Why I Write Young Adult

Not too long ago, I read about an interaction between an author friend of mine and a dissatisfied reader who seemed to blame young adult protagonists for the unrealistic expectations of our youth today. Yep. You read that right. I wish I was joking, but sadly I’m not.

This particular reader was obviously a lover of the contemporary classics that once used to the norm within literary culture. Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mary Shelley, and even Harper Lee have each left an indelible mark in the world. These authors created strong characters, interesting worlds, and subliminal moral end-games that still stand on their own, even today. There are some in the world that will argue that only serious works such as these merit any kind of praise in the literary world.

But the world of young adult literature doesn’t contradict what these great authors worked hard to achieve. In fact, I truly believe that YA…good YA…is something that can create a movement of its own if given the chance. Much has changed since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, and not enough has changed since Harper Lee penned her classic To Kill a Mockingbird. But what it comes down to is that each generation has its own trials, difficulties, and hardships to get through, and these are the very things that push authors such as myself to find a way to give our readers the ability to escape reality, if even only for a few hours at a time.

While having a conversation with my 12-year-old, I began to realize a correlation between the tribulations of the world today and the books that I write. At some point during our discussion, I told her, “It breaks my heart that I’m having to raise you in a world filled with so much hatred. I don’t understand how folks can live with so much hate. It must be exhausting to be filled with such animosity toward others all the time. If people were more accepting of each others’ differences, this world would be a much more peaceful place to live.” And it was in that moment that I had an epiphany.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest successes in the young adult world today. There’s the series about a capitol that controls its citizens by forcing children to kill each other. Another series tells the story of a boy born with magical powers who, in the end, must defeat the evil that killed his parents. There’s one about a teenage girl who fights off aliens to rescue her brother, and yet another one that tells the story about a teenage girl who falls in love with a sparkly vampire. At first glance, these books may not appear to have any kind of deep, moral meaning. In fact, some of them may come off as shallow and self-serving.

But once you delve into the storylines, each appears to contain a deeper meaning such as a cautionary tale of pride, power, and ego. YA isn’t always just young, teenagers in love who recklessly traverse the world of high school by falling in love with the first person they meet. YA can be thought provoking and life changing, and at times can stab us in the heart as we fly through a box of Kleenex.

It’s unfair to group YA as a whole and say that it’s ruining literature and dumbing down its readers. While it’s true that there are plenty of books out there where you can turn off your brain and just enjoy the story, there are many YA authors such as myself that try to ensure that the story contains something of substance – something that will make the reader think about themselves, society, norms, and even love itself. John Green and James Dashner have mastered the art of subtext, forcing their readers to reconsider what teens actually go through and what they’re truly capable of. And while their books can make you cry, gasp, and hold your breath, their strong, brave, and optimistic protagonists can remind you that anything is possible if you want it badly enough.

I’ve chosen to write YA because the world is a scary place to grow up. Violence, hatred, poverty, and heartbreak are a part of a teenager’s world in this day and age. Good doesn’t always defeat evil, humanity doesn’t always do the right thing, and people die. And no matter how old you are, whatever you read should speak to you in some way. It can make you think, inspire you, or leave you questioning what you thought you knew. But sometimes just escaping reality for a few hours is good enough. So to blame young adult protagonists for unrealistic expectations of society’s youth is, I believe, unfair. If anything, a good YA protagonist will inspire today’s youth to be more than they imagined. Strong, brave, and optimistic.

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Hear the Crickets is Live!

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Hear the Crickets: The Gibborim Series – Book One is available today!

Now that I’m done jumping around, doing cartwheels, and crying tears of joy (you thinking I’m kidding), I wanted to say just how incredibly humbled I am by the reviews this book has already received. And I was touched as well by the kind words left by authors Heather Lyons and Heather Hildenbrand about this story. This book was so much fun to write and the characters were a blast to create. Skyy, Dorian, Lillith, Sean, and a heavenly host of feathered creatures will hopefully keep you turning page after page until the very end.

I want to take a moment to thank all of the reviewers, bloggers, my fellow authors, my publisher, and my personal assistant for helping me get this story out into the world. And I’d also like to thank the South Dakota School of Mines for letting me pick the brain of one of their professors so I wouldn’t sound like an idiot…more so than usual anyway.

And I would especially like to thank my street team and all of the readers who have followed me from the beginning, believing in me, reading my stories, and reminding me again and again why I do what I do. I couldn’t do it without you. Love you all.

Now I’m off…to write the sequel.

