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What I Learned This Week – 5/17/15

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This week I got to attend a book signing by YA author Sarah Dessen at Schuler Books & Music in Okemos, Michigan. It was a little drive from my home. But I made a new mix CD of music for the road, and I got to drive 70mph most of the way with the windows down.

I have read Dessen’s books for years. They are all predictably enjoyable. There are no vampires or wizards or anything–just real kids with real problems who find a way to get through them, and the girl and the boy get to kiss at the end.

Her most recent book, Saint Anything, just came out two weeks ago. I liked the male lead character Mac more than I did Sydney, the girl. I really connected with the Saint Anything of the title, that sometimes you need something outside yourself to help you be strong. For more of my thoughts, check out my review on Goodreads. [Yes, I have a Goodreads account. Go like me or follow me or whatever it is happens over there!]

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (2015)

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (2015)

There was a crowd of around 150 people there to see her. She came out and gave a short talk, before reading the first chapter of Saint Anything to us.

I loved her talk. She described how she hated high school, and yet here she is still writing about it, still trying to get her happy ending. [I totally understand this logic. I am the same way.] She has published 12 books, yet has 13 manuscripts that never made the cut stored in her attic. Although she isn’t a teenager herself, her real life spills over into her novels, sometimes becoming the adventures of the mother or older sister. Someone asked her if it was better for an aspiring writer to type or hand write their story. Dessen said you need to do what works for you, while admitting that she prefers the computer. [I prefer to hand write a first draft. While I have a laptop, it just isn’t as portable as a notebook and a pen. Yes, one of those locations is the toilet 😛 ]

I ended up being the first person through the signing line, which flustered me quite a bit. I did manage to tell her that he Dum Dum factory is located in Bryan, Ohio. [It will make sense when you read Saint Anything. Maybe.]

Now I have a new face to add to my “When Stars Align” page.

Jennifer Friess & Sarah Dessen

Jennifer Friess & Sarah Dessen

She was so nice. And this weekend I was able to hand my own Book 2 off to my beta reader! Ya!

My first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug is NOW AVAILABLE!

PURCHASE as a Paperback or eBook on Amazon.com TODAY.

Excerpt: The Wind Could Blow a Bug – Chapter 19

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I am happy to offer you another excerpt from my debut novel, The Wind Could Blow a Bug. Chapter 19 takes place after Jane and Wade have broken up, and she is exiled off to college. Jane is depressed because she no longer has Wade, but she also has no other friends in her life either. Her existence is empty.

And, to make your bookshelf feel less empty…

I WILL BE GIVING AWAY TWO COPIES OF THE WIND COULD BLOW A BUG!

The Wind Could Blow a Bug, Jennifer Friess

The Wind Could Blow a Bug, Jennifer Friess

I will give away ONE COPY to someone who comments on this very blog post here at ImNotStalkingYou.com.  Click on “Leave a Comment” below. When it asks for your email, be sure to use one I can reach you at if you are the lucky winner. (Note: Your email will not be displayed to anyone but me.)

I will also give away ONE COPY to someone who comments on the post containing the link to this blog post on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/imnotstalkingyou2. (Note: Only comments on the Facebook post with the link to “Excerpt: The Wind Could Blow a Bug – Chapter 19” are eligible to win.)

One entry per person per site per day. Contest ends at midnight EDT on 3/18/15. Winners will be selected and notified on 3/19/15. The two winners will be asked to provide their mailing addresses to me so that I can ship them paperback copies of my book. Your address will be used for no other purpose.

If you WOULD like to stay in touch with me and my writing antics, please feel free to sign up for my author updates at THIS LINK (signing up at this link DOES NOT enter you into the contest).

Thank you so much for support!

If you missed the other excerpts, you can find them here:

Chapter 1: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2014/12/04/excerpt-the-wind-could-blow-a-bug-chapter-1/

Chapter 2: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2014/12/30/excerpt-the-wind-could-blow-a-bug-chapter-2/

Chapter 11: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2015/02/02/excerpt-the-wind-could-blow-a-bug-chapter-11/

19

Jane had thought (hoped, prayed) that when Wade heard about the Rileys’ divorce, as he surely would, that he would come and get back together with her. If nothing else, that he would at least call to check on her, see if she was alright. Because she was not.

