Dec 12, 2011

the list just keeps getting longer





upstate ny






salt lake citeh


so many places i think i can make it. now i am looking to the ones that will help me go above and beyond.

that's a long list.

Dec 6, 2011

Things I Dearly Miss From My Childhood - Part I

Making historically inaccurate dioramas out of food and kitty litter.

"Ooo wee ooo killer tofu!"

Disliking the taste of bleu cheese.

Skinny Topanga

Waiting for the bus, jumping on the trampoline with my friends, and listening to "Red Red Wine".

Candy cigarettes, swings, and gravel playscapes.

The time before I realized how effed up it would all turn out.

Mayflies surrounding the tent.

Drowning Polly Pockets.

Not knowing the definition of 'lament'.

Singing alto

Wanting to be an architect.

Orange pop

Ping pong, without it being beer pong.

Arcade prizes

Brady Bunch marathons on Nick at Nite.

The frickin' nineteen nineties, which includes Y2K prep.

Nov 30, 2011

Blog Chain: What Gets Me Going

Tere Kirkland kicked off this round of the chain, despite having major computer issues. Good work getting it together, Tere! Yesterday, Margie posted. Tomorrow, head to Ali!

Here is her topic: What conditions do you need to get your best writing done? Closed door, crowded coffee house? Computer or notebook? Can you just sit down to write, or do you need to wait for the time to be right?

As always, my answer is not a simple one. 

I have yet to figure out what the best writing conditions are for me. Whatever that condition that is is elusive. I have written for hours at a coffee shop with complete success only to return a week later without the ability to write. I have written in complete silence and I have written with "Time to Pretend" by MGMT blaring on repeat. I have written indoors, outdoors, and behind closed doors. BUT I can never repeat the success I have with one atmosphere. That is unless I don't try so hard.

When I don't try so hard to get in words and pages, they tend to flow on their own. It's kind of magical. And by magical, the process is *POOF* gone before I can analyze what worked about it. Like I said, it's elusive. I may be searching for this perfect writing environment, but I know it'll appear to me soon. Until then, I am content with short stints of writing as I work on my craft.

Nov 21, 2011

Goals and/or The Beginning

1. Become a One Hit Wonder. *rumbo yo chaaange, rumbo yo chaaange*

2. Find a nice blazer, brown mohair perhaps, that makes me feel good.

3. Design a house.

4. Become a destination.

5. Never buy another bottled water.

6. Visit Stonehenge for the second time and change my mind about it.

7. Wear a pair of legit cowboy boots.

8. Order a coffee without feeling self-conscious (seriously, this happens).

9. Payback those to whom I owe mullah.

10. Shake hands with Neil Gaiman.

There ya have ten goals off the top of my head. You may notice none of them directly relate to me as a writer, I did not intend for that to happen, but am I glad it did. I am a writer, yes, but I am not Jonathon Arntson: Writer.

I am Jonathon Arntson: A Million Other Things.

Try it, it feels liberating.

Nov 15, 2011

Blog Chain: Greatest Accomplishment

This time around, Michelle Hickman, started the chain with this question:
This is the month in creating writing goals and making big accomplishments. What is your greatest accomplishment -- in writing, your life or perhaps something incidental that had a big effect on you?





My greatest accomplishment, thus far, was my decision to move out to the country to become a writer. That sounds so much more romantic than it actually was. Things have not been all that easy since I made that decision, but I am happier. Let's just say that if I got paid to be a self-saboteur, I'd be a millionaire.

As I work on my writing, I am also working on a degree in secondary education. My writing is both helped and hindered by my pursuit of a degree. I also work at a restaurant as a server. That was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. I spent the first 10 yrs of my working life refusing to work around food. I was scared to death of getting orders wrong, poisoning someone, or spilling burning coffee on some poor old woman (my family carries the clumsy gene in many, many ways.)

Working at the restaurant has given me so much confidence, even in my writing, but especially in my communication skills.

Where am I going with this?

I think I mean to say that sometimes, our greatest accomplishments do not look like finishing that big first draft, but instead are a small beginning to a grand end. That end is in sight, and it's not really an end, but yet another beginning.

There are other inspiring posts to check out! Go see Sarah's post from yesterday and tomorrow head to Christine's blog.

Nov 12, 2011

Keep writing (brought to you by our illustrator friends)

I have been hard at work with my NaNo project, homework, and, well, work. Watch this amazing video, it inspired me to keep on writing!

Nov 3, 2011

For the latest blog chain, Matt asks What is your favorite all-time monster? Yesterday, Shaun posted (his post gave me the creeps!). In general, I am not a monster person - I prefer the scary shit of real life. But to fulfill the blog chain, I quickly thought of the monster that really scares the crap outta me.

I am deathly afraid of everything that lives in the water. Anemones, crustaceans, sharks, bluegill: they all freak me out. Like, I've had panic attacks at PetCo over the pet hermit crabs with peace symbols painted on their shells. No lie.

It makes perfect sense that the monster that really takes away my ability to sleep is the biggest, baddest, scariest sea creature: the kraken. Tentacles reaching fifty feet covered in suckers that are lined with spikes are scary. And there's that mouth with rows and rows of teeth. Those features pale in comparison to the kraken's eye. When they show the eye of a kraken in a movie, I am done. No more. I just want to go sit in the window seat with a down blanket and a bowl of popcorn and rock back and forth for the rest of my life.

