Saturday, December 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Tyler.

My son Tyler would have been one today. 

My thoughts are jumbled, overwhelmed, stuffed full inside my head that is trying in vain to focus on mundane things like swim meets and finishing the Christmas shopping and how good this pumpkin spice creamer is--Anything to distract me from the knowledge that my son Tyler would have been one today. 

A year ago, this day, I was different. I was still pregnant, sitting in a bed, strapped to monitors as they prepped me for what was supposed to be a routine C-section delivery. I remember laughing with my mom, listening intently to the anesthesiologist--he was a jokester--and telling myself excitedly that even though I couldn't find a comfortable position, I wouldn't be pregnant much longer, and holding my baby in my arms would be infinitely more comfortable than holding him inside a belly that entered the room ten minutes before I did. 

I was also different inside. I had no idea what was to come. 

That's the thing I think about most today. How different I am inside as a result of losing Tyler. The grief and loss is unparalleled. It is unlike anything I've ever experienced or will again (provided I outlive my other two.) It never goes away and as I'm finding out today, even when I think it's faded, something like a birthday will come around and tear it open and it's as fresh as it was day one. But there are positives as well. I have learned not to take life for granted. To take chances and risks if it means LIVING. To embrace new experiences, more than that, to go out looking for them every single day. You only get one shot at this life and no one knows how long that shot will last. Time is limited. It can be taken from you in a blink. You don't get any do-overs. So, seize the day. Take a chance. Try something new. Make your time count. 

There is no question that Tyler's time counted. For him--I know he was aware of us holding him for three days straight without putting him down because every time we let go of him, his vitals crashed. And for us--people I'd never met were emailing and sending messages that their entire church or family or organization was praying for us and for him. Tyler almost died in delivery but he was revived. He almost died again the next morning in the NICU before the ambulance from UVA Children's Hospital could take him, but he didn't. We were told by his doctors at UVA that he wouldn't make it through the night but he did. (If he hadn't, I would've never gotten to hold him.) Every day he was still here, the doctors were amazed. They called it a miracle. They shook their heads because they couldn't understand it. But I know it's because of strangers that prayed. People I will never meet were impacted by the miracle of Tyler being here for those 5 days instead of 5 minutes. 

I gave a lot of thought as the day approached to the appropriate birthday celebration for Tyler. And this is what I came up with: Tyler's life was SO MUCH about the kindness of strangers. The people praying, the doctors and nurses who helped take care of him (Naomi, Kara, and Amelia--you are SO MUCH on my heart today and I love you), the staff behind the scenes who made it easier by giving us a room right inside the NICU with Tyler, and so many more. 

Because of these kindnesses, it seems fitting for Tyler's birthday that I would give back in the same way. 

This morning, my kids and I sat at the computer and bought Tyler's birthday present through a website called Kiva. Here's a little about it: 
We are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.

Basically, you give $25 in the form of a loan to someone in another country who needs it. Could be for business, housing, education. Lots of reasons. Over time, that person uses the money to increase their income and repay the loan back to you. At the end of the loan's term, you have your money back and you've helped someone who otherwise might've fallen further into poverty. My 9-year-old daughter chose who we lended to. A group of teachers in Sierra Leone that needed money for their school funding. Here's the link to read about it.

It's such an amazing Pay It Forward concept. I love that I am helping, even in some small part, a group of strangers I will never meet, and that I don't need to meet them in order to make a difference. It's beautiful. And I think it's the perfect way to celebrate Tyler. Happy Birthday, baby. 

Photo by Bowman Art

This picture is going around Facebook in light of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary yesterday. My heart goes out to those families and I just love this image because it reminds us our kids are in a safer place where no pain or harm can come to them. I hope that is a small comfort to the parents who've lost. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Q&A ... and my handsome face

Answers to your most burning questions. Contest winner. Me... in the flesh. . . What more could you ask for??

Friday, November 9, 2012

Breaking Radio Silence

I'm such a slacker.

I just looked at the date of my last blog post and it's been a ridiculous amount of time. So much so that I now have people/readers/bloggers emailing me asking if I'm okay or still here or whatever. Sorry, guys. I'm fine, just slacking.

To be fair, I think I had some slacking time coming, though. I've already published two books this year and three last year and before the indie movement of publishing books faster than we change our underwear that would've been a lot. Either way, I've been holing up in my blood-red-walled dining room and concocting sentences out of everyday words and putting them to digital paper at a much slower rate than usual. Also, there's Real Life, which has been chaotic and unpredictable and spinning me around like Dorothy inside that twister. (And yes, I've officially landed in Oz. I mean, it must be Oz because I don't recognize ANY of the scenery here.) All of that adds up to the fact that I've become a hermit and a stalker even by internet standards, reading FB posts without commenting and dialing back my obsessiveness with Twitter in a way that a 12-stepper would be jealous of. (Side note: Instagram is where you'll probably find me these days.)

The thing is, I miss you guys. And apparently you miss me too--or you're just nosy, if the emails I'm getting daily are any indication. Let's go with you miss me. I like that one better.

Here's my solution: Since half the questions and emails I'm getting revolve around Dirty Blood and the series and "when the hell is the next book coming out anyway?" I propose a Q&A via vlog wherein YOU, the reader, send ME, the author, all your nosy, um, I mean, well-thought-out and concerned questions about WHATEVER YOU WANT and I will answer them and post the video here for your viewing (and listening) pleasure.

And to sweeten the pot--because that's how I roll--I am offering up a signed paperback set of ALL 3 BOOKS: Dirty Blood, Cold Blood, and Blood Bond to one winner and e-book sets of the same titles to TWO more lucky winners.

Check out the new cover for the omnibus currently available on Amazon:

Sweet, right? SM Reine has mad skills...