But that was not his problem anymore.

That call never came.

Part of what made being with Wade so great, was the fact that Jane felt whole. It wasn’t just that she was happy for a change, but that he was the other part of her whole and he made her feel complete. A day just somehow doesn’t seem complete until you’ve been close enough to a guy to smell his masculine scent. Maybe that is why days and nights without him blended together as only big chunks of living; no more, no less.

Jane continued to work at the Diner, making eye contact with customers as little as possible. Wade no longer came in. She put in her two weeks notice before she left for school. Donna was very choked up when Jane’s last day came. Donna was the only one Jane would miss in Oakley. Well, and of course Wade. But Jane tried not to think about him. She tried not to think about much of anything.

Jane began to pack up all her things. Anything she wanted to keep would have to go with her to college to fit in her tiny dorm room. Stuffed animals, old school work, and treasured toys all had to be boxed. The house had to be completely empty and neither of her parents had offered to keep any boxes for her at their new residences.

Jane ran across the address she had found on the Internet for her birth mother. She ripped it into a million little pieces and threw it out her bedroom window, to watch the pieces flutter in the wind. One thing she was positive of: she could not bear to have one more person in this life abandon or reject her. Especially the one who had started the vicious cycle in the first place.

When the day came, Mr. Riley drove her the four hours and forty-five minutes up to Clark College in Burkeville. He helped her carry her boxes into her room. He gave her a kiss and a hug, and then he was gone. Jane sat in the center of the room, surrounded by the still-sealed cardboard boxes containing her entire life, starving, and cried. She didn’t know where the dining hall was or where to get her food card. She could hear other students in the hallway and knew the logical thing to do would be to ask one of them. But she just could not face anyone right now. Due to a paperwork fluke, she had a room all to herself. Although, it would probably only feed her desire for solitude.

Jane had never felt so alone in her life.

Jane felt lost at college.  Once Clark College had provided her class schedule to her and they had her money, it seemed like they had no more support for her.  Where was the cheery recruiter who had assured her there would be advisers, career counselors, dorm monitors, and all sorts of other imaginary-sounding positions to support her with her academic endeavors?  Jane had no idea what she wanted to major in.  God, she wasn’t going to join a sorority, that was for sure.  She supposed she could join the college newspaper, but even that seemed pointless to her now.

Jane was on her own, to get herself up and get to her classes on time, to get her homework done.  Despite her growing depression, these things were second nature to her.  Her responsible behavior made her seem like she had it together more than her fellow classmates.  They were not used to self-discipline or the freedom to party.  They often showed up in their pajamas, late for class, sometimes with incomplete homework.

If Jane’s suffering showed more outwardly, maybe someone would have reached out to offer her help.  But her suffering was mostly silent and invisible to anyone who didn’t already know what her regular personality should be.  She wasn’t walking past people in the halls missing an arm, leaving a river of blood behind her.  To anyone she passed, it would just look like she was having a bad day.  As such, if no one person took interest in her, then no one would realize that one day strung together into two days, which then became a week, a month.  Depression was invisible.  It made Jane invisible as well.

Jane just went a full hour without thinking about Wade. That must be a new record. Just yesterday, she made it a full 30 minutes without seeing his face in her mind. This morning, she got through 45 minutes (almost all of The Price is Right) without hearing his voice in her ears—oh, that sexy, fun voice.

No, I won’t do that to myself, Jane thought. Even though it seemed harmless enough, letting her mind wander back to the days with him, it really only made things worse. There may be a day, sometime in the uncharted future, when she could look back on those memories without it being a problem. But for now, it hurt much less if Jane shut out all the thoughts of him, good and bad. If she didn’t think about him, maybe she could forget that he exists altogether. That would make the pain hurt much less. If only Wade still loved her, then she wouldn’t hurt at all.

