Monday, August 15, 2016

Growing up for the kids’ sake

There’s nothing that matures you faster than having to take care of someone smaller than you are.

Because let’s face it, most of us aren’t that great when it comes to taking care of ourselves. We know everything we should do to keep ourselves happy, healthy and relatively functional, but we tend to ignore the bits that we don’t have time for or we feel like are too hard for some reason. It’s even easier to ignore if the problems it causes aren’t immediately apparent, because it’s much harder to worry about 10 or 15 years in the future when you’re focused on making it through a particular day.

But when you have a kid, or become responsible for a kid for some reason, suddenly it’s much harder avoid thinking about all the things you should be doing. Or, more specifically, all the things that someone should be doing for this particular child, who is relatively young and innocent and still feels like they should listen when people tell them what to do. Horrifically, you have somehow become the person who’s supposed to pass on all the advice you’ve been happily ignoring for years.

Which means that you not only have to remember all that advice, but you have to figure out how to sort out the useful information from the random fads that get news sites all excited on slow news days. Because this child hasn’t lived long enough to tell the difference between what’s healthy and what’s complete nonsense, so you have to figure out how to do it for them.

Even though you’ve (probably) been successfully avoiding a Healthy and Responsible Life (tm) for several years, it’s your job to explain to this child how to live that kind of life for themselves. Because you may have opted out, but they’re not old enough to make that choice for themselves yet.

Which means, unfortunately, that it’s your job to choose for them until they can. You have to learn how to watch out for those moments when they’re screwing up, and figure out how to get them back on track. Even more importantly, you need to be on the lookout for dangers they haven’t figured out yet, or you forgot to tell them, and help keep them from falling into them. As a bonus round, you also have to figure out when you need to start letting them make choices on their own so they learn how.

On top of all of that, you have to be a good example, because this kid is going to look up to you. No matter how ridiculous you are, all this child is going to see is a loving and responsible adult in their lives. They’re going to want to pattern themselves after you, often zeroing in on the traits you least wish they would notice and immediately copying them. Which means that, even if you don’t particularly worry about keeping yourself healthy and safe, now is probably a good time to start.

It’s not for you – it’s so your favorite small person doesn’t start making all the terrible decisions you’ve been happily making for most of your life.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

"Two Left Feet" available July 29!

My new e-book, "Two Left Feet," is finally up in various formats and available for pre-order. It's my take on "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," which has always left me so full of questions. Was it really so bad the girls wanted to go dancing every night? Was murder really the best option for all those poor random guys? Who got all 12 sisters to agree on all doing the same thing at the same time, even if it was just dancing? Why do most variations of the story make the hero the random soldier guy instead of, oh, I don't know, the actual princesses who the story is named after?

So, as is my usual habit when I'm left unsatisfied by a fairy tale, I wrote my own.


What do you do when you're one of the 12 Dancing Princesses but are really, really bad at dancing? For Thea, it was a choice between boredom and accidentally maiming her dance partners, and she wasn't terribly fond of either option. But just as the nightly dances start to get interesting, their father hires someone to discover his daughters' secrets and stop their nightly adventures. Can Thea and her sisters figure out how to keep the party going?

Read or download an excerpt here

Pre-order now:

Barnes and Noble

Monday, June 27, 2016

Down but not out

No matter how bad your mistake is, there's no possible way it
can be as bad as Hugh Jackman's decision to look like this.
We all backslide sometimes.

No matter what goal we've set for ourselves, there will be times when we trip and fall flat on our faces on the way to achieving it. It's not the same thing as not trying – we all know when we're only pretending, and when we give it up it's almost a relief. Most goals never make it past wishful thinking, or conversations with friends or co-workers.

It's when we're actually trying that it really hurts. You have to have covered some ground before backsliding becomes noticeable, fighting your way through that first hump of "why did I say I'd exercise every single morning" or "I'm still counting the hours since my last donut." It usually hits when you've finally gotten into the swing of things, when that early frustration and despair over what you're  denying yourself has faded into something almost like hope. When you find yourself starting to think that, somehow, you might actually be able to do this.

But then something happens.  The day gets so busy that suddenly you're going to bed and you realize that you missed your exercise routine for the day. We swear to ourselves we're going to stop smoking, but then work turns into a nightmare and we get so stressed out there's suddenly a cigarette in our hand. We're at a party surrounded by all the fats and sugars we were so careful avoiding, and our self-control finally snaps like a twig. Between one breath and the next, it feels like we've undone every bit of the progress we've made.

Here's where it gets tricky. Maybe the reason is because you feel guilty that you've stumbled, and the thing that you usually use to comfort yourself is probably the thing you're trying so hard to stay away from in the first place. Or maybe the guilt turns into a shame spiral, and you decide suddenly that you were a fool for setting whatever goal you were trying for. You tell yourself you were a fool for ever trying it, that all your hard work has just gone down the drain, and there's nothing left for you but to give up on all of it.

