4 Book Recommendations 4 You!

As an indie author who has a lot of indie author friends, I often help beta read their stories (and vice versa). As a result, I get early access to a lot of great books, four of which I want to share with you today. (Click on the book titles to go to their respective Amazon pages.)

1) A Tapestry of Tears by Gita V. Reddy

Blurb: This is a collection of a novelette and twelve short stories. The title story, A Tapestry of Tears, is set in the nineteenth century. A young couple from an affluent background fights against the time honored tradition of female infanticide. In another story, Division into Two, a family is torn apart by the brutal partition of British-ruled India into India and Pakistan. Told through the voices of an estranged aunt and nephew, it reveals the human tragedy that is often a fallout of social strife.

My review: “I didn’t realize how much I would benefit from reading this author’s work. She has a magnificent way of storytelling, as if she had lived the events herself. Each story in this collection evoked so many emotions from deep within and left lasting impressions on my heart. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the culture and people of India and for those who value eloquent and intentional writing.”

Recommended for readers who enjoy non-fiction, women’s fiction, as well as stories that focus on cultural issues and human relationships. There are some tough issues addressed in the title story, so if you are sensitive you may want to skip over it (but it is a really eye-opening piece).

2) Masquerading Our Love by Audrey Rich

Blurb: Junior year has been tough on Thalía Reynari.
A new high school, trying to fit in with new friends, schoolwork, family commitments. With everything going on in her life, Thalía could use a break, an adventure.
So when Thalía meets Christopher Cooper, the most gorgeous guy in town, her life should change for the better, right?
Don’t bet on it.
Thalía and Christopher find themselves caught in the middle of a simmering feud that’s kept the two families apart for a decade. And no one is sure if young love will be enough to bridge this divide.
As they hide their relationship behind masks Thalía must decide if this new love is worth losing her parents’ approval.

My review: “An opposites attract story, this is the perfect book for the awkward teen in all of us. I can’t wait for the next books in the series to read about the cast of supporting characters.”

Recommended for teens and adults who are young at heart. This story is a clean book that realistically delves into the heart and mind of teenagers and supplies just the right amount of angst to keep you reading.

3) Love Among the Lilacs by Jenna Victoria

Blurb: Bookkeeper Mollie Wright knows about living on the streets, and her purchase of sweet Lilac Cottage is a dream come true. She is determined to stay and fight when a legal error puts her ownership at risk.

Attorney Sean Grady never wanted his great-aunts to sell their cottage in Westchester County, New York, so when a paperwork snafu puts the deal on hold, he moves swiftly to evict the pretty, feisty squatter.

Mollie finds unexpected allies in Grady Cove neighbors and a member of Sean’s own family but knows the clock is ticking.

Will a theft and her past secrets force a showdown to heartache, or will Mollie and Sean discover home is where your heart is?

My review: “This is the first book I read by the author and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing is polished, the characters are believable and the supporting cast is a quirky, fun bunch. I enjoyed the alternating points of views and seeing how the characters grew to accept and care for each other.”

Recommended for romance readers who enjoy stories with well-rounded characters.

4) All That Glitters by Ines Bautista-Yao

Blurb: When they have nothing better to do, college students Billie Santiago and Carlos Angeles enjoy imagining what their lives will be like five years into the future. It’s never serious—just a whole lot of teasing and poking fun at each other. Till blindingly handsome, PR professional Iñigo Antonio saunters into the university bookstore where Billie works. All of a sudden, she finds herself face to face with the physical manifestation of the very dream she tells Carlos about.

Captivated by Iñigo’s magnetic personality, Billie is lured into his dazzlingly glamorous world—much to Carlos’s frustration. But as Billie notices Iñigo might not be playing by the rules, Carlos begs her to stay away from him. When Billie doesn’t listen, she realizes too late that she is in over her head and it may take a miracle (or a boy who cares deeply about her) to get her out of it.

My review: “I know I’m always in for a treat when I open up one of Ines Bautista-Yao’s books, and this one did not disappoint! The author has such a knack for getting into the hearts and minds of young characters. I love friends-to-lovers stories and could not get enough of Carlos and Billie’s relationship! There was just the right balance of “the feels”, as well as character growth to keep me reading. I highly recommend this book to romance lovers everywhere!”