You would think it would be easier to not think about him, being away from the places where it all happened. But somehow, the fact that she couldn’t go back to those places made it all seem like it was a movie or someone else’s dream. It was the same way with his face. She was afraid she would forget what he looked like. She had no picture to remind her. This made her mind seem to hold on to those memories even more fiercely.

Jane glanced at the clock and realized it was time to go to her on-campus job in the dining hall. The arrangement helped pay part of her tuition. It wasn’t like working at the Diner. There she had been out in the dining room, if you could call it that, with the customers. Here, she was mostly in the kitchen. First, filling pans with food, then scraping and cleaning them. There were other students who worked in the kitchen as well. They were polite to Jane. But usually she was not part of their conversations.

“Hey, Jane, there is a party tonight,” Sally said.

“General admission, $2,” Jake added.

“Everyone welcome,” said Andre.

“Eh, I don’t think they mean me,” Jane replied back, making a face as if she smelled something bad.

“Are you going to the party tonight?” Dan asked, as he walked into the kitchen. He had either not heard the conversation or caught only the tail end of it.

“Ya, Sally and I are,” Jake answered him.

“Are you going to the party tonight, Jane?” Dan inquired.

“I’m not going. I think I’ll stay in my room and catch up on some things.” Jane knew while the posters around the campus said “Everyone Welcome” in thick, black copier ink, they did not mean her.

My first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug is NOW AVAILABLE!

PURCHASE as a Paperback or eBook on Amazon.com TODAY.

Excerpt: The Wind Could Blow a Bug – Chapter 2

I am so freaking proud to announce that my first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug by Jennifer Friess, is NOW AVAILABLE!  It can be purchased as a print or eBook on Amazon.com.

TWCBAB_med

The Wind Could Blow a Bug
The Riley Sisters
Book 1
By Jennifer Friess
ISBN: 978-0692339565
#TWCBAB

The Wind Could Blow a Bug is a Young Adult Contemporary Romance.  This is the first book in The Riley Sister series.

I am very happy to include Chapter 2 in today’s post, for your reading pleasure.  I previously provided an excerpt to Chapter 1.  If you missed it, or want to refresh your memory, you can read it here:  https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2014/12/04/excerpt-the-wind-could-blow-a-bug-chapter-1/

2

The 7:00PM meeting eventually drew to a close around 9:30PM. Jane remained sitting on, not in, the chair, watching everyone mingle as they left. She didn’t look forward to going home to her room to listen to music by herself. Jane enjoyed the company of people, as long as she didn’t have to actually interact with them.

She glanced out the front picture window. The purple and yellow sunset that had been framed when she had arrived was now like the black of a computer screen, powered down. A steady stream of headlights began passing on the street as people started to depart. Jane looked up at the three diamond shaped windows on the front door. How 1970’s, she thought. A new front door would go a long way toward adding value to Skip Wickley’s house. Jane touched the corner of the end table next to the chair she sat on, where the wood grain paper was peeling back from the particle board.

“You looked like you were about to say something tonight.”

Jane had been so intently studying the worn, low budget furniture that she had not realized anyone had approached. She jumped as she realized the voice came from right in front of her and was directed at her.

“Um, ya. But it was stupid,” Jane replied.

Wade Tucker stood in front of her, his face merely inches from hers. His eyes were like two swimming pools of blue, staring back at her.

“Oh, I doubt anything that comes out of your mouth is stupid,” Wade said, with a crooked smile.

“How would you know that?” He was starting a conversation with her, and Jane was angry at herself for taking the bait. She felt her cheeks warming.

“It is well known that you are the town smarty-pants,” he drawled.

“Oh, ya. Because that is something great to be known for.” It came out sarcastically. Which is how Jane meant it. But she usually didn’t express how she really felt to anyone.

She didn’t try to be smart, it just came naturally, like the way her heart was about to jump right out of her chest at this moment in time.

“Naw, it is. Better than being known as the make out king of West Oakley.”

“I don’t know about that.” It slipped out of Jane’s mouth before she could sensor it. Her already warm cheeks now burned like a fire.