Despite the fear, I think krakens are fanfreakingtastic. There's something beautiful in their ethereal existence. They definitely rule the deep sea.

Halloween may be over, but these creatures occupy our consciousness all year. Tell me what monster scares the shit out of you! And go visit Christine for her favorite monster.

Oh, and to my fellow blog chain members: I promise I'll be getting around and commenting! I was without internet for almost an entire week due to Frontier's sillyness.

Nov 1, 2011

Happy NaNo 2011

It's kickoff day! I could spend 500 words telling you more about my excitement and wishing you luck, but I won't

Basically, this is the time to write and write for the sake of letting go.

Write dammit!



Oct 24, 2011



My head still feels a bit like Times Square with crazy news tickers all over the place.

But that's okay, I am still super excited about nano.

So, let me elaborate on the process Kelly and I are employing this year.

First, this is Kelly's first nano and my second attempt. We aren't pretending we know what we are doing; this is all an experiment. We will succeed though.

So how will we succeed? Well, we have about 15k words (give or take a few grand). Using the outline we are currently creating, we will start from where we left off and write. Our goal is 50,000 words because we believe our novel will end up just shy of that when it is ready for publication. Since we are collaborating, we have each taken on the goal of 18,000 words.

I know, I know, that is SO CHEATING! But cut us some slack. We are not doing NaNo for the competition (which breaks my uber-competitive side's heart). We are doing NaNo for the sake of finishing our project and participating in the fun conversations around our corner of the blogosphere.

Thank you to all who have wished us luck. We will be updating you as November rushes by. Come December, we will be editing and looking for readers after the new year!

I love how I can feel the energy behind nano!!


Oct 18, 2011

I promised you a post about nano... it is!

I am crazy ambivalent about nano this year. A large part of my hesitation is due to my crash and burn last year, which lead to a two month blogging hiatus. Also, I am wondering how the hell I am going to write when I don't even have time to write right now. Let's call those the cons.

The pros? Well, I am writing my nano project with Kelly (you may call this cheating, but we don't give a fandango). Kelly is a ball of energy, and even when we have no idea what we are doing, we are productive and prolific.

Another pro is that I will finally be challenging myself. It took me a year to take on a challenge...a real challenge. Part of being a writer is to push yourself, right? Well, I have been living a safe distance from the edge. In the words of Celine Dion Lea Michele, "But what do you say to taking chances, what do you say to jumping off the edge?" 

I say, let's go! (Picture me and Nano holding hands and jumping off the edge as Lea Michele sings in the background.)

So you've seen the pros and the cons, what about the project? Kelly and I have been working on pecking at resuscitating our collaboration project for eight months. As the summer came to a close, we realized it was now or never. And with the wave of energy Nano creates, we decided why not tap into that grid.

And so, here we are: outlining, skyping, typing, and riding the waves, in prep for Nanowrimo 2011!

Oct 14, 2011

Pay it Forward Blogfest and A SCARY GOOD BOOK

First of all, today is a great day because the Tigers and the Red Wings won last night! Yeah!

Okay, so let's get down to business. Today I am taking part in Matt McNish and Alex Cavanaugh's Pay it Forward Blogfest! I will be highlighting three blogs that I really want you to know about. I will briefly describe them and then let you follow the link. Hopefully, you will become a follower once on the other end of the link. Let's get started.

1. Anita Laydon Miller's Blog (AND Anita Laydon Miller's Middle Grade Blog, oops - is that cheating?) With each blog, Anita gives her readers anecdotes about her personal life and her writing life, and how the two tie together. She asks for advice, gives advice, and shares techniques learned through her classes as she works toward an MFA. Anita has been a rock for me since I started blogging, and I am so thankful for her friendship and her nagging.

Anita recently released her second self-published children's ebook, A Scary Good Book. I love the title and cover of her latest release, but the inside is even more amazing. Children and adults will be wowed by the thrills and chills, but Anita grounds this great kids ebook with moments of reality and depth. The characters are easy to relate to one minute and totally annoying the next - that is a great skill in writing, in my opinion. Anita rings several seemingly unrelated events together and knocked my socks off with the ending.

I really want you to give A Scary Good Book a chance, head to Anita's buy page to see Anita's answers to many ebook-related FAQ's.

2. Jedi! Ninja! Homeboy!, which is the virtual home of writer Bryan Bliss. Beside having a kick ass author name, Bryan is one insightful son of a gun. His posts are so deep, but also hilarious. At times, I feel like I am reading a Sherman Alexie/John Green hybrid. But Bryan really has a unique voice and perspective that is hard to find. His critiques are amazing too. Why should you follow his blog? Well, Bryan needs your readership and you need Bryan's humor. Win-win.

3. Mia Hayson, a Scottish writer around my age, has one of the highest quality blogs out there. My Literary Jam and Toast has a lot of followers, but every time I go there, she has very few comments. I just don't get it. Mia is always good for sweet, custom-made infrographics, zombie related everything, and just heartwarming well wishes for everyone. I really think I am in love with her. And Scotland.

Oct 13, 2011

A Post on Thursday, Why Not?

