I’m Alive! And writing over at Unbound Worlds…

 

You may have noticed that blog posts have been a little thin on the ground lately. That’s because 1) it was spring break last week and I was AFK (away from keyboard) a lot and 2) because I’ve been using my blogging time to write cage matches for Unbound Worlds.

If you want to catch up with my takes on some of your favorite fandoms I have so far written.

The Luggage vs Ky Vatta
The Luggage vs Tom Bombadil
Tom Bombadil vs Mr. Wednesday
Devi vs Harry Dresden

DARKNESS AND GOOD Release Day!

The DARKNESS AND GOOD ANTHOLOGY is officially in the world and ready for you to read!

This is a collection of 35 fan favorites taken from the Darkness & Good website, edited, finished, and polished for your reading pleasure. Included in the book are short stories from the universe of FEY LIGHTS and SEVENTY.

Buy direct from Inkprint Press to receive both the .mobi and .epub files at no extra cost!
Amazon | Book Depository | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Scribd

 

From the ‘Darkness and Good’ blog comes a collection of fans’ favourite stories, all in one convenient volume. Come read about gods and monsters, unicorns and shapeshifters, magical worlds and galaxies far, far away!

Head to our website, http://darknessandgood.blogspot.com, for free weekly science fiction and fantasy short stories.

PLEASE NOTE: This volume contains stories with both Australian and American English spellings.

Impulse Buy Book of the Week: REGENERATION by Stacey Berg

The world is ready to be reborn…

Protected by the Church for four hundred years, the people of the City are the last of humanity—or so they thought. Echo Hunter 367, made to be faithful to the Church and its Saint at all costs, embarks on what she’s sure is a suicide mission into the harsh desert beyond the City. Then, at the end of all hope, she stumbles on a miracle: another enclave of survivors, a lush, peaceful sanctuary completely opposite of anything Echo has ever known.

But the Preserve has dark secrets of its own, and uncovering them may cost Echo more than just her life. She fears her discoveries will trigger a final, disastrous war. But if Echo can stop the Church and Preservers from destroying each other, she might have a chance to achieve her most impossible dream—saving the woman she loves.

$3.99
Harper Collins
| Amazon | Barnes and Noble 

Stacey Berg is a medical researcher who writes speculative fiction. Her work as a physician-scientist provides the inspiration for many of her stories. She lives with her wife in Houston and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas. When she’s not writing, she practices kung fu and runs half marathons. She is represented by Mary C. Moore of Kimberley Cameron & Associates. You can visit her at www.staceyberg.com.

Website | Twitter

Impulse Buy Book of the Week: THE WHOLE TRUTH by Jody Wallace

A human lie detector is hired to unmask a mole but discovers her powers can’t protect her when even the bad guys are superpowered.

Cleopatra Giancarlo is different from your average twenty something career girl. For one thing, she knows when people lie because she can see the truth in their shadows. For another, she doesn’t use her power for good. Or evil. After repeated failures to help others, she mostly just uses it to get deals at Bloomingdale’s. She fears what the government would do if they discovered her ability, yet she longs to find out if there are people like her out there. If there’s anything more she could be.

She gets her wish when two strangers whisk her away from her old life and introduce her to the world of suprasensors. John Arlin and Samantha Grooms represent an organization called Y
uriCorp, one of many privately-owned firms that employ supras like Cleo to increase their profit margin. Any of these firms would be thrilled to have Cleo on staff, and their methods of recruitment aren’t always friendly.

But even in the world of supras, Cleo doesn’t get to be normal. Her new boss wants her to go undercover and seek traitors in the company ranks. Her new friends know what she can do and how to work around it. And her new assignment might end up with her in a coma-or worse.

$4.99
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | itunes

 

Jody Wallace grew up in the South in a very rural area. She went to school a long time and ended up with a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Her resume includes college English instructor, technical documents editor, market analyst, web designer, and all around pain in the butt. She resides in Tennessee with one husband, two children, one Grandma, six cats, and a lot of junk.

Website | Catsite | Newsletter | Twitter | Facebook 

 

 

SciFi/Fantasy book Giveaway!

Family is such a comfort. There’s your blood family and then there’s the family you create through shared experiences. There’s no better shared experience than writing, and many of the authors from Harper Voyager have become close. We love to support each other. 

And we love to do things together! Like chat about science fiction and fantasy books. 

And super lucky for readers, we like to give away books together, too! 




Please check out this collection of magnificent science fiction and fantasy books! Then use the rafflecopter below to enter to win a paperback copy. Or if a book sounds too good to miss, links are included so you can go ahead and purchase. 

