Monday, February 27, 2012

Little Bullies - Monday Mom Posts

Here it is, very close to midnight, and I wasn't sure what to write about today. I'm really trying to stay on track, but with midwife appointments and kids' schedules, things don't always go according to plan.

As you can tell, most of my posts are short, sweet, to the point. I don't drag on whining about something for paragraphs on end. This one will be the same.

I live on a street I swear should be on reality TV. Some of the women here are life-size Barbies. Drives me nuts! There's one on the street who I thought was going to be more normal when she moved in, but she turned out to be as much as a drama queen and witch as the rest of them.

Her son is 4 years old and one of the biggest bullies I have ever met. My kids aren't allowed to go near their house or their kids. One of the neighbors on the street that is a nice person has a little boy the same age and he wants so badly to play with another little boy. But, this little boy (we'll call him Little Bully) is horrible to him. He's hit him, bit him, called him names, told him to shut up and so on.

One time, Little Bully hit Nice Kid and Nice Kid told Little Bully's mom. Little Bully's mom told them to "fight it out". Another adult neighbor overheard this. She was mortified and got Nice Kid inside.

Just this past weekend, another nice neighbor had to ban this kid from her yard because he hit her 5-year-old daughter and told her to "shut up".

What are these parents thinking? Why in the world would you think it's okay for 4 and 5 year olds to "fight it out"? Why would you teach your child that?

If my child ever acted that way, I would put a stop to it immediately! And believe me, if something happens to my child because of this one, I won't hesitate to press charges or whatever is necessary.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Indie Chicks - Sibel Hodge



From 200 rejections to Amazon top 200!
Sibel Hodge

Ever since I was old enough to scrawl my first word, which was Halibaaaaa, I knew I wanted to write books. OK, so the word didn’t actually make sense, and it might take a little longer for me to actually string a whole sentence together, but that didn’t put me off. I was going to write books and no one would stop me…

From when I was really young, my mum encouraged me to read. “If you can read books, you’ll never be bored,” I remember her telling me. I secretly think it was a ploy to keep me out of her hair and quiet for a while. I was always a loud kid with lots of energy, and always getting into some sort of trouble with the boys down our street. (Yep, even then I was a sucker for boys!). After discovering the wonderful world of books, I thought I’d have a go myself, and remember scribbling down stories whenever I had a spare moment. Shame I was only six, and there was no way anyone would publish a book with I Want Big Girls’ Knickers in the title.

When I was in secondary school my favourite subject was English language. I’d lose myself for hours. And even though I hadn’t thought about my forthcoming career before I left (apart from being Wonder Woman or an astronaut), I knew, even then, I had a love of creating. I also loved to make people laugh from an early age. In the beginning, it wasn’t intentional. I was always saying ridiculous things that I thought were quite serious. Like the time I went to the butchers shop with my nan, and the lady behind the counter asked where I was from. “South America,” I said. (I know, where the hell did that come from? I must’ve had an overactive imagination from the start.) So when people started laughing at me, I thought, hey, this is pretty fun! We live in such a hectic world and laughter is a perfect way to de-stress. Because my personality is quirky, fun-loving, and slightly nuts, it was probably a given that I would eventually write chick lit, although I have recently delved into the dark side of my brain (which is a pretty scary place to be sometimes!) and written a psychological thriller.

But when I left school no one mentioned writing as a career. It was all boring things like secretarial jobs, travel agents, office work. I didn’t even know about creative writing courses until about ten years ago! I think they considered that writing wasn’t a “proper career.” No one suggested journalism or further education in writing. So what was a girl to do? Although my mum wanted me to go to University and study to be something like a doctor or lawyer (eeek!), I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do for a career, so I flitted from one job to the next, trying to find something that interested me, and eventually ended up working for the police for ten years. So there I was, too busy paying the mortgage, working shifts, and living in the rat race of life to have the proper time or opportunity to write a novel. It didn’t stop me trying, though.

It was drastic things like splitting up with a boyfriend that made me start my first novel when I was about seventeen. I never got further than the first three chapters, though, because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, other than using a typewriter! Then I started another one (I got dumped again – can you see a pattern here?) when I was about twenty-three, and ditto (I’d hate for those to ever see the light of day). I just knew that I loved writing and therefore it stood to reason that one day I’d do it, didn’t it? And although I look back now and think I wish I’d started writing earlier, actually, I have to say, that it would’ve been bad timing. Back then I wouldn’t have had anything to really write about. A lot of the things that go into my books now are based on my experience of life. People I’ve met, places I’ve been, books I’ve read, things I’ve done, struggles I’ve achieved. At twenty-three, what did I really know about any of that?