I'll end up posting every day this week. I have not done that in ages. The initial reason for posting today is to explain my post for tomorrow when I will be reviewing Anita Laydon Miller's A Scary Good Book AND participating in Matt McNish and Alex Cavanaugh's Pay it Forward Blogfest. Follow the link for Matt's intro post and the official list of participants. The point of the blogfest is to feature three bloggers who may not be well-known but are pure awesome. I have had an extremely hard time choosing three, and my old followers will not be surprised by my list. So come back tomorrow and see who I want to share with you!

With that out of the way, I want to share with you a poem from Edgar Guest, who wrote over 11,000 poems for the Detroit Free Press in the first half of the 20th century. One of the things I like best about Guest's poem is the clarity of word and ease of rhythm. I urge you to check out Guest and get a taste for the Michigan I love.

Story Telling

By Edgar Guest

Most every night when they're in bed,
And both their little prayers have said,
They shout for me to come upstairs
And tell them tales of gypsies bold,
And eagles with the claws that hold
A baby's weight, and fairy sprites
That roam the woods on starry nights.

And I must illustrate these tales,
Must imitate the northern gales
That toss the native man's canoe,
And show the way he paddles, too.
If in the story comes a bear,
I have to pause and sniff the air
And show the way he climbs the trees
To steal the honey from the bees.

And then I buzz like angry bees
And sting him on his nose and knees
And howl in pain, till mother cries:
"That pair will never shut their eyes,
While all that noise up there you make;
You're simply keeping them awake."
And then they whisper: "Just one more,"
And once again I'm forced to roar.

New stories every night they ask.
And that is not an easy task;
I have to be so many things,
The frog that croaks, the lark that sings,
The cunning fox, the frightened hen;
But just last night they stumped me, when
They wanted me to twist and squirm
And imitate an angle worm.

At last they tumble off to sleep,
And softly from their room I creep
And brush and comb the shock of hair
I tossed about to be a bear.
Then mother says: "Well, I should say
You're just as much a child as they."
But you can bet I'll not resign
That story telling job of mine.

Oct 12, 2011


Upon finishing Nightshade City, Hilary Wagner's debut novel, I was so inspired that I moved one of my animal-civilization books to the front burner. That project lived off Hilary's inspiration for two months. Part of the reason I was able to ride the wave for so long is because Hilary's writing is gorgeous and flowing, but lucid. It really blew my mind. As Nightshade City came to a close, every muscle in the plot was tense and then the book ended with a fifteen thousand foot cliffhanger. I was wowed and found myself yearning for the sequel in the same way I awaited Catching Fire.

As you can imagine, the instant the ARC of The White Assassin arrived, I ignored my homework, ripped open the packaging, and glanced at the first page. I had intended to read page one and then get ready for work. Oops, I was a little late for work that night, and extremely tired from lack of sleep the next day.

The White Assassin moves at a different pace than its predecessor in the series, and readers will find themselves excited by the frequent changes in direction and emotion. Through fantastic writing, Hilary does not allow the reader to be jarred or pulled out of the story. She makes things too important to miss or ignore. Each character is vital and multidimensional, which is another spot where Hilary inspires my writing. You will fall in love with several characters in these books - consider yourself warned.

My attention was held until the very end of the The White Assassin. I highly recommend these two books by Hilary Wagner, especially for families who like to read together.

Oct 11, 2011

Look Forward to Two More MG Reviews

Sometimes I really suck as a blogger. I am too neurotic for this biz. Anyway, I forgot to tell you that along with yesterday's review of My Very UnFairy Tale Life, I have two more amazing middle grade novels to feature. Tomorrow, I am part of Hilary Wagner's The White Assassin tour. On Friday, I will be encouraging you to purchase A Scary Good Book, Anita Laydon Miller's $0.99 children's ebook.

Oct 10, 2011

Kick-A**, Catch-All Monday: MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE, by Anna Staniszewski

I no longer trust Blogger's scheduling apparatus. Anyone else having issues with it?

You may be here for a Kick-A** Debut Author Spotlight.

You may be here for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

You may be here as part of Anna Staniszewski's blogtour for her debut novel, My Very UnFairy Tale Life.


I took every opportunity that came about to highlight Anna's debut novel. Here's why:

My Very UnFairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski is the perfect middle grade novel for anyone who wants to escape and laugh a heck of a lot. Jenny the Adventurer had me laughing on nearly every page as she ran from unicorns, talked-down to a gnome, and sought to reclaim her "normal" life. Besides Anna's lucid sense of humor, MVUFTL is an amazing debut middle grade novel because we explore Jenny's life from profound angles as well. Jenny struggles with the loss of her parents and overcoming common adolescent inhibitions.

I found myself relating to Jenny, no matter where she ended up. Anna created very real worlds, some I would love to visit, and others I wish to never see. I recommend MVUFTL to every middle grade reader, no matter your age.

Take yourself on a journey and join Jenny as she "accidentally" changes the world. My Very UnFairy Tale Life is now available for preorder and will be released next month.

In the comments, tell me about a land you'd like to visit, or avoid, that exists solely in your head.

Oct 7, 2011

I rely on my crit partners to tell me what day it is

I had the following blog chain post written and ready for your eyes. I scheduled it and went along my merry (extremely busy and stressful) day. Well, since Heather, my main writing partner, has been dealing with tragedy and celebration this week, we have been out of touch. If I had chatted with Heather, she would have reminded me that it is not 2012. You see, I scheduled my post for October 6, 2012. Go me. What follows is what I had intended for you to read yesterday about my crit partner Heather.

