Saturday, September 29, 2012

Introducing Millicent Marie!

Hi all!! Well you've heard about Nate Rocks, and now it's time to officially introduce you to Millicent Marie! She's been itching to tell you all about herself, so I thought I would take this opportunity to interview her. She's very excited and a bit nervous, so let's all make her feel welcome!

Hi Millie! Tell us a little about yourself:

Hi! My name is Millicent Marie. You can call me Millie though, because I really don’t like my full name. I’m twelve years old, and I’m super excited to be interviewed – thanks for inviting me today!

What's wrong with your name?

Really - isn't it obvious? Well for starters, I was named after this crazy relative that nobody even liked. Who does that to a child? I guess Millie is okay, but my family insists on calling me the full Millicent Marie. I mean - what if the house was on fire? By the time they got my name out, I'd be toast!

Well I like your name! So I see you've got a laptop. Do you like it?

Totally!! When I turned twelve, my mom and dad wanted to get me something special. I had a choice of either a laptop or cell phone. Pretty cool, huh? I actually wanted both, but I knew I had to make a decision, and I chose laptop. You see, I really wanted to have a place where I could keep a diary. I know what you’re thinking – why not take the cell phone and keep a diary on paper? I thought of that, but isn’t it so much easier to type? Esspetially Especially with all the mistakes I sometimes usually make. I dodnt didn’t want the my entire dairy diary to be a mess. <--like this.

Yes, well I can see you made a wise decision. So tell me, now that we know what you like, tell us what you dislike:

Mean people. There’s one girl in particular who is always mean to me. I just don’t get why anyone would act that way. Well, other than they think it’s funny and cool – which it definitely is not. My brother can be mean too, but I’m supposed to still like him because he’s my brother. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I can be mean, also. Luckily, I figured it out before it got out of control. Oh yeah, I don’t like homework either.

Really? I can't picture you being mean. What happened?

So you know that whole diary thing I started telling you about? Well it seems that my brother, Doogle, found it on my laptop and thought it would be funny to publish it on the INTERNET as a BLOG. Everyone at school saw it - EVERYONE. Only, they didn't know it was me, because I was signing all my diary entries as "Amanda" - you know, because of that whole I hate my name thing.

Whoa - that's horrible! But you deleted it, right?

Well... I was going to. See the thing is, people started emailing me and asking for advice and stuff. Nobody really seemed to care about what I had to say before, and I kind of liked all the attention. I guess I let it go to my head a little, and I might have been a bit of a gossip. Some of the stuff I said wasn't exactly kind.  But I learned my lesson, and I owe it to my friends. They're the best - especially my BFF, Natalie.

You're lucky your friends were there for you. So what do you most value in your friends?

Honesty. Uh - yeah, I was telling everyone my name was Amanda, and yes, I was keeping secrets. I feel really bad about all that. But it wasn’t my fault, and the fact is Natalie happens to be the greatest best friend ever. She knows I would never do anything intentionally to betray her. From now on, I promise to be honest about everything.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d be an only child. Oh – sorry, that was a bit mean wasn’t it? I’m just kidding . . . sort of. No, seriously . . . there’s my name of course, but other than that, I don’t know. At first I thought I might like to be prettier or a better singer or soccer player, but after what I just went through the last couple of months – I think I like myself just the way I am! Confused? I thought so. It’s all there in print in Millicent Marie Is Not My Name.

Thanks for sharing your story today, Millie!

Is that it? Hey, this was kind of fun! Thanks for interviewing me today!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Author Spotlight: Estevan Vega

Welcome to another Author Spotlight!! Today we have Estevan Vega - whose extensive list of published works includes the very popular Arson Series and newly released Winter Sparrow. Today Estevan joins us with a fabulous guest post to help bring our myths and realities into perspective. Enjoy!

Myth and Reality by Estevan Vega

Fortune. Fame. Glamor. Treasure. Rising stars. These are the things we as humans strive for, the things artists dream of. For some, they are the ultimate, the catalyst; for others, they’re merely party favors, additions to an alleged fulfilled existence. And still, there are those who have reached neither fame nor fortune, neither treasure nor stardom nor glamor. Yet somehow in this grand scheme of beauty and ashes there lies a human spirit still awaiting great things.

There is this myth that being an author instantly gives you value. Partly true. Partly false. But I have heard time and time again the difference between being a writer and being an author is publication; and in a sense, all publication really is, is vindication, recognition, or acclaim. Essentially, someone—the faces change like the seasons—thought some book was worthy of the public’s attention. But it doesn’t make the work necessarily better or worse than another writer’s. Simply, the work being published is believed to have cash potential. But this is reality, and I’m supposed to be talking about myths. Yes, the myth. The myth can be beautiful, grand, yet few ever become it. The ‘it’ being this magical, fantastic author whom everybody adores and swoons upon reading his or her masterpiece. Ah, the myth. The myth of fame. The myth of fortune.