Recommended for young adult and romance readers and for readers who are curious about life in the Philippines.

I hope you’ll check out these books and their amazing authors! What books have you read recently that you would recommend? 🙂

Thoughts of an Introverted Entrepreneur

Hubby said to me the other day, “It’s funny that you’re the entrepreneur”. He’s referring to the fact that between the two of us, he’s the risk-taker, go-getter, nothing’s going stand in my way person. Me? I’m the play it safe, hide in my bubble, take deep breaths one. But strangely enough, I’m a small business owner: part author and part plush toy maker. 🙂

My author business has been slowly growing and I’ve been enjoying it so much. My Moodkins venture? Well, that’s another story. It’s one where I can’t allow myself to measure success by how many plush toys I’ve sold because the handful of people who’ve bought one are friends (kind, supportive friends!). But this business has been successful in so many ways that I didn’t expect. It’s been one of those opportunities where I feel like God has opened the doors for this little bitty idea of mine to go out and touch more people than I EVER imagined possible. And the best part? I didn’t have to do much to sell them. I have great, supportive friends who did it for me. This is an introverted business owner’s dream come true. 😉

Through my sister (who has a degree in school counseling) and two former Marriage and Family Therapy classmates/colleagues, these Moodkins have been making their way into the world. They’ve gone to schools in different parts of the state and even the east coast. They’ve found a home at a non-profit organization in Silicon Valley that helps children. They’re also playing a part in a private practice in the Bay Area. In the latter, they enabled a six year old client who hasn’t been able to identify their emotions yet to mimic what they saw in a painting.

This photo I received from my therapist friend touched me so much. Like this Moodkin, Miss-Sing-Me-The-Blues, I had tears in my eyes, but mine were happy. Oh so happy. 🙂

I’ve always believed each and every person can make a difference in the world, and it was a blessing to know I was doing so in a small, but meaningful way. And even though I’m the most introverted business person there probably is, God still is able to use me. 🙂

If you or anyone you know would be interested in purchasing some Moodkins, let me know! I’m also happy to give a set for free to those who work with children. You can check them out at http://moodkins.com/.

How to Keep Makeovers Going Strong

In case you couldn’t tell by my blog’s tagline, I LOVE makeovers. I’ve always been fascinated by “before” and “after” snapshots, and how something (or someone) can look totally and completely different with some needed changes in place. While major and drastic changes are great and all, no one really talks about what happens weeks, months or even years, after a makeover. I’m referring to the fabulous hairdo that grows out and loses its vibrant color. Or the conviction you had to eat healthier flies out the window when you sit down at a buffet. And the fervor you had to clean (and keep clean) every cabinet and closet in the house disappears when those cabinets and closets start getting messy again.

Makeovers are amazing, but they are also very temporary. Those “great reveal” moments when everything looks perfectly in place and new and jaw-dropping are just that—moments. A lot of hard work and dedication lead up to makeovers, but the fact of the matter is that hard work and dedication are also needed to maintain them.

Eeks, right? Why can’t things just stay beautiful and clean and organized all the time? Well, because Pinterest would go out of business. 😉

So how do we maintain a makeover? I’m still figuring this out myself, but here’s my recent experience with one. It all started with a kitchen cabinet that I had “made over” before, but was getting out of hand again. Once upon a time, I had taken everything out, then put them all back in a nice orderly fashion. I’d even bought some magazine-type racks to store the baking pans and sorted through all the tupperware so that each container had a lid, and got rid of stuff I hadn’t used in ages. It looked pretty amazing and made cooking and baking a lot easier when I could find exactly what I was looking for when I needed it. But then … gradually over time things got put back in the wrong place, and containers started missing their lids, and pulling out the dish or container or lid that I needed became a dangerous ordeal.

The scary “before” picture!

So after months of groaning and moaning every time I had to open this cabinet, I decided to do something about it. I took all the contents out, rearranged them, and organized them in a way that was a lot easier (and safer) than before. Ta-da!

A little less scary!