And then five years ago, hubby and I had had enough of the UK. We got fed up with the constant grey weather, bills that seemed to increase as you looked at them, working constantly to pay them, and never having quality time for ourselves or our family. Right, it was time to make my childhood dream come true and move somewhere exotic, where the cost of living was lower, and we would actually have time to enjoy each other and life again. Then I would finally have the time and opportunity to dedicate to writing. Yes, we’d have to sacrifice a lot of things to achieve it, but it would be worth it in the end. So we moved to North Cyprus, and it was like my brain suddenly said, Hallellujah! Now we divide our time between Cyprus and the UK.

I didn’t actively think about what I was going to write, but a year after we’d moved there I had an exciting idea for a story, using my unique Turkish Cypriot/British cultural heritage, and my debut romantic comedy Fourteen Days Later was born. Then I actually became the guinea pig for the sequel, My Perfect Wedding! But it was all very well completing my dream of writing a book, but until it was published, no one would get to read it.

So I started querying hundreds of agents and publishers. I got too many rejections to even count! OK, small white lie, a while ago I did count them out of morbid curiosity, and it was a whopping two hundred!

I did come close a couple of times to being traditionally published, but it never quite worked out. It was either, “one group of editors liked it but another didn’t”, or “the chick lit market is saturated”, or “we love it but…”

When I first looked into publishing independently, platforms like Amazon Kindle didn’t support international authors. So the way I saw it, I had two choices. Either I could write another book, hone my writing skills and learn all I could about my craft, and wait for an opportunity to come up, or I could let all the rejection letters get me down, think my writing career was over before it had begun, and stick my head in the oven! Since heat tends to turn my curls into a ball of frizz, it was no contest, really. I wrote my next novel, a chick lit mystery called The Fashion Police, and waited. Because I knew, I just knew, that I COULD do this. I could write novels that people wanted to read. If only I could get the chance.

In the meantime, I also entered several writing competitions. And while I was still getting the dreaded rejections, Fourteen Days Later was shortlisted for the Harry Bowling Prize 2008 and received a Highly Commended by The Yeovil Literary Prize 2009. And The Fashion Police was a runner up in the Chapter One Promotions Novel Competition 2010 (and later nominated for the Best Novel with Romantic Elements 2010 by The Romance Reviews). Surely I was doing something right, wasn’t I? But I STILL couldn’t get a publisher!

Then last year, when Amazon opened up their doors to non-US authors, I uploaded Fourteen Days Later and The Fashion Police onto their Kindle store. I couldn’t believe it when I finally saw my books on sale. It was scary, rewarding, exciting, amazing – so many experiences rolled into one.

But what if no one liked my novels? What if I had all bad reviews? What if all the two hundred rejections were right? What if, what if…?

Time for a deep breath, Sibel. If you want to be an author, you have to repeat this mantra everyday… “I can do this. I can do this. I CAN do this.”

So I did.

And boy am I glad I did! The first month with Fourteen Days Later and The Fashion Police, I sold 44 books (another eeek!). Then I released my third novel, a romantic comedy called My Perfect Wedding, and later released my second chick lit mystery Be Careful What You Wish For. In the last 6 months alone I’ve sold over 40,000 ebooks, and all my novels are consistently in the Amazon top 100 genre categories for humor, contemporary romance, comedy, and romantic suspense. My highest overall sales ranking to date is 136, just missing out on the Amazon top 100 bestseller charts. Considering there are over 900,000 Kindle books on Amazon, that’s not bad!

And this is one lesson I’ve learned in the last couple of years…You can do anything you want to in life. It may mean you have to go a different route than you originally planned, but if you’re determined enough and believe in yourself, you can overcome any obstacles.

So I’m toasting all you women out there with my glass of wine. Cheers to dreams and making them come true! Looks like I got my big girls’ knickers after all!

You can find Sibel’s books in paperback and all ebook formats. For more info, please check out her website

 This is one story from Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories available on Amazon  and Barnes & Noble . To read all of the stories, buy your copy today.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Barbie Clothes - Monday Mom Post

My five-year-old brought me a half dressed Barbie. "Can you help me?" she asked.

"Help you what?" I asked eyeing the Barbie.

"Get her clothes on."

Hmmm...okay. Seemed like something a five-year-old should be able to do. I took the Barbie and tried to pull up her shorts, they didn't budge. I yanked and tugged for at least five minutes and was finally able to get Barbie's shorts over her hips.

