Hello World, I Missed You

First off, I would like to apologize for my long and unexplained absence these past few months. I had some serious health issues back in January and had to step away from social media while I dealt with it. I didn’t announce a blog hiatus because I was hoping it would be a short break. But one month turned into two, then three, and despite my most valiant efforts (hello, raw plant food diet), things just kept getting worse. I didn’t want to blog about my endeavors, because honestly, who wants to read about the “healthiest diet in the world” actually making someone sicker?

However, I am happy to report that things are finally starting to get better. One reason being I abandoned the raw plant food diet after discovering literature on how there are certain types of people it’s NOT healthy for. No one size fits all…gee, what a concept. I’m not sure whether I’ll go into more detail in later posts about my experience, though I’m sure it could help a small percentage of people who fall into the same category as me. But it’s been a difficult road to endure, and I’m not going to claim to be a health food expert.

At this point, I’m trying to ease back into the world of social media—and writing. My muse suffered greatly these past 4 1/2 months, and I know it will take some patient nurturing to bring her back to health too.

The good news is that before my world came crashing down, I had actually finished Elemental Magic 4! I’ve just been holding off on the release until I could give it proper attention. So watch for Unbridled Magic very soon, and sign up for the newsletter if you haven’t yet.

And to those still here with me, thanks for sticking around. 🙂

Heroines of Fantasy: Miss March

Welcome to our third installment of a year-long blog series where we feature a heroine of fantasy each month. I’m going to give your TBR lists a break and instead introduce you to a television icon in urban fantasy. And since it’s the third month in the year 2013, we’re getting a magical three in one: The Charmed Ones!

Hear now the words of the witches, the secrets we hid in the night, the oldest of Gods are invoked here, the great work of magic is sought. In this night and in this hour, I’ll call upon the ancient power, bring your powers to we sisters three, we want the power, give us the power.

Three sisters born to a witch’s line would become the most powerful force for good in the world: The Charmed Ones. Six months after their Grams’s passing, Phoebe moves home to live with sisters Prue and Piper. She discovers an old Book of Shadows in the attic and recites a spell that unbinds their powers.

 Prue is the eldest. She practically raised her sisters after their mother died and is very responsible, which sometimes leads her to clash with the youngest Halliwell sister, Phoebe, who lives more like a free-spirit. Prue has the power to move objects with her mind. It’s considered the most active power, laying even more responsibility on her shoulders, and leading to guilt when her “superior power” fails to save someone she loves. Prue struggles to keep her identity a secret, especially when it comes to fighting demons and keeping her 9-5 job at a high-end auction house. Eventually, she learns to invest in herself a little more, and quits to pursue her dream of being a photographer.

 Piper is the middle child, always mediating between Prue and Phoebe. She works at a restaurant where she lets her boss walk all over her, yet she endures it because her dream is to become a chef. She has the power to freeze time. Her power starts small, only lasting a minute or so, but eventually grows powerful enough to freeze an entire room, and later she can go the opposite: speed molecules up so fast they explode. Piper just wants a normal life without vanquishing demons and ruining expensive pairs of boots. She also wants to fall in love and get married, but she doesn’t have the best luck with men—one was a demon who tried to kill her, another guy was a ghost, and then she fell in love with her white lighter (a witch’s guardian angel), which was a big no-no.

 Phoebe is the youngest and “without vision” for her life, so Prue would say. Ironically, Phoebe’s power is premonition. It’s not a very active power, which she laments in comparison to her sisters, because unlike them, Phoebe likes being a witch. It gives her a purpose and an identity she’d been lacking in her life. Phoebe is a gung ho heroine, eager to kick some demon ass, and she even learns martial arts to make up for her lack of offensive magic.

Together, the three sisters face the challenges of fighting evil, finding love, and pursuing their dreams, all through the bond of sisterhood. If you haven’t watched this series, run to your Netflix or Hulu stream. (For those of you who are fans, yes, there is a “fourth” sister, but we’re not going to get to her today.)


