it isn’t a book she wants to recommend. I’m not going to hate someone for not loving my book.

I’m not going to be angry because someone I know doesn’t buy my book.

If you know an author and can’t buy or don’t want to buy their book, but don’t absolutely hate them, there are ways to support an author for free.

– Leave a Review – You may not know this, but Amazon doesn’t recommend a book until it has 50 reviews. I imagine Barnes & Noble and Kobo have similar algorithms. This is even more important if you’ve read the book for free (library copy, loaned by a friend, ect), leave the author a review somewhere. It makes us happy.

– Give A Tweet – Unless you object to the book, recommend it to friends. Word of mouth us how a majority of books sell. If you don’t have Twitter, mention the book on Facebook, tell someone at work, or casually drop the name. It’s okay to name drop authors, if no one else knows who you’re talking about, tell them the author is a fabulous up-and-coming writer you liked before they were cool. Go Hipster You!

– Be Nice To The Author – You’d think this would be a given, but it’s not. I’ve seen more than one author snubbed because they were finally published. It doesn’t matter who they are, they are still a person and you can be polite.

– Request The Book – If your library is like mine you can suggest books for the library to purchase. This now includes e-books. Most books are in the library catalogs, and libraries take patron requests seriously.

– List It On GoodReads – So this is slightly sneaky, but it makes authors happy anyway… List the book as To-Read on GoodReads even if you never plan on touching the book ever. I get giddy every time that little number goes up.

– Give The Author A Cookie – This might only work if you’re my friend from my writing group and you happen to make these delightful little lemon cookies that are addictive. But, if you are, cookies! I like cookies! I’m easily bribed like that. If you can’t bake, socks are an acceptable alternative.

Really, most the authors I know are chatty, happy people who just happen to spend half their life in an alternate universe. If you can’t buy a book, don’t stress it.

Don’t Embrace The Boulders – Keep Chasing Your Dreams

The highway of life is filled with mole hills, bumps, potholes, and occasionally boulders. Big, fat, road-blocking boulders that fill all six lanes of your highway and stop forward momentum at fatal velocities.

Potholes are someone else’s choice interfering with your forward progression, like the CEO embezzling a few billion dollars and your company going bankrupt. You have no control over this, and it’s definitely going to throw you off your stride for a bit.

Mole hills are little things that may look big, like losing those last three pounds or remembering to get birthday cards in the mail by Friday. At the end of your life a mole hill is a trivial thing that’s easily forgotten. Bumps are also small. They rattle you, but they won’t kill you.

Boulders… those are a different beast entirely. Boulders are huge things that stop you from moving. Career-ending decisions. Dead end jobs. Addictions that throw you out of the loop of life and down to the sidelines.

Boulders take many forms. Sometimes they’re an addiction. Sometimes they’re a lifestyle choice. Sometimes the boulder is something we have very little control over, like a cancer diagnosis or clinical depression. Sometimes the boulder is something entirely of our own making.

Whatever the case, don’t embrace the boulders.

I see too many people who see a boulder on the road of life and assume it’s the end of the road.

The teen mom who’s life came to a screeching halt because she had a kid, and fourteen years later she’s never dated, never left home, never done anything but let one choice dictate her entire life. She’s embraced the boulder and refuses to move on.

Or my alcoholic uncle who has lost his family and friends to his abusive drinking, who lives on the edge of poverty because his paycheck goes straight to the liquor store, and who doesn’t understand why no one is excited that he’s decided to try home brewing. Alcoholism is his boulder. He’s embraced it. He has decided that alcohol is more important than anything else in life, and that he can’t cut back on it because being an alcoholic is what he is.

The author who throws in the towel because on publishing house rejected their novel that came over the transom. ONE. Not hundreds of rejections. Not dozens of rejections. ONE REJECTION, and the author wants to quit because Sad Author wrote the book with that publisher in mind.

It makes me want to set my hair on fire!

I get it, I really do. Some of these are very hard things to deal with. Addictions aren’t something you can always handle alone. Certainly a cancer diagnosis isn’t something you can shrug off. Depression sucks, I know, I’ve got it. But, Dude! YOU ARE NOT DEAD.

