Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pitch Wars Pimp My Bio!

Hi – I’m Karen. Now that I’ve stalked #PitchWars and decided to take the plunge, I figure it's time to Pimp My Bio. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, feel free to ignore the crazy lady … instead you can read about my nine year old and his Evil Dude Club here).

Before I start, I apologize for the lack of GIFs. I couldn’t figure them out, so they’re just not happening. As my 18 year old likes to remind me on a regular basis, “old people and the internet are funny.” Whatever.

Since I kind of brought it up, I’m on the far side of middle age, and didn’t start writing until my forties. In fact, until that time, I HATED writing. I always believed you were either a creative, writing type or a math nerd. Since I had a thing for logic and numbers, I figured I fell into the latter category. In college, I took Advanced Calculus for fun (true story), and after my kids were born, I spent ten plus years preparing taxes. Now I write stories, and my numbers world all seems like a million years ago. It wasn’t of course, I’m not that old.

Me! 

Once I did start writing, I couldn’t stop. Since self-publishing my first middle grade novel in 2011, I’ve gone on to publish ten more middle grade and adult titles, both self-published and small press. I've even won a few awards!

Some of my books...


I’m now looking to move into the world of traditional publishing and have yet-to-be published middle grade and adult manuscripts ready to go. I spent quite a while trying to figure out which manuscript/genre to enter into Pitch Wars. My middle grade story already did well in two contests this summer, so after reading through the mentors' wish lists, I decided it was time to give my adult manuscript some love. Now I’m excited to share a little bit of my Women’s Fiction/Domestic Drama: A MOTHER’S STAND:

Nobody ever expects to be in the 50% of marriages that end in divorce when they say their “I do’s.” Even more unexpected is to end up as 1 of the 125,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant shortly thereafter. However, that’s where Samantha Powell finds herself as she listens to testimony concerning the custody of her only child, nine-year-old Ella. Two years ago, her husband left town, leaving both Samantha and Ella behind. Now he was back and had filed a lawsuit to move Ella several states away, claiming a disabled woman couldn’t possible mother a child. While Samantha and her attorney were ready for the argument with their own experts, they couldn’t have possibly prepared themselves for the confrontation outside of the courthouse — for the gun Samantha’s ex pulled on her, for the ensuing hostage situation, or for the fight she would face to stay alive. Confronted with the possibility of losing her daughter forever, Samantha must prove that a mother’s love for her child is strong enough to overcome even the most harrowing situation.

  
And now the part where I tell you why you should pick me:

I'm one of those moms who is always telling my kids to dream big, reach for the stars, take the bull by the horns … I could go on and on. At some point in my life, I realized I needed to take my own advice. I also realized I couldn't do it alone. When I wrote my very first novel back in 2009, I hired a writing coach to look over the first few chapters. After all, up until then, my writing had been limited to corporate and client emails. She told me it was horrible. I cried. She also gave me the most amazing advice. Ever since then, I have cherished the kind people who have taken the time to critique my work. I know I have come a long way, and I know I have a long way still to go. But I love to learn, and I know there is no better way to strengthen my story than to partner up with someone who has been where I have been and is now where I want to be.

What you'll get from me as your mentee:


I’m ambitious, enthusiastic, and dedicated to improving my craft. My day job is THIS. Writing is my passion, and I work hard at it. I obsessively check my email, which means I'll never miss one from you. I'm goal oriented, extremely organized (oh yes, there will be Excel spreadsheets involved on my end) and most importantly, I promise to respect and learn. Also, I promise there will be no math problems.


Random things that make me happy:

-Writing (duh!)

-My two assistants:

Skill set includes walking across keyboard in the middle of a scene.


-Clocks: I love big clocks and I cannot lie.

-Coffee. Tea is okay too, but … coffee.

-HGTV. Specifically, Fixer Upper. In my fantasy world, I'm besties with Chip and Joanna Gaines. 

Channeling my inner Joanna with my #shiplap shirt

-My family and other people I love … last on the list, but definitely not least.