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Chivalry Isn’t Dead, He’s Just In WITSEC

Many believe Chivalry was a casualty in the rise of Feminism.  The truth is, though he sustained a vital blow during the storm of changing times, Chivalry did survive.  Unfortunately, because the world thinks him dead, he’s suffered many false accusations and mistaken identities.

  • He rushes to open a door for an elderly woman, and she cowers away in fear that he intends to mow her down in order to get in line first.
  • He brings a lady a drink when he goes for his own and she declines, paranoid he may have slipped something in it.
  • He offers to walk a woman to her car late at night to fend off fiends, but she suspects he’s the one who intends to knife her in the dark parking lot.

He finally had to be whisked away into Witness Protection in order to save him.  Though he is in hiding, Chivalry attempts to make small headway by being a gentleman where he can.  His efforts might be in vain, however, for no one recognizes him when he passes on the street or if he says ‘hello.’  Despite his best intentions, he is met with suspicion, resistance, and sometimes outright disdain.  Perhaps he didn’t die in one single blow as everyone thought; perhaps he is doomed to wither away, malnourished on false hopes and unrequited decency.


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A Lesson in Critiquing via The Voice

Just a note: I’m going to change my regular blogging day to Monday for at least the rest of the school year.  Wednesday is a full day of work, and I’m not around to respond to comments, which I love to do!  That’s it, now on to today’s post.

No matter what you do, at some point in everyone’s life, you will be asked to evaluate, critique, or review something.  Here’s a quick lesson on some things that do and do not make for effective, constructive criticism.  I’ll be using NBC’s The Voice to showcase.

Let’s start with ineffective.

The Misdirect (perfected by Blake Shelton)

When you can’t think of anything positive to say, or perhaps you can’t be bothered to give it much thought (maybe you weren’t paying attention), but you have to say something, picking out something from the peripheral seems like a good idea, right?

“Dude, I was totally fixated on the Egyptian male strippers on stage. …  Yeah, male strippers.”

Riight.  Tip 1: Feedback of any kind should be about the work.  And since books are my field, I’ll give you another example: “The cover really captivated my attention.”  …  Yes?  And?  The actual story?

Okay, next.

Bashing/Making it personal (see Christina Aguilera)

Being outright mean doesn’t help anyone work towards improvement, and making judgmental statements about the person doesn’t give them anything specific to work on.  It just says, “I hate you, so get a day job.”  Everyone can improve if they work hard, and that’s the purpose of feedback/coaching.

“I find you one-dimensional.”

Ouch.  Again, this comment doesn’t reflect on the work being evaluated, but instead focuses on the person behind it.  How is this singer, Tony Luuca, supposed to work on improving his work with a comment like that?  It doesn’t contain any direction.  In this singer’s case, Christina could have said that song felt one-dimensional, or that particular delivery didn’t vary enough for her taste.  But she made it personal and tried to make Tony feel bad.

So again, make whatever you have to say focus on the work being evaluated.

Out of Left Field (courtesy of Cee Lo Green) or, The Table-Turner

I can’t really explain the motive behind this one…uh, Cee Lo appeared stoned one night, so drugs are always an understandable reason.  So make that Tip 2: Be sober when giving feedback.  I also knew someone like this who did it for laughs.  But then it becomes about you, and not the artist, author, book, etc.

“You’re such a beautiful creature.”

Um, thanks?  Beautiful is a nice word; not sure how I feel about being called a creature.  Kind of sexist if you ask me.  And most of the female artists went into the blind auditions wanting to be judged on their voices, not their looks (even the pretty ones didn’t want to win because they were pretty!)  And the feedback they get?  “You’re gorgeous, baby.”  Yeah, they were probably hoping for something a little more constructive—about the work!

Not all hope is lost for these contestants, however!  Adam Levine seems to be the only coach taking his role seriously.

Constructive Criticism (thank you, Adam)

Constructive criticism highlights positive and negatives.  One popular method for this is the sandwich: positive, negative, positive.  It also talks about the work specifically.