It’s a boulder. It’s blocking your way. But it is not the end of the road.

Don’t embrace the boulder. Don’t sell yourself short and let a mistake or a low point in your life define you. You are so much more than the obstacles you face. You have infinite potential to do good and help others. You have the unrivaled ability to create something wholly unique and wonderful. Don’t throw that all away because of a boulder.

Previously Published November 2012

Upcoming Events And Release Dates And a New Series!

Hello, Lovelies! There are 72 days and counting until I start packing for my wild adventure traveling from Alaska back to the Lower 48 via ever-neighborly Canada. And some of you have been asking when my next book is going to be available to read. Here’s the summer release line-up and, good news!, it includes some free reading!

UPCOMING RELEASES

April 28 – cover reveal for BODIES IN MOTION (book one in the Newton’s Laws SFR series)
June 12 – BODIES IN MOTION released on the blog as a summer serial…. new chapters will go up Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout June and July.
September 26 – BODIES IN MOTION will be available in ebook and print
December – LAWS OF ATTRACTION (book two of Newton’s Laws)

UPCOMING EVENTS

April 10 – I’m writing something special for the HarperVoyager Science Fair! Details will be forthcoming… Look for #HVsciencefair on Twitter.
May 30 – Last Impulse Buy email before the hiatus
June 10 – I pack up my desktop and house. I will have spotty internet for the remainder of the summer but won’t be widely available. I’m hoping to keep Twitter updated as I travel.
July 15 – With luck, and if the stars align, I move into the new house and start unpacking.
August 1 – With luck, and if the stars align, I will be back, the Impulse Buy will be back, and regular blogging will resume.

 

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS I KNOW YOU ARE DYING TO ASK

Where are you moving? I’m leaving the frozen north and moving to the gloomy northwest… the Seattle/Tacoma area to be specific. Where exactly in that area, I don’t know, I haven’t found a house yet.

Are you really going to be offline for a whole month? Possibly. I don’t know exactly when the movers will arrive but last time it took over four weeks for our boxes to make the trip. We were going Kansas -> Alaska in the winter, and this is a shorter boat ride to Seattle… but I still don’t know when the boxes will leave or when I’ll be able to move into the new house. Even after we move in, we have to wait to get the internet hooked up and the list of problems goes on. Four weeks is not that long when you consider I’ll be driving for about eight days.

What do you mean “Summer Serial”? There are a number of ways to release new books. There’s the classic big-ad-push that comes with big presses, there’s the targeted releases you find at small presses and from indie authors, there are soft release, and there’s serials… Serializing a story isn’t a new idea. It’s what comics do. It’s what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did to publish Sherlock. It’s a format that appeals to devoted fans and casual readers alike because you get to try the story for free. If you don’t want to read all the chapters, you don’t need to. If you want to wait until it’s all available for free, you can. If you want to buy the book, that’s an option too.

I’ve never tried serializing a story before, and I knew I wanted to do something to make up for my online absence this summer. A serial story sounded like a good way to bridge the gap between houses. You’ll have something to read, and I’ll have your comments to look forward to when I get back. If this goes well, I may launch future series this way. If it doesn’t, that’s life. This is an experiment and you get to participate! Yay! Science!

Wait… a new series? When did this happen?  The Newton’s Laws series started while I was working on CONVERGENCE POINT and was originally intended to be stand-alone short story. Once I started world building a whole new universe unfolded and I couldn’t say no to giving these characters new novels.

 

How romance-y are we talking here? The Newton’s Laws series will not be a radical departure from my previous books. All the things you love from the Heroes and Villains series (snark, flirting, beautifully intelligent people) and Time and Shadows (murder, mystery, mayhem, tech) will be featured in this series. The romance and the tech are equally important to the plot, so the series is a Science Fiction Romance. These kinds of stories appeal to readers who love SF and don’t mind kissing, and to Romance readers who are willing to give spaceships a try.

Are you going to give us an actual blurb for this book? Yes! In April there will be a full work up with a chance to read the blurb, meet the major players, and explore this new galaxy.