But I suppose without this myth some would not even dare to try (myself included), to dream, to leap off the precipice never knowing how far to the bottom, and always unsure if the teetering cliff really held safety. After all, there is safety in monotony, and there is safety in the real. The myth, however beautiful, however enchanting, only sometimes glimmers with truth and only sometimes can it be fully embodied. Don’t get me wrong, there are Stephen King and Stephanie Meyers and Suzanne Collins and John Grisham. They all do exist. They all are real. But for every one of those, there are hundreds, even thousands waiting to be heard, mouths sealed with a hundred secrets, minds torn between the two realms of life. Is it better to exist in a world where the likelihood of success is slim but the possibility for greatness, though slimmer, exists there too? Or should we follow safety and tread with cautious steps the plain line of indecision and unlived lives?

The myth, while intrinsically tragic, is not without purpose. A purpose to drive a boy to sit down and create, and in doing so, allow him to become a man. A purpose to offer a glimpse of a new reality, to whisper to that dreamer, to that believer that she can be more, that her words can paint a picture, that her words, composed and arranged ever so uniquely, can breathe a breath of life into a weathered soul.

In spite of the tragedies that pervade myth, there are glimpses of hope, oaths sworn, worlds colliding, lives lived. The journey of this article, much like the journey of any story, any writer, is not merely to arrive at a solution but to laugh fearlessly at the unknown and say “I dare you to come against me.” It’s smirking in the face of familial and literary rejection, job loss, arrogant scrutiny, bad reviews, empty pockets, sleepless days and nights, and dreams still waiting to be made flesh. The existence of a writer, or a true artist, is both myth and reality, I think. Fortune does await some. But it does not mean sorrow has forgotten them. A collision lingers and brings all to their knees. A collision of both realities. Maybe, in this new landscape of physical and electronic, dream and flesh, there can be a union of transformed life. This is just the boy talking, the dreamer still waiting for his dreams to take flight and trying to prepare for the ride. The realm of myth and reality already exists, you see, and it’s waiting. Happiness and melancholy. Bitter and sweet. Poetry and bone. After all, these are the substances that war and peace and life are made of. Life, the great mystery, the great story yet to be told.

What are you waiting for?

spread the fire!

twitter: @estevanvega
facebook: we are arson
youtube: the estevan vega


Wednesday, September 26, 2012



Looks closely… are you paying attention? You usually hear these words at a magic show but, this isn’t a magic show… it’s a CONTEST!

Yes that’s right, we have a contest to see how closely you pay attention when you read** The Legend of Anaise (below) from the recently released novel “She Wulf” by Sheryl Steines.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget to take a tour around the participating blogs answer the all the questions – there are 5 questions so you will have numerous chances to participate and win!

There are several prizes to be had – 1 random correct answer will win a signed copy of She Wulf; don’t worry if you don’t get it right you still have a chance to win one of several other prizes just for trying!


• 1 signed copy; winner selected amongst all correct entries

• 3 eBooks; winners randomly selected from amongst ALL entries (correct or not)

• Gift Card $15; winners randomly selected from amongst ALL entries (correct or not)

• Annie and Cham Swag; winners randomly selected from amongst ALL entries (correct or not)

**if you have trouble reading the scroll please go to for a plain text version

About the Author
Sheryl Steines is equal parts driven, passionate and inspired. With a degree in English from Wright State University, Steines dedicates time everyday to her art. Her love of books and a quality story drives her to share her talent with her readers as well as make the time to talk to book clubs and students about her process.

Sheryl has eclectic tastes and enjoys character driven novels. In her own writing, the Annie Loves Cham series is driven by her love of the characters and her desire to place them in totally new situations. She enjoys testing their mettle.

Behind the wheel of her ’66 Mustang Convertible, Sheryl is a constant surprise. Her sense of humor and relatable style make her books something everyone can enjoy.

Sheryl can be found on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog. She also encourages her readers to email her and let her know what you think of Annie and Cham!


Monday, September 24, 2012

My Characters Are Getting Punchy!

As you may (or not) know, my newest children's chapter book, Millicent Marie Is Not My Name,  is close to being released. While I am super excited to introduce the world to Millie, it occurred to me that it had been a while since I sat down and talked with my buddy Nate Rocks.

So I decided it was time to give him a little attention. After all, I've got another book of his to finish writing. Apparently he's been unhappy with some of the choices I've made in the last two books, and he had some suggestions for me...

“Look, I get what you’re trying to do. You want to get more kids to read, you want to get them to laugh, you want them to know that they can dream and accomplish their goals. I get all that – but is it too much to ask to get a good meal once in a while?”

“Now look Nathan, I’m sorry that I had to make it so your mom can’t cook. I guess it just kind of felt natural to me since I’m not exactly Julia Childs in the kitchen myself. Just ask my own kids.”

“Julia who? Nevermind. You’re the author aren’t you? Can’t you write whatever you want? How about we strike a deal. You make it so that Mom and that annoying sister, Abby, you gave me get lost in the jungle somewhere, and in their place, you give me a cool older brother and a mom who knows how to cook a burger. I’m sure no one will even notice.”