“You incorporated what I advised you to do, and that was great.  I would have liked to see this for this type of song.”

Specific, to the point, and gives the singer something tangible to work on for next time.  It doesn’t comment on the singer’s value as a person.  Sure, hearing something wasn’t successful when you tried for that isn’t fun.  But how else will you learn?  That thing didn’t work, so try something else.

So the next time you find yourself in a position to give an opinion on something, whether it be a book review or a peer’s performance in some task (school or work), think about what will be specific and relevant, and give it in good spirit.  And if you can’t think of anything to say, maybe it would just be better if you stayed silent, and didn’t try to comment on the upholstery.  The misdirect really isn’t that subtle.  😉

Though I won’t be on my blog on Wednesdays, I will be guest posting on Marcia Richards’s blog this Wednesday about strong, smart, and sexy women and how I write them in my books.  So head on over later this week!  🙂

Where’s the Fire?

As a native of California, I’m quite familiar with disaster preparedness.  If the “Big One” hits, and half our apartment caves in and we’re sleeping under the stars for a while, we’ve got it covered.  Those of you in other areas with your own unique natural disasters probably also have an idea of what you would do in the case of those emergencies.

Here’s the thing…having a vague concept isn’t enough.  You know what to do in theory, but when you’re in the moment, it’s amazing how all rational thought can go out the window.

Two weeks ago, I was sitting at home, working on my novel, when I saw smoke start spewing from the house across from my apartment.  I didn’t have a clear view with the tall fence between us, but it pinged my internal warning system.  Still, I didn’t see any flames; surely there were lots of reasons for there to be random smoke, right?  Well, I’ve seen enough TV shows to know that a lot of people don’t call 911, whether because they’re in a haze of denial/disbelief, or they assume someone else already did.  I didn’t want to be that kind of person, so I called.  Turns out, I wasn’t the first; the operator knew the address already and that it was a fire.

So I stood there in my bedroom, watching out my window while I waited for the sound of sirens.  Then the flames broke loose.  One minute it’s just smoke, the next the entire roof is engulfed in huge flames.  I could feel the heat through the glass.  And, I’m ashamed to say, I just stood there, watching.  Perhaps it was shock.  Perhaps it was due to a firm belief that the fire department would arrive and save the day.  But the winds were already going 30+mph and I still couldn’t hear any sirens.  Finally, it’s like, maybe I should get the hell out of there.

We’ve probably all thought about what we would grab in the case of an emergency, but I’m going to tell you that it won’t mean anything unless you make a list and tack it to your refrigerator or somewhere else you’ll be able to see it.  I scrambled about for a couple pairs of clothes (though somehow missed the shirts), medical supplies, and of course, the cat.  Now, we already have her carrier plus a go-bag with leash, body harness, and blanket ready for an earthquake, but it was just as well for this situation.  Thankfully, I got her in before the police started banging on the door ordering an evacuation, because that’s when she freaked.

Though I had the presence of mind to grab some important things, I missed some other crucial stuff.

* Credit cards  (I don’t happen to carry these on me, and you can’t get a hotel without one.)

* Phone charger  (If your house is gone, that phone is your only connection to the world to get things done.)

* All your medication  (I remembered to grab my diabetic supplies, but forgot other important pills.)

I know it sounds like a lot to grab, but in my case, I had time.  I just didn’t use it.  Trust me, it’s less of a hassle to unpack everything for a false alarm than it is to be without important items and barred from your place.

All in all, my apartment was safe and we were allowed back several hours later.  The house in the back was destroyed.  I am so thankful because it could have been so much worse.  I’m making a list for next time.  Will you?

Do you have a go-bag for your pets?  For yourself?  Do you know what you’d grab, and is it within easy reach?

On a side note, ever since that day, my stress level has been steadily increasing.  Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been as present lately, on other blogs or my own.  With working full time and getting my next book released, I’m starting to feel like a puddle of mush.  I’m thinking of taking a vacation, unplugging and focusing on recharging myself before my head explodes.  That would be messy, and I’m sure cleaning it up would cause me more stress.  😉

It’s a Tag Party!