Now I’m sure this “after” photo could be someone else’s “before” photo (haha), but for me it was the mini makeover that I needed. It wasn’t as dramatic as the first time I’d made over this cabinet, so it was a much quicker process, but the effects were just as great. I no longer cringe when I need to get a baking pan or risk having a dish fall on my toes when I open the doors. Yay!

The real moment of truth though will be in a few months or a year down the line. What will this cabinet look like then? Well, if it’s still in this condition, that means I’ve stopped feeding my family. Just kidding (or not!). More than likely, some physics law will have taken effect so that its contents will have moved due to inertia or something like that. 😉 But you know what? That just means I’ll get to do another mini makeover again. The downside is that I’ll need to put in some time and effort to do so. But the upside is that I’ve had experience with it before and it should be as easy or easier than last time. Plus, the major upside is that I LOVE makeovers. 😉

If you need some inspiration, check out this video that shows you how to organize your pantry. I think that will be my next project. 😉

What kind of makeovers do you like or have done? How do you keep them going strong? I’d love to hear your tips!

Cover Reveal for Of Buds And Blossoms!

When I started writing a few years ago, I had no plan in mind for how many books I wanted to write each year. I basically cranked a story out as quickly (or slowly) as I could manage with two small munchkins at home. Now that the kids are older and out of the house for half the day, I’ve been able to dedicate more time to my career (yup, I’m actually calling it a career now! LOL). This is the first time I started the year out with some goals in mind, which includes publishing four books in 2017. (Insert overwhelmed face here. 😨) The good news is that I’ve finished one of them and am excited to be sharing the cover reveal with you today! So without further ado … here’s the third story in my Seasons of Love series, Of Buds And Blossoms!

Here’s the blurb:

Librarian Chloe McAlister finds solace in her books—and hats—but doesn’t know where to turn when her longtime crush gets engaged. On a whim, she signs up for a speed-dating mixer and convinces her best friend, Dill Thomas, to attend. All goes as planned until she realizes Dill means more to her than she thought … and he goes and falls for someone else.

This 10,000-word short story is perfect for your lunch break, workout, or while you wait in line at the mall. Read it today to experience a hint of spring any time of the year!

Here’s an excerpt:

“Is the beard a deal breaker? Serious question here.”

Chloe raised her brows. “Hm?”

“Do you like me rugged or clean? Be honest, I can take it.”

Dill had never cared about his appearance before, much less asked her about it. He was a no-frills kind of guy who couldn’t be bothered with designer clothes or the latest fashions. That’s why he lived in jeans and T-shirts at work and at home. For some reason, he was concerned about a beard? “You want my opinion?”

“Sure. You understand women better than I do. Would they be cool with this?”

Tilting her head to one side, then to the other, Chloe took a long, hard look at him. She pretended to give his question some thought, pursing her lips as she studied his face. His eyes still had the same self-assured, friendly sparkle in them as the freshman boy who always asked to borrow her lecture notes. A grin tugged at the corners of his mouth, revealing his playful, easygoing nature that hadn’t changed over the years. However, that’s where the déjà vu ended.

Now that she was staring at him so intently, she almost didn’t recognize the man sitting next to her. Because he was most definitely more of a man today than he had been when they met or graduated from college or … even last week. What had happened? This Dill had the angled features and square jawline, not to mention—her eyes traveled down—the broad shoulders and defined upper body of a hot guy. An attractive, rugged-looking hot guy. She swallowed, her mouth suddenly as dry as a desert. Was it hot in here or what? “Yes, the beard,” she managed to squeak out, “you should keep.”

“Seriously?” Dill threw his head back and laughed until he was wiping tears from his eyes. “I can’t believe you went full Yoda on me. The beard you should keep.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I thought you fell asleep during our Star Wars marathon. Maybe I’ll convert you into a fan after all.”

“Finish the profile, please,” Chloe urged, eager to move on from the awkward moment.

“Okay, okay,” he agreed, before joking, “the questions I will answer.”

Hot guy or not, he was still a goofball.

