Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How to Set More Attainable New Year’s Resolutions

We've reached the end of another great year. In just two days, 2015 will be in the history books and we'll move onto the next great year...

Every year, many of us take time to reflect and decide what we want for the next year. Often this is done through setting goals. Since January 1st feels like a clean slate, we can start on achieving all of our life's goals, whether it's this:


Or this:

But as I learned in a workshop I once attended, the key to success at New Year's resolutions is to make them controllable, attainable goals. Instead of lose weight, for instance, you might say, "Eat 1,200 calories a day" or "Work out for 30 minutes a day, five days a week."

For us writers, "get published" can be broken down as, "Send out one query each month" or "Write two pages a day."

You could always buy one of those fancy Passion Planner thingies and make your goals all colorful:

Or check out this similar planner that has people going crazy. 

I think you have to be a bit artistic to do this sort of thing, though. I don't want to spend more time on my planner than I actually spend doing the things on it. All of the great tools in the world won't help if you don't work hard at making your goals happen.

What is your New Year's resolution?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Best Books of December

It's time once again for my best books of the month...and this is my final version of the year. It's been a year of amazing books. I can't wait to see what I get to read in 2016!

My first book this month is from my own publisher, Aladdin M!x. Golden Girl is Mari Mancusi's first book with Aladdin M!x, but it is not her first book overall. In fact, she's an award-winning young adult novelist and an Emmy award-winning TV producer. After reading this book, I can also say she's a phenomenal middle-grade author!

Golden Girl has something I love in a book: unpredictability. The directions she took this book in were so unexpected, yet it all came together in a perfect way. This is what great fiction is about! Lexi is the most promising young snowboarder in her snowboarding school...until an accident sidelines her. But it wasn't an accident at was sabotage. The book chronicles her return to the slopes after the accident, including how she finds her way and figures out who her true friends are. Children (and adults) can learn a lot from Lexi's kind heart and inner strength.

My next book is from a very talented author named Alison Cherry whose middle grade, The Classy Crooks Club, comes out from my publisher in late March. More about that one next year! But this month, I learned about Alison's phenomenal talent by reading one of her young adult novels, For Real.

I've never been able to get into The Amazing Race as a TV show...but if it were as interesting as it is in Alison's book, I'd be hooked! In For Real, two sisters go on a race around the world for live TV, only to find out at the last minute that it's a dating show version of the reality show. There's a little romance but the most important storyline is the relationship between the sisters. Alison really dug deep on this one and the result is a fun, adventurous story with a winning character arc.

I also read two anthologies--the first was a compilation that included our blogging friend Leandra J. Wallace

Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets celebrates women and technology. Many of the stories are futuristic but they all revolve around smart, tough, kick-butt heroines who are brilliant with tech. Leandra's story, The Mad Scientist's Daughter, is about a young inventor who works hard to hide the fact that her father is a much-hated inventor. My other favorites included Blink, a story about a young girl and a time machine; Lyra, a futuristic take on Cinderella about an artificial-intelligence system that goes awry, and Panic, an all-too-realistic story about being trapped in a crowded room where shooting is taking place.

The holidays are here, so I had to read this one, which features our very own Medeia Sharif. It was co-edited by another blogging friend of mine, Kelly Hashway, so double reason to read it!

Fright Before Christmas: 13 Tales of Holiday Horrors has 13 great horror stories with a Christmas theme. While I was reading these stories, I couldn't help but think that many of them represented a child's worst nightmares. My favorites were Medeia's story about a video game that evokes a very evil Santa, Ally Matthews' story about two brothers who venture into the cold forest to test out a legend, and Patrick Hueller's story about a little boy who gets coal in his stocking...and learns he's lucky--really bad boys don't get to see Christmas morning. Every one of these stories was a true page turner. I found that I couldn't wait to read the next story.

What's the best book you read in 2015?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

It's that time of year again. The time of year when the blogosphere turns into one of these...

Ghost Town

So I'm just going to leave you with this fun video. If you have a young person in your life this Christmas, you'll relate to this song all too well!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Introducing Wickedly They Come by Cathrina Constantine

Today one of our blogging buddies is celebrating the rerelease of a book...and I'm excited about this one because I've actually read it! The author is a woman whose face you may not recognize, since her author picture isn't her profile picture on Blogger:

But you'll know the name. Cathrina Constantine is a talented blogger, novelist, and an all-around great person. Today she's celebrating the re-release of her 2013 book Wickedly They Come:

Below is a blurb to tell you a little about the book. If you like what you see, be sure to head over to Amazon and download your copy!


A gripping, dark fantasy!

A Destined Prophecy: “The White Warrior will be one with Lucifer and God will weep.”

Haunting visions and supernatural talents are the norm for the sixteen-year-old warrior, Jordan and her mother Seeley. Together with their formidable angels they find themselves in peril when a wicked sorcerer is determined to fulfill the prophecy to his lord, Lucifer.