We will choose three winners/each winner will receive four books. (Note: Winners must provide a US address.) The contest runs from Saturday, March 4th until March 15th. Please remember to tweet about the giveaway for extra chances to win! 

And be sure to join us for our monthly twitter #SFFChat at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm EST on Monday, March 6th. We’ll be chatting about every aspect of being a writer: querying, editing, drafting, marketing, and much more. We want you to join our SFF Family.
Giveaway Books



“What on earth would I gain from that?” I asked him. “Risk my own neck by violating my banishment just to leave you? The sentence placed on me if I return is execution. If I’m entering the mountains again, I’d darn well better get something out of it.”

Exiled from the Silverwood and the people she loves, Mae has few illusions about ever returning to her home. But when she comes across three out-of-place strangers in her wanderings, she finds herself contemplating the unthinkable: risking death to help a deposed queen regain her throne.

And if anyone can help Mona Alastaire of Lumen Lake, it is a former Woodwalker—a ranger whose very being is intimately tied to the woods they are sworn to protect. Mae was once one of the best, and despite the potential of every tree limb to become the gibbet she’s hanged from, she not only feels a duty to aide Mona and her brothers, but also to walk beneath her beloved trees once more.

A grand quest in the tradition of great epic fantasies, filled with adventure and the sharp wit—and tongue—of a unique hero, Woodwalker is the perfect novel to start your own journey into the realm of magical fiction.







Following the events of Elixir, Mabily “Mab” Jones’ life has returned to normal. Or as normal as life can be for a changeling, who also happens to be a private detective working her first independent case, and dating a half-fey.

But then a summons to return to the fairy world arrives in the form of a knife on her pillow. And in the process of investigating her case, Mab discovers the fairies are stealing joy-producing chemicals directly from the minds of humans in order to manufacture their magic Elixir, the dwindling source of their powers. Worst of all, Mab’s boyfriend Obadiah vows to abstain from Elixir, believing the benefits are not worth the cost in human suffering—even though he knows fairies can’t long survive without their magic.

Mab soon realizes she has no choice but to answer the summons and return to the Vale. But the deeper she is drawn into the machinations of the realm, the more she becomes ensnared by promises she made in the past. And in trying to do the right thing, Mab will face her most devastating betrayal yet, one that threatens everything and everyone she holds most dear.






Three brilliant novellas. One fantastic story.

Collected together for the first time, T. Frohock’s three novellas—In Midnight’s SilenceWithout Light or Guide, and The Second Death—brings to life the world of Los Nefilim, Spanish Nephilim that possess the power to harness music and light in the supernatural war between the angels and daimons. In 1931, Los Nefilim’s existence is shaken by the preternatural forces commanding them … and a half-breed caught in-between.

Diago Alvarez, a singular being of daimonic and angelic descent, is pulled into the ranks of Los Nefilim in order to protect his newly-found son. As an angelic war brews in the numinous realms, and Spain marches closer to civil war, the destiny of two worlds hangs on Diago’s actions. Yet it is the combined fates of his lover, Miquel, and his young son, Rafael, that weighs most heavily on his soul.

Lyrical and magical, Los Nefilim explores whether moving towards the light is necessarily the right move, and what it means to live amongst the shadows.







A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.

The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.

The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.

A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.







After the Earth’s power is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magical powers to survive in in this fresh fantasy series from the author of acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer Wardens who have no idea of the depth of her power—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills. 

When assassins kill the Wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose Earth’s powers to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming the city into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . . 

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her powerful magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.







Winter is the most deadly season in Temperance. And it’s not just because of the fierce cold. Evil is stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, killing wolves and leaving only their skins behind.

As the snow deepens, Geologist Petra Dee is staring her own death in the face, while former Hanged Man Gabriel struggles with his abrupt transition back to mortality. The ravens and the rest of the Hanged Men are gone, and there are no magical solutions to Petra’s illness or Gabriel’s longing for what he’s lost…and what he stands to lose now.

Meanwhile, there’s a new sheriff in town. Sheriff Owen Rutherford has inherited the Rutherford ranch and the remnants of the Alchemical Tree of Life. He’s also a dangerously haunted man, and his investigation of Sal’s death is leading him right to Gabriel.

It’s up to Petra, her coyote sidekick Sig, and Gabriel to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being stalking them all – before the trail turns deathly cold.








Anders Jensen is having a bad month. His roommate is a data thief, his girlfriend picks fights in bars, and his best friend is a cyborg…and a lousy tipper. When everything is spiraling out of control, though, maybe those are exactly the kind of friends you need.