“Hmmm. Well. . . Now you got me curious.” He leaned in closer to Jane. The cologne smell was overpowering. So was his bicep that bulged as he leaned on the arm of the chair right next to her. Jane couldn’t help herself from glancing at it, but regretted it when she looked back into his now twinkling blue eyes, realizing she had been caught checking him out.

His blond hair was now dry and a few strands were falling across his forehead. He was so close to her that she could see the freckles on the bridge of his nose. She could feel his breath on her face. She longed to close the tiny distance between the two of them and kiss his lips. All other thoughts had emptied from her mind. Jane was dying to know what it would feel like to have his lips on hers, to suck his lips, to feel his tongue. She had never kissed a boy. He probably wouldn’t be the ideal boy to start with, but his confidence and reputation made it very appealing. The reality was if she kissed him right now, he would think she was insane and probably run out the door screaming.

“What were you so eager to add to the discussion tonight?”

Jane inhaled deeply to bring herself back to reality, as best she could anyway.

“Never mind. Nothing important.”

“You can tell me.”

“Umm. You might get mad.”

“A few minutes ago you were ready to say it in front of my friends and family, and now you are afraid it will make me mad?” Wade chuckled.

“Yes.”

“It’s OK. I want to know.”

“I—I was just going to say that if you let them build the SaveRX on your property, then you could just make out in the parking lot, or better yet, in the ‘family planning’ aisle, and you would never have to worry about running out of protection.” Jane was surprised she could push out the joke that had seemed so funny a few minutes earlier. Her voice was a louder volume than she had thought she could manage, although it was shaky and lacked confidence. She looked up now into Wade’s burning eyes. He didn’t miss a beat.

“Now, Janie Riley, you do surprise me.” With that, he smiled and walked away.

The smile that could stop traffic had just made her heart skip a beat.

Jane almost ran out of the room. The cool, humid spring air on her burning skin would be very refreshing on her walk home. Now she couldn’t wait to get home and over-analyze every second of her interaction with Wade. She knew she was making a big thing out of a tiny verbal exchange. But that was the closest to actual physical contact she had ever come to with a guy. God, was that depressing to admit at 18, even to herself.

 

My first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug is NOW AVAILABLE!

Purchase as a Print or eBook on Amazon.com TODAY.

What I Learned This Week – 10/19/14

Yesterday I attended ConTroll YA Under the Bridge, a Young Adult Literacy Conference.  The best thing about it?

It was held in ADRIAN!  Where I live!  Nothing cool ever comes to Adrian.

I was sooo happy that I didn’t have to drive to Ann Arbor or Toledo, or even Detroit to attend such an event.

Some sweet stuff I picked up at ConTroll YA

Some sweet stuff I picked up at ConTroll YA

The worst thing about it?

THE NAME.

“Con” apparently stands for conference.  The “Troll” and “Under The Bridge” parts apparently just have to do with that we are in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, hence, UNDER the Mackinac Bridge.  But, that is like 300 miles away.

Still confused?  It was a conference that brought eight Young Adult authors, both contemporary and fantasy, to the Adrian Public Library for panel discussions, a workshop, and a book signing.

This was the first year for this event.  It was evident, but everything seemed to run smoothly and I learned a lot.

I was kind of bummed that what was touted as a “Writing Workshop” turned out to be more of a workshop on traditional publishing.  This would have been very informative for my asbestos friend, who wishes to take that route.  Unfortunately, she did not attend.  I would have preferred a workshop on the actual writing process, or self publishing.  I learned about traditional publishing from the Ann Arbor District Library Emerging Writers Workshops that I attended, and from the 12 years I worked at the Borders corporate office.  Granted, Borders mostly taught me about the end of the writing process, where your book is published, reviewed by buyers, ordered, allocated, replenished, marked Out of Print, and returned.  That past knowledge was enough to convince me that traditional publishing is not for me.  And the information I received yesterday strengthened that fact.

There was one self published author there yesterday, Eric Priuska author of “The Fireball Rebellion”.  He offered up that he loved all the control he had with self publishing, but that the downfalls are that you have to do absolutely EVERYTHING yourself.  Ya, I kinda figured that.

