27 October 2016

New Home, Old Goals.

Photo (c) Cliff Johnson via Unsplash.
As you may or may not know, I've been living in Japan since August. And one of my larger goals besides updating this website for the first time in what would be several months, is to get the writing back on track. 

I've mentioned this numerous times when I was busy teaching as an adjunct at North Central State College, and I've always broken the promise I made for myself; that I would get my novel series up and running and resubmit it for either agent representation, or go right into publication.

With Nanowrimo coming up soon, I decided to work on an old goal while I am here -- to do a rewrite of my thesis novel, The Name and the Key. I've worked on it here and there since arriving, even flirting with the idea of changing the whole thing into third-person POV (a change which didn't work well for very long). I know the biggest thing I need to do is rewrite the beginning in order to deliver the plot at a much faster tempo, but I also want to make my lead character, Lily, more endearing to the reader. 

Nanowrimo's main objective is to drive writers to draft a complete novel during the month of November. I've participated in the past and have failed every time. I think my brain (or maybe my heart) will not let me jump into new (major) projects until the old ones have reached their ultimate completion. So I'm not going to fight it anymore. Even though new ideas are popping up in my head almost every single day since coming to Japan, I really feel the push to get The Name and the Key out there, moreso than I have in a long time. 

Although I will not directly participate in Nanowrimo  I am still going to use these thirty days to try to fix this book, and get it out there into the world. I've taken far too long already.

Best of luck to you all for the month of November, and happy writing!

02 October 2016

For the love of all that is beautiful and good: I am in Japan and I have internet at last!!

Higanbana flowers in Japan. (c) KEB
...And I am SO FAR BEHIND on writing and updating this website because of it!

Some things to know since my last post in June:
  • I am an assistant language teacher of English
  • I teach at five different high schools in Kikuchi, Yamaga, and Nankan
  • I have been loving my time in Japan so far
  • I am anxious to get back to updating and writing. I've been living in Japan for two months now and never thought I'd miss internet so much! 
Anyway, I apologize for the long silence and am looking forward to putting some regular content on this website after long last. 

15 June 2016

Adventures in Omiyage

Takayama, Souvenir, Gift, Omiyage - レインボーさるぼぼ
By Bryan, [CC BY-SA 2.0], 
via Wikimedia Commons
I have a little over a month before I leave for Japan to participate in the JET Program. Preparation has been crazy - not just in terms of arriving in Japan, but I'm also doing major cleaning and reorganizing of my room at home so it's not an insane mess of paperwork, writing notebooks, and junk while I'm gone. Whee!

In the midst of the massive cleaning and purging project, I wanted to take a moment to write about omiyage - the special little presents that are a part of Japan's gift-giving, community-building culture. 

The web has many articles about omiyage, but I'm loving FluentU's explanation of omiyage the most:
omiyage is a really easy way to show gratitude or good intentions to someone with whom you’ve entered into a mutually beneficial relationship. It’s often used for sending one or more of these four messages:
1. We’ve just met and I’d like to show you I’m psyched about it.
2. In exchange for some inconvenience I’m causing you, here’s something to show my gratitude.
3. You’ve done something for me in the past, and here’s my お返し(おかえし)or, something I’m doing in return. (This is more or less a constant cycle throughout your relationship.)
4. I want you to be able to live vicariously through me and my awesome trip that you didn’t get to experience, as you’ve done for me before.
My idea behind bringing omiyage with you to Japan is that you are providing small pieces of your home with you for others to share, but you are also thanking your coworkers, bosses, associates, and students for allowing you to experience their culture as well. 

During my JET interview I was asked a question along the lines of what I would bring to Japan that would represent my home, and on the spot, I mentioned I considered two places my home - Ohio and New York. My answers (completely off the top of my head)

  • From Ohio - buckeyes (the nut) and buckeyes (the chocolate and peanut butter sweets) and the image (postcard or something) of a buck's eye for comparison
  • From New York - copy of Ellis Island docs showing my family came to New York from Germany (the immigrant experience being very much an aspect of the  American dream)
Nifty answers, right? I think they're pretty emblematic of my home. And as much as I wanted to actually bring these to represent my slice of America, I figured out pretty quickly that this was hard to pull off. 
Photo of one of my adult omiyage gift
setsI put together. Hooray for inexpensive gifts
 from Target and Five & Below!
  • Buckeyes (the nut) are actually pretty hard for me to find
  • Buckeyes (the candy) aren't, but everything I read online advised against bringing chocolate as it will melt in the heat
  • I know I have it in my possession, but I have no idea which box in storage has the Ellis Island paper (including plaque photo that's actually on Ellis Island). Even though I'm tearing up my room and doing some major cleaning, the New York stuff is in storage in the basement--and we're talking about 15 years of storage to wade through. Nope, nope, nope.
I decided on three types of items to use as omiyage instead - stationery items, stickers, and friendship bracelets. 

Although I know I'm going to Kumamoto Prefecture (and that I'm a prefectural ALT), I didn't know this when I started omiyage shopping, so I did my shopping for students in two trips. 

For adults -  I went to the Target dollar bins (when you first enter the store) and loaded up on stationery items.  I have several "sets" of items that are all meant to be bundled together as a single gift. One of the things I love about omiyage is that presentation is a major component, and I love wrapping and assembling presents. I was pretty geeky about this, and made sure to choose items that were color-coordinated, and then I made sure to package them in a way that was visually pleasing (complete with curling matching ribbons)!