Really? This is what we're teaching our daughters? That clothes should fit this tight. It's not like Barbie is fat. Why can't she have clothes that simply go on? Something easy enough for kids to do so they don't have to bother their parents for help in putting clothes on a doll. I never liked Barbies anyway, now I have another reason to add to the list.

Polly Pockets often have the same problem. Tight clothes that take forever to shimmy up their thin bodies.

Dressing a doll shouldn't be hard.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Indie Chicks - Christine DeMaio-Rice



HOW A BIG YELLOW TRUCK CHANGED MY LIFE
(for the better)

An orange peel grapple is a big machine. Excavator on the bottom. Long arm in the middle. And a metal grapple on the end that looks like a horror movie claw. The base spins. The arm moves up and down. The grapple grabs stuff like SUVs and big piles of metal.

You may come across one while driving, and if you have a little boy in the car, you may have to pull over to watch the thing move cars into a tractor trailer. Otherwise, nothing about this machine will rock your world.

But an orange peel grapple changed my life.

My life was a complete disaster at the time. Though I had a beautiful baby boy and a good husband, I had a job in an industry I swore I would never return to, at a company that wanted nothing more than to suck the blood directly from my heart with a curly straw. This, after I had already sold all the blood in my heart to the film industry, which after a few meetings and screenwriting awards, looked like it might want to take a sip from that straw.

A sip, because as good as things were looking, I saw a long road in front of me. My work was not “commercial enough,” and my manager had made it clear that years would pass before I would be able to convince anyone that this lack of commerciality was a quality that was, well, commercial.

But no. My husband lost his job, and I found work in the fashion industry soon after. What I rapidly discovered was that, though out-of-towners could schedule meetings back-to-back all over town, Angelenos were expected to take a meeting at the last minute, or blithely accept a rescheduling. My boss, on the other hand, had no interest in moving around my personal days, and my sick days dwindled in my first three months on the job. It took only a few months for the meetings to dry up and for me to start writing a Santa Claus script out of desperation.

So, the blood-sucking fashion job with the inflexible hours was right next to a scrap yard, which apparently opened at the crack of dawn because when I got there at seven thirty every morning, the orange peel grapple was already grabbing away. If I had a minute, I watched it go up and down as I clutched my coffee, and I thought, one day I should get a video camera and film this because my son would love it. Really love it.

My son was about eighteen months old and just learning to talk. I missed him while I was at work, adored him when he was awake and with me, and the rest of the time, I found room to resent him for taking me away from writing. He was then, and has remained, a fireball of energy. His teacher alternated between calling him a Jack Russell terrier and a buzz saw. He is also obsessive. Right now, he has a room full of Legos. Before that, it was Thomas the Tank Engine, and before that, it was trucks. Big yellow trucks. He wouldn’t fall asleep unless he gripped a toy truck in each fist. When he received a Tonka loader for Christmas, it was love at first sight. He called it “lolo.”

One morning, with the vision of that big ‘lolo’ that I would later know as an orange peel grapple dancing in my head, I dialed a friend’s number. I’d known this man from Brooklyn, and he’d come to Los Angeles a few years earlier to attend the American Film Institute. Most importantly, he had a camera. When I got his answering machine, instead of asking him for the camera, I said something else entirely, something like, “Hey, wanna produce a kid’s video together? Here’s the pitch. Trucks. Okay, bye.”

That moment may not seem pivotal, but most turning points don’t when they happen. That moment, I took control of my creative life. My friend called me back the minute he got up, and we began the journey toward becoming business owners. We did not pitch the idea around town, and we did not ask permission to bring the work to the public. We put the DVDs on Createspace, and eventually had to hold inventory to meet the demand.

Lolo Productions and the Totally Trucks series have had ups and downs, but the process taught me two things. One, my concepts need to be simple. If I can’t pitch it in five words, it’s not a concept I should develop. My second lesson is that I can be in control of my product and my creative life. If I think something is worthwhile, I can bring it to my customers. Becoming the producer and publisher of my work means I understand now what agents and studio executives meant when they said “commercial.”

Without my son, I never would have taken the life-sucking job. And without that job, there would have been no orange peel grapple. And without that scrapyard, there would have been no Totally Trucks. No eye for the commercial and no control of self-publishing. Who knows what I would have made without all the things that pissed me off for interrupting my work.




Thursday, February 16, 2012

Teen Topics #7

I'm slacking, I know. It's this darn pregnancy. I have no energy and I ache all over. But, I'm trying!!!

So, just a quick question for teens this week. This one is specifically for any teen that got pregnant. How did you find out and what was your first thought?