Stacy Green tagged me a couple weeks ago with this fun, get-to-know-you meme.  And I’m finally getting around to answering them!

1. You must post the rules.
2. Answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3. Tag eleven people and link to them.
4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.


If you could live in a fictional world, where would that be?
Narnia–Talking animals, unicorns, griffins, mermaids, and magic swords.  Plus Aslan.  🙂
Do you read in noisy or quiet places?
Both.  I’ll often read at home when it’s quiet, or out in between jobs when it’s noisy.  I also read during commercials while watching TV.
What was the first book you ever read?
Hm, what was it called…McGregor, McGruff, something anthology.  Book 1 was like simple level, and each book went up in difficulty.  It’s what my dad taught me to read with.
If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer.  I read it a couple times every year.
Favorite author?
I can’t pick just one!  Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong, Cassandra Clare, Melissa Marr…the list goes on.
Do reviews influence your choice of reads?
It depends on what the reviews say.  If they’re well thought-out with specific explanations for positive/negative, and I know that I like that type of thing, or don’t like that type of thing, then I may or may not read the book.
Fiction or Non fiction?
Have you ever met your favorite author?
No, but I got close one time.  I went to a panel/book event and got to see some authors I like.  Well, sort of see.  Most of them were rather short and the stage wasn’t very high, lol.
Audio books or Paperbacks?
Classic or Modern Novels?
Book Groups or Solitary Reading?

Tag, You’re It!  And I’m going to follow the lead of Stacy and just say the same questions.  😉

1. Alina Sayre

2. Katy Hulme

3. Jessica O’Neal

4. Tameri Etherton

5. Angela Peart

6. Bridgette Booth

7. Rebecca Enzor

8. Jen Kirchner

9. Tiffany White

10. Debra Kristi

11. Sharon Howard

Confessions of a Versatile Blogger

Earlier this month, I was awarded the Versatile Blogger Award by two fabulous ladies, Marcy Kennedy and Sharon Howard.  Thank you!  Be sure to check out the awesomeness of their blogs.

Before I take the pleasure of passing this award along, I must list seven random things about myself.  Let’s see if I can come up with any new material.  😉

1. I kill flowers.  Not intentionally!  But so far not a single blooming plant has survived living with me.  Even now, the orchid, a plant that’s supposed to survive anywhere, is losing its flowers one by one, shriveling into dried corpses.  I am very distraught over it.

2. Whenever I learn something new, it usually works its way into the novel I’m writing at the time.  When I wrote Elemental Magic, I’d just taken a Tai Chi class–Tai Chi became my main character’s method of relaxation.  When I wrote Dry Spell, I had just ventured into the land of social media, and then one of my characters became a professional blogger with her own Twitter hashtag.

3. The very first CD I ever owned was Spice Girls.  It would have been quite the scandal in my house if my dad found out, so my mom, sister, and I only played it when he wasn’t at home.

4. I love lists.  I make to-do lists for everything–daily to-do lists, monthly to-do lists, lists for things to watch out for in editing.  I buy those page-a-day calendars so I can use them as notes.  Current count on my desk: 9 lists.  (7 of them are actually writing related.)

5. Every year I buy a fantasy art calendar like Nene Thomas or Josephine Wall, then at the end of the year I cut it up and put the pictures on my wall like posters.

6. I can recite every line from all three of the LoTR extended movies, in order.  I would love to be able to watch them for the very first time again.

7.  In college, I learned how to write in Tengwar, Tolkien’s elvish runes.  My friend and I used to write letters to each other in them.  Now, it just comes in handy for hiding passwords.

Now I get to pass this award along!  Congrats my fellow bloggers!  Remember, when you post about receiving this award, list seven random things about yourself, and then pass the award along.  And don’t forget to let those winners know.