Each adult gift set I assembled consists of pencils, note cards, sticky notes, a jar candle, decorative erasers, and stick pins. The larger items that I couldn't stack together went inside the decorative pouch that they also get to keep. 

For students - the first item I went shopping for was stickers. Pretty much everything I've read says stickers are really popular with students. I wasn't sure of what style to get though - when I started omiyage shopping, I didn't know my placement yet, so I bought a little bit of everything.

Then, when I found out that I was a prefectural ALT who'd pretty much be teaching high school students, I was worried that the stickers I picked out might've been too cheesy for older students. 

That's when I decided on friendship bracelets

Omiyage for my students - plenty of stickers, and that mammoth
bundle of yarn are thirty handmade friendship bracelets!  
I don't know how it is in other countries, but friendship bracelets were totally a thing growing up (especially at summer camp)! I used to make them along with my sister. She was really good at it and could do special knots and even add decorative holes to the bracelet, which is something I can't do. But simple bracelets? No problem. 

This became an insane undertaking, as I hadn't made friendship bracelets in about...eighteen years or so, and I was planning on making all the friendship bracelets for the students myself.  I was going to make at least fifteen, but then I read from articles online that I'd likely be teaching at multiple schools, and classes can have as many as thirty students in them. Whew!

I have one bundle of thirty bracelets done. As a precaution, I'll be making sixty more bracelets. It's a good thing I'm off teaching for the summer so I have time to do this!

~*~

01 June 2016

Book Promo: "Halendor: First Light" by Lloyd Marshal

Available now!
SYNOPSIS

Aurora is the only daughter of two of Fredan’s most influential figures, but all of the money in the world can’t help her feel as if she belongs in that world. Gifted, or cursed, with telekinetic abilities that she hasn’t told her two best friends about, let alone her family, Aurora soon learns that she isn’t as unique, or out of place, as she had once believed. 

The Elements have been hidden where no one would think to look, so Lisa has come to the backwater of the galaxy, Earth, to find them. She has a very specific mission: locate and inform five extraordinarily powered people that their lives are not what they thought. In fact, they have the ability to access vast planes of elemental magic and are known throughout the universe as the Elements. 

Together they will have to overcome seemingly insurmountable forces possessing potent abilities and even more dangerous goals. Throw in two federal agents tasked with keeping Earth from ever knowing anything about supernatural events, and Aurora is in for a wild ride.

Buy on Amazon | Check out Goodreads

Title: Halendor: First Light
Author: Lloyd Marshal
Genre: Urban/Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Release Date: 4/25/16

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I grew up all over southern California and Washington state, with a smattering of locations about Oregon, Nevada, and Hawaii, and with each move I learned about new cultures and ideas.Many people have interests in literature and fiction, but few people have ever thought themselves so ambitious that they would chose to write and publish a book every single week. This is the promise of Lloyd Marshall and BLGM Reserve Estates, with a new trilogy dropping weekly, while a new Halendor Arc will drop on the last Monday of each month.Writing has been a passion, and through my life moving has always been a constant which has exposed me to various people and ideas about the United States and has only increased my love of writing. With each book, I hope to reach new people who will enjoy what I create.


~*~

Spotlight: Vidya Ravi


Longtime readers of this blog will notice that I have frequently showcased the works of other writers on my website, either through my Proust Your Protagonist series, or through volunteering my blog for publicity tours, through Elite Book Promotions and occasionally other book tour/promotions groups. 

I wanted to give a shout-out to Vidya Ravi, whom I've worked with ever since I started featuring writers and their publications on my site. She is a virtual/PR assistant who has had a major hand in putting together many promotions and she is very organized, focused, and a pleasure to work with. 

She's been helping authors publicize their work for five years and is currently focusing on the following services for writers:  
  • social media management/marketing
  •  newsletter management
  • blog tour organizing
  • ebook Galley Corrections 
  • maintaining Wordpress/Blogger sites
Vidya not only shares a love of literature and reading with many of her clients, but she also has an Engineering degree with a major in Computer Science--she's very tech-savvy, and I can attest to this, as all of the book promotions I received from her have the HTML code ready for blog hosts to use - everything is designed and pre-formatted in a way that is eye-catching and easy to read. 

Vidya's website is Born Bookish, where you can read her bio and about the services she offers (and it's a pretty website, too!). I highly recommend working with Vidya, so authors, if you are in need of a publicist, please check her out

30 May 2016

Elite Book Promo: "Walton 2016" by Andrew Rickert


Welcome to the blog tour of "Walton 2016" by Andrew Rickert.  The full schedule for the tour can be found here.

THIS BOOK IS FREE ON JUNE 2ND AT AMAZON! GRAB YOUR COPY!


BOOK DESCRIPTION

James P. Walton, the famed business tycoon, has been elected the 45th President of the United States. Construction of the first wall begins within months of his inauguration. The great American exodus soon follows.

Buy now @ Amazon


EXCERPT
Available now!

The cities, aptly named by President Walton “Los Mexicos 1”, “Los Mexicos 2” and so on, had been flattened by the combined might of 2 million pounds of weekly ordinance eight times since the program's inception. As part of his “Bring America Back” program, Walton had assured that 15,000 American workers had been hired to rebuild the city once every two months after 16 million pounds of American destruction. These workers were submitted to rigorous background checks to prove that they were, at least, 2nd generation Americans. Third generation, 4th generation, and so on were given far more opportunities for advancement within the program.