You can enter for the set via the rafflecopter below. PLEASE be aware that I will pick and choose which questions I answer. If you ask me something dumb, be prepared for a dumb response. I reserve that right as someone who is good with words on paper but not always via vocal cords. You've been warned.

P.S. Contest ends 11/15 (or midnight 11/16 to be exact). I will (hopefully) post the vlog on Fri 11/16 and announce winners then. Yay!

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Elementary Cafeterias Smell Like...Fear?

I had lunch with the spawn earlier today and wow ...
Being in an elementary school cafeteria again ... not only did it take me back (to a place and time I never wanted to return to--a place that, in my mind, smells of bologna and bad breath and sneakers worn with no socks), it was a real eye-opener about that part of my kids' day.

For one, that lunch lady is MEAN. Like, dragon lady material. I feel bad for my kids. Seriously. There are several "lunch monitors," I guess they're called, but this one... she makes ME want to get up and throw my trash away when she points her finger at my table. She says "move," and you better already be moving. The CIA should consider bringing her on. Interrogations would go a lot quicker.

You should've seen the kids' faces once they got called out for misbehaving or talking too loud. They were all "Sorry, ma'am, yes ma'am, please don't kill me ma'am." You could totally smell the fear.

Okay, two, there's a kid in my daughter's class who talked my head off about Pokemon YouTube videos the entire time--even when I tried to cut in and say "um, hang on, I should probably talk to my daughter. You know, the one I'm here to see and who keeps trying to get a word in edgewise but you don't breathe between sentences." Even then, he just kept right on talking. He's a gem.

Also-I think my ears are still bleeding with the amount of times he said "guess what?" (I never, ever guessed right in case you're wondering.)

Three, there are cliques even in FIRST GRADE!!

I'm eating with my son. We're sitting about halfway down the mostly empty table as most kids are still in line. I ask him, "So where do you normally sit?" And he points down the end of the table where five or six kids are clustered together while the remaining few are spread out sporatically, eating alone.

I say, jokingly, "Is that where the cool kids sit?" and serious as a heart attack, he nods. "Yep."

I do NOT remember there being a "cool kids" area at the lunch table in first grade. But maybe I'm just old and my brain is already forgetting things.

I also saw the boy from my daughter's class who, when she tried to show him around as a new student, made the comment that he "already knew where everything was," and are they "allowed to punch fourth graders at this school?"
Yes, I thought about tripping him. Or giving him a special, friendship note to take home to his mommy.
But I didn't.
You'd have been proud.
I only death-ray glared at him from down the table and promised my daughter I'd be coming for lunch a lot more often.

All in all, the amount of drama and "he's dating her" scenarios my daughter informed me of during those thirty minutes is either hilarious or sad--I can't figure out which. Both, I think. And I sure don't remember it being that way for me. Not in elementary school.
There was no drama because nobody of the opposite sex SPOKE to one another. You could sit by the person all day on the story-time rug, for months on end, and NEVER, EVER speak. That's how you knew you liked each other.
Now, not only do they speak, kids walk right up to each other and say "want to be my girlfriend/boyfriend?" and if the person doesn't answer, the asker will follow their crush around, repeating the question all day long. Persistence pays off, I guess? <-- These are the stories I hear from my daughter.

I have to say, elementary school is not the same as it was in my day.
Ohmygosh- that sounded TOTALLY old when I typed that. Geez! What about you guys? Was the drama level higher or lower in the stone ages?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September plans and 90s music references

Summer is over. (Booo.... Hiss!) Yeah, that's how I feel about that. I love the heat and the sun and the beach (cue "Summertime" by Will Smith). Oh, and as of this past August, also--the Caribbean. The fam and I went to the Dominican Republic for a week. Paradise! *sigh*

But school started yesterday and now it's back to "Real Life" and back to work and back to reality ... okay now I have Soul II Soul singing in my head. Back to life... Back to reality.. (90s girl over here.)

What am I working on? Blood Bond is out now. You should go get it if you haven't because I'm pretty sure it's the best one yet. Alex and Wes and Tara all in the same place. Hello drama! Win! There's the usual cliffhanger that will make you want to throw your book/kindle/nook/tablet/ME across the room at the end. Deal with it. I love writing cliffhangers. I can't help myself. It's a problem.

As for the next book, prepare to wait.

I am taking it easy for a couple of weeks. At first I said a month, but I'm not sure that's possible for me. If I go too long without writing, my typing fingers get itchy. And my inner voice gets a little crazy-sounding. Like an "off-your-meds" situation. We don't want that. I need to look normal for PTA nights. I'm pretty excited that both of my kids are back in school--FULL DAY. My youngest was in kindergarten last year which was only half-day. Enough time to run to WalMart for trail mix (I'm so addicted to that Mountain Mix stuff) but not enough to really get anything productive done. So, this year, I am going to be soooo productive. Wal-Mart trail mix will be consumed. Books will get written. AND my house will get cleaned.

Here's the thing. I'm against clutter. I grew up in a small house (1300sq ft 3br with ONE bathroom for FIVE people *shudder*) and LOTS of stuff. I have no idea why my mom needed every back-issue of Better Homes and Gardens from the last 476 years but that's what sat on our coffee table, holding it down in case gravity stopped working. And the baskets and baskets of newspapers and CD's and miscellaneous household items we never used like bottle openers, even though my parents didn't drink, and a ball of yarn for that one craft idea we saw in a book, and the random cat toy and Mr. Potato Head's lips and knick-knacks. We had KNICK-KNACKS galore!

So, nowadays, I try to keep the clutter to a mimimum. Bare surfaces make me happy. Kind of like office supplies. And my dining room table that's large enough to seat my entire family instead of the "breakfast nook" table for 10 at Thanksgiving. These things make me smile.