The bravest thing you can do in these moments is ignore all of that and keep going. Yes, you screwed up, but the truth is that you're probably going to screw up several more times before you make it anywhere close to your goal. Even the best baseball players don't hit the ball every time they're up to bat, and even the best actors and actresses in the world will occasionally go out of their way to make a really, really terrible movie (I'm looking at you, Hugh Jackman). Everyone fails.

But you can't let that stop you. It's not the fall that everyone will remember, it's what you do next – you could lay down on the ground and bemoan your fate, or you could get back up again and keep charging forward. If you get knocked down – even if it's by yourself – don't stay down.

In the end, that's all success really means.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cover reveal: Two Left Feet

In honor of my birthday today, here's the cover for the new e-book I'm going to release this summer, "Two Left Feet." It's a twist on "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," except our poor heroine can't actually dance at all (and get dragged along by her sisters anyway). Still, she's a clever girl, and manages to find plenty to do anyway.

Barring some sort of hilarious cosmic disaster, I plan on having it available on a variety of different platforms by Aug. 1.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Teaser: "Two Left Feet."

Because you guys should get something new even though my publisher and IPG can't figure out how to get a freaking book out on time, here's a teaser for the new short-story e-book I'll be releasing this summer, "Two Left Feet."


Everyone wants their life to be a fairy tale, right?

"So sorry, Princess Thea. I would love to dance with you, but I'm afraid I've developed a terrible cramp in my foot."

"My apologies as well, Princess Thea. Touch of food poisoning. I'd hate to vomit all over that lovely gown you're wearing."

"I'll be honest, Princess Thea. My doctor has forbidden me from dancing with you until my feet heal."

Well, make sure you're the one who gets to decide what fairy tale it is.

Thea waved away the noblemen who'd made their apologies – she hadn't even asked to dance with them, which meant that the mere sight of her now panicked them into immediate denials – and immediately took off her heels. Then, with a wave to let her oldest sister know where she was going, Thea headed to one of the benches positioned around the edge of the dance floor.

 Dropping down onto it, she sighed as she took a look at the party that was happening all around her. The ballroom seemed to be immense, ringed with white pillars that offered glimpses of a gleaming metallic forest that was either just an illusion or housed enough magical creatures to potentially kill anyone who wandered inside. Floating chandeliers illuminated the room, a trick that had awed her the first few times she'd seen it but now just seemed to blend into the scenery. They hadn't changed the decorations at all in the three weeks she and her sisters had been coming to these things, and once she'd looked up the spell that kept them aloft she'd lost all interest in them.

Not that anyone else here seemed to care. All 11 of her sisters were out there somewhere, lost in a crowd of other hopeful princes, princesses and other random nobles who'd all received the same magical invitations to this nightly party. Thea had put in an official protest when the glittering card had first been delivered – it seemed like a ready-made kidnapping plan, and even though their kingdom was small they did have some value has hostages. But she'd been outvoted, and her requests that she be allowed to stay behind were similarly ignored.

Which left her here, either injuring random nobility with her terrible dancing skills or sitting on a bench doing her best impression of a wallflower.

"Your highness." The server appeared out of nowhere, his pointed ears standing out sharply against the waterfall of inky black hair. Balanced on one hand were a tray of glasses, all full of a silvery liquid that sparkled like diamonds. "Would you care for a drink?"

Thea gave him a polite smile, pulling out her pocket magic mirror and opening it to a novel she'd been reading. "Thank you, but no." She'd read enough stories about eating and drinking in the fairy realm not to want to risk it. Her sisters were all present and accounted for every time they went home in the morning, and Thea assumed that meant they hadn't tried it, either. "I won't need anything the rest of the evening."

The elf stayed hovering nearby, the fixed politeness of his expression taking on a pained edge. "You appear as if you're settling in for the night." His eyes flicked back to the crowd. "Does the dancing not please you?"

She raised an eyebrow at him. Thea understood needing to be solicitous of the clientele, but she was a 23-year-old wearing a gown that was at least two years out of fashion because it was infinitely more comfortable than what everyone else was wearing. Her frizz-prone, mud-brown hair should have been styled or at least put in a bun, but she hadn't wanted to deal with it tonight. "Actually, I'm just trying not to injure any more of the men here." This time, her smile wasn't quite so polite. "Next time you send out magical invitations, make sure that everyone who receives one knows how to dance."

Monday, April 25, 2016

"Dreamless" chapters!

Finally! Though I can't give you the whole novel yet, I present to you the first three chapters of my latest book, "Dreamless" (due out May 17). The story is my take on "Sleeping Beauty," with considerably more magic, a little bit of therapy, and one of those people you're forced to spend time with in childhood and hope to never meet again (but you inevitably do, because the universe has a terrible sense of humor).

The sample chapters are here, and can be read online or downloaded. (If there's anything wrong with the link, please let me know).