Great tips from ConTroll YA:

– An outline should act as your story’s GPS, and that it is more important to know what your plot points will FEEL like, more so than what actually might happen.

– All writers are narcissistic to believe other people will want to read what you created, and also an insecure mess.

– To market your book, you must be PRESENT, as in you can’t be obnoxious, but you also cannot be a wallflower.

– You have to keep real yourself, and your author self separate.

– An agent only gets paid when they get you a publishing deal.  Don’t pay one out of your pocket.

– Don’t let in people who are not going to be supportive of your writing.  (Guess who?)

– Every scene should have conflict & every scene should be moving the story forward.

– For every character, you should build a history, then know what they want and what they are willing to do to get it.

Every change I thought up to make to my novel while I was at the conference, I had talked myself out of again by the time I got home.

For the first year, I think it went great.  I would definitely go back again next year.  The room wasn’t full, but there were enough people that with two entries, I couldn’t win a door prize.  And, as I sat in the seats listening to the authors in their panel discussions, I dreamed that maybe I would be up there next year discussing my YA book I am working on, The Wind Could Blow a Bug.

Books of the Authors who participated.  Thanks!

Books of the Authors who participated. Thanks!

Below are the authors who participated.  I have added the links to their home pages as well.  Please support them.  I did.

K.A. Barson – 45 Pounds (More or Less)

Eric Priuska – The Fireball Rebellion

Kate Bassett – Words & Their Meanings

Bethany Neal – My Last Kiss

Aimee Carter – The Goddess Test

Courtney Allison Moulton – Angelfire

Leah Cliffored – A Touch Mortal

Scott Tracey – Witch Eyes

I also learned this week that Jack Link’s Sweet & Hot Jerky and Planters Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Almonds are a great compliment to one another.

I Have Written All My Life (Doesn’t Everybody?)

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I have always written stories or poems, almost all my life. I didn’t realize that not everyone does this. Only recently did it dawn on me.

Does that mean my career calling should be to be a writer? I have been spending 37 years trying to figure out what I should be when I grow up.

Is writing the answer?

"The Worst Snow Storm!" My first book.

“The Worst Snow Storm!”
Commentary:  My first book.

I made my first book a long, long time ago (but in this galaxy). It had a cohesive plot, but questionable spelling choices. You’ll have to excuse that fact–I had no editor, and was only in elementary school myself. It even had characters of varying ethnicities–one family was white, the other was black. That must have been the influence of 1970’s and 1980’s cartoons, which all had a token black character on the cast, because I didn’t even know any African-Americans at that age. The story wasn’t a school project or anything. I just made it all on my own, at home. I was very proud of it, because my mom put it in the scrapbook.

"Bobby Jones and Marty Cargo one day planned to play on that day.  But they had a snow storm." Wow.  Snow's so thick, I can't see a thing!

“Bobby Jones and Marty Cargo one day planned to play on that day. But they had a snow storm.”
Wow. Snow’s so thick, I can’t see a thing!

All through school, I would write stories every chance I could for class assignments. It made an assignment easy for me to complete. I would also write at home, just for myself. I would skip lunch during high school to write in the computer lab (much less chance of getting picked on or having food thrown at you). When I had a big depression my senior year, I became a prolific poet. I took lots of English classes as electives. I took the AP English class, but not the placement exam. I even took a one week summer writing workshop held at a local college.

"They asked their moms'.  Their moms' said, "No! You cannot go out." Smart moms.

“They asked their moms’. Their moms’ said, “No! You cannot go out.”
Smart moms.

One of my favorite teachers was my English teacher. We will call him Mr. C. He also happened to be the adviser for the newly formed school newspaper. I wrote a story or two for it. The next year, I ended up as the Co-Editor, which I actually really enjoyed. It was just kind of a happy accident that I ended up with that position (and because no one else wanted it). It helped to make my college applications not look so naked.

"But they went out anyway far, far away.  And they built a snowman.  While they were building a snowman it started to snow."

“But they went out anyway far, far away. And they built a snowman. While they were building a snowman it started to snow.”