Sarah started the latest blog chain. She says: Do you work with critique partners? How did you find your crit pals, and what influence have they had on your work? Afterward, check out Christine's post!

Yeah....that's me

Six months into my "writing career", I started my blog. Followers, and their comments, came in droves! I felt like the Willamette Valley of the blogosphere. Several folks from those beginning days are my closest friends here in the virtual world and they often read my work. In the beginning, I think my blog made me sound vulnerable, but willing to take feedback. Tina Laurel Lee, Marisa Hopkins, and Kelly Polark came to my rescue, so did many more amazing people. No one was there like quite like Heather Kelly was.

As easily as a friendship starts at a coffee shop between two "soul mates", Heather and I hit it off! We shared many goals, but we were more interested in the goals we didn't share. Heather and I spent a lot of time getting into each others' heads and discussing the things that make us tick and the those that give us tics.

We have never met in person, though that is at the top of my list right now, but Heather and I know more about each other than I know about most of my IRL friends. She has seen my writing in its rawest form, for good and for bad. She has also seen the really good stuff that I am unwilling to put out there at the moment. Heather is one of only two people to have seen portions of my autobiography, which is a story that tends to surprise people.

Other than my own life story, Heather has inspired me to get my ideas out of my head and onto paper. She has encouraged me to push myself and to push the envelop. Even Heather's writing inspires me. It's like playing baseball with Gibson and becoming a great yourself (Heather and I also share a love of baseball - GO TIGERS!! ALCS baby!!).

Right now, we are pushing each other to work toward publication, but not necessarily in the traditional way. I'm not speaking directly to self-publication. Heather and I are brimming with ideas that involve technology, great story telling, and interaction. It's been a ongoing project that seems to have a life of its own. Expect great things :P

I think it's clear that Heather and I have an unusual bond, one that will stay strong for many years to come.

I love you, Heather. You're the world's best writing partner, but you're also my best friend.

Oct 5, 2011

So, like, um...

I meant for October the be the month where I finally energized my blog and regained the presence I once had in the blogosphere. So much for that endeavor! As I prepare for nanowrimo and mid-terms, I lose hope that I will be able to turn my blog back into what it was in the glory days.

I should say that I do not lament any part of my journey. In fact, I feel extremely comfortable with where I am today. That, I feel, is part of the problem. I have stopped pushing myself.

In the coming weeks, I have several book reviews to post, all of books written by friends. It will be a week of praise! After that, I will start making goals and confessions about nano. Plan to be surprised. That makes no Oh, and tomorrow is my day to post for the blog chain - there's another great topic this time around.

Okay, I have spent enough time away from my speech. I must go finish writing it - I present tomorrow morning!

Sep 28, 2011

What to Sacrifice?

That post title could lead into so many things. I bet most of you thought I'd be talking about cutting things off my to-do list. Au contraire, my friends. I am adding to my to-do list because apparently I want it to not only cover the circumference of this planet but also those of the other 7 (8?) planets in the solar system.

So what is it that I am adding to my to-do list? More like, what am I not adding.

Okay, okay, I'm getting to the point: I want to make social networking my bitch!

Go make me a sandwich, Zuckerberg! (btw, the soundtrack to your unauthorized biopic is mind-blowing)

You see, dear readers, I have been meaning to conquer social networking sites for two years now. I want them working for me and not the other way around. 

Twitter is the easiest to conquer, but I still have opportunities there - blankets to nest in. 

Facebook changes every seven days, so that has been a game of cat and mouse. meow. 

Google+...I have no effing idea what to even say about that maze. Where's my f*cking cheese, yo?!

tumblr, LinkedIn, and the others can stay in the background for now. I don't have energy for those.

What am I forgetting??? Oh yeah, perhaps my best friend, or what should be, this place: Am I using this platform to its fullest potential? Not by any means. What else can I do?

Enough questions. My new goal is to find the damn answers.

The correct answer does not involve sacrificing things from my to-do list - I need to multi-task like my mother did while doing the dishes, yelling at the five of us kids, and carrying on a lovely conversation about hydrangeas on the telephone. What I mean to say is adding this social networking challenge to my list cannot make me into a monster. I need to gracefully multitask. I shall plie and/or curtsy after completing each task.

The point of all this, I need to find an offering for the tech gods as I take on this social networking endeavor. At first I was thinking a lamb, but I hear the tech gods have a thing for circuit boards. I am heading to the basement to look through the boxes marked RELICS OF THE 1980's AND 90's. Oh, look, a bag phone!

This open-ended series between Heather and me is sure to be interesting. Please join us in any fashion by giving us advice or posting your own trials and tribulations of sticking it to the tech gods.

But, seriously, who moved my cheese?

Sep 27, 2011


It's running through my head like a hyperactive news ticker.


I am excited and scared.

A large part of me wants to work on the second person experiment, which now has a title! Speak for Yourself just isn't what I want to use a month of awesome writing for.

Another part of me wants to work on my autobiography, which I am developing as an assignment for my Michigan Lit class. My idea with this project is to write short stories and see how they come together. But...I don't want to use nano for this either.

My nano project is going to be Sasquatch Eleanor, a project Kelly and I have been chewing on for half a year. We have faced many setbacks between both our schedules. Writing a novel when the authors are a college student who works 50 hours a week and a mother who is moving and working is, like, impossible. It's kind of funny that we once thought we'd be edited all summer.