What about that other title I heard you talking about? BODIES IN MOTION is my next release, but it isn’t my only project. You’ve probably heard me talking about FOUNDATION STONES (fantasy) and FREE FALL (SF). Those projects are still being worked on. FREE FALL is almost ready to shop. FOUNDATION STONES would have been finished if BODIES had stayed a short story instead of a novel. You’ll get to read them eventually.

Are you still editing for clients? I am taking editing jobs in April and May. The absolute last turn in date for full manuscripts is May 15. The last day I’ll take smaller projects (query and blurb critiques) will be June 5th. Because of the unpredictability of traveling I won’t be taking editing clients until sometime After August 1st. I will make an announcement on the blog and social media when I reopen. If you need an editor over the summer and don’t know who to turn to, feel free to email me for a list of recommendations based on your genre and budget.

Mother of Teens: Talking (photo)Shop


I’m not ashamed to say I’m part of the Google Generation, a Millennial. My first home computer was a clunky laptop my father brought home from work when I was six, it had a word processor and chess. I played Oregon Trail at school and learned how to draw colorful circles with DOS commands. I had my first email address by 13 and ran unsupervised through the chat rooms as a teen. I never had MySpace, but I asked my now-husband out on our first date over AIM.

So it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that I’m pretty okay with my kids using tech. My youngest (who is almost 5) calls the hand-me-down computer in the living room the “kid’s TV” and can’t seem to tell the difference between a computer and a smart TV. To be honest, neither can I. They both run the internet, hook up to keyboards, and play games. We’re living in a technological world that is immersive and global, and that’s why I sat down with my kids this week to have The Talk.

No, not the “sex is a healthy thing but please wait until you can comfortably discuss birth control before getting naked” talk. I have four kids. You can’t lie about pregnancy that many times, not when your kids want details every five seconds. We discussed sex, birth control, penises, vaginas, and menstrual cycles already. The younger two will get that talk again, mostly because my son thinks having a period sounds great because he knows it involves getting a candy bar. I think the whole messy blood part might have gone over his head.

But, that’s for another time. This week we talked about the art of photo manipulation, aka Photoshop.

For all my internet savvy, I grew up kind of clueless about how the models in magazines looked so flawless. I wondered how they got their eyelashes so thick and long, and it wasn’t until my 20’s that I realized all these women I saw on TV and in ads were wearing tons of makeup, fake eyelashes, wigs or extensions, and often had digital retouching done to their photos. As a kid, that dinged my fragile self worth. I was borderline anorexic for years because I was terrified of being too fat to be pretty.

And this week a fabulous teaching tool came to my attention. Enter MEITU! This fabulous photo app is actually produced by a cellphone company in China whose phones feature high-def front-facing cameras perfect for taking selfies.

Guess who can’t take a selfie to save her life? THIS GIRL!

But I was bored and decided to download the Meitu app earlier this week so I could play with it. So, here’s me first thing in the morning. It’s -20 outside, I’m wearing my Jamaican Bobsled Team shirt, some leggings, and I haven’t had breakfast. I forced a smile, and then because I didn’t like it I went to Meitu’s editing feature and slimmed my face. I pulled my cheeks in, widened my tired eyes, and picked a filter that removes the blotchy redness from my skin.

But why stop there???

With a few changes I could be Kawaii as Hello Kitty!

Tip tap, and there I go! Big eyes, rosy cheeks, shiny highlights, and adorable little stickers!!! They even added a lip tint. Sure, it doesn’t actually look like me, but I’m adorable!

My kids notice when I’m not watching them like a hawk (or maybe they noticed me giggling like a maniac) so they flocked around.

“Mom, why do you look so weird?”

… cue the discussion of international views of beauty, Batman!

Meitu is designed with a Chinese aesthetic for beauty in mind. That means a skin whitening tool (when most North Americans would prefer a tan) and a an auto-feature that makes your chin pointed (because heart-shaped faces are preferred over round ones I guess???).

I took the kids pictures and let them go to town. They slimmed their already skinny faces. They widened eyes and added makeup (one of the tools gives you a perfect cat-eye). And we talked about how this is done. About why people change who they are online.