I'm good at controlling the clutter. CLEANING is a different story. I haven't actually cleaned my house in like a year. Now before you get all grossed out and start judging me with your judgy voice in your judgy head, listen. I've done the basics. Vaccuum. Wipe down the table and shelves. Dusted the bare spots (taking everything off the shelf, dusting, and putting it all back was only done when I was 11 and my grandma would pay me .50 for each room. Then, I did it every day. .50 adds up.)

I'm talking about deep cleaning. Getting down on hands and knees and scrubbing a tub. Pulling your couch out and vacuuming behind it and wiping baseboards. <--- These things are where I've skimped. For good reasons. First, I was pregnant. All of you know my story by now. If you don't, read about Tyler Andrew here and how he went to Heaven when he was five days old because his heart was too big for this world. And read about my mental status here. I won't rehash all that today as I'm basically still in the same head space as I was a month ago about that. While I was prego, my kids helped out a lot. Chores were done. Stuff was cleaned. Sort of. Their version of cleaning a tub and mine are a little different, but when you're fat and tired and can't get up once you sit down, you let their version suffice. (I hear all the moms muttering, "Amen.")

After Tyler passed, cleaning wasn't a priority. Not thinking too hard was. So i wrote. Alot. I worked. Alot. I published. Alot. Okay well, two books in 8 months is a lot for me.

But now, with Blood Bond out there, and my mental health a little less unstable, it's time to address the elephant in the room. Dirt. And so, I'm taking a few weeks off from writing to enjoy Blood Bond's tour (I'm revealing a lot of deleted scenes and "extras" for this one. so fun!) and catch up with friends (I'm such a hermit!) AND CLEAN MY HOUSE. (bathtub, you can run but you can't hide. Okay, you can't run either, so never mind. Whatever. I'm coming for you.)

COOL stuff happening:
Sept 11th I am doing a radio show via JournalJabber. So awesome! we will be discussing books and werewolves and hot boys. Tune in! I don't know the deets about how to listen in yet but I will post on FB when I find out. Please join us. it'll be lonely in radioland without you!
THE TOUR for Blood Bond goes on all month. Check FB and Twitter to find out where to read the extra scenes. lots from Wes's and Alex's POV. (Yum!)

**Speaking of, I have a few more to write, so if there are any scenes from the series you wanted more of or a different POV, leave it in the comments and maybe you'll see it during the tour!

Fun scenes already done:
Alex's and Tara's roll down the hill from Cold Blood: AwesomeSauce Books
Interview with Alex and Wes- find out what Alex is afraid of! Happy Tails and Tales
A peek into Wes's head during the breakup in book 1: Delphina Reads Too Much

Places I'll be:
Andrea's Paranormal Reads - a deleted scene from Blood Bond between Cambria and a special guy. (9/8)
Taking it One Book at a Time - scene from Cold Blood: Alex's POV when he spills to Tara about how he feels. (9/9)
**Both will be spoilery!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mental Health Checkup... via Blogger

I haven't blogged about anything that matters in a while. Well, not that my stories don't matter. They do. A lot. But not necessarily in the face of what is otherwise known as "real life," and especially anything to do with Tyler.

Almost eight months ago I had a baby boy named Tyler. He lived five days before he went to Heaven. He had a bad heart. (Well, actually he had a huge heart. It was too big for his body so he couldn't live with it. Which is kind of awesome, in a way.) Most of you know the story. If you don't, I blogged about it here. And the aftermath here. I haven't brought it up again since then for several reasons. Mainly, I'm not talking about it every five seconds in RL so I'm not going to do that here. I'm moving forward and I'm focused on the good stuff. *Update since that last post: I took the crib down a few months ago. It was liberating.

I haven't brought it up because I want this blog to be mainly the good stuff. Also, its the place where I snark and spew sarcasm--which is really hard to do when you're talking about death and grief. Although, Whisper manages it quite nicely in places. (if you're new here and you haven't read it, Whisper is my tribute to Tyler and the grief. It's what healed me in a lot of ways--and it's an awesome story with a hot Cherokee warrior. #TeamDylan)

But today, I thought I'd do a mental health check-in because I had many, many emails and messages when I first went through this from moms and readers and all kinds of people who said how encouraged they were by my story and loved the honesty and felt less alone and all sorts of things I couldn't really believe people took away from my heartbreaking story. I want all of YOU to know I haven't forgotten you. To the moms whose children have incurable defects/illnesses and you struggle to care for them every day and remember how to smile in spite of it all--I think of/pray for you DAILY. YOU inspire ME. Do not forget that. You are not forgotten.

How am I today? It's complicated.

Right this very moment, and most other days, I am content. I've learned to focus on what makes me happy, what makes me feel lucky, what gets me excited. Those are the things I give my attention to. If it brings me down, makes me feel negative, or hurts me even in a small way, I've let it go. That includes several people in my life, hobbies, routine stuff. I took stock, figured out what should stay/go, and made it happen. That was freeing. I also feel adventurous. "You only live once" and "Life is Short" echo through my mind daily. As proof, my family and I are going to the Dominican Republic for a week-long vacay in a couple of weeks. I've never been anywhere that required a passport before, so this is HUGE for me.

My new goal is to EXPERIENCE things. 

I do think about Tyler and it makes me so sad that my heart feels weighted and heavy and like my ribs might crack or be crushed under the pressure. Then, I squeeze my eyes shut against the images of his face and I put one foot in front of the other and I keep going. It's not always pretty. I mess up. I'm angry a lot lately. I don't even know why or at whom. I am short on patience and long on irritability. I know it's part of the cycle but I really wish this part would hurry up. So does my family.

Also, babies are hard for me right now. They're like the sun. I can't look directly at them. My heart lurches a little to the left and my breath catches and I can almost feel the weight of him in my arms again and then its gone and I have to turn away. I think its important to say that I'm not jealous. Jealousy means I wish it was me and not you. That's not what I feel. I am so happy it's you. I just wish it was me, too.