The program had employed 5,000 construction workers, 3,200 road workers, 2,500 plumbers, 2,000 electricians, 1,000 engineers, 700 network technicians, and 600 employees at a mannequin factory that produced all of the models for the slightly brown-colored mannequins that were to be the Super Shop Mart employees and customers. President Walton was proud of “Bring America Back.” Los Mexicos 9 promised to be even bigger than Los Mexicos 8 and was expected to hire as many as 20,000 Americans. It would come complete with roads, electricity, water, functioning internet, a working subway system, and two Super Shop Marts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended the University of Kansas, where he studied History, and was one of the few people with a southern accent. He will defend the fact that Lawrence, KS is one of the great places of this earth to the death.

He is a proud lifelong computer nerd, as well as history geek. It is unconfirmed, but Andrew may also have the record for number of times watching Big Trouble in Little China.

His writing is influenced not only by imagination and love for exploring creativity, but also his experiences as a delivery driver, bouncer, competitive mixed martial artist, power lifter, and traveler.

Andrew was once robbed and semi-kidnapped in Vietnam. Ask him and he'll probably tell you the story.

29 May 2016

Japan Update: I'm Moving to 熊本県 - Kumamoto!

View from Kumamoto Castle Keep Tower / 熊本市風景
Photo by 663highland, CC BY 2.5 
Since my last Japan-related post, with bated breath I waited to hear of my location placement with the JET Program, and huzzah! It's been a little over a week and I've learned I'm going to Kumamoto Prefecture! 

Kumamoto Prefecture is located on Japan's southern-most island of Kyūshū, and it is is going to be my home for at least one year, but I'm hoping to have a good enough experience that I can stay longer (JET participants can work anywhere from one to five years in the program, depending on performance and contract renewals). 

I'm coming into the JET program with very little knowledge of Japan--despite taking some edX courses to learn more of the history and culture, I still only know a smidgen of information, so as soon as I learned my placement, the Googling began. 

Map of Japan with highlight 
Kumamoto prefecture
Actually, it started out like this, before the Googling happened. My brain went, "Kumamoto, Kumamoto -- why do I feel like I've heard of Kumamoto before?" 

Kumamoto was in the news in April, and it's because of the devastating earthquakes that hit the area. Kumamoto is still in the process of recovery and the Kumamoto JET blog posted this enouraging letter to the incoming JETs to address this, which you can read here

Anyway, for about five seconds I felt a twinge of worry when I realized I'd be heading to an area still recovering from a major disaster, but I got over it immediately, and this was before I even found the Kumamoto JET website. 

It's because no matter what, Kumamoto has a history and culture older than these earthquakes, and there are so many wonderful things it has to offer -- and these things of course popped up in my Google search and dwarfed the news on the earthquakes. As the KumaJET website states, 
"there are some things about Kumamoto that will never change. We are still a prefecture full of delicious food, beautiful sights, and amazing people"
which every article and video I've found online about Kumamoto confirms. I can't wait to experience this for myself at the end of July. 

As I continued researching, I was super excited to learn about Kumamon! I knew from quite a few years ago that Japan's prefectures had their own mascots, and in 2013 I remembered reading the Jezebel article "Japanese Mascots Set World Record; Also Haunt Our Dreams" and this video particularly:


Back in 2013, I didn't know who the mascots were, but that fabulous black bear in the front caught my eye, and honestly, I thought he was definitely boogeying down a lot more than the other mascots and was my favorite by far. Turns out, this is Kumamon, the mascot for Kumamoto Prefecture! 

Omote-Sando of Izumi Shrine and Kumamon
by そらみみ, CC BY 4.0
KISMET! 

At this point, when it comes to placement, my only knowledge that's certain is my prefecture. Since my placement was listed as "Kumamoto-ken, Kumamoto-ken," ("ken" meaning prefecture), I won't know my exact location within Kumamoto for a while (but soon, I hope!). It's likely that I'll be working with high schools, but also specialty schools, according to my initial placement email. However, until the prefectural board contacts me with more information, none of this is 100% confirmed, so I have to sit tight and be content with what I've got thus far. It's great news all around, to be sure! 

In the meantime, let me leave you with Kumamoto-shi's "Happy" (Pharrell Williams) video, because it makes me smile -- and, yes, to be cheesy, I'm totally happy that I was chosen to go to Kumamoto!


24 May 2016

Book Promo: "Keeper of My Soul" by Rebecca N. Caudill

Now available!
SYNOPSIS

Olivia Donnelly never meant to fall in love with a hot, sexy vampire. But she did and, against all reason, now she’s been turned herself and is fast learning there’s more to William Macauley’s world than meets the eye. As Olivia struggles to adapt to her new life, an old madness – long dormant in their bloodline – re-emerges, bringing with it an unexplained power that courses through her veins unchecked. Faced with danger from old enemies, William and Olivia are forced to battle not only her internal demons, but other vampires that threaten their very lives. Can their immortal love conquer all, or will it lead to their destruction?

Buy on Amazon | Check out Goodreads 

Title: Keeper of my Soul: Book Two of the Macauley Vampire Series
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 229 (per print version)
Release Date: May 18, 2016

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebecca read her first novel when she was just four years old and has been hooked on books ever since. When she wasn't writing her own stories, she was sneaking copies of her mom's paperbacks to read late into the night. Fast forward a few years later, she graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Journalism. After a stint working in radio, she embarked on a career in technology public relations in Silicon Valley, representing some of the country's hottest start-ups and publicly traded companies. After more than a decade in the business, she began writing full time, and has now published both contemporary and paranormal romance novels. When not creating fictional worlds inhabited by strong women and dashing heroes, she is reading about them, planning her next vacation, trying out new recipes, or drinking a dram of whiskey. Rebecca lives with her husband in Dublin, Ireland.