In all honesty, Sasquatch Eleanor is the perfect project for us. There's humor, drama, and summer camp (because that's a genre all its own). The love we have for this story premise is palpable for our crit partners. So are the pushes they have been giving us! With that said, I'd better get back to work on my outline so that Kelly and I will be rearing and ready to go come November.

Are you nanoing? If so, what are you working on? If not, what is your goal for November?

Sep 21, 2011

Can You Hook a Teen? Blogfest Contest

UPDATE: My entry has been posted. Thanks to everyone who read and gave feedback. I appreciate you all!

I am participating in my first writing contest. I chose to pare down the first 250 words of The Second Person Experiment, which remains untitled. I know some of you are sick of this story being shoved down your throat, but I think some new folks will be stopping by and I wanted to get their input. All input is appreciated and will influence my final entry to the contest, due Thursday night. The entries will be judged by Teen Eyes, have you seen these girls? They are amazing! The contest is hosted by Brenda Drake.

The Second Person Experiment
YA contemporary

Chapter One

“Excuses are like assholes. Everyone has one and they all stink.” –Grandpa

You avoided getting a summer job for three reasons 1. you’re lazy 2. you had prior obligations and 3. you try your hardest not to listen to your parents. Sitting on the toilet, you ponder these truths.
1. Yes, you are lazy, but you’re lazy with class. You bathe and workout. You wear Axe body spray and hold doors for the ladies. You work hard on your material, and it pays off - everyone laughs at your jokes.
2. Video games. Parties. Video games. Sleep. Video games. indeed, you were very busy this summer. There was no time to ‘freshen up and head to the mall and ask for applications’ like your mom asked you to do on a daily basis. You were too busy. So busy, in fact, you didn’t have time to fill out the day planner your dad bought you. That was supposed to be the proof that you were trying. Well, you weren’t.
3. Your parents are wrong 99% of the time. “Allen, do this, Allen, do that, and everything else will fall into place.” Well, you listened to them for the first twelve years of your life and look where that got you.
There’s only one person who lead you in the right direction and that was Grandpa. You miss him and wish he were still here to tell you what to do. And then you realize he would’ve told you to get a job.
Dammit, someone forgot to change the roll. Oh yeah, it was you.

Sep 20, 2011

Blog Chain: Three Books That Took Faith

Shaun started the newest chain, then Sarah posted and now it's my turn to partake in this thought-provoking chain! Shaun says, "What are three books you would tell people that they need to keep reading even if they aren't immediately sucked in by the first page?"

I tend to abandon books, even good ones, because I get distracted, stressed for time, and sucked into my own writing. I try to give books fifty pages before I'll abandon them all together. The following three books are ones that may not have had me at page 1, 20, or 40, but I stayed with them and by page 50 I was hooked.

1. The Dust of 100 Dogs, A.S. King. It's not that King's debut novel starts off just starts off odd. It's the early nineties and right away the reader is expected to believe the main character is a reincarnation of a seventeenth century pirate, who dies in the first chapter. It's a convoluted mess, but King starts to lay out pieces that push the reader to begin piecing the puzzle together. The real thing that kept me reading was King's amazing narrative through several characters over many, many years. By the end, I was proclaiming to the world how much I loved this book!

2. Going Bovine, by Libba Bray. As with all Bray books, it starts off normal and then things get weird, and fast. My immediate issue with the novel was not the plot, but the main character, who hardly cared about his own life - I could not understand why I should care. Bray introduces characters who are gems and this pushes the story into high gear. The characters mixed with the bizarre places they go makes for one of the most hilarious books I have ever read. Going Bovine really has it all.

3. The Host, by Stephenie Meyer. Despite the feelings you may have on the Twilight realm, The Host is something completely different. Meyer utilizes the first few hundred pages to lay the groundwork for what becomes and amazing story. If you enjoy ready descriptions, then this will be no issue for you, but for me it dragged on and on. And yet, I was totally invested. It was a bizarre experience reading this novel. I had no expectations. I didn't really know who Stephenie Meyer was at the time. She drew me into the story with vivid details and an extremely large cast of characters.

So there you have them, three books that I had through till the end, but boy was I glad I did! Tomorrow, we need to check Christine's blog to see what three books she lists.

Sep 19, 2011

Let's Redefine Monday

Every Monday I have class in the afternoon, which is rather rough for me. Part of what makes it so difficult is when I wake up and log onto facebook, blogger, and twitter, my spirit to succeed is assailed by ten thousand posts about how Monday is being a jerk and not being fair and is the worst day of the week.

Monday is just another day of the week - we are in total control of how good or bad it goes. If you're reading this early in the morning, then put on your game face and go forth and conquer. If you're reading this in the afternoon, then stop lamenting the time gone by and start your good day now! If you're arriving here on Tuesday, take an honest look at yesterday and find the ways the day was bad...I bet you'll have to think really hard.

Make it a good week, my friends! Tomorrow, I am a link in the blog chain again. The new topic focuses on books that took work, but were worth it.

For the record, I frequently partake in the Monday hates me posts. I posted my Monday face on facebook last week: 

Sep 16, 2011

Blog Chain: A Dark and Stormy Night

It's my second time participating in the blog chain that Christine invited me to and this time she got to pick the topic! If I were you, I'd head to Christine's blog and check out all the awesome entries after reading mine. Of course, you could back track too and check the previous link on the chain from Sarah. Another way to keep on up the chain posts is to utilize the blog roll on the bottom of the left sidebar here at my blog. Someone posts every day.