These days, my kids and I talk a lot about Heaven. What it will be like, what sort of things there are to do there, and all of the people who'll be waiting to greet us. Tyler is mentioned a lot in present tense. He is still a very real part of our family, even for my kids. He is still their brother, and I love them for that. We've decided that, in Heaven, you can ride bikes whenever you want and eat whatever you like. McDonald's won't make you fat. You can play long past dark. Actually, it's never dark. Even better. And Tyler's going to know all of the best places to go by the time we're there.

So, to sum up the mental health checkup, like I said before, it's complicated. Up and down. Good and bad. A cycle.

I'm really glad I have my family who loves me, my writing which purges me, and you guys ... because at the risk of sounding all Dr. Evil-ish... you complete me.
X's & O's.
Later 'Taters.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Whisper giveaway and UtopYA shoutouts

HOLY ...

This summer is going by fast!!!! It makes me sad. I love summer like a fat kid and cake. I really need to move south because I hate the cold. I like looking out a window at a snowy scene but I don't like standing in it as a rule. <--- already off track. Nobody cares about snow in July.

So I went to UtopYA in Nashville a couple of weeks ago. *Sigh* It's really been over for that long. I had sooooo much fun and met sooooo many fun people. Authors and readers and bloggers, most of which I've been chit-chatting with online for at least a year now. So it was one of those #EpicLifeMoments like every 5 minutes all week long.

I roomed with Angeline Kace (author of Descended By Blood), Chelsea Fine (author of the Anew, Awry, and Sophie & Carter), and KC Neal (author of Pyxis). This hashtag -----> #Epic could be used to sum it up. We had a blast.

That's me on the left, next to KC. Then Ang, then Chelsea. (Thanks, Michael, for taking such a great pic!)

One of the highlights was a panel I was on called StoryFrenzy where we created a story completely through Improv and audience/card prompts. Amanda Havard, Chelsea Fine, Brina Courtney, and the rest were HILARIOUS! We didn't get to finish our story, though, about a Were-Liger named Xavier and his ex-military girlfriend so if you want to read the story or see how it ends, stay tuned on Twitter for this ---> #Ligerbane. We will continue the story, 144 characters at a time. 

And a huge "LOVE YOU!" to everyone I met: Tiffany King & fam, Adam & Carol Kunz, Quinn Loftis, Michelle Leighton, Raine Thomas, Supagurl Heather, everyone at Art Circle Library, Amy Bartol, Janet Wallace, Amanda Havard, KP Simmons, the cast of Auror's Tale, Myra McEntire, Brina Courtney, Morgan Wylie, Abbi Glines, Jamie Anderson, Delphina & Rachel, Ella James, Alli (Magnet 4 Books) <---- love all of you!!! I know I'm forgetting peeps. And whoever you are, don't be mad. It doesn't mean I don't love you, too. I just can't think straight because UtopYA gives me a brain buzz just thinking about it.

And because I want to spread my excitement around, I have a giveaway. I'm putting together some fun stuff for Whisper coming up in a few weeks and as a teaser I am offering some of Whisper's jewelry up for grabs!   

And if you've already read Whisper, the button here ------>
may interest you. It's Dylan ;) Feel free to copy it and splash it all over your blog or website. He won't mind.

As for the contest, you can enter via the rafflecopter below. Contest is international! 
**There is also a special giveaway going on EXCLUSIVELY for my street team which is open to bloggers. Click the link here to request to join.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

UtopYA and life's hard choices

Okay, so there's this little thing called UtopYA con happening in Nashville next weekend (July 6-8) for YA lovers and the writers who make your dreams a {fictional} reality. And I'm sort of GOING there!

If you need to understand what all this is about, here's the deets ^^

Woot woot!!! 

I can't wait! 

Because, in addition to the con, which is amazing enough all on its own, there's this little awards situation happening. And by "little," I mean HUGE. Like empire state building, sears tower, HERD OF ELEPHANTS HUGE.

Because Dirty Blood has been nominated in FOUR categories. Ahhh!

The list of nominees is epic. Angeline Kace is in, like, eighty categories for Descended by Blood, there's Abbi Glines, SM Reine, Chelsea Fine, KC Neal ... all my faves. Seriously, this is going to rock socks. And faces. All at the same time. Ridiculous. 

So, here's where you come in. First, I would love for you to buy a ticket, hop a plane or a train, and present your smiling face to me in person. BUT, I know that's not possible for everyone, so here's what you can do. You can vote. I'm not asking you to vote for me. (You'll have a hard time deciding once you see that list, trust me.) Voting--no matter who its for--will make me happy. Click here to make me happy. 

As for an update on all things Heather--its summer. Which means I'm in and out, more out than in. My biggest decision every day is: the beach, the water park, or the pool? Choices, choices ...

It's such a hard life. Hehe. 

I will be around more in July. Blood Bond, book 3 in the Dirty Blood series, will be out August 31 and I plan on kicking off giveaways and contests leading up to and through the release, so you will want to stay tuned for that. (Hint: the first will be exclusively for newsletter recipients. If you're not on that list, now would be a good time. *wink*) 

In a couple of weeks, I'll have pics and stuff to share from my trip ;) In the meantime, since I'm being blog-lazy, you should check out some of the blogs on my sidebar. They are usually more interesting than me, anyway. And check out our summer guest post series on Accendo Press' blog by your favorite authors here.

Later 'taters.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Epic Weekend

This is how I know summer is going to rock. This weekend was basically ROCKSTAR. Friday, I went to a free concert on the water where I saw Andy Grammer (whom I have a MAJOR crush on now, btw), Gavin DeGraw (all of my One Tree Hill dreams came alive when I heard "I don't wanna be anything other than what I've been tryin' to be lately..."), and Colbie Caillat. Gorgeous girl. 