In a world divided between the genetically engineered elite and the unmodified masses, Anders is an anomaly: engineered, but still broke and living next to a crack house. All he wants is to land a tenure-track faculty position, and maybe meet someone who’s not technically a criminal—but when a nightmare plague rips through Hagerstown, Anders finds himself dodging kinetic energy weapons and government assassins as Baltimore slips into chaos. His friends aren’t as helpless as they seem, though, and his girlfriend’s street-magician brother-in-law might be a pretentious hipster—or might hold the secret to saving them all.

Frenetic and audacious, Three Days in April is a speculative thriller that raises an important question: once humanity goes down the rabbit hole, can it ever find its way back?






For four hundred years, the Church has led the remnants of humanity as they struggle for survival in the last inhabited city. Echo Hunter 367 is exactly what the Church created her to be: loyal, obedient, lethal. A clone who shouldn’t care about anything but her duty. Who shouldn’t be able to.

When rebellious citizens challenge the Church’s authority, it is Echo’s duty to hunt them down before civil war can tumble the city back into the dark. But Echo hides a deadly secret: doubt. And when Echo’s mission leads her to Lia, a rebel leader who has a secret of her own, Echo is forced to face that doubt. For Lia holds the key to the city’s survival, and Echo must choose between the woman she loves and the purpose she was born to fulfill. 










A body is found in the Alabama wilderness. The question is: 

Is it a human corpse … or is it just a piece of discarded property? 

Agent Samantha Rose has been exiled to a backwater assignment for the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, a death knell for her career. But then Sam catches a break—a murder—that could give her the boost she needs to get her life back on track. There’s a snag, though: the body is a clone, and technically that means it’s not a homicide. And yet, something about the body raises questions, not only for her, but for coroner Linsey Mackenzie.

The more they dig, the more they realize nothing about this case is what it seems … and for Sam, nothing about Mac is what it seems, either.

This case might be the way out for her, but that way could be in a bodybag.

A thrilling new mystery from Liana Brooks, The Day Before will have you looking over your shoulder and questioning what it means to be human.






Both familiar and fantastic, Clark T. Carlton’s Prophets of the Ghost Ants explores a world in which food, weapons, clothing, art—even religious beliefs—are derived from Humankind’s profound intertwining with the insect world. 

In a savage landscape where humans have evolved to the size of insects, they cannot hope to dominate. Ceaselessly, humans are stalked by night wasps, lair spiders, and marauder fleas. And just as sinister, men are still men. Corrupt elites ruthlessly enforce a rigid caste system. Duplicitous clergymen and power-mongering royalty wage pointless wars for their own glory. Fantasies of a better life and a better world serve only to torment those who dare to dream. 

One so tormented is a half-breed slave named Anand, a dung-collector who has known nothing but squalor and abuse. Anand wants to lead his people against a genocidal army who fight atop fearsome, translucent Ghost Ants. But to his horror, Anand learns this merciless enemy is led by someone from his own family: a religious zealot bent on the conversion of all non-believers . . . or their extermination.

A mix of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadow of the Apt, Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, and Phillip Pullman’s Golden Compass, this is a powerful new addition to the genre. 

Goodreads|Amazon

Young Devin Roché is about to graduate as an Archivist from the prestigious Llisé’s University, and there is just one more task he wants to complete – to preserve a complete history of Llisé.

The history of Llisé and its fifteen provinces are a peaceful affair, filled with harmony, resolution and a rich oral tradition of storytelling. Nothing untoward ever happens in this peaceful land. Or does it?

Trainee archivist Devin Roché has just taken his finals at the prestigious Académie. As the sixth son of the ruler of Llisé, his future is his own, and so he embarks on an adventure to memorize stories chronicling the history of each province.

As Devin begins his journey with only his best friend Gaspard and their guardian Marcus, he hears rumors of entire communities suddenly disappearing without a trace and of Master Bards being assassinated in the night.

As the three companions get closer to unearthing the truth behind these mysteries, they can’t help but wonder whether it is their pursuit that has led to them.

But if that is the case, what do Llisé and Devin’s father have to hide?
In a domed city on a planet orbiting Barnard’s Star, a recently hired maintenance man has just committed murder.

Minutes later, the airlocks on the neighbourhood block are opened and the murderer is asphyxiated along with thirty-one innocent residents.

Jax, the lowly dome operator on duty at the time, is accused of mass homicide and faced with a mound of impossible evidence against him.