In college I was busy, but I still wrote. During that time, I wrote one of my favorite stories. It is kind of goth. I used poetry at that time to once again get me through depression. I was a Communications major, with an emphasis on Radio and TV Broadcasting. I filled in the gaps between classes for my major and prerequisites with English and Psychology classes. I took so many English classes that the head of the department told me to make it my minor. He let me do an independent study to work on some stories and get a 400-level class on my transcript. (That would be an unfinished story that wasn’t good, and I wish I wouldn’t have wasted time on it.) (I could have minored in Psychology as well, but I didn’t want to have to take a statistics class, which was required to have it be an actual official minor.)

"After they were done with the snowman, they were very, very cold.  They would go home, but it was too far away." Damn, look at those goodsebumps.  They were REALLY cold.

“After they were done with the snowman, they were very, very cold. They would go home, but it was too far away.”
Damn, look at those goosebumps. They were REALLY cold.

My first full-time job, I found other creative-minded types. We read each other’s old stories. We wrote and emailed poems to each other throughout the day. They also were interested in dream interpretation, as I had been for years.

"When Bobby's dad woke up, Bobby's mom told him that Bobby was gone.  And when Marty's dad came home from work Marty's mom told him that Marty was gone." The mom's sure look happy about that.

“When Bobby’s dad woke up, Bobby’s mom told him that Bobby was gone. And when Marty’s dad came home from work Marty’s mom told him that Marty was gone.”
The mom’s sure look happy about that.

Really, the only time I can remember not writing was while my mom was sick. I spent one evening a week doing her grocery shopping for her, two nights doing her laundry, and usually taking her to a doctor’s appointment as well. And I worked 40hrs a week, plus a 2hr daily commute. She about killed me. I didn’t have time to write at that time. I didn’t even have time to think. Even though she got a clean bill of health a few years after she was diagnosed, I was still doing all those errands for her. I had to put an end to it when my son was born. Literally, like 10 minutes after I walked into my house from the hospital.

"So they went out and looked and looked for their boys." Sorry.  Too lazy to rescan.

“So they went out and looked and looked for their boys.”
Sorry. Too lazy to re-scan.

I went back to work after my maternity leave on the exact same day my company filed for bankruptcy. I also went back in a new position (my former lateral position that I had interviewed to get back into had been eliminated while I was off, so I was starting a new lateral position. Got all that?) where I got to work on one of the company’s blogs. It was fun. I found out a co-worker had a personal blog. This peaked my interest. Plus, I could read the writing on the wall. I knew I needed to add some new mad skills to my resume. So, I started this blog, got on Facebook and LinkedIn, and figured out how to actually use my Twitter account.

"They found their boys and picked them up and took them home." Wow, frozen solid.

“They found their boys and picked them up and took them home.”
Wow, frozen solid.

While hanging out at home with my son, I found more time to blog regularly than I would have anticipated having. Regularly publishing posts got me followers. Followers made me try to think up more content. This made me dig out an old story from high school, my only intent being to jazz it up a little, then post it on my blog.

That led to me deciding that I might be able to combine it with more short stories, and do one of those self-publishing dealios.

In 6 months time, that has led to me finishing 2 young-adult (short) novels, and starting a third in the trilogy, with plans for 2 bonus books.

My original goal is to have one self-published by year’s end. I am thinking the writing may be the easiest part of the equation.  I don’t know anything about royalties or percentages or designing book covers, etc.  And at first, well, I thought an e-book would be good enough to fulfill a dream.

But, well, a physical book with a cover with my name on it, filled with words spilled forth from my brain, is so tempting I can taste it. That was my first vision when I made that book out of crayons and pencil.

Trust me, when I get to that point, you will all know. imnotstalkingyou.com will be book-hawking central.

You know, I have also always had a love to art (drawing, painting, photography). Hmmm, maybe that is my real calling…

"They got home and laid their boys down, covered them up, and gave them some soup." This story has been sponsored by Campbell's Soup.  Mmm-Mmm Good.

“They got home and laid their boys down, covered them up, and gave them some soup.”
This story has been sponsored by Campbell’s Soup. Mmm-Mmm Good.

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