Since we are all writers, I thought it was about time for us to stretch our creative muscles and do a little writing. So, take the following topic and go crazy! Show us what you've got. Your story can be as long or as short as you choice.
The topic: A dark and stormy night.
I decided to drag out something I wrote over a year ago that seems to fit the theme. The Storyteller and The Ghost was a brainstorming exercise, one that I have repeated several times, where the first line and the last line should line up. Enjoy an installment from my mini stories series!

Blogger's new image viewer is so annoying. I am sorry if you cannot read the story below even after enlarging it. I am working on a new version.

Click image to enlarge

I believe Shaun chooses next, so head to his blog tomorrow to see the new chain!

Sep 14, 2011

Pictures of the Mackinac Bridge

I already have a million pictures of the bridge, but every time we head up to Mackinac I have to take a million more. Here are some pics I took with my iPhone over the course of the weekend.

From Wawatam Park in Mackinaw City

From the ferry (we beat that other ferry by minutes!)

From Mackinac Island

The Mackinac Bridge spans the Straits of Mackinac, which is the separation between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, to connect the Lower Peninsula with the UP.  It's 5 miles long long and green, with white towers. Needless to say, the bridge is an important icon to Michigan.

Interesting fact: In 1835, Michigan and Ohio went to war over the strip of land where Toledo stands. If you look at a map, Indiana's and Ohio's border with Michigan does not line up. President Andrew Jackson stepped in and Michigan conceded the land to Ohio. In return, we received the UP. The timber and copper found in the UP in the subsequent years has made Michigan more money than the cold rush made for California.

Michigan is a beautiful state. It sucks to know that most out-of-staters view us as unemployed hicks who are trying to invent the next great American car. Even without talking about industry, Michigan is still the 8th most populous state where natural beauty abounds and opportunities lie around every corner.

Sep 12, 2011

Step Back in Time: Mackinac Island, Michigan

This past weekend, three of my closest friends and I made a four hour trek to the tip of Michigan's Lower Peninsula and had a blast!

Mackinac Island (pronounces mack-in-aw) is most famously known for two things. In 1875, the island became America's second National Park (following Yellowstone). It is now a Michigan State Park where no cars are allowed and Victorian mansions abound.

Secondly, Mackinac Island is famous for its fudge. I am not sure about your states, but Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream is one of the most popular flavors and is available at every ice cream shoppe (including the one that employs me).

The history of Mackinac Island is staggering and those who have not heard of the island are amazed at the number of historically important sites on the island. Fort Mackinac, built during the Revolutionary War, helped the British maintain control of the upper Great Lakes until 1796 (fifteen years after we gained independence!).

The Grand Hotel, built in 1887, is an architectural treasure that has been beautifully maintained. I think the photos speak for themselves.

You can't tell from here, but the pool is in the shape of a foot and is said to be Paul Bunyan's footprint.

Oh, and you may wonder about the no car thing, the island is home to hundreds of carriages and bicycles. We usually bike, but since one of my friends is pregnant, we opted for a private carriage tour.

How did we get to the island? We took a ferry, of course.

And finally, a few random photos so you get the gist of Mackinac Island.

On Wednesday, I'll wrap up my vacation with a post about the Mackinac Bridge and Mackinaw City, which is where we stayed. 

Sep 9, 2011

Review and contest: UPGRADER: RE-ENGINEERED, by Terry Tibke

the writer's dojo

When Ali Cross asked me to participate in Terry Tibke's Upgrader blog tour, I got excited because I had seen Terry's posts about the book several times. I read Upgrader on my iPhone, but there are several other ways to get engrossed in Terry's e-book.

Right off the bat, we are thrown into action as a massive explosion takes place. It's a bit jarring, but it works well and sets up the intensity of the novel. The first chapter is cryptic, but detailed, and I knew right away that this was going to be an exciting mystery/adventure story. 

The plot moves quickly as the world we know, Dylan's world, is meshed with the world of Brahm and other terrors. Terry makes sure to implant back story at the appropriate moments, but for the most part Upgrader moves very fast. In fact, it ended a bit too quickly for me. I only wish I had more time with the creepy monsters and the formidable characters (the good and the bad ones!)

Anyway, most readers will quickly identify with Dylan and find it exciting to be in his shoes with his recent development of "special powers" and bizarre nemeses. The sci fi nature will satisfy boy readers, and is appropriate for kids even as young as 10. Adults will also enjoy Upgrader, especially for the fact that it is such a quick read.

For $2.99, I hope you'll give Upgrader a chance. You definitely need to visit Terry or Ali and read the other posts along the tour to read about an interesting journey to publication.

AND you can win a $10 Barnes and Noble by stating the type of weapon you'd want to appear out of your skin in the comments. Don't worry, your skin will heal (mostly) each time you use it. I'll use to select a winner after 11:59 pm EST on Friday, September 16.

Sep 7, 2011

Check out this book trailer

I had a great post dedicated for today, but it needs more development. Instead, enjoy hump day by watching this one minute book trailer that is supremely awesome.

Sep 5, 2011

"But, of course, it's still important to actually write."