“I can’t do that, Nathan, I’ve already developed their characters. Let me explain how this writing thing works. I come up with characters, I figure out how I want their personalities to go, and then I write them. Once they’re in my stories, you’re stuck with them. At least I sent you away to camp for six weeks. I thought you said the food was good there. Plus, you barely saw your sister. I even left Lisa, that know-it-all classmate home.”

“Yeah, but not before she gave me a black eye. Some going away party you threw me. Thanks a bunch.”

“Sorry about that – but the readers really loved that scene. See – I’m in it for the readers, so you’re just going to have to deal with whatever comes your way. So far you’ve been handling it quite well. I appreciate that.”

“Uh – thanks, I think. I hear I’m going on a class trip next, can we work out a deal or something before you start writing about it?”

“I’ll get back to you on that one, Nathan.”

I wonder if Millie has any complaints? Some days it's hard to keep all these characters happy!

GUESS WHAT? Nate Rocks the Boat is FREE today & tomorrow (9/24 and 9/25) for your Kindle! Get yours HERE! Spread the word - reading rocks!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Spotlight & Review: Blood Type by Melissa Luznicky Garrett

Confession: This is the first vampire book I have read. I was offered an advanced copy to review, and since I am a huge fan of Melissa Luznicky Garrett’s books, I decided to give this one a try, vampires and all. I am so glad I did!

The story opens with teenager, Blake Ehlert, getting a tattoo of a vampire bite on her neck. We quickly learn that she was the victim of a vampire attack and does not have long to live. The bulk of the story is cleverly written in two time periods that alternate back and forth between Blake’s pre and post vampire attack. The characters are all richly developed and full of personality, and the storyline had just the right amount of twists to keep me wanting more. Once again, Ms. Garrett wrote a story that will entertain teens and adults, both young and old.

I still don't feel the urge to run out and read every vampire book out there, but I am very much looking forward to the next book in this series. And since this non-vampire-loving-reader enjoyed this book immensely, imagine how much you will adore it as a vampire fan!

Since getting attacked by a vampire, I didn’t believe in
beginnings. Only endings. Every person born to this world comes with an
expiration date, but I had never considered mine. At least not until I met

Now the end was all I ever thought about. I woke up every morning
wondering if that day would be my last. Venom pulsed in my veins and seeped
into my bones, infecting all my vital organs and changing me from the inside
out. Slowly killing me.

But I’d welcome death in the end, if only because the alternative
was even more frightening.

Popular girl Blake Ehlert has it all: a prime spot on the cheerleading squad, a jock
boyfriend who’s strong and sensitive, and the winning vote for Homecoming Queen
two years in a row. But when she strikes up a conversation with loner John
Kelly, her entire world starts to crumble.

John Kelly is a vampire—what’s known to his kind as a Compeller. It’s his job to recruit
human Donors with a particular blood type.

And Blake is his next target.

Luznicky Garrett is an author of adult and young adult novels. She lives in
upstate New York with her husband, three children, and numerous animals.
Melissa is currently hard at work on her next project. Visit Melissa’s blog o
r connect
with her on Facebook

Blood Type is available in print through Create Space, or in print and digital
through Amazon.

Stop by Melissa’s blog starting September 22nd and enter to win a signed print copy of Blood Type. All are
welcome to participate. The winner will be chosen and announced October 1st. Also, claim your free Kindle copy of Melissa's most previous YA Paranormal, The Spirit Keeper, on Amazon September 22nd through September 26th. *As always, please make sure it's marked as free before you download.*


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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Author Spotlight: Patti Larsen

Welcome to another edition of the Author Spotlight! Today we have the wonderful Patti Larsen.  Patti and I met online in an author group. She has been a great resource for me and an overall awesome person to know! Today, she agreed to write a guest post about the voices in her head. All I have to say is thank goodness I'm not the only one!!  Thanks Patti... take it away:

Why I Always Do What The Voices Tell Me To

I hear voices, oh yes indeedy I do. Lots and lots of voices. Some that whisper in quiet little girl sweetness, others roaring in teenaged boy demanding loudness, and everything in between.

It’s a writer’s thing, I promise—I’m not crazy, though my husband has promised me if he ever does call the men in the white coats I can have a sparkly pink straight jacket, so it’s all good.

See, he hates it when I inform people I hear voices—even worse that I do what those voices tell me. Because sometimes I forget to add the best part—they only ever tell me how to write their stories.

Well, at least so far. I’m thinking if they start asking me to do other things I’ll probably say no.


Right, back to the voices. See, there was a time, when I was young, I discovered I wanted to write. I was only twelve years old and uncovering my life’s purpose wasn’t exactly on my mind. But it happened in a flash one day, thanks to a copy of a Nancy Drew adventure lent to me by a friend. By the time I’d finished reading, I knew.

It was the first time the voices spoke to me. And I listened. Wrote what they said. Not very well, though. There was the problem, in fact. Because I wasn’t quite ready to tell their stories, my abilities not caught up with their need to be heard, I stumbled. Listened when I was told I wasn’t good enough and should do something else.