Because I couldn’t wait, the book is now available for pre-order (click HERE). So if you’d like it delivered right to your Kindle on February 27, 2017, you can order it today! 🙂

And of course there’s a playlist for the book, which you can listen to here:

It Takes a Village (of Authors)

When I started this writing journey, I was one little person typing her thoughts and feelings away on a blog from the comfort of her home. That was back in 2011 and I had no idea—not even a small clue—of where I would be at six years later. Well, I’m still typing away in the safe bubble of my house (with a never-ending supply of tea!), but I’m no longer alone. I have a whole village of people surrounding me, all of whom I’ve never even met face-to-face, but that I communicate with on a regular basis. How is this possible? It’s called the internet!

And because of the amazing, talented, and supportive authors I’ve been able to meet online, I’ve been able to learn and grow and evolve into the writer I am today. I owe a LOT to these people. I digest their blogs and books, pick their brains for advice on anything from commas to marketing strategies, and lean on their support in sharing my work.

I’ve always been a solitary type of gal (I was an only child until age 10 and an introvert, still am!), but I’m starting to see the benefits of being part of a village. Regardless of what we do on a daily basis—whether it’s teaching, researching, programming, counseling, raising kids or writing—we need others. We need others who understand the challenges we go through and don’t fault us for having a bad day when (fill in the blank). We need folks who know just the right thing to say that will encourage and push us to do better. Most of all, we need to know we’re not on this journey alone, that we have people cheering us on every day.

I was so fortunate to find an online author village with Clean Indie Reads (if you want to join our Facebook group, let me know!). Last year, I was able to meet another group of wonderful authors when we collaborated together on a boxed set (insert shameless plug: Click HERE to get 7 stories for only 99 cents!). 🙂 And more recently, God graciously opened the doors for me to be part of an author cooperative, Sweet Romance Reads! I am beyond excited (and a bit starstruck to be among such accomplished authors!) and am looking forward to working with them to introduce you to more warm-fuzzy stories. I now feel more equipped and supported than ever as an author and ready to tackle this year.

Yay for finding my village! Have you found yours? Comment below and let me know!

Here’s a great song about supporting one another, Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up”, covered here by Jai McDowell & KHS.

Lessons Learned from the Small Things

Since the end of a year usually gets me thinking and reflecting, I asked the munchkins a question on the last day of 2016 to get them thinking and reflecting: What did you learn this year?

They answered me with blank stares and full mouths (it was dinnertime), so I tried to help them out a little.

“You guys learned to swim!” (Which was nothing short of a miracle for two kiddos who had never intentionally put their heads in the water before this summer. Now they race to see who can jump into the pool first!)

“We learned how to knit.” (Thank you, YouTube videos.)

E finally swallowed and added, “I learned algebra.” (Simple algebra in 4th grade? Craziness, I tell ya.)

I turned to C and reminded her, “You learned how to do a handstand!”, to which she enthusiastically nodded.

Wow. What a year.

These were some major milestones for the kids, milestones I wish could be captured in more than a few words or sentences.  Saying, “You guys learned to swim!” doesn’t do the experience of learning how to swim justice. Five words aren’t enough to describe the endless hours it took for E and C to overcome their fears enough to trust us to hold their hands when they gave up their swim floaties. To trust that their goggles would keep the water out of their eyes (and still go underwater even when they didn’t). And to trust that the fun of jumping into the water would be worth the butterflies they felt in their stomachs as they stood on the edge of the pool. Learning how to swim was a culmination of years and years of patience, perseverance, courage and faith for all of us, especially the patience part for hubby and me. 😉 Even though it seems like the kids accomplished this achievement in 2016, you could say they started learning how to swim 10 and 7 years ago.

Isn’t that the case with a lot, if not most, of the lessons we learn in life? Learning something new takes time—minutes, hours, days and years of time.  And the little mundane things we are learning today are necessary and important lessons we need in order to accomplish something bigger in the future.

That’s what I was thinking about the other night when C and I were wrangling some yarn. You may think the word wrangle would apply better to a herd of cattle or horses, but believe me, this yarn had a mind of its own. It was perfectly coiled when I bought it, but over the course of a few weeks, it had become a crazy tangle of a mess. And before I could use it again I had to tame the wild beast.