His only ally is Runstom, the rogue police officer charged with transporting him to a secure off-world facility. The pair must risk everything to prove Jax didn’t commit the atrocity and uncover the truth before they both wind up dead.

Twitter Pitch Etiquette #SonOfAPitch

March 6th there will be a #SonOfAPitch Twitter Pitch Party! What is a Twitter Pitch Party? How do you pitch? Why do you pitch? Here’s the quick and dirty details for all the Twitter Pitch debutantes out there!

What is it? A Twitter Pitch Party is an online event organized by writers, editors, and agents around a date and hashtag. During the event authors post a pitch (or logline) for their book with the appropriate hashtag. If an agent or editor likes the pitch, they’ll let the author know. The author will then send in a query along with requested pages. These queries will get top priority from agents and editors.

How do you pitch? It’s as simple as putting your pitch on twitter with the right hashtag! Going to be away from the keyboard all day? Use Tweetdeck to schedule tweets!

Why do you pitch? Did I mention that editors and agents give pitching authors priority when reading queries? It’s nice to get feedback fast. Over 60% of my full manuscript requests came from pitch parties. Even though I wound up with an agent I found through a traditional query process, the feedback from other agents helped me refine my early query.

Do’s and Don’ts:
Do use the hashtag.
Do be polite to other authors and anyone on the hashtag (but feel free to report spam).
Do keep a positive attitude.
Don’t spam the hashtag. As a general rule, tweet once every two to three hours (4 total tweets for the event).
Don’t tweet more than one book.
Don’t tag agents with your pitch.
Don’t pitch on twitter unless you are participating in an event.

Etiquette for authors on Twitter:
There’s a lot that can be said here, but let’s keep it simple: your twitter feed is part of your brand. Everyone – from potential agents to potential readers – will see your feed. So put your best foot forward. Make sure that someone reading your feed finds the same tone there that they will in your books. You want to keep a nice balance of book-related tweets (NASA tweets for the SF crowd, Teen Vogue tweets for the YA crowd, archaeology or Victoria tweets if you write historical fiction, ect), personal-tweets (pets… people love pets), and promotion (actual ads for your book should take up less than 10% of your feed).

Even before you publish, you want to make your Twitter feed (or whatever social media feed you use as your Home Base) a place that reflects you, your style, and welcomes new readers to stop by and say hi.

What you do put on Twitter: a real avatar (no eggs!), a good bio, a link to your website/author page, retweets of things that interest you, conversations with other authors, pictures of pets, pictures of your bookcase, pictures you, information about cool stuff in your hometown (I’ll be tweeting about the Iditarod this week), information about the research you’re doing for a new book, #WIPfire with a sentence from your latest story, fun stories about two people sharing a found wine bottle on the sub ride home.

What you don’t put on Twitter are things like: your address, your phone number, nude pics, complaints about how slow an agency is responding to your query, rants about how you could do so much better in self-publishing while querying, brag posts about how you’ve never read a genre but are totally going to rewrite it because you are a genius, or hate-filled screes against anyone (with exceptions for football season and March Madness… sports rants can be forgiven).

What if an agent or editor starts chatting with me on Twitter? Be friendly and keep talking. I’ve met some fabulous people who offered me stellar advice for free just because we happened to be Twitter-friends. Done right, social media can be an amazing networking tool, especially for people who live in remote locations (like me!), are anxious in crowds, can’t get to cons, or otherwise wouldn’t be rubbing elbows with people in the publishing industry on a regular basis.

Got questions? Hit the comment box and let me know what you’re worried about.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the How-To Write A Pitch workshop, and post yours for feedback.

 

Impulse Buy Book of the Week: WINDSINGER by A.F.E. Smith

Ayla Nightshade prepares to meet with the Kardise ambassador to sign a treaty between Mirrorvale and Sol Kardis. However, negotiations are halted as the ambassador is discovered dead in his chambers, poisoned by the same bottle of taransey he and Ayla had shared the night before.

Ayla has been framed for murder and the peace between two kingdoms is at stake. Tomas Caraway and his Helmsmen must rush to prove her innocence before war destroys all they have fought for.

Along the way they discover the plans for a Parovian airship, the Windsinger, which reveal a chamber designed for a special cargo: a living one.

Together Ayla and Tomas set out to uncover their real enemies – a search that will lead them closer to home than they ever anticipated.

$3.99
HarperCollins
 | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google play | iBooks | Kobo

 

A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.

What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

Website          Twitter          Facebook          Goodreads

 

 

 

Looking for the #SonOfAPitch Twitter Pitch workshop? Click HERE!

#SonOfAPitch Twitter Pitch Time!