Special Promotional Giveaway!
They drove past several men loitering in doorways or smoking outside of a pub, but nothing in their demeanor gave him pause. He didn’t approve of these types of men, but he wouldn’t condemn them either for the lives they had been born into but had failed to leave behind. 

He maneuvered the car off the main street to roam darker, more secluded alleyways in search of the perfect opportunity. After driving in silence for several minutes, he turned them toward the deserted docklands area. Crawling stealthily up and down the relatively peaceful streets for a good hour, William considered moving their hunt elsewhere when he heard a faint scream off in the distance, one that wouldn’t have been discernible to the human ear. 

The adrenaline rushed through Olivia’s alert body as William pulled the car over and stopped the engine.

“You heard that, yes?”

She swallowed, her venom flowing in anticipation of what her body knew was to come. “Yes.”

“I can’t tell how many. Three, maybe four. I wanted your first hunt to have as few distractions as possible. Fewer men would certainly be easier, but it won’t be difficult by any means. I could easily take on more, and wouldn’t be surprised to see you able to as well. That said, I leave the decision entirely up to you.”

While Olivia searched her mind for answer to his unspoken question – could she handle it? – 
they heard the scream again. Somewhere, maybe a thousand yards away, a group of thugs joyful in their violence. Olivia pictured the scene, focused her senses on the more muted sounds, listened for anything that would give her a reason to act – or not. There was definitely the sound of fists hitting exposed flesh. Cries of pain. Then laughter. 

An older man was being beaten, she was sure, but she didn’t know anything about him. Maybe he deserved his violent punishment, but then again, maybe he didn’t. If he was blameless – innocent – she couldn’t let the assault continue unabated. In a split second, she decided the man needed her to intercede on his behalf, and then something deep inside of her quieted, the unsettled feeling in the pit of her stomach going silent. 

William watched Olivia zero in on the sounds ahead. She closed her eyes, took two deep breaths, and went completely still. Moments later she cocked her head to the right and twitched her eyebrows ever so slightly, a scowl crossing her face. He could see she had picked up on both the verbal confrontation as well as the inner monologues of the ruffians, was searching their private thoughts for vindication for what he already knew was to come. Three, maybe four seconds later she heard what she was looking for. Olivia opened her eyes, exited the car soundlessly, and silently prowled the street, all lithe feline grace. 

Olivia hadn’t spoken a word to William before taking her leave. She was sure he knew her intentions and that he’d be by her side in seconds should she require him. She was gratified to see her intuition hadn’t been wrong. This was her hunt and he wouldn’t interfere unless she needed him to, but he wouldn’t let her experience it for the first time alone. Nearing the group of men, William receded into the shadows, on watch, his senses alert should Olivia need his assistance. 

As she moved closer to the group she could hear the old man begging for his life, his cries becoming weaker and feebler with each menacing kick that was landed to his body. The situation was as she feared – it was a senseless act of violence, the old man having done nothing to deserve the pain he was being forced to endure. The realization made her angry and a deathly calm descended. This was the justification she needed to spill their blood. 

She approached the group soundlessly. “Hello, gentleman.”

The scumbag closest to her jumped in surprise at the interruption. Had he spared her more than a momentary glance he would have seen more than a harmless red-haired woman standing behind him. Instead, he barely looked her way before turning his back on her to cheer his friends on in their mistreatment of the man who now lay prone on the cold asphalt, his body unmoving.

“Please stop kicking that poor man,” she requested in vain, knowing that even as she spoke her words fell on deaf ears. There would be no stopping their assault now that they had experienced their own version of blood lust. 

“Whaya looking at brasser?” hollered another, stopping his attack long enough to look her body up and down lecherously. 

I’ll give the feckin cunt a ride. Olivia heard the words pass through his mind as clearly as if he had spoken them aloud. He would never get close enough to try. She’d given them their one chance to comply with her directive. Hell, she had even been polite! Now she could drain them dry and not feel a second of remorse. 

When she didn’t respond, he screamed louder, “Feck off ye geebag!” as he kicked the dying man again, harder, while staring straight at her. It was then that Olivia realized she had arrived too late to save their victim as he was no longer moving or reacting to the assault being wrought on his body. She listened for his heartbeat but knew it had already died. The assholes assaulting him hadn’t even noticed. That made her even angrier. 

So be it. 

Olivia closed her eyes, took a deep breath to settle her mind, let her power unfurl, and then she struck.

William had never seen anything like it. Olivia appeared for all the world a lethal killing machine and yet she was also full of grace and beauty, her body moving in perfect harmony with her mind as she glided from one action to the next. When she stopped moving, the man closest to her lay where he had stood, his neck broken, spinal cord severed, the bloody stump attached to his body by a single ligament. His cohort’s form was strewn next to him, heart ripped out of his chest, blood splattered over the front of his white polyester tracksuit. 

Meanwhile, the third thug – the one who had dealt the blow that had killed the old man – pulled out a large knife to defend himself against her deadly onslaught, but she was too quick, too determined to see the act through to the end. Unlike his friends, he had seen her coming, had witnessed her monstrosity unleashed, and as he stared at her bared fangs, Olivia’s eyes came alive with excitement over his paltry effort to defend himself. In less than a second she had him in her arms, neck stretched taut to the point of breaking. He had been unable to even attempt to use the blade against her. The man whined and begged Olivia to spare his life as he blathered on about his mum and sister and a whole host of nonsense she hadn’t cared to hear. 