This beast has a cute name though: Cupcake Sprinkles. 😉

So that’s what we set out to do. I found one end and began wrapping it around my hand while C picked it apart and released its knots. She kept exclaiming, “This is going to take hours!” to which I replied through gritted teeth, “No, it won’t!” Truthfully though, it did take most of the evening to unravel. But through it all, we persevered. We cheered when we could pull more than a foot of yarn at once and booed when we encountered a knot. I was impressed with C’s patience and complimented her on it, especially when we traded tasks and I got the hard job of untangling the knots. When we traded back, she told me with confidence, “Watch and learn!” as she masterfully tamed that yarn, inch by inch. It was a wonderful sight (and a relief!) when we were all done.

Lesson learned? The task of unravelling the ball of yarn may have seemed mundane and a waste of time, but it was much needed and in preparation for something bigger. Like being able to knit this cute hat for my niece.

As you can see, I did a lot of knitting over winter break. 🙂 I also made a hat for C to match her cousin’s, as well as a bag for her stuffed chick (not pictured here).

So, yup, as we start this new year, I’m reminding myself to take baby steps as I set my goals. Sure, I’d love to be able to write more books than I did last year, but what’s important is that I just show up and write. Word by word, sentence by sentence, and paragraph by paragraph. Because all these small steps will add up and come together to form something beautiful  … just like that crazy ball of yarn did.

Here’s the song C and I listened to on repeat(!) while we were wrangling the yarn. It’s called, “Up, Up and Away” and it’s from one of the American Girl movies, Grace Stirs Up Success. The main character in the film also learned the importance of taking small steps (ie. cracking an egg with one hand) in her quest to become a Masterchef Junior baker.

What small steps are you learning today that will help you to accomplish bigger things in the future?

Release Day for Puppy Dog Tales (+ Our Quest to Find a Pet)

Okay, so guess what happens when you write a book titled Puppy Dog Tales? You end up being reminded of how sweet and adorable animals are and you talk your family into getting a pet! Well, kind of. As with any major commitment in life, there’s a lot to take into consideration. One, were we ready for a pet, and two, what kind of pet did we want? The first question was easy to answer. We had a dog for ten years who sadly passed away four years ago (here’s my “in memory” post about Sparkle), so we do have experience as pet owners and miss having a furry friend to love. When I say we however, I mean hubby and me because the munchkins sadly don’t remember too much about Sparkle, except for C’s traumatic memory of him snatching a waffle right out of her hand. And because of that memory, we thought we should get a pet for C’s sake, to help her get over her fear that all dogs are waffle snatchers. 😛 But we thought we’d go with an animal that would be less intimidating for her, which answered our second question; we decided to get a cat!

Fast forward to last weekend when we ventured into a cat cafe, a local hangout I found online where you can play with cats for an hour at a time. If you found one you got along with (and vice versa), you could apply to adopt him/her. Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it was … until we got home and E’s eyes were swollen and his nose was itchy and he started sneezing. And I realized how much easier I could breathe in the absence of felines. So, yup, we scratched* that idea. 🙁

The next day we decided to check out a dog adoption event at a local pet store. (You could say we had to settle for Plan B, but in reality, hubby and I were both happy Plan A didn’t work out because we’re both more dog people). 😉 I had looked through the profiles of the dogs that would be at the event and made sure there were some small dogs that C would like because if it were up to her, she’d get one like this:

Image courtesy of flickr.

Yes, it’s cute, but there’s just something not quite right about a dog that can fit inside your teacup. 😉 Anyhow, there were all kinds of dogs there waiting to be adopted. Big, calm German Shepherds, yappy lap dogs, and one tiny, trembling 4 month old puppy. And because there were SO many dogs together in one place, there were a lot of strong odors wafting in the air. I won’t describe them for you, but let’s just say that E and his sensitive nose couldn’t wait to hightail* it out of there! After literally five minutes, we rushed back to the car and drove home. And that, folks, was the end of Plan B. 🙁

I’m sorry to say we haven’t found the right pet for us yet, but I’m hopeful we will in the new year. But for now, I am super excited to announce that it’s release day for the book that started us on this quest: Puppy Dog Tales!