1. Alina Sayre~Illuminations–She blogs on writing, cooking, books, and how faith brings them all together.

2. Jessica O’Neal–She’s already received this award, but her blog is newly discovered on my end, so there you go.  😉

3. Rebecca Enzor–She’s gotten this award in the past, but I just have to highlight her Custom of the Week posts.  If you love My Little Pony, these Sunday features are a must!

4. Jennifer Kirchner–In addition to her Vote Your Own Adventure series, she’s added some more nerdy pursuits to her blogging topics, such as gaming.  You absolutely must read her post on Kirk vs. Picard.

Thanks for playing!

Propane Torches and I-Told-You-So’s


You all thought I was going to tell a story about how playing with propane torches is a bad idea.  While it is, you were wrong.  I don’t play with fire, except in stories.  Over the past ten years my mom and I have gradually moved from place to place, decreasing our square footage as we went.  With that came some major downsizing.

Goodbye couch–you were too big to fit in our latest living room.  But some church friends had some old loveseats they were getting rid of, and kindly donated them to us.

Goodbye half my personal library from college–there just weren’t enough shelves, and really, I’m going to read D. H. Lawrence again?  No.

Goodbye dining room set–this was actually the hardest for me to get rid of.  It wasn’t even a very nice table; it was big and clunky with a set of drawers around the bottom in the center you’d stub your toes on if you swung your legs.  The white wood was scarred to look antique-ish, and it was freakin’ heavy.  Somehow, though, that table represented home to me, a place family could gather around to share meals, the center piece of the kitchen where love is baked warm and gooey right out of the oven.

It’s odd I felt so strongly about the table.  Growing up, we never ate around it as a family.  My mom cooked, but it was not something I liked to do (still isn’t).  Yet this chunk of wood in all its magnitude represented stability.  After so much moving, I wanted nothing more than to settle down.

I’ve had to redefine my hopes for the future and my definition of what “home and family” mean to me.  Whether those adaptations came from wisdom or jadedness, new dreams or practicality, that table is no longer my idea of home and stability.  Who I keep company with was a good start.  My mom and I are best friends; I’ve had my experience of awful roommates (college dorms *shudder*).  Pets enrich the home because they enrich life; my cat would continue to bring me joy and delight no matter where we lived.  I still long for better things, but different things than I did before.

Have I kept you in suspense long enough about the propane torch?  Well, we had a mini one in our closet for the past ten years.  Three weeks ago we gave that away as well.  We’d never used it, so why keep it?  That’s how we proceeded with most of our downsizing, even though it was painful sometimes: “Do we *really* need this?”  “How often do we use it?”  We gave it to my uncle.  After much debate, he finally relented and took it, though he continued to insist that we would need it someday.  I scoffed.  Ten years we never used it.

Can you guess what happened five days later?  I had a need for a mini propane torch.  😛  That is when my uncle, in good fashion, said, “I told you so.”  So now I have a new propane torch and a use for it.  It seems to be the law of the universe that the things you have no use for, you’ll suddenly need once they’re no longer in your possession.

What have you given away only to regret it soon after?  Does this principle hold true for you?  Has it happened often enough you feel it’s best to save anything and everything for a rainy day?  Are you a pack-rat or do you refrain from holding on to stuff?

Have you ever had to part with something that broke your heart to do so?  What makes home for you?

I love hearing from you!  Also, if you’re looking for some summer reading, Phoenix Feather, a paranormal romance, is on sale at Smashwords for 50% off until July 31st!

David and Goliath Moments

I saw this video on another blog a little while ago and thought I’d re-share it because it’s awesome.  There’s a cat.  Enough said.

Mugsy the Cat Attacks Alligators

David and Goliath of the animal kingdom.  Is Mugsy acting out of a desire to protect his loved ones, or is he confronting the big bad beast because Mugsy is the mighty Puss In Boots?  Either way, it just goes to show size doesn’t matter.  Whether you’ve got God on your side, or just plain bravado, you can tackle anything bigger than you.

What have been the Goliath moments in your life?