After an ominous vision of spirits inhabiting teenagers in a local school, Jordan enrolls in the social culture of teendom at Elma High to combat soulless demons. She encounters Mark, a mysterious new classmate, who is hell bent on keeping her unscathed from the forces of evil.

The battle between Heaven and Hell is escalating—and Earth is their battleground.


Cathrina resides in Western New York with her husband, five children, two happy-go-lucky Labrador Retrievers and two cats. After a  long hiatus while raising her family, Constantine finally picked up pen and paper and began to hone her craft of writing, then eventually confiscated her son’s computer. 

Cathrina is represented by The Belcastro Literary Agency, and is extremely happy to be working with Sharon Belcastro and Ella Marie Mohan Shupe.

When not with her family, baking, crafting, reading, or stationed at the computer writing, you will find her walking in the backwoods with her dogs, daydreaming.


Monday, December 21, 2015

A Griswold Kind of Christmas

First, I want to congratulate Jeffrey Scott. He won the advanced reader's copy of The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow I gave away when I interviewed the authors, Jess and Stephanie. If you didn't win but still want a copy, the giveaway is in its final days, so find it on my interview post here.

Meanwhile, in the days leading up to Christmas, I wanted to share my fun new Christmas village. From far away, you can't tell what it is...

But as you get closer, that house looks a little too familiar.

There's a standard scene that could be part of any village scene...

But then you see it. After this, you know exactly what movie inspired this Christmas village.

Still not sure? Here's a hint.

Have you ever done a Christmas village?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Should Men Work at Victoria’s Secret?

My stepdaughter loves Victoria's Secret--mostly the Pink line that is designed for teens and college-age girls:

Earlier this year, as I stood outside the fitting room, waiting for her, I saw something that took me aback. A man was creeping around the underwear display. My first thought was, "How creepy." Then I noticed the name tag. He was an employee.

I know it's wrong to feel this way. Women have fought hard to be included in all-male institutions like military schools and country clubs. Victoria's Secret was founded by this man...

Roy Raymond's goal was to create a store where men could feel comfortable shopping for lingerie for their girlfriends and wives. Men are supposed to be able to shop in Victoria's Secret without being viewed as this:

Yet if you walk into a Victoria's Secret, chances are you'll see mostly women.

The men are waiting patiently outside the store.

One former male employee confirmed he just joined the staff to learn more about women. He found that people questioned his choice of profession (selling women's lingerie). He also said he believes men shouldn't feel bad shopping in or working at Victoria's Secret.

Yet there's something ultimately creepy about a straight man who works at Victoria's Secret. I think perhaps because of this?

What do you think when you see a man working in Victoria's Secret?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Can You Do All Your Holiday Shopping Online?

This year I decided to do a little experiment. It's called, "Let's see how much of my Christmas shopping I can do online." Mostly because of this:

And this:

So I started you MUST do if you shop online. Otherwise, around December 20th you start doing this all day:

I did a big chunk of it on Black Friday. For the next two weeks, I ordered and ordered and ordered until my handy-dandy little Christmas shopping app told me everything was purchased:

There are some things you can't order online without paying way too much. Things like this:

And this:

And this:

So you have to head out to the store at some point. You'll also need to go to the store to buy these, especially if you want to get them all in one place:

If you order online, you have to be prepared for daily visits from various mail services...multiple packages will be dropped on your door every single day.

After a while, the postal people will get fed up and start throwing your packages at the porch. At least that's what I think was happening to us...we have a Ring doorbell with a motion sensor. I was getting notifications that packages were delivered but no motion sensor had gone off. When I checked the porch, packages were strewn about. Somehow they'd managed to get the packages onto the porch without setting the motion sensor off.

But all in all, it beats dealing with long lines and crowds. As someone who does all her grocery shopping online and picks it up at the store, it would be crazy if I Christmas shopped the old-fashioned way, right?

Do you do any of your Christmas shopping online?

Monday, December 14, 2015

There’s Something Magical About Christmas Movies

One of the best things about Christmas? This:

Of course, the acting in most of those movies is bad...and the plots have more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese.

But there's something about these movies that put you in the Christmas spirit.

For many of us, Christmas isn't Christmas without a real Christmas movie. For my generation and older, it takes the classics--the movies we grew up watching. Movies like this:

And this:

And this:

Okay, and maybe a little of this:

They can remake these classics, but there's nothing like the original for those who were there to see it. Many of us have added a few new favorites over the years, including movies like:



But there are so many great Christmas movies, it can be hard to pick just one. I suppose for me, because I've seen all of the above movies, the Hallmark Channel movies are the only new ones to watch. Plus, they have sweet love stories. Who can resist a good romance? (Men, don't answer that!)

What's your favorite Christmas movie?