The title of this post comes from Kris, who commented on my blog chain post. The post, which explored the changes in the publishing industry, namely self-publishing, received a lot of comments that made my day.

Kris's comment, however, put it all into perspective: no matter the journey you take or the one you think will be best for you, the very most important part is to write a damn good book. Whether or not you plan to get an agent, self-pub, or take over the world, those dreams are irrelevant if the work you put out sucks.

That doesn't sound very motivational, does it? Maybe it would help to know that I am writing this post to myself and that I find motivation is the strangest places. The same can be said about inspiration.

Here's the motivation: surround yourself with people who care and who know what the hell they are talking about. Use those people to the fullest and give back at every possible opportunity. I am already surrounded by writers who have raised me to levels I used to dream of. I could name the names, but it would take forever and in some cases, those connections are just between me and the author. I think that's how it should be. My journey.

At one point in time, not that long ago, I wanted to flaunt my journey. I wanted the most blog followers and the nicest looking blog. And hey, I kinda had both for about a month (circa March 2010), but it had nothing to do with my writing journey. I am pleasantly relieved to have gotten over that phase right away.

In the year and more since, I have grown leaps and bounds with my writing. I still cringe when other writers ask what I am working on or what I write (I usually respond honestly, "What don't I write"). I cringe even more when non-writers ask the same questions. I don't cringe on purpose, I do so because I have yet to try something else. I am a creature of habit.

Being habitually uncomfortable, I have yet to be comfortable with my writing. I have yet to accept that I have a large number of unfinished novels and picture books that are full of truly fantastic ideas, and that it's okay that they are incomplete. Here's the big one: I have yet to accept that fact that it is more than okay that I don't have perfect grammar and spelling skills, but that my writing is still phenomenal.

I can't straight out tell my crit partners that I think them liars. It's me, not them; I do not believe in my writing. But, again...that's okay because my writing believes in me.

But, of course, it's still important to actually write. To write for you, for me, and for those who I will one day meet.

Sep 4, 2011

Dream Crit Partner Apology

So, I think I need to followup my dream crit partners post with an apology because the comments made me worried that I offended some of you.

I only meant for the exercise to be a lighthearted one that caused us to think about how we view successful authors. When I read an excellent book, I frequently imagine the author reading my work and receiving their two cents. Plus, I want that author to be my friend...I fall strongly on the extrovert side of the spectrum, so magnetic personalities (or writing voices in this case) draw me in fast and hard.

In truth, I am very satisfied with my crit partners, some of whom commented. I have received critiques that blew my mind with the breadth and depth to which they went. In fact, my crit partners frequently demonstrate the highest levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Their invaluable input has not only improved my writing, but it has improved my critiques and my blog posts.

I may not have the blog following that I once had, but I feel more firmly planted on my platform than I ever have. I promise to never talk about dream crit partners again. I plan to wholly focus on my writing this fall and come back after the new year with some finished projects that I can share with you all here at my author platform.

Onward and upwards, my friends. 

Sep 2, 2011


Well, it's official: the fall semester has begun. I have The Principles of Speaking, Teaching Diverse Learners, Topics in Literature: Michigan Lit, and Bio. I am extremely excited about the first three, but ambivalent about the latter. I do enjoy a good Bio course, but this one is online.

As part of the Michigan Lit course, we are asked to create our own work of Michigan lit. Um, hello. I am freaking excited about that one. It'll be the first time I will be writing something other than an essay in college.

I was going to say more, but I need to shower and get to work. Later, gators.

Aug 31, 2011

My Dream Crit Partners

It feels weird to be posting and to not be a part of a series or a chain. I thought I'd take this opportunity to give you a classic Jon post and list my dream critique partners. 

When considering dream crit partners, I first take into consideration writing style. John Green and A.S. King top that list with their high levels of humor and deep moments of clarity. I'd love to have Cormac McCarthy and Sherman Alexie in my corner too, so I can finally break the rules in the right ways. 

Personality is another draw for me, and Maggie Stiefvater is the queen of fun in YA. I'd also like to have Neil Gaiman and Lois Lowry hanging around, ya know, for when I need a hearty laugh and some help with some of that deeper meaning stuff.

What about success by association? I'd definitely want to be at J.K. Rowling's right hand. Of course, it's slightly more realistic to ask Suzanne Collins out on a date. Or perhaps James Dashner would let me act as a a character at a signing or two.

Finally, I need a well-grounded, down-to-earth kinda guy or gal to round out my crit group. Who better than Ned Vizzini or Don Calame? Oh, wait, I totally need Stephen Chobsky to get me to watch Rocky Horror. I need someone who can look me straight in the eye and tell me that I suck, then hand me a beer.

Can you tell that I see crit partner as a synonym for hangout buddy? I think my crit partners might agree with that.

Who are your dream crit partners and what are your parameters?

Aug 28, 2011

Orbiting Around the Changes in the Publishing World

I know it's odd, me posting on a Sunday, but I have just joined a blog chain helmed by Michelle McLean and Kate Quinn. The chain gives each member a chance to answer a writing and/or career related question while reading our fellow members' thoughts. Over the last year, I have seen these posts around the blogosphere, and when my friend Christine Fonseca invited me to join, I said yes for the chance to learn and share on a deadline.

This month, the chain started with Sandra (see chain blogroll on sidebar for links) who asked the question

Have the recent changes in the publishing industry affected your writing plans/career? If so, how?