The voices went away. Or at least fell quiet. I don’t recall when it happened, but I do remember being sad about it and not really knowing why I was sad. Just that something was missing.

I found other ways to be creative—everything from singing in a band and writing songs to doing improv theater and making my own films. When I started screenwriting, the voices whispered to me and I suddenly remembered what it felt like to hear them.

And then, fate and my niece introduced me to Harry Potter. And the voices came back.
Boy, did they! Loud and clear and full of joy. When I started to hear them again, I was so full of happiness I actually sold my business and devoted myself to them 100%. Crazy right? But they told me to trust them. And I have.

I do. Good thing, too. Since they came back, I’ve published twenty three novels for middle graders and young adults with many, many more in the future. My teen voices are lined up, in a queue, waiting their turn while they jostle each other and try to catch my attention.

I love them all. Will do my absolute best to write their stories the way they want. And from now on, no matter what happens, I’ll always, always listen.

Because, after all, they’ve never let me down.

About the Author: Patti Larsen is an award-winning middle grade and young adult author with a passion for the paranormal. Her YA thriller series, The Hunted, is available now. Book one of that series, RUN, is a recent recipient of the 2012 PEI Book Awards for Fiction. Eight books of her very popular Hayle Coven Novels, beginning with Family Magic, are also out now. Her YA steampunk series, Blood and Gold, can be found on Amazon, along with her YA paranormal novel, Best Friends Forever, and The Diamond City Trilogy. Her middle grade novel, The Ghost Boy of MacKenzie House (Acorn Press), is available now. She is a full time writer and a part time teacher of her Get Your Book Done program. Patti lives on the East Coast of Canada with her very patient husband and four massive cats.

You can find her:

On her website
On Facebook
On Twitter!/PattiLarsen

On and Goodreads

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Celebrating Womanhood

Thank you to Living, Leaning, and Loving Life for inviting me to participate in this lovely blog meme to celebrate women.

When one thinks about celebrating women, many immediately think of women in strong leadership positions in the world – women who have had an impact in the world in some way or another. The truth is, however, you don't have to be negotiating world peace to be celebrated. Every woman has something unique and special to offer to society. Every women deserves to be celebrated - for so many reasons!

Today I want to celebrate our strength. I'm not talking about physical strength. I'm talking about the strength that comes from within. You may not realize it, but trust me, it is there. Every woman has the ability to reach down deep to find their inner strength – to pull themselves upward and onward into something worth celebrating, no matter how difficult things seem to be.

I have now had several occasions in the course of my life where I have had to make life-changing decisions – decisions that required a strong mind to allow me to persevere, at a time where I felt my mind was at its weakest. Through trust of my self and my strength, I was able to change my course to lead a better and more fulfilling life. And I’m not the only woman who has had to do this. In fact, I personally know many women, who have been able to embrace their strength and forge ahead – as only a woman can do. If you haven't found it yet, do not despair. It is there. I know from experience, and you will find it. Because you are an amazing woman - and you deserve to be celebrated.

To the male readers - yes, you also possess strength. But, there’s something about a woman’s inner strength that has no match. Heed this as a warning: When she starts to dig around searching for it, there is no stopping her. You’ve heard the saying, “I am woman hear me roar?” . . . Enough said.

There is another saying that my friends and I tend to pass around whenever things get overwhelming: “I could really use a good wife.” It’s not a knock on our spouses or partners, but rather a testament as to just how much we, as wives, mothers, daughters, sisters ... women, are capable of accomplishing, and it is because of this strength.

So to all the women: now is the time to celebrate yourselves and your strength. It's there and you have the ability to make the most of it. Celebrate – you deserve it!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Author Spotlight: Hank Quense

Welcome to the Author Spotlight. This week we are featuring author, Hank Quense. Hank wrote a great guest post for us today about his take on combining Shakespeare and humor. Yes - Shakespeare is funny didn't you know?

Here's Hank to explain:

One way to write humor

I love rewriting Shakespeare. I take his characters and his plots, put them into a box, shake them up and spill out the bits and see what happens. This is one of the ways I produce humor in my stories.

One way to write humor is to create characters that have some quirkiness in their persona. Then the plot brings these characters into situations that causes the quirkiness to bubble up to the surface. As an example, I wrote a version of Romeo and Juliet. It was published in my Tales From Gundarland. Romeo (in my version) is a poor dwarf gem miner and Juliet is a rich elf maiden. When Juliet commits suicide rather marry an old count, Romeo doesn't kill himself. Rather he hires a wizard to restore her to life. Once the wizard does that, Romeo and Juliet sit in the tomb and discuss whether or not the undead can do IT? After a while, they decide to rent a room and find out it Juliet can do IT.

This is an illustration of how the plot functions to get the character's quirkiness in front of the reader.