***

Order your own digital copy of Hear the Crickets today. It’s available on most major platforms: Kindle, Nook, Kobo, ITunes, BookStrand, and Google Play. And paperbacks will hopefully be available through my website very soon, as well. I will keep you all posted.

Kindle: Kindle Copy
Nook: Nook Copy
Google: GooglePlay Books Copy
Kobo: Kobo Copy
iTunes: iTunes Copy
BookStrand: BookStrand Copy

And if by chance, you happen to be in the vicinity of Rapid City, South Dakota on January 30th, I will be at a book signing in town from 11am to 1pm. More details to come!

Pre-Order of Hear the Crickets

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If the Fallen rise, mankind will fall.

Skyy’s a freak. She’ll tell you so herself. Her past – a mystery. Her future – uncertain. Having spent most of her life avoiding humans in an effort to conceal her wings, she wants nothing more than to end it all, leaving behind the solitary life she’s been forced to live. But numerous attempts to die have proven immortality is both a curse and a nuisance. She now lives out her days in self-imposed seclusion to stay hidden from the world. But that quiet way of life is shattered when mysterious siblings arrive and reveal a destiny which sends her running for the hills. When an earth shattering discovery is made in the Badlands, history and science collide furthering the mystery behind Skyy’s past – and her future. Skyy will need to embrace her fate and confront an evil so ancient, only a miracle can keep the world from ceasing to be.

Pre-order my upcoming young adult supernatural thriller today!*

Kindle: http://amzn.to/1HR7TRu
Nook: http://bit.ly/1N7RKJI
Google: http://bit.ly/1ONTWGz
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1ONU3BV
iTunes: http://apple.co/1S0aIQo
BookStrand: http://bit.ly/1Qrruuh

*Published by Whiskey Creek Press

An Open Letter to My Daughter on Her 21st Birthday

Dear baby girl,

Happy birthday, my love. And congratulations on making it in one piece to this incredible milestone in your life. That’s not to say there haven’t been some bumps and potholes along the way, but then who in life can say they haven’t experienced the same? Now that you’re an adult, there are some words of wisdom I need to share. Much of it comes from my own experience. And some comes from just paying attention to the world around you. So pay attention.