The quick answer is of course my plans have been affected! But the reality is that I am still a novice writer who is discovering what it means to have a strong writing voice and a lack of structure. I posted a few weeks ago on my five-year plan and that I am two years into it. The plan is to be published within five years (NOT by any means necessary) and to have a stronger sense of what having a writing career really means for me. 

In the last two years, my perspective on publishing has changed dramatically. My first and only query letter is something I laugh at now. Matt saw it, it's comically bad. When I first learned about self-publishing, I pigeonholed those who take on that endeavor as impatient, immature brats. Did I mention I am still a novice writer?

You see, I thought you wrote a story, queried, and got a book deal. Hahaha. (Ow, laughing hurts my stomach right now.) Even now, the publishing process is a bit of a mystery for me because I have been focused on writing the best stories I can and I avoid posts that have to do with agents and their advice.

One single event has had the largest impact on my view of the publishing industry and, in turn, my own career.

Last March, when Anita Miller first told me her intentions to self-publish a book that had previously been agented by an all-star agent, my jaw dropped to the floor (it was covered in carpet lint and dog hair...totally gross). Anita and I had grown close as far as virtual partnerships go, and I was concerned for her and troubled by the seeming suddenness of her decision. 

The truth is that Anita did her homework and made a decision to venture off the normal publishing track. Whether or not that decision has paid off is "yet to be determined," in her own words, but I can tell you it has been exciting to read, hail, and promote Anita's two middle grade e-books that she sells for ninety-nine freaking cents.

Anita's journey has been a most acidic catalyst in my own writing career as I watch new opportunities bubble up daily. I have a lot of thinking and decision-making to do as the last three years of my goal come to pass. The focus is not on meeting a fake deadline. The focus is to come to a place where I can clearly reflect on what I have learned and make an informed decision or two on where to go from there.

The changes in the publishing industry are not going to stop, no matter what each of us decides to do with our own writing. Embracing and heralding e-books and self-publishing works does not mean you or I have to choose that path.

What I tell myself every day is to be open-minded and to take the changes the universe hurls at me with stride and a sense of adventure. 

Shaun posted ahead of me and the next link in this chain is Christine, who'll post her answer tomorrow. If you'd like to follow this chain from the beginning (it's so worth it!) head to Sandra's blog for the beginning.

Aug 26, 2011

Series Wrap-Up: Where Are the Gay Parents in Children's Literature?

As our series comes to a close, my interest in books about gay parents has not waned one bit - I will continue this search for years to come.

Last week, I visited the public library in one last attempt to uncover books that contained or focused on the existence of gay parents. I did not find any middle grade novels though, and without a reference list, I wouldn't have known what to search for at all. The availability is limited and it's not really labeled. I spent a good thirty minutes searching through every title from the list at Kris's blog and I found one book, as well as some other non-fiction works.

I had an odd revelation as I checked out my books. I flash-backed to 2002. I was working at that same library then and I was in 10th grade. After clandestinely looking at the cover of Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez for weeks, I finally decided to check it out. Of course, I had to mask my interest in the book and I checked out a book about surfing and football at the same time. The most ridiculous part is that I was checking the books out to myself and no one ever even saw me holding them. I was lying to myself, but opening a door at the same time. A closet door to be specific.

As I checked out the Sanchez book and its counterparts, my face burned. Months later, I checked out another Sanchez book, and the experience was much the same, but with less face burning. Soon after that, I checked out The Geography Club, by Brent Hartinger, because I thought the kid on the cover was cute. By that time, I was less mortified by the experience of checking out "gay" books.

Standing at the same counter last week, nearly ten years later, that flashback put a lot of my journey into perspective. I was chagrined when I realized how far I have come. I was checking out books that were deliberately about gay people, and I was not hiding them, I was flaunting them. I had no qualms about including the children's librarian in my discussion and no qualms about posting this series on my blog. I feel comfortable with myself - a rare moment in my life.

Essentially, that is the motivation behind this series: to recognize the existence of novels and picture books that contain gay parents - a direction toward which I am heading - and to call for more books that do the same. I know that I am not the only guy out there looking for books about gay parents for reference. I know that ten years ago I was not the only closeted gay kid learning about other like me through literature.

Thank you for joining Kris and me in this series. I never knew what I expected to find, but I am ambivalent about discovering something I have had all along.

Aug 24, 2011

Series: OUT OF THE SHADOWS, by Sue Hines

Sue Hines' debut novel, Out of the Shadows, has several things going for and against it, and I included the novel in my series because of it's unique characters.

Ro, a wannabe-typical Australian teenager, has a lot to overcome: her mother was gay, her mother was killed by a drunk driver, and her guardian is her mother's partner - a woman she has hated in the past. The plot gets even more convoluted: Ro's best friend, Mark, goes gaga over a new student named Jodie, who has secretly fallen for Ro.

It was sometimes hard to keep track of the different characters - even with alternating POVs - because Hines herself has a very strong point of view that shone throw most characters' narratives. At times, I felt like too much was being thrown into this story, but I was always entertained and the book reads very quickly. By the end, reconciliations abound for Ro - some are too contrived and others short and sweet.

I would recommend Out of the Shadows to reluctant readers as well as writers who are interested in experimenting with their work. Overall, Out of the Shadows is a winner and still feels current despite being fifteen years old.