William watched her close her eyes against the noise and he knew it was her attempt to block out the sound of his obsequious sniveling. Briefly, he remembered back to a time when he’d had to consciously do the same.

“You left me no choice,” she said, bracing herself for a wave of shame and disgust that never came. She captured the man’s gaze to ensure that in those few seconds before death he knew exactly who – what – had delivered retribution for his many crimes. By then he had ceased his whimpering and his eyes had gone vacant in fear. 

She smiled cynically down at him and he pissed himself in response. “Oh god,” he whined as Olivia plunged her fangs into his neck, brutally ripping into the sweat soaked skin surrounding the arterial vein. The blood rushed into her mouth, a sloppy stream of hot, warm liquid that coated her throat as it worked its way into her body. She closed her mind to the force of his thoughts, twenty years of memories, as she drank him in. While she needed his blood flowing inside of her she did not need the knowledge of his life. She knew everything she needed to: he was a murderer and she was there to put an end to him. When his heart stopped beating and his blood ceased to flow, she threw his body to the side of the road like the garbage he had been. 

Olivia’s eyes dispassionately moved over the men she had killed. She had left the castle tonight resolved to feed – yes, to kill even – but she hadn’t intended to leave a slew of maimed and mutilated bodies in her wake. Clearly the power thrumming inside her veins had had other ideas.

Olivia couldn’t recall specifically what had been going through her head while she had been bloodily plowing her way through the men. Her mind had made its decision and then her body had followed suit, reacting almost of its own accord to the blatant disregard the men had shown both their victim and her presence. 

She remembered asking them to stop hurting him but they had refused. That hadn’t been surprising. In fact, it had been expected. What had surprised her, however, was hearing the man in the red hoodie consider forcing himself on her once they finished roughing up the old man. They had had some beef with him but she was just a random woman who’d crossed their path. That his thoughts would immediately go to rape said enough about him and the company he kept to let her know they couldn’t continue living. It was then that the monster that dwelled within her had taken over and she unleased her rage on them. 

Olivia heard a subtle shift behind her and instinctively turned to attack. A human eye would never have been able to see her body make its move, but the man who stood before her was no human. 
William. 

Olivia’s body was primed for a fight, her mind filled with the thrill of the kill, but at seeing her maker – the man who was her eternal lover – standing immobile before her she dropped her hands to her side and relaxed her posture. Despite the overwhelming energy coursing through her and the fight or flight response that firmly held her in its thrall, somewhere in the back of her mind Olivia knew he would not hurt her, that William was not her foe. 

Never. 

Likewise, she knew she could not hurt him.

William reached his hand out for Olivia to take. He was in awe of the speed with which she had moved and her deadly poise, but he didn’t want to risk her turning that lethal grace on him. He could see from the unholy light that filled her eyes she remained in the grips of something quite beyond a blood fever. He knew the symptoms well as he had often enough been a slave to it himself, but what he saw now went far beyond anything he had ever experienced.

“Olivia.”

She stared at him for several long seconds, her body deathly still, and then the pulsing brilliance of her eyes began to fade to their normal emerald green. She blinked once and tilted her head, a slight shift to the right, and he saw from the recognition that crossed her face she had regained control of her faculties. Olivia turned in a wide circle, her hands hanging limp at her sides, as she took in her surroundings. 

“Oh my god, I’m a monster.” The admission was spoken on a stifled sob.

“Yes, you are,” William agreed, a sad smile shaping his lips. “We both are.”

~*~



09 May 2016

Elite Book Promo: "Busy, Stressed, and Food Obsessed" by Lisa Lewtan


Welcome to the blog tour of "Busy, Stressed, and Food Obsessed" by Lisa Lewtan.  The full schedule for the tour can be found here.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

When stress comes knocking, we eat. When we’re celebrating, we eat. When we’re happy, sad, angry, bored, or relaxed, we eat. Whether we feel good about our bodies or loathe what we see in the mirror, we eat. And often, we hate ourselves for it.

Diets don’t work. “No pain, no gain” tactics are emotionally and physically draining and ineffective, and they often employ shame and guilt—two excellent motivators for comfort eating.

Food is the ultimate double-crosser. It provides pleasure and pain in equal measure, but unlike people, you can’t break up with food. Instead, you need to change how you think and relate to food so you reap the positives without letting it drive you to distraction.

Healthy living strategist and personal coach Lisa Lewtan has the answer: an honest exploration of your relationship with food. Through mindfulness exercises and self-examination, you’ll learn to identify the chemical and emotional triggers that encourage you to eat and how to live a life where food strengthens, rather than weakens.

Busy, Stressed, and Food Obsessed! offers a chance to transform your frenemy into a true friend. You deserve a healthy and delicious relationship with the food you eat.

“A rich and powerful book which provides a roadmap to understanding yourself and your body.” — Christine Schuster, President & CEO, Emerson Hospital

“A simple, readable format that is a valuable tool for anyone who is eager to do the work to transform their life!” —Marcy Balter, Board Chair, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

Buy now @ Amazon


5 REASONS WHY YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK:


1. Get over the diet mentality and STOP beating yourself up about not always eating perfectly

2. Ditch the shame, guilt, and hardcore "no pain, no gain" tactics that do NOT work

3. Identify your OWN chemical and emotional triggers in order to conquer cravings for good

4. Incorporate the BEST mindfulness practices to slow down and reconnect with your body

5. Discover what truly nourishes you so that you can FINALLY stop thinking about food all the time

EXCERPT

For those of us who are busy, stressed, and food obsessed, sometimes food is our best friend and, at other times, our worst enemy. We eat because we are tired, happy, sad, lonely, anxious, bored, excited, triggered, and sometimes, when we are actually hungry.