This is something kids need to know about before they hit their teens. You need to sit down, look at a magazine together, and point out where a digital artist changed the person to fit the needs of the ad. Talk about branding. Talk about aesthetics. Talk about beauty standards and why what you see in magazines, movies, or instagram is not real. Our kids are growing up in a world where everyone can present a false front. Where you can carefully curate your existence so people see only what you want to see.

If you don’t understand that the lives you see online are photoshopped, and you start comparing to them to your unfiltered reality, the risks for depression, self-harm, and eating disorders increase. I’ve walked down that road. I don’t want my kids to. So I tore down the curtain and let them see the digital magic happening.

Once you know the full range of the digital vanities that exist you become much happier. You realize that everyone’s beautifully imperfect. And, fun as these little apps are, what’s even better is being happy off of Instagram.

The “I Love You” List … things you need to have in an emergency

Tragedies happen.

No one wants to think about funerals when they’re 21, but horrible things happen that can leave you incapacitated or killed at any age. This isn’t covered by high school, it’s rarely mentioned in college, but if you’re paying your own bills you need to make sure that your friends and family can take care of your accounts if the worst happens.

The I LOVE YOU box (or folder) is a quick way to gather all the information someone would need to take care of your house, pets, kids, and creative work in the event that you couldn’t be there due to death or severe injury. I know, this is morbid. No one wants to dwell on their death, especially when they’re young and healthy. You don’t want to think about leaving your pets, or your lover, or your kids. But the reality is… death won’t ignore you just because you ignore death.

Take it from someone who has sat with widows whose husbands never prepared for death, who saw a life insurance payout go to a stingy in-law rather than to the family, as someone who sat wide-eyed and shocked when the ex-wife was honored at a funeral but not the current spouse. If you don’t prepare for this, someone else will be left struggling to deal with it. For most adults who die suddenly, that means leaving a grieving partner to struggle through this (which is selfish), or allowing a distant family member to muddle through as best they can (which often ends terribly for those who knew you best).

Do a favor for the ones you love, and get the basic prep work for death handled now. Make a will. Make a will specifying what you want done with your creative works. Make sure anyone you care for (pets, kids, elderly relatives) will be provided for in the event of your death.

The bonus here is that knowing where all this information is will make everything from vacationing to paying taxes that much easier. So, get organized. You’ll thank yourself later.

The MUST HAVE Six:

  1. Account passwords. (where to find account and password info) 
  2. Bank Information
  3. Birth certificates
  4. Insurance Information (home, renter, VPP, auto, life, etc.)
  5. Medical Information
  6. Will

 

Below is an alphabetized list of additional items you may want to include in your box.

Appraisals for jewelry/furniture/etc.
Bank Information
Birth Certificates
Car Registration
Contact Information (next of kin, roommate, work associates, religious leader, ect)
Copies of IDs
Copy of passport/s
IEP/EFMP paperwork (Individual Education Plan/Exceptional Family Member Program paperwork for children)
Email accounts
Care Plan (this is a military thing – if you don’t know what it is, don’t worry)
List of family rules (so children have a sense of normalcy)
List of known allergies (for you, your pets, and your children)
Schedule
Special Traditions (things that would be done on birthdays or anniversaries)
Directions for handling of creative work (art, writing, poetry, ect – see This Post By Neil Gaiman)
Insurance Information (home, renter, VPP, auto, life, ect)
Marriage Certificate
Medical Information (immunizations list, list of known medical conditions for everyone in the house, doctor’s contact info, list of medications, veterinary information ect)
Medical history of close blood relatives (for doctor’s use if someone is incapacitated but not killed)
Mortgage Information
Most recent work contract/military orders/ect
Power of Attorney (general and specific allowing whomever you choose to close accounts for you or talk to banks)
Obituary Requests (where would you like it published, who should write it, ect)
Realtor Contact Number
Rental/Lease Agreement
School Information (contact numbers, school schedules, ect)
Social media accounts (including passwords and what you’d like done with your account)
Social security cards (copies or location where they are stored)
Stocks or Certificates
Vehicle titles
Vet Info For Pets
Will