In my newest book, Falstaff's Big Gamble, I used a similar process. First, I took the characters and plots (sort of) from Hamlet and Othello, jammed them together then added Falstaff for good measure. Once again, this takes place in Gundarland. Hamlet is a dwarf and Othello is a dark elf. Falstaff is unchanged. He's still an overweight human and a rogue who spends his time scamming both of the other two.
To demonstrate character quirkiness again, here is Hamlet's famous speech. More precisely, here is my version of the speech.

Hamlet, Crown Prince of Denmarko, paced the castle battlements late on a clear, cool spring night. He walked with hands clasped behind his back and head down. He had a thin nose with brown hair and eyes. His scrawny build and clean-shaven face gave him the appearance of a starving waif.

He paused, gazed at the multitudinous stars, sighed and continued his pacing. A breeze brought the smells of the harbor: salt water and rotting fish guts. At last, he stopped, thrust one hand to the sky and declaimed, "To bee or not to bee?" He stroked his chin. "Whether 'tis nobler to buy honey from the peasant farmer in the market and thus provide him sustenance and income to support his brood of brats, possibly keeping him from rebelling over high taxes . . . or to grow my own honey thus gaining coins to assert my independence from my noble family and the sordid court? Hmm."

He paced some more, still troubled by his vexing question. Nothing less than his future depended upon the answer. Because his uncle, and now stepfather, Clodio, had usurped his right to rule the kingdom, he needed a profession and an income.

"Do you always talk to yourself?" a voice said from the shadows.

"Who . . . who goes there?" Hamlet's head snapped from one side to another while his hand grasped the hilt of his dagger.

"'Tis I, the ghost of your father. I bring a message for your ears alone."

Hamlet goggled at the specter who materialized in the shadows of a doorway. "You're not my father's ghost. My father was a dwarf and you're the ghost of an elf. You're an impostor and a dead one to boot."

"Hey, your father is busy and he asked me to fill in."

"Busy? In the underworld? What's he doing?" Hamlet clutched his red tunic and tugged downward as if to hide his shaking hands.

"He met a good-lookin' ghost of a female dwarf and he's wooin her."

"Dead not a month, and he forsakes his wife, my mother?
"You gotta understand. Life on this side — no pun intended — is pretty
borin'. When you gotta a chance to do somethin' interestin', you gotta go with it."
Hamlet ran a hand over his face. Why me? he thought. "What's the message?"
"His death was no accident. It was murder most foul. Here is his exact message. 'But know, thou noble youth, the serpent that did sting thy Father's life, now wears his crown.’” The ghost paused then added, "Did your father always talk funny like that?"

"Murdered? By whom?"

"Didn't you listen? The message tells you who whacked him. Your father wants you to send this guy over here so he can talk to him. He doesn't wanna wait until the guy croaks from natural causes."

Hamlet watched in awe as the ghostly figure evaporated. A few seconds later, it popped back into sight. "Oh, I forgot to tell you. Your father says, 'Thy mother the queen is to know naught of this nocturnal visit.’" The ghost disappeared.

His father's murder shocked him. And the murderer had married his mother immediately afterward. Did the world have no morals?

He recalled his first thoughts when he'd heard of his father's death. How he admired the perseverance and tenacity his father must have had to commit suicide by suffocating himself with a pillow. Now all that admiration was wasted; the old dwarf had had help.
What to do? He needed to make decisions about bee farming and now he had to avenge his father. Was there no end to the demands on a prince's time? He said to the stars, "To bee-keep or to avenge? That is the question."

Hank’s Blog:
Tales From Gundarland:
Falstaff’s Big gamble:

Falstaff's Big Gamble:

This novel is Shakespeare's Worst Nightmare.  It takes two of the Bard's most famous plays, Hamlet and Othello, and recasts them with fantasy characters in a place called Gundarland.  Hamlet is a dwarf and Othello is a dark elf.  Iago and his wife, Emilia, are trolls.

If that isn't bad enough, these two tragedies are now comedies with Falstaff, Shakespeare's most popular rogue, thrown in as a bonus.  Both Hamlet and Othello are plagued by the scheming Falstaff, a human.

About Hank:

Award-winning author Hank Quense lives in Bergenfield, NJ with his wife Pat.  They have two daughters and five grandchildren.  He writes humorous fantasy and scifi stories.  On occasion, he also writes an article on fiction writing or book marketing but says that writing nonfiction is like work while writing fiction is fun.  A member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, he refuses to write serious genre fiction saying there is enough of that on the front page of any daily newspaper and on the evening TV news.

Thank you Hank!


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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know #iiwk

This week is Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. It's a week to bring attention to the millions of people who have to deal with chronic illnesses that are not outwardly apparent. I am one of those people. The following is a post I wrote last year at this time, however, it is all still relevant.

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

Last Week was Invisible Awareness Week. I know I'm a few days late, but I am participating in this simple blog post meme to help spread awareness, not only into the public eye, but because there is still so much even my closest friends and family do not know.

It took me a long time to be able to talk about my disease. Fear, denial, confusion and shame all played a part in my life. This year is definitely a turning point for me. I have accomplished so much, despite my condition.