  1. Your siblings are your lifeline. Friends will come and go, but your siblings are forever. Lean on one another during the hard times. Cry on each other’s shoulders for comfort. Call them first when good things happen. And never judge their choices, behavior, or decisions harshly, because one day you will need them to be just as non-judgmental when you do something questionable. Never ever take that bond you have for granted. It’s possibly one of the greatest gifts that we as parents can give you…a friend for life.
  2. I know that getting up every morning for work isn’t easy and that sometimes dealing with other people and their crappy personalities can be rough. Stress will become an everyday companion as you enter the adult world, but it doesn’t have to control you. Remember that your job is just that…your job. It isn’t your life. Leave work at the door.
  3. Do what you love. Love what you do. For goodness sakes…don’t work in a career field you hate for 40 years. Your sanity and happiness are worth more than money.
  4. Responsibility sucks. But so does living paycheck to paycheck. Never ever quit one job before having another lined up. Trust me. You’ll never find a new job as quickly as you think you can.
  5. Get rid of the toxic people in your life. Being an adult can be tricky, but having the right people at your side can make all the difference in the world. If there are people in your life sucking the happiness out of you, separate yourself from them. For good. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
  6. Never rush into anything important. Rash decisions are usually a bad idea. Buying a home, buying a car, getting married, having children, choosing a daycare…..always take your time.
  7. Be spontaneous. I know, I know. I just contradicted myself. But hear me out. Go out for dinner at the last minute with the man you love, even if you aren’t wearing any makeup. Wake up on a Saturday morning and drive for 3 hours just to eat at a burger place in a different county. Have fun. You’re only young once.
  8. Find your tribe. A tribe is a group of people who like you and will support you no matter what. They will lift you up and encourage you at every turn. When you fall down and feel like you can’t get up, they’ll be there to help you get back on your feet. I can’t begin to tell you how important this is.
  9. Follow your dreams, whatever they are. My entire life was spent trying to fit into a mold of someone else’s design. I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be so long as it was exactly what they wanted me to be. In the end, I spent the majority of my life trying to make other people happy while I was making myself miserable. And being miserable just made those close to me miserable as well. But once I surrounded myself with a supportive tribe of people who truly believed in me, and I started to live my dream, life began to fall into place. And I was happy.
  10. Never give up. When you fall down, get up. When you fall down again, get up again. Repeat as necessary. Eventually…you’ll stop falling.
  11. If you never try, you’ve already failed. So regardless of how afraid you are of something, give it a shot. You have nothing to lose.
  12. Fear is not your enemy. Complacency is.
  13. The older you get, the faster time flies. Trust me. One day, you’re minding your own business thinking how young you still are and suddenly you’ll look down and realize you have the hands of an old woman. It catches up to you fast. Don’t be in a such a hurry to get to Friday each week. Those Fridays add up. Don’t be in a such a hurry for your children to talk, walk, and start school, because one day you’ll look up and they’ve left the nest. Time is an unkind mistress. Make every day count.
  14. Be grateful for what you have and don’t pine for what you don’t. Let’s face facts. We can’t all be millionaires and live in giant home, drive fast cars, own registered horses, and go on expensive vacations. As much as we’d like to have those things in our lives, it isn’t realistic for 99% of us. Instead, be happy with what you have. And most of all, don’t go into debt trying to attain that perfect life. Perfect is a relative term.
  15. Never…and I can’t emphasize this enough…never ever compare yourself to anyone else. It’s exhausting. And the funny thing is this — while you’re comparing yourself to other people, wondering why you fall short of their perfection, someone is looking in your direction thinking they need to compare themselves to you.
  16. Figure out who you are and be that with everything you have. Never apologize for being you.
  17. When you find THE guy, make date night a priority. Even if it’s only once a month. Make the time to be a couple. Don’t get so consumed in your lives that you forget why you’re together in the first place.
  18. Life is full of pain. We all have it in one form or another. But it’s how you deal with that pain that will define you. If you focus on the pain and things that are completely out of your control, that’s all you’ll know. Instead, focus on the things you do have control over. Focus on the good. Place all your energy into making your life and the life of others better.
  19. Stay out of debt. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.
  20. Trust your gut. As a woman, it will rarely fail you. But you have to listen to it.
  21. Write down your goals. Look at them often. Figure out how to achieve them.
  22. Never tell yourself you can’t. Always ask yourself how can you.
  23. If you’re rude to a server at a restaurant, just know they’re spitting in your food. Kindness begets kindness. Being a jackass has repercussions.
  24. A crockpot can be your best friend.
  25. Get a pet. Stop worrying about the hair. That’s why you own a vacuum. They’ll love you unconditionally. Trust me. After a bad day, they can make it all better.
  26. Take care of yourself. Take care of your teeth. Work out. Drink plenty of water. Use moisturizer. Take vitamins. Eat a balanced diet. I’m telling you…you don’t want to look back and wish you’d taken better care of yourself. By then, it’s too late.
  27. Never buy generic toilet paper.
  28. Always buy generic dry noodles.
  29. Target is the most addicting place to shop. Never ever think you can simply go in for one item and leave with just that one item. You’re just kidding yourself.
  30. Smile more
  31. Cry more
  32. Love more

Do You Have a Tribe?

Hanging out with my tribe in Nashville. June, UtopYA2015

Hanging out with my tribe in Nashville.
June, UtopYA2015

When you think of the word “tribe”, you probably think of native people living together in groups, living off the land. But it can also have another meaning. A tribe can be those with like minds and similar interests that support one another, and in my world it’s a community of authors, bloggers, and other bookish types with like goals that aspire to lift as they climb. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

Everyone needs a tribe. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, PTSD survivor, recovering alcoholic – we all need people in our lives who make us strive to be more…do more. For many years, I kept to myself believing that I didn’t need anyone. I’d been burned by friends in the past and decided that it was better to be alone than deal with the heartbreak that others can bring you. For years, I floated in a sea of anonymity, content to live out my life struggling to figure out the book world on my own. I was stubborn like that. I liked my bubble – my space.

At least I thought I did.

Two years ago, I staggered into my very first book convention, UtopYA in Nashville, TN. I was anxious and did my best to blend in all while trying to be invisible at the same time. Trust me…that’s not an easy task. I desperately wanted to be a part of that world, learn from those who came before me, hang out with like-minded creative types while at the same time not draw attention to myself. I mean, these people could have cared less about a new face, right? And some of those people were intimidating as heck, each rock stars in their own right. NY Times bestselling authors, bloggers, super fans…I felt as if I was out of my league.

But they didn’t allow me to feel that way for long. Over the course of the past few years, these people…my people…took me in and made me feel welcome. They encouraged me, gave me advice, and showed me that it was okay to need people. And over time, I began to show other the same thing. My people lift as they climb. They are my tribe. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

So, if you don’t have a tribe…find one.
If you can’t find one…create one.
You are special and belong somewhere. Don’t forget that.

Lift as you climb. The mantra of my tribe.

Lift as you climb. The mantra of my tribe.