Some of my books deal with teen pregnancy. I want to know how YOU found out and reacted...no matter the outcome. Just want to know that first raw emotion.

As always, email me at taliajager at att dot net if you don't want to leave your comment here.

Thanks!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Indie Chicks - Cheryl Bradshaw



Just Me and James Dean…by Cheryl Bradshaw

When I was a little girl I used to make up stories at bedtime for my younger sister, Michelle.  The most vivid centered on a boy and a girl who received a piece of gum for Halloween in their trick-or-treat bag, and when they chewed it, they were transported to a magical land where they were granted unlimited wishes.  Even at such a young age, the process of concocting stories was effortless.  My mind revolved like the reel of a movie spinning inside my head.

I spent many hours daydreaming as a child.  Back then everything was as beautiful and white as a freshly painted fence.  I fantasized about the day I would get married, the children I would have, the house I would own, and the life I would live when I was all grown up. 

When I was a teenager, my mind still swirled with girlish hopes and dreams.  I remember lying on my bed in my room staring at a poster on my wall of James Dean.  He was hunkered down on the seat of a motorcycle, and Marilyn Monroe was perched behind him with her arms wrapped around his waist, and her head resting on his shoulder.  I wanted to jump into the poster like the girl in A-Ha’s Take on Me video and ride off into life’s highway, just me and James.  Together, forever.

When I became an adult and moved out on my own to attend college at the tender age of eighteen, I thought I had my whole world figured out.  I’d developed a slight obsession with Agatha Christie and knew mysteries and thrillers were the perfect genre for me as a writer.  All kinds of ideas flowed for the first novel, and I thought I was on my way.  There was just one problem: I never started writing.    
Why? 

I wasn’t prepared for the events that were about to take place in my life or how they would affect my journey.  Life didn’t turn out to be the dream I thought it would be, and I struggled—a lot, and faced challenges and trials that at times seemed more than I could bear.  My relationships didn’t always work out, and all the babies I hoped to have didn’t come like I’d planned.  There were times when I felt like my life was like a shattered mirror, and I was on my hands and knees desperately searching for all the pieces of myself so I could glue them back together and feel whole again.  During those times I wondered how many other women out there in the world felt the same exact way. 

Time went on and I struggled, but eventually I picked myself back up and I healed.  With a new lease on life and a positive attitude about what I’d overcome, I thought about writing again.  In 2009 I wrote Black Diamond Death, the first novel in my Sloane Monroe series.  Sinnerman followed six months later and now I’m hard at work on the third, I Have a Secret. 

As I sit here and write this, I’m shocked that I am being so candid.  Normally, I safeguard my feelings.  To say I’m a private person is an understatement, but I feel compelled to get this out.  My message in all of this is to never lose sight of your hopes and dreams.  Never forget who you are, where you came from, and what you are capable of accomplishing in your life.  And if you have a passion, foster it with everything you have inside you.  Let it shine.  Let it breathe.  Let it be. 

When I pondered about the dedication I would use for Sinnerman, my direction was clear and I wrote the following:

This book is dedicated to anyone who’s ever had a dream. We have but one life, and one opportunity to live it.  Make it last, make it count, and make it the best it can be.  Live your dreams, I know I am.

Today, I’m no longer waiting for James Dean to ride up on his shiny black motorcycle.  I’ve fallen for a different kind of boy now, one who dreams of wide open spaces and a simple life.  One who wants to be a cowboy when he grows up.  Now the poster I see in my visions is one of man hoisting me up on the back of his trusty steed while we ride away together into the Wyoming sunset.

If you asked me ten years ago if this was the life I thought I wanted, my answer might have been no, but if you asked me today I would say I’m right where I’m supposed to be.  My life isn’t perfect, the challenges are still there, and I still have a lot to learn about myself.  But no matter what the future holds for me, I know one thing for sure: I’ll never stop writing.

*******

This is one story from Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To read all of the stories, buy your copy today.

*******
Cheryl’s book’s on Amazon:






To learn more about Cheryl, visit her here:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Squeaky Shoes - Monday Mom Post

Who's the genius that invented these?
They look like normal baby shoes, right???

Wrong.

They squeak when baby walks in them.

The first time I realized these shoes existed, I thought "Aw, cute." A friend had them on her 1 year old daughter. We were outside and she squeaked down the road. I actually said "what a neat idea". I thought about how you would know where your little one was at all times. Cute.

Then the 1 year old I babysit for showed up with a pair-at 7 o'clock in the morning. I opened the door and greeted her and her mother. She walked in. Squeak. Squeak...squeak...squeak...little faster then as she ran into the playroom. I cringed thinking about how much they echoed in my open floor plan and how my 1 year old-who was still sleeping-could probably hear them.