A few months ago, the Eastern Pennsylvania Arthritis Foundation asked me to be their2011 Annual Jingle Bell 5K Run Honoree. I proudly accepted and decided it was time to open up about my silent disease. Over the next few months, I hope to blog regularly about my condition – my struggles and my accomplishments.

For now, here are my "30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know":

1. The illness I live with is: Rheumatoid Arthritis.

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: August 2007, a few weeks before my youngest turned one.

3. But I had symptoms since: It’s hard to say. I definitely had days when I was in pain prior to that summer, and exhaustion (a symptom of RA) had been present for a long time.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Asking for help. I had always been an incredibly independent person (some may even say stubborn...) Realizing I could not do many things was a huge blow. I still have trouble asking for help – it’s a daily adjustment.

5. Most people assume: I’m fine. They hear arthritis and think I can pop a couple of Tylenol and be on my way. They don’t realize I have to carefully plan out every day: plans, errands, vacations, work schedule, everything. In fact, most people don’t know I have RA.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: Getting out of bed. You know the tin man from the Wizard of Oz? That’s me for a good half hour.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: I used to watch ER & Grey’s Anatomy, but haven’t watched a medical TV show in years.

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My heating pads! I have a wide variety – I have the plug in moist heat pad, a variety of different shaped microwavable heating pads and my favorite - the disposable Therma-Care 8 hour heat wraps... can we say heaven?

9. The hardest part about nights are: Finding the energy to get things done.

10. Each day I take: more Tylenol then I care to admit. I also take zyrtec/sudafed 365 days a year for allergies and prednisone as needed. Once a month I go in for an IV treatment for my RA med, but often I have to skip it due to illnesss.

11. Regarding alternative treatments: I have nothing against it if it works for you. I’ve read studies where alternative treatment is effective for immediate relief, but does not stop the progression of the disease. To me the long term treatment is most important.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: I’d prefer invisible. I’m learning to be more vocal when I need to be, but I also like the fact that I can hide it at my discretion.

13. Regarding working and career: It is difficult. I have had to cut back my schedule. I work part-time now. I write and blog when I can. I often don’t stop when I should, and I pay for it later. Live and learn.

14. People would be surprised to know: I need to take a nap almost everyday. People don’t often associate arthritis with exhaustion, but it is one of my biggest symptoms.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: The Unknown. When will I have a flare? What will I be like five years from now? Ten years from now? Next month? Will I have to cancel tomorrow’s plans? Will I have any long-term side effects from my meds? The list goes on.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Walk a 5K! Last year I decided I wanted to participate in the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell 5K run. I joined a gym & started to “train.” I didn’t care if I could only walk 15 minutes on the treadmill at very slow speeds. I worked hard and managed to finish. I came in last place – but it didn’t matter. I’m planning a repeat performance this year.

17. The commercials about my illness: I’m laughing. Whenever I tell people about the drug I take, they say, “Oh that’s the commercial where the list of warnings takes up almost the entire time.” Yup – that’s the one.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Knitting. I’ve been knitting since I was a little kid. I can still knit occasionally, but I have to use big fat needles so my grip is not tiny. It’s just not the same.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: Control. This goes back to the whole independence and asking for help thing. I’m still working on it.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: Writing! Who knew this accountant had a creative side? But I love to write! Of course, my hands don’t always cooperate, but I manage to squeeze in a little writing time everyday. I’ve even published a novel (Nate Rocks the World) and have two more in the works!

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: Play on the playground with my five year old. It is the one thing I have really missed, running around and playing with the kids.

22. My illness has taught me: Acceptance and patience – with myself. I used to get angry that my body was failing all the time. I had slipped into a depression. I was miserable. But as time went on, I realized this was the card I was dealt, and it wasn’t fair to anybody, including myself to feel this way.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: when people compare RA to their sprained ankle or broken toe or pulled muscle. I get it... you are in pain – a lot of pain. I’ve had my share of bone & ligament injuries over the years before I was diagnosed. Yes – they hurt! But guess what? The pain goes away. There is an end in sight even though at the time it may not seem that way at the time. Until there is a cure found for RA, I have no end to my daily pain in sight. Do I say this out loud? No, I try to be sympathetic (and I truly do feel bad for you), because I know how bad the pain can get. But please don’t tell me you know how I feel.

24. But I love it when people: Include me in things. I have a condition – I am not contagious, you will not catch it I promise! I may or may not accept your invitation. I may accept your invitation and then cancel at the last minute. But just the fact that you invited me puts a smile on my face.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: It is a writing called The Spoon Theory. Everyone who either has or knows someone who has a chrinic condition must read it regularly.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: First off – gather all of your loved ones together and have them read The Spoon Theory (see above!) Make sure you have a doctor that you feel comfortable with – don’t be afraid to switch! You are your best advocate when it comes to your own health care.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: How amazing my family and friends are. You quickly learn who is in your support system and who is toxic.