Here's me during the hour between shows where we had to entertain ourselves with nothing but a hat and a camera. 
Yes, that guy behind me is about to eat a giant ear of corn. Just go with it.

THEN, Saturday, it was a PHOTO EXTRAVAGANZA. And I mean that in every sense of the word. There were photos six ways from Sunday, and I was scandalized--um, I mean extravaganized. I went with Lisa Warden--my godsister if we're being detailed--and Anna Slaven Miller, who will tell you that "we're one person in two bodies," but since she's up and moving to Indiana soon, our soul-mate-ness is going to be confined to Facebook for the foreseeable future. If you want to know THEIR side of the story (which is only accurate when it isn't inaccurate) you can read Lisa's here and Anna's here

They are hugely entertaining and they have a better memory than me so their posts are probably more interesting than mine. You should read them. 

As for my experience, first, it needs to be said that I SUCK at taking pictures. I don't know shizz about lighting and angles and whatever. I just point and click. whatever. But I wanted to hang with these chics so I bought a camera and geared up. I even played with it a little the night before we left so I would know how to point it and how to click it. #ReadyForAnything #UnlessItsComplicated

We went via ferry. That's a boat for all you landlocked peeps. A boat you park your car on. And even though I only live about 40 min (or 80, if Lisa's driving) from the ferry, I've never ridden it. So this is exciting. An adventure. I played it cool, though, trying not to look like a newbie. Up until we asked the guy at the gate where to park and he says, "This is your first time, I can tell." Then politely points us to park in a straight line behind the car in front of us, along the painted straight line on the single-file row leading onto the vessel. 

So, I'm new. This is normal. 

(One of my favorite things to fuss at my kids: "are you new?". because I don't believe in calling a kid "dumb." #ApprovedAlternate)

I realized pretty fast I hadn't missed anything spectacular all these years never riding the ferry. The traffic consisted of one drunk captain who stared at the mast all day (really hope that thing operated on auto-pilot or something), one Marilyn-wannabe who stood on the balcony the entire time, content to let her dress blow up around her ears, and one bum passed out in the seat of his car with his jaw hanging open. (It was 9am, which sorta' makes it worse. I'm pretty sure he was breathing. I think.) 

Our day sort of consisted of these random "are they/we serious?" kind of moments. but none of it compared to the hilarity of our escapades. A quick and dirty recap: (you don't have to understand, simply be amused and jealous that you missed it) 

I used a bathroom in a McDonald's/gas station combo. *shudders* That one still confuses me but yet makes perfect sense. (As if McD's isn't gross enough on its own, they put it in a gas station?!) We saw a sign that said "Hog Traffic." <---- Only in NC. You can't make this shizz up. Oh and a "Beware of Dog" sign in the middle of a cornfield. No house in sight. Except for the doghouse. 

There were bad directions ("turn left." so she turns right.), blueberries consumed, domestic disturbances witnessed ("Is that an inflatable canoe?" "OMG they're going to capsize if he doesn't quit thrashing around!"), #YourMom jokes dropped. ("This cookie is yum, what's in it?" "Your mom.", and "Oh, look, an upscale furniture resale store." "your mom is upscale.") Yeah, I don't get the whole "Resale" and "Upscale" situation, either. Seems kinda' like putting a pawn shop inside Tiffany's. 

BTW- Yes, the "Your Mom" jokes were from me. I'm a sucker for a Momma' joke. 

We even discussed politics without getting into a fight about our different views. (Lisa would vote for Kermit the Frog, all the way. Apparently he does whatever she says. I don't know exactly what that means, but it sounds vulgar. So I didn't ask. Whatever she's into, I won't judge.)

There were so many funny moments and "WTF, did that just happen?" scenarios, I can't even tell you. I'm pretty sure we evaded a hatchet hitch-hiker, spotted a bar that doubles as a butchery. (yes, it said BUTCHERY/BREWERY on the sign, with a kids playground outside. Figure that one out.) Oh, and discovered the bridge leading out of (but not into) Kitty Hawk doubles as a trampoline. I guess they had shocks on it, because we bounced pretty good. it was awesome. mostly because I don't get carsick, or have an irrational fear of bridges, not like Anna, anyway. #SucksForYou)

All in all, a fun day. 

On a serious note (bear with me, it won't last long):

The reason I'm telling you all this is because I want to tell you about my friend situation. Over these past few months, I've done a lot of thinking. Most of you know my story by now, and the amazing five days I had with Tyler before he went to Heaven last December. If you don't, you should read about it here. It was pretty defining for me. Since then, I've thought about my life. A lot. It seems a pretty inevitable side effect when one comes face to face with death. 

One of the things I've thought about was my identity. It might not seem like the two are connected right off the bat, but they are. When I lost Tyler, for a while, I didn't want to --and couldn't-- identify with being a mom. Not his, anyway. I lost that identity. It shook me, made me wonder who I was in other areas of my life. It also reminded me how short life is, and how I need to be true to myself and who I want to be, during the short amount of time I have here. Which led me to really prioritize myself. Goals, Identity, personality, dreams, plans, hopes -- you get the idea. In the end, a full-scale overhaul of my life took place. Personal and professional. And I made some serious changes. Things I needed to do, for me, to be happy, and be true to myself. Both things I wasn't living up to before. 