Thanks for reading and I hope we get to meet soon!

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Don't forget to check out other bios here!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

This Crazy Game Called Life

Last night, I took my three kids out to dinner. Let's forget for a moment that in a completely empty restaurant they gave us the table closest to the bar. I'm chalking that one up to me looking worn out and them assuming I might need a drink or ten. (FYI I only drank water).



We were in one of those restaurants that had a game console on the table. Normally, I say no to that sort of thing, but despite my haggard look, I was in a particularly good mood. I was with all three of my children … a rare occasion these days … and I was in air-conditioning. Did I mention my AC broke? Did I mention we were in the middle of a heat wave and it was a holiday weekend? Again, I would like to say that I did in fact only drink water.

The kids decided to play The Game of Life. It seemed like a fun and harmless game. More importantly, they all agreed on it without any arguments. It started out innocent enough. Two of my children chose college paths, one became a professional athlete. They each got married and bought houses. But then talk of babies started. Everyone wanted one.

"How do you get a baby?" I asked, followed quickly by, "Don't answer that." Okay, so my nine year old and I have already had talks, but I wasn't in the mood to re-hash it all around the dinner table in a restaurant. Although, we were in air-conditioning.

My fifteen year old, not missing a beat, responded with, "You have to land on a space … just like in real life." She smirked. Oy.

My youngest, nodded and added, "I'm going to name my first child Peter Parker. Then I'm going make him get bit by a radioactive spider."  Seemed like a reasonable response.

Also heard around the table was:

"'Can I buy your children off of you?" ... from my fifteen year old and

"I keep having kids! I'm getting a vasectomy." ... from my eighteen year old.

Seriously, where was that waitress with our food?

Finally, the topic moved away from baby making and baby preventing. You see because in this version of Life, you can sue people. Oh yes, my kids thought that was awesome!

The new conversation went like this:

"If I can sue someone I will!"

"Sue! Sue! Sue!"

"I will not hesitate to take all your money!"

When finally I made a comment about how complicated this game was compared to the version I had when I was a kid, my youngest replied with:

"You need Life to be easier, you're old."

And that my friends pretty much sums it up, don't you think?

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http://bit.ly/KPTbooks

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Conversation With My Nine Year Old: The Evil Dudes

It's been a while since I've posted a conversation with my youngest - we have some great ones. They usually take place while walking to and from the school bus stop. What I love about our conversations is that no matter what I ask, he has a response. It's often hard to keep a straight face, and I usually lose it somewhere by the end. That's the point where I rush to scribble it all down...

C: [Friend] and I started a club called the Evil Dudes. We're going to build a house then build the most powerful machine in the world.

Me: That sounds expensive.

photo credit: piles-o-cash money via photopin (license)
C: Yes, but we're going to raise a trillion dollars to make it happen.

Me: How? I could use some good fundraising tips.

C: Through recruits. That's why we need the house. So they can live there.

Me: Listen, do you think once you raise all this money, you can maybe loan your mom some? Maybe just a little, like $10,000 or so?

C: Nope.We're going to need it all.

Me: How about if you raise your fundraising effort? I mean a trillion dollars is kind of a lot. A trillion ten thousand is just a tiny bit more at that point.

C: No can do. This thing is going global and will be going on for generations to come.

Me: That's a lot of Evil Dudes. Why so evil?

C: We're not really evil. Our machine will save the planet. We just needed a cool sounding name.

Me: Why not Cool Dudes?

C: That's already taken ... Some guys in Antarctica.

photo credit: El verdadero Kowalsky via photopin (license)

Well  … okay. At that point we were home. I quickly jotted down the conversation,  knowing I just had to blog about it. We started homework and got into our usual after school routine. The next morning, I added "blog post about Evil Dudes" to my to-do list. However, I wasn't expecting this added gem when it was time to leave for school.