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: My husband and children are constantly doing.. there are too many things to list – even small things like helping to carry in groceries mean a lot ... I could not get through this without them.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: It’s important to educate people. Millions of adults and children suffer daily.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: loved. grateful. hopeful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Honoring September 11

For those of us old enough to remember, we know exactly what we were doing when that first plane hit in 2001.  My two oldest children were too young to remember. My youngest was not yet born. So it's important to make sure they understand and never forget.

Last night, as part of her school homework, my twelve year old interviewed me about September 11th. One of the questions she asked me was:

What has 9/11 taught you?

My response to her was the following:

Freedom is precious, appreciate every moment, honor those who risk their lives everyday to keep us safe & most importantly, never forget.

photo credit: wallyg via photo pin cc

What has 9/11 taught you?

Friday, September 7, 2012

#FlashFridayFive - Broken #iiwk

Today, I am participating in the  #FlashFiveFriday run by The Indie Exchange.
#FlashFiveFriday is a weekly flash fiction / flash blogging prompt.
The rules are very simple if you’d like to take part:
1) Write for no longer than five minutes
2) No upper or lower word limits
3) You must write something new
4) You can prepare your post ahead of time but the 5 minute limit still applies
5) If you add your blog post to the weekly linky you must visit five other blogs that week too to show your support (Visit The Indie Exchange to add your link)

This week's prompt is: BROKEN
As Invisible Illness Awareness Week approaches, I find this topic incredibly timely. Broken. I am broken. I have RA - Rheumatoid Arthritis. Last week my doctor informed me my disease was still in the moderate activity level, despite all our attempts to keep it under control. Every month I am hooked up to an IV to have drugs pumped into my body. Drugs that are supposed to control my RA. Drugs that have side effects that can kill me. Drugs that I have no choice but to take if I want to lead a normal, unbroken life - and yet, here I am, still broken.

 It's hard for others to understand what it means to be broken. I have become quite good at hiding things. In fact, most people would not know that I am broken. But I know. My body knows. I often think if I don't discuss it or complain, it will go away. It's possible for broken things to fix themselves isn't it? But it doesn't go away. There is no cure. The best I can do is try to live each day as best I can. Everyday, I have to figure out my limits and to learn to say no. This is the hardest part.

My five minutes are up. Thanks for listening  ~ xo ~ Karen

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Author Spotlight: Michelle Birbeck

Hello again! Today on the Author Spotlight, we have the lovely Michelle Birbeck. Michelle was kind enough to let me interview her today:

Hello Michelle! Please tell us about your current release.

The Last Keeper follows the story of Serenity Cardea, an immortal being part of the race charged with protecting the balance between the races. For centuries she’s been forced to watch as the vampires slaughtered her family and friends, waiting until they found their partners before attacking. Because the only way to kill a Keeper is to kill their partner.

So when Serenity meets Ray Synclair, her partner, in 1940s London she must fight to keep him away from the vampires. But Ray is training to be a history professor, and his mentor is married to one of the world’s most notorious vampires.

Sounds like Serenity has quite a challenge on her hands! What exciting story are you working on next?

I’m currently working on the third book in The Keepers’ Chronicles series whilst my editors work on book two. I can’t say too much about book 3 at the moment, because not a lot of it will make sense unless you’ve read book 2, which isn’t out until 2013.

However, I can tell you something about book 2. It’s called Last Chance, and it set about fifty years after The Last Keeper. The records are still being kept with Lizzy in her house near the colony, but one night whilst she’s out celebrating the newest Weres someone breaks in. They’re after one thing; the records. When Serenity finds out, she isn’t inclined to sit back and let her family be hunted down again, so she makes the only decision she can: move everyone. Their entire race, their families. Moving home, changing job, identity. For one person it’s a hell of a task, but for an entire race… can they get everyone to safety in time? Or will whoever stole the records act on them.

There’s a sneak peek in the back of The Last Keeper, and the trailer will be doing the rounds at the end of October, with the book coming around May.

That sounds great. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have one that’s both interesting and apparently freaky. It’s a great party trick, too.

I learned to touch type whilst I was working, and with practice the talent has stuck with me and improved. I’m now at the point where I can not only write the more adult parts of my books with my eyes closed, but I can also write while carrying on a conversation. It freaks people out quite a bit when they first meet me and I’m sat there typing, looking at someone else and having a conversation… and everything I’m writing makes sense.

Impressive! My husband can type and talk also. Not me, I am a complete failure when it comes to multi-tasking! Who is one of your favorite characters that you have written? Please tell us about him/her and what book they are in:

Georgianna has to be one of my favourite characters. She’s strong, and scary, and powerful, and everything you’d expect the big bad witch of the west to be. She’s the Crone of the witches in The Keepers’ Chronicles, the biggest and baddest of them all.

She looks like any good looking blonde with bright blue eyes, but only if you don’t look too closely. For those who know what they’re looking at and look closely enough, they can see the power radiating from her.

With the witches, they’re born into their powers, and with age they grow. Use too much or cast certain types of spells, and they age and die. But Georgianna is the oldest, and has by far more power than anyone could imagine.