After careful consideration, I realized some of the changes needed were friendships. Some I'd outgrown, some were never right to begin with, most were filled with negativity and pessimism and complaining that life would never be better, though I suspect they'd rather it stayed awful because they are simply content to complain. So, as guilty as it made me feel, I cut them. Some were only acquaintances and probably didn't even notice the change. Some were long-time friends. Close friends. People I'd known for years. Those were the hardest. The ones I had to explain it to, or easily noticed the change. At first, I felt bad, reluctant to do it, because I hated that I would hurt their feelings, but then I realized the importance of standing up for myself, and what I needed. And I have to tell you, even though I do feel badly for any hurt feelings on their part, I am very glad I did it. I am happier. And I've opened myself up to make new friends, like Lisa and Anna. Something I never would have done before. 

And I have to tell you, I like this new me. The one who stands up for herself. The one who seeks adventure, who values positivity and people that build her up. The one who has given herself permission to be ambitious and goal-seeking and HAPPY and spontaneous.

Chalene Johnson has a great article about toxic friends and choosing friends who inspire you, who make you better. It was one of the things that inspired me to choose wisely. Hopefully, it will do the same for you. 

Quickie Announcements: 
Places you can find me (and possibly win free shizz)

Goodreads giveaway for Whisper ends in 4 days
Accendo is having a summer guest post series by authors you love to stalk. check it out!  GIVEAWAY!
Estevan Vega let me take over his blog to tell you why I write YA. 
Katja Rinne let me talk about being indie, what that means to me. GIVEAWAY!

**AND there MIGHT be something interesting happening this Thursday that you should watch for. Release info on a certain book you are all waiting for. 

I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting. My brain feels kinda' mushy. I'll add them as I think about it. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Predictions... courtesy of a scotch-sipping psychic

My good friend, and mentor of the occasional lunch-date variety, Warren Murphy, stopped by and left me with this article. He wrote it over ten years ago, predicting the future of e-books. Or, what I like to call: the present. I thought it was interesting to see how spot-on he was then--and now. 

The Millennium.  And about time, too.

The French, who seem to have a dopey statement for every occasion, have this one too:  Le plus ca change, le plus c’est la meme chose. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Hoohaw, not this time, Pierre. Not any more. Not in publishing. The times, they are a’changin’ and changing for good.  And the only wonder is why it took so long.  
I once wrote an article for some rag about the warm feeling I got holding my new book and thinking that it started with blank paper and now it helped contribute to the magic of publishing. Until I realized that I was holding the book and still hadn’t been paid for acceptance of the manuscript. Why not? Well, admittedly some blame is mine. I should have paid more attention but I had been drunk for some time and was beyond bookkeeping detritus. The publisher? He just didn’t give a damn. I could wait because he didn’t need me for another year until my next book was done.
Writers, you see, come last. That bears repeating: in the old world of publishing, writers always come last.
          Item: They’ll pay millions and millions for the bio of some guy who makes lightbulbs—“golf, next Tuesday, Jack?”—but can’t find any money to foster their young writers.
          Item: Books are savaged and careers destroyed by surly snots who write anonymous reviews and publishers can’t be bothered to protest this institutionalized corruption. “Hey, writers are always bitching. Who cares? Besides, we’ve got the new Socks-the-Cat book to hump.”
          Item: Slush piles and lost manuscripts and editors who can’t edit but are kept around because they have a good eye for what sold well yesterday, and reserves-against-returns and bookkeeping practices that would befuddle Stephen Hawking.... Just look, and you see an industry that is not only in full retreat but is fleeing the battlefield with its pants around its ankles.
And why not? So many good publishers, good editors, and all suffocating in an industry whose business practices were old a hundred years ago and dumb even earlier than that.
Old boys, lean close. I’ve got a secret for you. It’s over. We Trotskyite deviationists used to warn, “Comes the Revolution.” Well, it’s here and it’s called electronic publishing. E-books. Print on demand. Downloads in seconds; pocket readers no bigger than Gameboy units. A world in which no book is ever out of print. No reserves. No returns. No industry regularly held hostage by West Coast treehuggers driving up paper prices. Royalties of 50 percent, not six, and paid monthly.
Hello? Anybody home?
The estimable agent-cum-publisher-cum-futurist Richard Curtis commented not long ago how publishing theorists complained about the impossibility of the marketplace absorbing the 50,000 books published every year in America. “What,” Maestro Curtis wondered aloud, “will they say when the figure reaches 500,000?”
We’ll find out soon.
Now, don’t think this brave new world comes without pain and suffering. Birth rarely does. There will be an amazing amount of junk published, although one is tempted to ask, in an ocean of celebrity biographies, as opposed to what? And a lot will depend on technology that is still shaking the bugs out of its cuffs. But it’ll arrive. And the signs of success are already here. Stephen King, as he so often does, has shown a lot of young writers the yellow brick road to the future. Melisse Rose rode her book from on-line self published to the Times best seller list. Even as we speak, more are coming.
Imagine, writers with power over their own work. And readers too, learning from other readers what books are good, instead of relying on the corrupt opinions of a few institutional halfwits.
Not convinced? Think the internet is just a flash in the pan? Then, ostrich-person, consider this:  a couple of young guys made a movie, two minutes long, and posted it on the internet. Why not? It’s cheap, fun, and no law against it. This little film was titled “True,” and it hung around online and then was seen by an ad-man who brought it to his agency who brought it to their client and thus began the saga of the ubiquitous beer commercial “Whassup? Whassup? Whassup?” If the movie cost $5 to make, the creators overpaid. But now one of them has a contract to develop a sitcom; his partners are media stars and getting rich. Because of a two-minute homemade movie. That’s internet power.
And, dear publishers, your business is next. Just over that hill, the crowds are massing, manuscripts in hand, and their attack will begin very soon. Do yourselves a favor:  sue for peace.

Warren is the author of about a gazillion books, including The Destroyer series, Grandmaster, and The Forever King <--- one of my favorite books EVER. You can check Warren out here on Facebook. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Kool-aid, no sugar ... and other quotables.