Me: What's that? (Pointing to a rolled up piece of paper in my son's hand)

C: Evil Dude plans for an underground bunker. Sorry, I can't disclose the location. It's a secret. We'll need $500 mil to start. We have to eat you know.

Kid's got a point.

*******

http://bit.ly/KPTbooks

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ramblings of a Sentimental Mom

Can I get sentimental for a moment?

It's been that kind of week so far. It all started with the emails. There was the one reminding parents that cap and gown orders were due for my high school senior (done), the one that said there were mandatory religious school confirmation rehearsals for my fifteen year old (noted), and the one that said fourth grade graduation would be starting at 9:15 (got it).

Within the course of one week, all three of my children will be hitting milestones. It is a week that will involve a LOT of tissues.

photo credit: Graduation Cake Guy via photopin (license)
The thing is, that emotional week is still several weeks away, and the waterworks have already started. Like yesterday. I went to Walgreens to buy cards. As soon as I saw the first graduation card, I knew I was going to lose it. I quickly put it down and decided it was a task for another day.

Maybe my sentimental craziness is because I've been reading a lot of my old blog posts lately. Last week, I listened to a podcast about social media. One of the things discussed was recycling older entries that readers might still enjoy/find relevant. Since I have over 400 posts, I thought why not? So I started at the beginning and started reading. There were so many about my three children. Memories came flooding back as if the events I wrote about happened yesterday. Except they didn't. Years have passed, and the tweens I wrote about are now teens. One is eighteen, works, has his own car, and is getting ready to graduate high school. The other will be sixteen this summer and is already thinking about colleges. And that toddler who I wrote about? The one who was worried that the Tooth Fairy didn't get help the way Santa did and wondered if maybe she could borrow an elf or two? Well, he's almost ten and getting ready to enter the tween years himself. Like most parents, I had a "wait, what? when?" moment trying to figure out how they aged when I didn't (snicker). Of course, there were tears thinking about it all, but there were also laughs … because so many of the memories made me smile.

So if you see me on social media being more social with old posts, it's just me being a sentimental (older) mom.


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http://bit.ly/KPTbooks

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I Blame It On The Carpet

I was listening to a podcast the other day about social media, and a thought occurred to me. Lately I haven't been very social. There was a time when I was blogging two or three times a week. Looking back, I realized it's been about two years since that all stopped, which was just around the time of my divorce. Did you know that happened? Yeah.

It was a crazy, hectic, stressful, depressing time. To add to the stress, our marital home, which was too large and expensive to keep, sold in two days, and the buyers wanted a quick settlement. I had five weeks to pack up and find a new home for myself and my three children.

In the housing market, it was a time of low inventory and high demand … at least in my price range. I was getting outbid on everything and had visions of us living out of my minivan. But then in a very "Sex in the City" sort of way, I got a phone call from my best friend: "A guy on my street died. They're hammering in the For Sale sign as I speak. Call your realtor NOW."

So I did. And I got the house before anyone else had a chance to see it. I had already been through two other houses in the neighborhood. They were all built in the 1950's and all basically the same. In fact, the one across the street was one I'd bid on and lost. So I knew what it could look like which was a good thing. Because … WOW.



"It's just carpet, it's just carpet," I told myself as I walked through. My realtor tried to convince me I could live with it for a while. I told her to stop … that she already had the sale. I knew from looking at the other houses on the street that these homes had hardwood on the first floor and just prayed I would find something in decent, usable condition underneath this craziness.

I settled on the house a few days before the movers arrived in order to have some time to work on the house. My best friend and our teenage sons couldn't rip the carpet out fast enough. I wish I could say pulling out the remaining 10,000 staples was therapeutic, but it wasn't. Underneath, the floors weren't in the best shape, and in the dining room (Oh yes, this carpet was EVERYWHERE), the prior owner had removed the hardwood and put down linoleum. Surprise! But at least it was neutral. More importantly, it wasn't this carpet. With scratched up hardwood floors and unexpected linoleum, my furniture and other belongings began to arrive. Suddenly, this strange place started looking and feeling like home. Ready or not, I was entering a new chapter of my life.