Ready to write the perfect Twitter pitch?

The perfect elevator pitch (sometimes called a Logline), is a 1-2 sentence description of your book that summarizes the main idea for a quick sale. It’s the pitch you use on social media, at cons, at book signings, and that librarians, agents, and editors will use to pitch the book to their audiences. An ideal pitch makes your story sound unique and exciting without being too long.

What You Want To Include:
– Setting
– Description of the protagonist
– The problem to be solved
– Description of the antagonist
– Conflict preventing the problem from being solved
– The ultimate goal

What You Don’t Include:
– Proper nouns (names aren’t relevant)
– Irrelevant personal data (age, height, weight, ethnicity, gender, ect… unless one of these is the main trait of a character- ie 120yo scientist with a key to eternal life)
– Information about the author (unless you are writing nonfic with a platform)
– World building details

Let’s try writing a pitch for Harry Potter…
– Setting – England
– Description of the protagonist – A young boy living with his aunt and uncle
– The problem to be solved – Wants a birthday party and friends
– Description of the antagonist – But has an abusive aunt and uncle
– Conflict preventing the problem from being solved – Who haven’t told him
– The ultimate goal – He’s a really popular wizard!

Twitter Pitch: A young English boy who lives with his abusive aunt and uncle discovers he is a wizard with a destiny! (you can probably do better than this)

 

COMMENTS ARE CLOSED 3-6-17
You may read through the comments but they will not be moderated, and pitches left here will not be workshopped. Thank you for participating in #SonOfAPitch!
If you would like help with your pitch or query, please review my available editing services.

Just Keep Breathing (reposted from Tumblr)

As many of you know, I’ve struggled with depression for several years. First postpartum depression aggravated by severe anemia, and then seasonal depression caused by living through an Alaskan winter. It’s been rough going. Some days have been very, very bad, especially as the pain associated with my Ehlers-Danlos has gotten worse over the years. I do try to keep my rants to a minimum, but you’ve probably seen one on Twitter or found one of my older blog posts on the subject. Last week, after a particularly bad day, I posted a bit of a pity-party on Tumblr.

This morning I had an Anonymous message in my Tumlbr Ask Box.

Liana, your message about not killing myself made me cry. Thank you so much, so much. This post might only work for now, but it,s possible that that’s one moment longer, one day longer than it would have been

… I can’t reply one-on-one to an Anonymous message, so here’s my response (posted here and on Tumblr so Anon can find it).

*hugs* 

Hang in there. I know whatever you’re going through is rough. Maybe it’s something I’ve been through too, maybe not, but I know anything that drags you down low enough that you think about killing yourself is rough. And I can’t tell you it will be over soon, or ever. But that doesn’t matter. Because you have so much potential. So many wonderful things still to do in this life. Don’t give up on it yet.

A new season is coming. There are things to look forward to. There are flowers and new people and who knows what else. Probably some of it won’t be so great, but you and me… we’re pros at dealing with “not so great”, right? Been there, done that, bought the over-priced t-shirt.

People like us, we are so much stronger than the world imagines. We have incredibly bad days. We sink down, and we fail, and the darkness all but consumes us. And somehow, against all odds, we get back up again. We take the weight of that pain, and the crushing despair, and we still stand. We still fight.

Often, no one else knows about the battle raging inside us. It’s a secret we keep.

But one day, you’ll see someone else fighting a battle you know they can’t win. They’ll be in a situation where all is lost. But you can step in, because you’ve fought hard for your scars. You’ve fought to stay alive. And all this pain, and suffering, and frustration has taught you how to build a shield. All the strength you have will be the only thing that saves that person.

You and me, we’re fighters. We’re on the toughest training ground on the planet. Like every hero in every story, depression has stripped us of our friends, our family, our joy, our weapons… all that is left is us, alone.

And like the hero you are, you are all you need.

You are going to get up and win this fight.

Today maybe all you’ll do is survive. Maybe the way you win the fight today is to just keep breathing. I know how hard that is some days. But if you keep breathing today, then tomorrow it’ll be a little easier. Next month it’ll be easier still. And inch by inch you will crawl out of the hell of depression and when you do, you will be the strongest person in the world. You will have faced all the demons of hell and crushed them with nothing more than your will to survive.

That day, you will stride the world as a titan, a god among men. Stronger, braver, and kinder for the battle you have survived.

You will be someone’s hero. You will be there to understand what no one else could, to stand against a foe so foe so few understand. You are going to save someone, because right now you are learning to save yourself.

And, today, all you need to do is breath.

I love you. Keep breathing.

<3

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.