I don't normally set out to write a blog post of rambling.
But it's Friday. I've had coffee. I ain't got sh*t to do ...!
(sorry, I can't help but channel Chris Tucker, aka Smokey, whenever I hear the words "it's Friday.")
Craig Jones: We ain't got no sugar. 
Smokey: No sugar? Damn. Y'all ain't never got two things that match. Either y'all got Kool-aid, no sugar. Peanut butter, no jelly. Ham, no burger. Daaamn. 

I love this movie. And Player's Club. Ice Cube was the shizz in the '90's. I could rap every word to every song on that soundtrack, ESPECIALLY We be Clubbin' and Who are You Lovin'! #WhiteGirlRapper

And in case you're just now realizing this about me, I love quoting movie lines. It's my sister's fault. (Thank you, Lisa.) She and I started all the way back in our Little Mermaid Days and it spiraled from there. Not to mention, we love classic musicals so we sang a lot of our quotes. Newsies, (That my cigar? You'll steal anudda'... Hey bumma's we got work to do. Since when did you become me mudda? Ah, stop you're bawling. Hey- Who asked you?) <---For Lisa and a little bit for Matt ;) 

Then there was Oklahoma, South Pacific ("I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair.") and The King and I. Loved that one. ("Shall we dance?" ba-dum-dum-dum) And the best part was that by high school she and I could have entire conversations using nothing but movie lines, and no one else got it. It was like our own secret language; the 90's kid version of pig latin. Except now, she watches a lot of 'B' movies and quotes stuff that I'm like "WTF is that from?" (Foot-foot, you smell like a paduket. <---for you, Lisa!) and some weird one with Zooey Deschanel and her boyfriend, who always had life-altering relationship decisions in front of a swing set at a deserted park. Then there was the one where the guy had a blow-up girlfriend... Lars and the Real Girl. HAHAHAHA! Yeah, that was a weird one. And those are just the ones I've tried to watch with her. She has eclectic taste. 

OH, and don't ask me what a paduket is. I have no clue. but it must smell pretty gross. Like cabbage or something. 

(Your mom smells like cabbage.) Okay, still channeling my sister. I'll try and reign it in. 

Why am I telling you all this? 
I got thinking about it--and the fact that I probably haven't detailed this habit of mine--because I recently did an interview over at the Readiacs and one of the questions was this:

Tell us one thing about Heather Hildenbrand that we won’t be able to find on the Internet?

You can read my entire answer here, along with the rest of the interview, AND enter for the giveaway. Basically, I disclosed this little movie quoting habit as my answer. And btw- this was prob one of the most fun interview questions I've ever had. Thanks for the opp Readiacs! 

Oh another favorite is The Sandlot. Not just the "You're killing me, Smalls" line, because everyone says that one, but the whole 'mallow roasting scene. "You want s'more?" ... "How can I have s'more? I haven't  had any yet."
("You play ball like a GIRL!")

Love it! 

Oh and the 3 Ninjas ... "Let's murder-lize 'em!" --Tum-Tum
We have all four 3 Ninja movies. (Yeah, I didn't remember there being four, either. Mostly because the later ones weren't good.) My son loves them almost as much as my little brother did when we were kids. 

And then, of course, there's Napolean Dynamite -- the entire movie was one long quote. All of it was repeatable. And everyone repeated it. Especially "gosh" and "I'm training to be a cage-fighter." I still tell everyone my favorite animal is a liger. 

But I think the best semi-recent quotable flick, for me, is Superbad. 

I CLUCKING love this movie.
"Take off that vest, you look like Aladdin."
Hahaha, and McLovin ... "WHAT? One Name? You are you? Seal?"
This one is at the top of the list. 

Now that my kids are old enough to really catch on, they've started doing it, too. (Just not with Superbad. What kind of a mother do you think I am?? Don't answer that... keep reading.) They're not quite on the same level, (yet) but it's there. When they need to say a bad word, they channel Ramona and Beezus and shout "Guts!"  and we've watched Transformers: Dark of the Moon so many times, my 6yr son walks around saying "Deep Wang, Deep Wang" from the bathroom stall scene where everyone thinks Asian-guy is going to whip it out on Sam. Prodigy, I tell ya'.

Obviously, I could go on and on with these different examples, past and present. (As you've probably already guessed.) But instead, I'll end it and ask: What's your favorite movie for quoting? 
Or just post the quote and see if I can guess the movie! 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Surviving the DMV... and blind drivers

I had to go to the DMV today (Department of Motor Vehicles, for those living 'cross continents and oceans and have no idea to what I refer) to renew my license. It's the 7-year mark, which means I can't do it online. They wanted a new picture, an updated signature, and also to make sure I hadn't gone blind. Scratch that, they'll still give you a license if you're blind. That explains 50% of the drivers on the road. Anyway, I HAD to go in person.

I've been putting it off. I hate the DMV. They change what paperwork you need every 3.5 hours so that no matter how prepared you think you are for a transaction, you ALWAYS have to leave and come back. Then, each transaction gets a specific number, like vanity plates are A. And people who don't have their paperwork are R. And if all you're doing is turning in old plates--it is beyond retarded that you have to take a number for this instead of handing them to the lady at the front desk who screens each person as they walk in, and hands out clipboards like it's her sole purpose in life--get letter Q or some shizz. And peeps renewing their license, they get letter B, at least today.

Having letter B does not mean you are called right after A, or in any similar timely fashion.

Because there is a number beside  B on the ticket. Mine was 50. They were on number 40 when I got there. B40. *sigh* This is going to take forever. I have a sneaking suspicion that on your first day of work as a DMV employee, you must raise your right hand and "solemnly swear" to  be solemn... and SLOW. That you must do whatever you can--whatever necessary--to make sure time drags, and customers' feet and bums go numb whilst waiting in the flimsy, cheap, hard-backed chairs that comprise the waiting room. All of which have been set up facing the counter, so we can watch the slowness as it unfolds before us. Like a soap opera in a foreign language with no subtitles-set in slow-motion.