We eat in the car, while on the phone, while watching TV or on the computer, while reading books, while making dinner, and hopefully, sometimes, even while sitting at a table.

Some of us eat healthy one day and not the next. Some of us feel good about our bodies and what they look like on the outside (at least on some days), and some of us absolutely do not ever feel good about the way we look.

Some of us, despite that fact that we look like we have perfect bodies, are agonizing over the last five pounds, and some of us, despite the fact that we are fit and happy, are tormented because we are seen as overweight.

Some of us are very controlling about what we eat, and some of us are very controlled by what we eat.

Some of us count calories all day long, survive on fake food, or try to eat how we deem to be absolutely perfectly, sometimes to a fault.

For all of us, food is an issue. An issue that can, at times, make us feel crazy.

I Get It. I Lived It. But Not Anymore.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR - LISA LEWTAN


The founder of Healthy, Happy, and Hip, Lisa Lewtan is a healthy living strategist and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Using skills she developed as a successful technology entrepreneur, Lewtan self-hacked her own mind and body to restore her health and wellness. She now uses those same skills to help superstars slow down, chill out, improve their relationship with food, look good, and feel great.

Lewtan’s articles have been featured in numerous publications, including the Huffington Post, Better after 50, and MindBodyGreen. Visit www.HealthyHappyandHip.com to learn more about Lewtan’s private coaching sessions, workshops, and retreats.

02 May 2016

Big Change Coming: Japan!

Photo by Galen Crout, via Unsplash
One of the most difficult things about being an educator has been maintaining a work-life balance. Long-time readers of this blog will note that this has been a pretty consistent refrain for the past couple of years, and that I've never accomplished this balance at any point since becoming an adjunct professor. Hence the lack of blog posts, updates, and good news.

Anyway, I've reached the time where I feel safe enough to admit that I'm burnt out from adjuncting and am walking away from it. I don't want to chuck the teaching profession altogether yet, but I can wholeheartedly say that after almost 2.5 years of adjuncting (working part-time for a college on a semester contractual basis), it's time for a change.

On my one-year anniversary I realized that adjuncting was not a sustainable way to make a living (see the article, "Adjuncting Ruins Lives" and my blog post here about my MFA and adjuncting). Since last January, I looked for other work. Long story short, I could only secure a second education-related part-time job (and seasonal at that) on top of adjuncting, so when I'm not grading my students' writing or working on lesson plans and handouts, I'm scoring standardized tests for the state of California through ETS.

I've been struggling these past few years, and while I had some bright spots here and there while adjuncting, I couldn't shake the dead-end feeling of stagnation in poverty. The job pickings and economy where I'm at now are pretty grim. I typed in my zip for the the Washington Post housing map  and the Slate economic recovery map  and my current city's bottom-ranked in both: housing values are down over $15,000 since 2004 and 20% live in poverty with 52% of adults in the area not working. I realized that if I wanted to live better, I had to get to a better place. And that meant doing something a little crazy and adventurous to get there. 

I applied Fall of 2015 to JET (the Japan Exchange and Teaching program), one of the longest-running cultural exchange programs out there, in the hopes of teaching English as a Second Language in Japan. I interviewed February 1st, and I've known since March that I'll be heading to Japan to teach in the summer for a minimum of one year. I don't know which age group or which location I'm assigned to yet, but I'm hoping that my experience with JET will help me come to terms with what I can do in education, or determine if, despite teaching being a lifelong dream, I'm even cut out for it.

I know now, after giving it two years to try it out, that adjuncting is rough and that I can't live comfortably doing it. I don't want to invest any more money in schooling until I find out more about what I can do, and enjoy doing. Maybe ESL will be that for me, or maybe the solution is with switching the age groups I teach; who knows. But I don't want to consider licensing or teaching K-12 at all until I've had some practice in the classroom through JET.

What I do know is that it'll be my first full-time job since 2009, and I'm excited and nervous.  I could run into the same issue where I have no work-life balance and everything I do in my spare time will be used on teaching, but with JET, I know that at least my compensation for the work that I put in constitutes a living wage. 

My take-home from both of my education jobs for all of 2015 was under $12,000. JET pays ¥3,360,000 the first year alone (over $31,000 with today's exchange rate). The last time I was paid a wage like that was ten years ago, as a 22-year old with a bachelor's just out of college. I never imagined at 32 I'd have an MFA, essentially be a college professor, and make almost 3.5 times less than what I made ten years ago with just a bachelor's. Whew. Anyway, I don't want to go back to adjuncting wages again, ever, unless the only other option is no income at all

In the meantime, I hope to be smart with my experience in Japan. It's a huge dream come true to be able to even go over there, and I loved living abroad when I lived in Wales in 2004, so it feels like a bittersweet return to an age when I felt way more adventurous and excited about living. I want to get healthier before I leave (and while I'm over there) and reacquaint myself with adult independence, and learn more things about the world and my place in it. 