Hear the Crickets Teaser Trailer

Hey everyone! And a happy 4th of July weekend to all of my US readers!

I have a little surprise for you. I have finally set my release date for my upcoming supernatural fantasy, Hear the Crickets.

So, in celebration, here is a teaser trailer to wet your whistle.

Stay tuned over the next 4 months for other announcements, teasers, and fun stuff.

Now, without further adieu, I present to you…Hear the Crickets.

Are you listening?

Hear the Crickets Teaser Trailer.

My Tattoo

While tattoos today are more widely accepted than they used to be, I know that there are still some who find them tacky and pointless. My own parents believe that marking your body permanently in that way is ridiculous and stupid. For that reason, I’ve always fared on the side of caution and carefully placed my tattoos where they would remain out of sight. That way, there was never an argument or the inevitable eye rolling that would ultimately commence once my parents saw them. In fact, most people are shocked to discover that I have them at all. Apparently, I don’t look like the kind of person with tattoos.

I often laugh at this statement because, let’s face it, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

This past weekend I received some new ink. This one, however, is clearly visible. It was a deliberate and deeply personal choice to place it prominently on my forearm. It will not only be visible to others but, more importantly, it will also be visible to me.

ceaseless

It’s just one word – ceaseless. It’s a simple, innocuous word that rarely gets used in today’s conversations. Merriam-Webster defines it as “continuing without cease: seeming to never stop: continuous or constant”.

But it’s a word that has far greater meaning to me than just its definition.

It all began some months back when 2 of my daughters decided that it would be fun to come up with song titles that best described each other. They laughed and had fun with it, coming up with silly songs that emphasized personality traits, humorous shortcomings and unrequited loves. But when my youngest asked her older sister what song best represented “mom”, her answer was “Keep On Keeping On”.

I had never heard the song before and wondered what it was, so I pulled it up on YouTube and watched the video. By the end of the song, I was in tears and instantly became reflective of my past.

My kids’ childhoods were never easy. I married young and had 2 young daughters within the first 5 years. Then, 2 years later, I found myself a single mother who quickly had to figure out how to survive. I worked full-time during the week as a clerk and junior buyer at a large corporation. My weekends were spent waiting on tables, slinging alcoholic beverages in a sports bar. And throughout all of that, I was attending school at night to earn my Bachelor’s degree. Sleep was a luxury I couldn’t afford. Money was tight, and there were times when my kids ate and I didn’t. Yet, somehow I managed to pay my bills, keep a roof over our heads, and food in their bellies.

Before long, I met a guy, fell in love, and became engaged. I began working at a new company. Later, we bought a small townhouse, just big enough for the 4 of us. But within a year, we welcomed daughter number 3 and the house became a little smaller. Not long after that, my husband joined the US Army Reserves and left for basic training.

Over time, the house grew smaller as the kids grew bigger. We knew we needed to sell it and find a larger home. Eventually, we found a large rental house to move into. Instead of selling our home, we made plans to rent it out to a woman I used to work with who had gone through some tough times. But after only a few months in, she and her kids packed up in the middle of the night and left us with both a mortgage payment and rent. We had to let our townhouse go and we thought the worst of it was over.

But it wasn’t.

And then I lost my job. Long story short, this began a spiral of ups and downs that, at times, I didn’t think I could recover from. We had a car repossessed, were close to living out of our van – twice. And there were a few Christmases that nearly didn’t happen.

We eventually dug our way out, but I always worried about the impact that all of it had on my girls throughout the years. Would they see me as a failure? Would they look back at their lives and wish that things had been better? Would they resent me for not being able to give them everything they wanted growing up?

The 3 best things that ever happened to me.

The 3 best things that ever happened to me.

Fast forward to today. My middle daughter believes that the song “Keep On Keeping On” is indicative of who I am as a person. It speaks of having dreams, believing in yourself, working hard even if you keep losing, and one day realizing that all that hard work has paid off. In other words, it isn’t about how many times you get knocked down – it’s how often you bravely claw your way back up.

So, while I worried about leaving a legacy of failure behind for my children, without even realizing it I was leaving a legacy of perseverance instead. My apparent tenacity and courage, my ability to get back up whenever I was down, is what resonated with my daughters. I was leading by example.

So, as a constant (and permanent) reminder to never give up – no matter what – I had the word “ceaseless” tattooed on my forearm. It will serve as a reminder to lead by example and show my daughters how to face fear and defeat it head on.

Children learn not only from your successes but also from your failures. Never be afraid to fail.

Children learn not only from your successes but also from your failures. Never be afraid to fail.