Some customers don't seem to mind it. Like the lady three chairs down on my left. Her number (B41) was called some time after I sat down and started trolling Twitter in response to the impending boredom. She jumped up out of her chair BINGO-hall style, all smiles and giggles, saying "It's me, it's me. They called ME."

Uh, this is not the lottery lady. You didn't hit it big. 

She proceeds to bounce/skip up to the counter while throwing an "I'm so nervous!"over her shoulder to the woman I assume is her mother. Maybe she's getting her license for the first time, instead of renewed? Except she looks old enough to be MY mother... and, no... as I continue watching and listening--because what else is there to do in a place like this?--I hear that she is, in fact, simply renewing her license.

Some customers come ready for the wait. And I almost can't knock their flannel pajama bottoms paired with an oversized Tweety Bird tee that doesn't quite cover their muffin-top bellies because, hey, they're in it for the long haul. They came prepared and comfortable, just in case this thing drags over into bedtime. Gotta' admire planning.

Then there's the mom who bounces her not-quite-two and not-quite-cute little girl on her lap. You know, the toddler who is now eyeing the guy in front of me--the one with the dreds--with a decidedly "mankiller" glint in her eye. And aww, doesn't mom just think that's adorable of her little prodigy. Lady, you've got "Baby Daddy" pasted on your forehead. Or maybe your license plate. I'm not judging.

This bring us to the 1.5 hour mark, at which time B50 is finally called over the computerized intercom.

It's me! I'm so nervous!

This is the part where my customer service rep says "hello," takes my paperwork, (Blessed Mother Mary, it's all CORRECT. I do not have to go home and print a different form and come back.) and then launch into a whole "I totaled my car and now I'm gonna get me a settlement" conversation with her friend. All while shooting me smiles and nodding at random intervals to let me know "I'm really paying attention to you, the customer, I swear."

I do the eye exam. She tells me to read line 1--the biggest line. I do. Box a- X C G F or something else equally random. Box b- Q R S T, whatever. "And what's in the last box?" she asks.

"Um, it's blank?" I respond. I'm confused. All I see in this box c is white.

She frowns and types something.

"Uh, it wasn't empty?" I ask.

she shakes her head. The last box wasn't empty. I think there was a pin prick I was supposed to see. or maybe it was a trick, because she won't tell me what I was supposed to see. If I fail because of a trick question....

THIS is, by the way, where my favorite term used for threatening violence comes from: I will cut you with my license. (The butter knife came later. Long story for another post.)

Either way, I pass, because remember, they don't care if you can't see. You just have to pay the $32 and "maintain a neutral expression for the camera" and in 7-10 days, you'll receive a Virginia driver's license in the mail.

"Thank you, have a nice day."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Out of the ashes...

I believe that if I should die, and you were to walk near my grave,
from the very depths of the earth, I would hear your footsteps.
-Benito Perez Galdos

As most of you know, (and if you don't you can read about it here) I gave birth to a baby boy in December who, unbeknownst to us throughout the pregnancy, had a heart problem. He was born very sick and died five days later at the UVA Children's Hospital in Charlottesville, VA. Those five days have understandably impacted me in a way that I cannot describe, as has the grief that follows that sort of loss. 

What that means for my personal life is that I take it one day at a time, one breath at a time, and I spend a lot of time remembering while simultaneously trying to forget - at least to the point where I can get through. 

What that means for my writing is that I wasn't able to jump into my next scheduled project (book 3 in my Dirty Blood series). Instead, I started something new. At first, it was simply journaling. A way to pour out the emotion that was way too big to remain contained inside me. But then it evolved, as most stories do, and it became something more. It became Whisper. The character herself is reflective of me but also, of everyone who has lost someone dear to them. She is the voice of our collective grief. She is you. 

Whisper's story is one of loss, but also one of acceptance and new life found. There are paranormal elements and love, which makes it a Paranormal Romance. But its different than most. Its no doubt bigger and heavier than what you're reading now. That's the point. My hope is that you will connect with it, in some way. That you will be encouraged by it. That you will see the hope in it, for Whisper, and maybe even for yourself. 

I wouldn't have made the decision to publish Whisper without all of the support and encouragement I've received from readers and bloggers and friends. I sincerely hope my journey will be of some help or leave a lasting mark somewhere, with someone who needs it. I have to believe that my story has meaning and a purpose. That something amazing will come out of the ashes. 

* * *

Now, on to the goodies -- because there must always be goodies. The tour I've put together, to launch Whisper, is titled "Fact or Fiction". The reason is that so much of Whisper came out of my own life, that I thought it would be fun to share which is which. Braine at Talking Supe made up the fabuloso button for us. Feel free to grab it! 

The tour schedule is listed below, with each blogger featuring a different post that explains which topics featured in Whisper are "Fact" and which are "Fiction". For example:

Cherokee background: Fiction - I am not Native American, though that would be awesome, because then I would have a year-round tan and look good in leather skirts. (I mean that in a seriously impressed and not racist kind of way). Actually, I am Dutch and German.My dad's family is from Holland, MI. And there is a town in Germany called Dannenberg, which is my maiden name. 

Dannenberg City Hall, Germany

This gives an idea of what I'll reveal on the tour. There are giveaways at each stop, so be sure to check them all and enter! 

Cambria Hebert, Author of Masquerade - 4/22
A Book Vacation - 4/23 - SIGNED PB giveaway! 
Talking Supe - 4/27

Also, happening on Accendo's site is a hop sponsored by I am a Reader, Not a Writer, where we are giving away a paperback copy of The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa, avail on April 24th. Be sure to get in on that!