Now two years later, I've since had the hardwood refinished and the linoleum removed. The dust has settled on our unexpected life, and all is good…We are happy and loved. I'm extremely grateful for everything that we have. And I still don't miss that carpet.

*****

http://bit.ly/KPTbooks

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Mother of All Tooth Fairies


A few minutes ago, a lovely woman with glitter in her hair and fluttering wings, dressed in purple and pink ruffles, called my son's name. He obediently stood from his chair and followed her through the door.

Okay, so she maybe she wore blue scrubs, didn't have glitter in her hair or have fluttering wings, but she did call out my eighteen year old son's name. And he did follow her behind a closed door.

In case you couldn't tell, I'm writing this post from the oral surgeon's waiting room. Today is the dreaded day ... Wisdom teeth removal. 

The other moms in here all look so calm, but I'm a twisted mess. For weeks I was fine. I was fine when I made the appointment, I was fine when we came in for the consult, I was even fine when my son had to sign all the paperwork because he's eighteen now.

But then this week started..

First, I had to convince my son this wouldn't happen: "Mom, did you know 1 in 5 people die from this procedure? I mean from the anesthesia."

The next day, I had to really convince him this wouldn't happen: "Mom, what if Dr. M drops the sharp thing down my throat? It could cut all my organs open and  I could bleed to death."

Then, I had to make sure he followed through on this instruction: "No food or drink after midnight - not even a sip of water." Since I go to bed around 10:30, I was worried. Really worried. What if he woke up in the middle of the night and forgot? I barely slept worrying about it, and the sleep it did get was filled with dreams of him eating Thanksgiving sized feasts.. One of these meals even took place in the doctor's waiting room while waiting to be called back.. Yeah.

And it doesn't end there. I'm worried about what happens after. Will the pain be horrible? Will I be able to help enough? Did I buy enough soft foods? Do I have enough ice packs? Will he be comfortable? Will I pass out in the office while they explain all the gory stuff about clots, bleeding, signs of infection, and preventing dry sockets?

Anxiety much?

So that's where I am right now. Looking around the room,  I'm wondering how these other moms are keeping it all together so well. Are you telling me they had full nights of sleep? Were their dreams filled with things other than eating a mega meal in the dentist office? Are they confident they'll get through post op instructions without the room spinning? Do they know what they're doing after they get home?

Maybe I'm the only first timer here.. Not just for wisdom teeth but for any type of child-related surgery at all. Not that I'm complaining ... Eighteen years and three kids is a nice long stretch without any surgeries. But maybe that's why.

So for now, I'm waiting ... And writing. Because that's what us neurotic tooth fairies do.

********


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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Sister Dear by Laura McNeill

Congratulations to Laura McNeill on her new release, SISTER DEAR! I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of this book and couldn't wait to dig in .. after I finished drooling over the cover that is. I absolutely love it! (And if you know anything about me, you know I have a thing for covers ... Who doesn't?) Kudos to the designer on this one!





But enough about that, the true gem is in the story...

Here is the summary as given on the back of the book:

All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start. But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever?

Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish – time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.

But Allie’s return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie’s claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.

As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom.

My Review:

A case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or murder? Told from several different points of view, Sister Dear, drew me in from page one. While the main focus of the story is to solve the murder in hopes of restoring Allie's reputation, I particularly loved the exploration and development of the relationships Allie had lost while in prison, as well as the emotional well-being of her teenage daughter, Caroline. Laura is a skillful storyteller unfolding the plot at the perfect pace, throwing in surprises just when I thought I had it all figured out. I truly enjoyed this book. Perfect for book clubs.

About Laura McNeill:

After six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to raise her family. Laura's debut domestic suspense novel with HarperCollins, Center of Gravity, set in Mobile, Ala., was published in July of 2015. She holds a master's degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and is currently pursuing her PhD in Instructional Leadership from the University of Alabama. She now lives in North Alabama.


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