In the meantime, Monday (tomorrow!) is finals week at the college, so I'll be grading like a madwoman during that time. July is when I leave for Japan and I'm picking up as many scoring shifts as possible with my second job before I leave the US.

I want to try to update the website with a Matsuricon 2015 review and my Ohayocon 2016 review, as those are reaaaaaallly overdue, but I don't have much else lined up for the site because I'll be frantically running around trying to wrap things up before I go.

I'll try to keep everyone posted with details as they come. Back to work!


15 April 2016

Elite Book Promo: "Hairy Tales" by Clifford James Hayes


Welcome to my tour stop for "Hairy Tales" by Clifford James Hayes.  Please refer the tour page for the full list of bloggers who are participating in this tour.

Name: Hairy Tales: A Collection of Stories for Naughty Boys and Girls
Author: Clifford James Hayes
Release Date: February 19, 2016
Genre: Children's
Paperback: 148 pages
ISBN-10: 1530133785
ISBN-13: 978-1530133789
Buy @ Amazon

Fans of quirky humour will love these Hairy Tales! Eleven different stories full of rhymes, morals and wit - or just plain silliness and absurdity! Great fun for children and adults alike.

Join The Ugly Mermaid on her amazing undersea quest to discover why she’s so hideous, and find out why Veronica the Velociraptor has such very bad teeth! Discover Aubrey’s Smelly Adventure in the Land of Bernards, and learn that it can be cool to be different in Shipwreck'd Sarah and the Silly-Looking Pirates! Are you brave enough to meet the hideous, toad-fearing Grandma Grunt … and what dreadful fate awaits Horrid Horatia, the fearsome lady-slug? Baron Tuskogee pays a terrible price for his greed in The Walrus Story, stinky old Podge the pig revolts in more ways than one, and the dreaded Lurgatron threatens to take over the world!

All this (and a great deal more!) can be found in Hairy Tales! New, revised edition.

EXCERPT

GRANDMA GRUNT …


When you think of grandmas, you probably think of nice, scented old ladies - the kind of doddery old dears who drink endless cups of tea and spoil their grandchildren with sugary, stodgy home-made cakes. Your grannie is there to make you feel safe, warm and all gooey inside.

Grannies have cuddly, nursey mannerisms and a slightly bonkers too-old-to-care approach to life; they allow their grandchildren to get away with all manner of slightly naughty acts and misdemeanors. Eating too much cake? Breaking a china plate? Going to bed without cleaning your teeth? Such naughtiness may NEVER be allowed at home, but a grannie will usually find childish hijinks, tomfoolery and slovenliness to be quite acceptable when you stay at her place.

All this talk of sweet old dears gurgling tea and baking bad-for-you sugary cakes may possibly remind you of enjoyable visits to your OWN grandmother - and as a consequence it may give you soft, fluffy memories of never being scolded, of endlessly eating candy until you felt queasy and of always being well looked after.

Unfortunately, these were NOT the memories of Edgar and Wilhelmina Grunt. The grandmother of Edgar and Wilhelmina Grunt was NOT a nice, scented old lady. The grandmother of Edgar and Wilhelmina Grunt was SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY.

The grandmother of Edgar and Wilhelmina Grunt did not make sugary cakes, nor dish out too much candy. The grandmother of Edgar and Wilhelmina Grunt did NOT make you feel warm and squishy inside.

Imagine a grandma with a strong, lingering, rotten-vegetably smell - the kind of putrid stench that made you cough up a little bit of sick every time you got downwind of her! Imagine a grandma who spoke words so rude even a foul-mouthed football hooligan would be too embarrassed to repeat them. Imagine a grandma that liked to encourage spiders and other creepy-crawly things to live in every nook and cranny of her dilapidated, unclean home, and who fed her grandchildren food off plates that had never been washed in over forty years. Imagine a grandma with a mountain-range of lumps over every inch of exposed flesh, and with hairy moles on her skin that looked like baby tarantulas! Not to mention the coarse, bristly hair that grew in the strangest of places (even out of the gums between her blackened teeth)!

NOW you’re getting a picture of Edgar and Wilhelmina Grunt’s grandmother. To top it all, their grandmother was quite mad. An absolute fruitcake, in fact. Her favourite book was THE FROGS OF WAR - a woeful tale about pond-life taking over the world. Grandma Grunt was CONVINCED the book was a prophecy – and that one day the world would be taken over by frogs, toads, newts and salamanders. She read the bleak, miserable book again and again and again to her terrified grandchildren, filling their heads with images of the frog wars to come ...

Soldier toads, and frogs of war,
Built for fighting, blood and gore.
Hop o’er land, break down your door,
Take it all, then take some more!
We’re the toads and frogs of war,
Croak and ribit, belch and roar!

She called the book ‘The Froggy Scriptures’, and read terrifying chapters of it to Edgar and Wilhelmina every time they came to stay. Once satisfied she’d scared the living daylights out of her grandchildren, Grandma Grunt made them eat ‘GROT’ - a grey, semi-liquid concoction of her own design. Part-porridge, part-soup, and part whatever-was-found-in-the-backyard. Anything unfortunate enough to be slow and easy to catch often went into her vat of Grot - she had a particular fancy for snails and slugs, and even squeezed the ‘juice’ out of a dead seagull once, in order to add it to the putrid gruel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Clifford James Hayes is an occasional author and independent publisher, and has to date written and illustrated over a dozen books in different genres (childrens’ tales, historical fantasy, comedic science fiction and biographical). His ‘day job’ is running his graphic design business (www.hayesdesign.co.uk) where his specialism is the design of books and cd/albums. Inspirations for his books include Roald Dahl, Monty Python, Rik Mayall, Spike Milligan and (most importantly) the mad outpourings of his young daughter, Poppy, to whom all his books are dedicated. For more info please get in touch via www.hayesdesign.co.uk.