We see her briefly in The Last Keeper and get a glimpse into the world of the witches. However, she has her own story, one that I wrote with the sole purpose of breaking her. Despite her being one of my favourite characters, she was too strong in my mind. She had too much power and was capable of anything, so I had to break her, to explore her character and find her weaknesses. It was fun doing so.

That does sound fun. Is there a writer that you would love to co-write a book with?

It would have to be one of two. If it could be anyone alive or dead, I would have to pick Richard Laymon. I love his books and the way he plays with both horror and paranormal, and I adore his way of writing.

But in the land of the living, there’s only one. And that has to be J.R Ward. I would give pretty much anything for a chance to work with her, and if that means a new Black Dagger Brotherhood book, then sign me up! I am a total fangirl for those books and for Ward’s style of writing.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.

The first review I got from someone I didn’t know. My publisher handled the blog tour and reviews that came in before the book was released, and for the most part I was happy to let them get on with it whilst I worked on the last of the edits.

Then one day I spotted a tweet in my mentions regarding the book. It was the start of a review, one by the Talk Supe blog. It was the first review of any kind I’d seen outside of my friends and family. It was that review that was picked to go in the front of the book, and I didn’t get to see it in full until my copies of the book arrived on my doorstep.

When I read it, I cried. The fact that even one person out there had taken the time to read my book and had loved it meant the world to me. And it still does. I still get all excited whenever there’s a new review, and I still have to tell my friends and family straight away so they can share my excitement.

I agree, that is a great feeling! Okay - on to some fun stuff:

Cats or Dogs?

If my husband isn’t about, dogs. But they have to be big, fluffy dogs. I love German Shepherds, and New Founderlands. Anything big, fluffy, and not yappy.

But since meeting my husband I have a soft spot for cats. We have a big male called Loki who has a habit of running through the living room when we have new guests and scaring them. Mainly because of how big he is. Last time we had him weighed, he came in at just over a stone, and most of it is muscle.

I’ve also got a huge soft spot for the big cats. Tigers and panthers and leopards. It’s one of the reasons I have werecats in The Last Keeper and not just werewolves. There’s something very alluring about the big cats, the way the move, act, and all that sheer power hidden just beneath their skin.

Do you have any hobbies?

Do books count? I love reading them, but I also love collecting them. I’ve a special cabinet in my house just for special books. Frist editions, rare, old, signed. My own books have now been added to the collection, but my pride and joy books are a limited edition Richard Laymon hardback called Triage. Another is my 1927 edition of Wind in the Willows. It might not be a first edition, but it’s old and in pretty good condition.

Lastly is the oldest book I own. I inherited it from my mother. It’s called Tales and Sketches of the Covenanters, and was printed in 1885. That’s a whole other century! Most of us were around for the last one, but there isn’t anyone alive today who was around when that was first printed.

My other love is faeries. I have whole cabinets full of them. Big ones and little ones, painted and cross-stitched, ornaments and clothing. Anything that I can get, I have. My house is full of them, and there isn’t a single room that isn’t home to at least one faerie.

Your home sounds like a very cheerful place, and I would love to see your book collection! Is there anything additional you want to share with the readers?

I’m about on twitter and facebook almost every day, and I love talking to people about The Keepers’ Chronicles. So if you ever want to drop me a line, say hello, have a quick chat, just tweet me or post on my facebook page. I’m always happy to answer questions (so long as I’m not giving away spoilers!) and talk to people!

Where can people find you and your books online?

I can be found on my website: or on twitter @michellebirbeck and I’m on facebook, too:

The Last Keeper can be found at the following outlets:




And Lulu:


Michelle has been reading and writing her whole life. Her earliest memory of books was when she was five and decided to try and teach her fish how to read by putting her Beatrix Potter books in the fish tank with them.

Since then her love of books has grown, and now she is writing her own and looking forward to seeing them on her shelves, though they won’t be going anywhere near the fish tank.

When she’s not writing, she’s dressmaking or reading or plotting another story to write.



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Monday, September 3, 2012

And The Winner Is.. The Other Planet

Thanks to all who left comments and entered my Two Year Blogiversary Celebration.  The winners of the Nate Rocks the World/Millicent Marie swag pack are:  Patricia B & Pamela G.

As promised here is a re-print of one of your favorite blog posts from the last two years. To be honest, it's one of my favorites as well!

A Conversation With My Five Year Old: The Other Planet

As he does every morning, my five year old joyfully ran into my arms for his morning snuggle. I cherish these moments as I know they eventually fade - just ask his older siblings. But then I thought, maybe if I start at an early age, I could brainwash convince him to always snuggle me:

Me: Will you love me forever?

C: Yes.

Me: And always give me hugs and snuggles?

C: Yes ... well - not when you're gone.

Me: Oh? Where am I going?

C: To the other planet.

Me: What other planet?

C: The one you go to when you get old.

Me: Oh...

C: Don't worry - I'll come to see you all the time.

M: You will? But you won't give me hugs and snuggles?

C: Sorry - those are the rules!

photo credit: Jules Stoop via photo pin cc

Now if only I can figure out how to amend this rule book!


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