Within less than a minute, I sat the little girl down and took off her shoes. 7 o'clock in the morning is way too early for that kind of noise. 

The child I babysit for now has 2 pair of noisy, squeaky shoes and constantly shows up in them. It really got me thinking. Who invented these? They can't possibly have children. These are the most annoying shoes I have ever seen/heard.

I was wrong.

I've been to a few websites of people who make them, some actually make them for a reason, like their children are delayed in walking. But, now with the squeaky shoe, the child is delighted to hear the squeaks coming from their feet and tries to walk more. I suppose I could see the reasoning there...but they are still VERY annoying and I NEVER want a pair.

Hear that people planning my baby shower?? NO squeaky shoes!!! 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Indie Chicks - Dani Amore



WRITING FROM A FLOUR SACK
by
Dani Amore

Fact:  I was born on a bathroom floor.  Literally.  My arrival into this world was followed seconds later by an unceremonious drop onto the cold tile of St. John’s Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.


You see, I was the fifth out of six children.  My mother knew my delivery would be fast, but the nurse at the hospital insisted she go to the bathroom before the doctor arrived.

Later, after the drama and I was pronounced healthy, my mother told the doctor that the nurse should have listened to her, that she had warned the nurse that the baby (me) was going to arrive any second.  That, having already delivered four children, she knew her body pretty well.

The doctor said, “Five kids, huh?  Maybe you should tell your husband to keep it in his pants.”

True story.

***

Both of my parents were born in Italy.  They emigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s.  My father always said the biggest difference between Italy and America at that time was that you could work your ass off in Italy and have nothing to show for it.  If you worked hard in America, you could eventually become wealthy.  He started a construction company and worked 6 days a week, from dawn to dusk.  Eventually, he was successful.

My mother raised six children. 

She is a strong woman.

Both she and my father share a love of aphorisms.

The one I remember most?  “A well-made flour sack stands on its own.”

It was almost like a mantra with her.

At a key point in my writing life, that phrase came in handy.


***

So there I am.  I’ve got a full-time job in advertising.  I’m writing about products that suck, working for people I can’t stand, and with two good friends, drinking every night after work.  At a little bar not far from the office.  I’m averaging about five or six drinks a night.  Every weeknight.  More on the weekends.

But on those weekend mornings, I’m writing fiction.  Just short stories that I try to picture in The Paris Review.

Everything gets rejected with remarkable efficiency.

One night, probably half in the bag, I come across THE DAY OF THE JACKAL on television.  The original movie is pretty campy and the remake with Bruce Willis is a pure load of crap.  But the book.  The novel by Frederick Forsyth is one of my all-time favorites. 

The scene on television is the best part of the movie:  It’s where the Jackal is sighting in his rifle.  He paints a little face on a small melon, then blows it apart from 500 yards away.

There’s no epiphany.  I go to bed.  But as I toss and turn, vodka fumes in a cloud around my pillow, I think about the narrative structure of the story.  I’ve read the book several times.  Even have a collector’s edition.  The chase.  The tension.  The violence.

When I wake up the next morning, I make an especially strong pot of coffee.  I push aside my short literary fiction, and start a new story.

It’s about a hitman and a female escort.

Later that day, during some interminable meeting where everyone is throwing out insidious phrases like “let’s get on the same page,” and “think outside the box,” I realized what I was doing.

I was writing to please others, instead of focusing on the kind of stories and books I like.

Crime fiction.  Thrillers.  Suspense.

I had forgotten one of my mother’s cardinal rules.

A well-made flour sack stands on its own.


***


I know it sounds melodramatic.  But the truth is, everything changed after that night.  I still despised the advertising industry, but I no longer let it bother me so much.  I begged off going to the bar with my friends, instead choosing to work out and then get some writing done in the evenings.

Eventually, I finished several crime novels.  Even landed a big New York literary agent.

But a funny thing happened.  My agent, and publishers, seemed to have endless debates about how to market me.  Should I be a hardboiled crime novelist?  A thriller writer?  A traditional mystery author?

There were suggestions to change this book and change that one.  Then change it back.  Then change it to something else.

But now I had learned.  I was smarter.

I told them thanks, but no thanks.

It was time to stand up and be the writer I wanted to be.

So I became an indie author.

And when my first book became a Top 10 Mystery on Amazon, I knew I had made the right decision.

Never underestimate the power of an Italian mother armed with an aphorism.


Dani’s Books on Amazon:










To learn more about Dani, visit her at http://www.daniamore.com