23 March 2016

Elite Book Promo: "IA: Initiate" by John Darryl Winston


Welcome to my tour stop for IA: Initiate by John Darryl Winston.  This tour runs from March 21 to 25.  Please refer the tour page for the full list of bloggers who are participating in this tour.

Name: IA: Initiate
Author: John Darryl Winston
Publisher: Purple Ash Press
Release Date: April 19, 2014
Genre: Science Fiction
Buy @ Amazon


IA: Initiate is origin story and a hero’s journey that follows thirteen-year-old orphan Naz Andersen and his nine-year-old sister, Meri. They live in a present-day alternate Detroit/Chicago-like city known as the Exclave where they are surrounded by poverty; gang violence threatens every corner; and drug dealers rule the streets. Naz thinks he is ordinary except that he hears voices, has nightmares, and walks in his sleep.

The most important thing in the world to Naz is protecting Meri and getting her out of the Exclave and into the prestigious International Academy. But Naz has a secret, one that he is oblivious to, and only Meri knows. When Naz becomes the target of a notorious street gang he begins to discover the voices in his head, the nightmares, and sleepwalking are actually telekinesis and telepathy at play, a gift from his father of whom he has no memory.

EXCERPT

Present Day …
           
It is the city, a city that never dies although some of its inhabitants meet that fate daily. The city lives and breathes day and night, dark or light. In contrast to the city’s downtown with its skyscrapers, arenas, and casinos, the northern neighborhoods are like a sea of identical blocks attached to a grid of intersecting lines. Suburbanites pass through the city into its downtown then return to their perfect palaces. This image from high above suggests a pattern of order that is betrayed by the chaos found below where uncertainty is the only certainty and chaos the only order. This chaos is reverently referred to, with pride by its indigenous population as the Exclave. 

Smoke and its accompanying aromas fill the hot humid air on this early, late summer morning. There is smoke from late night and early morning cooking, smoke from all manner of narcotics, and smoke from smoldering house fires set and put out through the night—although some are still ablaze.

And there are the sounds that set this scene: a dog barking relentlessly, sporadic gunfire, sirens in the distance, a train that passes through like clockwork, and a constant beat and rhythm coming from somewhere … everywhere … nowhere, that define the “silence” of the Exclave at dawn.

It is feared by those who are on the outside and rightly so. But it is home to those inside its invisible walls. Like a modern-day Troy, it is safe haven for some; however, for others, it is a place from which there is no escape. But there are a few that see bigger things and different places—other worlds.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Darryl Winston is a recording artist-turned-educator-turned author. He dates his love of storytelling back to reading the Bible with his father and sisters, and later when he first saw Superman The Movie as an 11th grader in his high school auditorium. He got the idea for his debut series while piloted a Boys’ Read program as a Detroit Public School teacher. 

He is the founder of the Adopt-an-Author program, which has as its mission to create an atmosphere where boys and girls learn to love reading and writing.

He has written songs with and for Grammy winner David Foster and record mogul Clive Davis. He has been a recording artist on Arista and Polygram records, and has written and/or produced songs for Gerald Levert, Jordan Hill, Gerald Alston, and many others.

He’s a graduate of the Recording Institute of Detroit, The Motion Picture Institute of Michigan, and Wayne State University. He has his MA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and will be graduating, June 2016 with his MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes. He lives in Detroit with daughter, Marquette and plans to buy an African Grey Parrot when he conquers his irrational fear of birds and name him or her Tony or Toni.



GIVEAWAY

John is offering ecopies of IA: Initiate to 5 winners! Enter below via Rafflecopter!




07 March 2016

Elite Book Promo: "When I Grow Up" by Matt Williams


Name: When I Grow Up
Author: Matt Williams
Illustrator: Elizabeth Collyer
Publisher: Vivid Publishing


"When I grow up there's lots of things I'd like to be:
But how am I supposed to know which job is right for me?"

This delightful story will encourage children to use their imagination and dream about what their future holds.

The book comes with access to a worksheet for young readers to complete to reinforce the ideas raised in the story.


Buy now @ Amazon | Vivid Publishing

EXCERPT



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Author Matt Williams resides in Newcastle, NSW and is the proud father of two gorgeous kids, Mikayla and Harry. He’s an Early Childhood educator with 15 years experience in the industry. Matt has a passion for encouraging children to read books as he’s seen firsthand the benefits it brings to a child’s development. Matt’s vision for this book is to create a story that provokes discussion and encourages children to dream about their possible future profession. The book comes with access to a worksheet available online to print and complete after reading the story. This worksheet is designed to be an engaging and productive way to reinforce the ideas from the book.


15 January 2016

Come See Me at Ohayocon!

For those of you venturing through the winter slush to get to Columbus, Ohio for Ohayocon, please stop by and say hello or come to my panel, "Fanfic into Fiction," which will be appearing at Ohayocon for the first time ever! I've given this panel at Colossalcon and Matsuricon, and it usually has a good crowd of people willing to share in their love of fandoms, writing, and of course, the phenomena that is fanfiction.

I'll be presenting Friday the 15th @ 2:30pm! Can't wait to see you there!

For the rest of the schedule, check out the Grenadine site here!