This story was one of the fastest ones I’ve written and it came together so well because it was just plain fun. It is a romantic comedy, by the way, and in case you need some convincing that it’s funny, let me assure you that hubby has said I’m much funnier in print than in person. LOL 😉 If you want a quick pick-me-up story with an opposites attract trope and some furry friends, you’re in for a treat* with Puppy Dog Tales! Get it today (click HERE) for only $1.99 or read it for free with Kindle Unlimited!

An animal hater and an animal lover’s paths collide the week leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Melvin Lai inherited the last thing he ever wanted from his favorite uncle: a cocker spaniel. Now he’s on the verge of losing his home to the unruly puppy and, much to his surprise, his heart when he meets Dr. Chu, Sparkle’s vet.

Vivian Chu loves caring for her furry friends, so she can’t fathom how anyone could think poorly of her new patient, especially his owner. To her, first impressions are everything, and the one Melvin left has her feeling disheartened and bruised–quite literally.

With a pair of matchmaking mothers and unexpected animal escapades, they encounter more trouble than they can handle. He longs to make her his valentine; she can’t wait to escape him. Can Melvin and Vivian pull together to find common ground?

And here’s the playlist I put together for the story! Enjoy! 🙂

*I couldn’t help using some punny, animal-related words in this post. 😉

When You Can’t Take Things Too Personally as a Parent

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We artistic types can be a little sensitive. Here’s a visual of what that looks like (and a throwback to one of my favorite shows from my twenties, haha). 😉

Meme courtesy of https://memegenerator.net/Dawson-Crying

This is the first meme I ever made! (Meme courtesy of https://memegenerator.net/Dawson-Crying)

I think there’s a logical explanation for this. Creative people—whether they be artists, writers, actors, singers or dancers—feel a lot and what they feel comes out in their various forms of art. That’s why when we hear a catchy song, watch a moving performance, or read a beautiful piece of writing, it touches something within us and makes us feel, too. And to make someone feel something you feel takes a bit of talent and hard work, of course, but most of all it requires a sensitive soul.

That’s why artists can be a little too sensitive sometimes for their own good. Take for example the author who got hung up over the fact that during her last free book promotion, she discovered not one, but TWO people had returned her book, even though it had been free. FREE, I tell you! Who returns something they got for free?! Either someone who accidentally downloaded it twice (totally wishful thinking here) or someone who disliked the story THAT much. (Insert Dawson’s crying face here! :P)

Well, I’ve had a few days to have my #authorpityparty and commiserate with other authors who had the same thing happen to them. (I’m sooo glad it’s not just me!) And the one thing I’ve learned? You just can’t take things too personally sometimes, even if you’re an artist.

But this applies even more when you’re a parent.

Have you heard of the saying, “Your child is not giving you a hard time, he’s having a hard time“? Take a minute and let that soak in because they’re some wise words every parent needs to remember all the time. If I could rewind back to when my first munchkin was born, I’d print that statement out in big, bold letters and post it in every room of the house. And the car. And maybe even on my kids’ shirts, so that every time they did something that made me want to pull my hair out and cry, I would’ve remembered to not take it so personally. Because honestly, so much about parenting has to do with them and not us.

When they have a meltdown in the middle of the store, it’s not because they want to make you look and feel like a bad parent, it’s more likely because they’re tired or hungry or bored. When they huff and puff and storm off to their room and slam the door, it’s not because they want to undermine your authority (okay, maybe a little?), it’s because they’re frustrated and angry and overwhelmed by their emotions. In short, they’re having a hard time, not trying to give you a hard time.

During my kids’ hard times, I often have to remind myself to step outside of the situation and see things from their perspective. I find that I parent better when I don’t take their behavior personally. When I try to figure out what they’re having a hard time with, I respond with less anger and yelling and more patience and understanding. It’s no longer a case of me versus them, it’s me with them. And when you’re on the same side as your child, it’s easier to listen and love them.

Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t have your #parentpityparty afterwards. Parents have feelings, too, and we need to take care of ourselves, especially when we’ve been investing our energy into little people. So what can you do with all the emotions you have? Hmm. Maybe try something artsy? Just be forewarned … us artistic types can be a little sensitive. 😉

I’m loving this group I discovered on YouTube recently, the Gardiner Sisters. Take a listen to their lovely cover of Dan + Shay’s song, “Lately”.

How do you not take things too personally in your personal or professional lives?

Interview with Young Adult Author Marianne Sciucco

It’s been my pleasure to meet so many great folks in my Facebook writer’s group (click here to find out more about CIR!), and I’m excited to introduce another fellow author to you. Please welcome Marianne Sciucco and her latest release, Swim Season!

swim-season-launch-social-media-meme

Swim Season’s Blurb:

Sometimes winning is everything.

Champion swimmer Aerin Keane is ready to give up her dreams of college swimming and a shot at the Olympics. As she starts senior year in her third high school, Aerin’s determined to leave her family troubles behind and be like all the other girls at Two Rivers. She’s got a new image and a new attitude. She doesn’t want to win anymore. She’s swimming for fun, no longer the freak who wins every race, every title, only to find herself alone.

But when her desire to be just one of the girls collides with her desire to be the best Two Rivers has ever seen, will Aerin sacrifice her new friendships to break a longstanding school record that comes with a $50,000 scholarship?

Hi Marianne! Can you tell us about your background?

I grew up near Boston and earned my Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. I now live in New York’s Hudson Valley with my patient and reliable husband and beautiful, brainy daughter. We are ruled by Mr. Chance, a cat we rescued who thinks he rescued us. On weekends during swim season you can find me at one of many Skyline Conference swim meets cheering for my daughter and her team.

Tell us about your latest book, Swim Season. Why did you decide to write a novel about girls’ varsity swimming?

Like so many writers, I wear many hats, one of which is called “Swim Mom.” I’ve shuttled my daughter to swim meets and swim practice for years, and now follow her across state lines during her college swimming career. All those hours sitting on cold, metal bleachers waiting to watch her swim for a minute or two gave me more than a sore you-know-what: It inspired me to write a novel about girls’ varsity swimming.

My goal was to write a story about the whole high school swimming experience, to show others who may not be as familiar with the sport how much fun it is and how hard these kids work. But this story is about more than swimming as my young heroine, Aerin, deals with the aftermath of her parents’ divorce, a stepmother and two stepsisters she doesn’t want, her mother’s PTSD and drug addiction after two tours of duty in the Middle East as an Army nurse, and her best friend’s cute twin brother. And she’s just started senior year in her third high school.  Aerin is a girl you will definitely cheer for.

I love how you took your experiences (as a mom, and specifically a Swim Mom) and used it to write a book. For the parents reading this who have kids in sports, please share what the sport of swimming has taught you.

Swimming is such a great sport with lifelong benefits. Swimming competitively, especially in high school, can be a positive experience that builds character, self-esteem, and friendships. In New York State, girls can join the varsity team in seventh grade, when they’re 12, and compete against girls who are much older and bigger. When my daughter joined the high school team as a seventh grader, I was unsure as to whether or not she’d be able to meet its demands: practice after school every day and on Saturday mornings, and swim meets at least twice a week. She looked so small compared to the other girls. Could she really compete against them? Would she be crushed?  How would this affect her self-esteem? Would she quit?

Our kids often surprise us, and my daughter surprised me. She loved being on the team, loved her teammates, and never complained about going to practice or asked if she could skip. Sure, there were times when the older girls pushed her to work harder, swim faster, but that only made her a better swimmer. As the years went on, her skills improved and she quickly became a team leader, one of their top swimmers, and a contender in the division.

She grew up a lot in her six years on this team and learned many valuable lessons: keeping a commitment to a sport and a team that spanned a third of her life; setting and making personal goals; the grace of winning; the humility of defeat; confidence in her athleticism; pride in her body and what it can do; and the rewards earned through hard work and dedication. She has gone on to swim in college where she continues to exhibit the same skills and attitudes she cultivated in high school. These are lifelong lessons that will benefit her in whatever she chooses to do, in sports, work, and more. All girls should have the opportunity to learn about themselves through sports, any sport.

In addition to being a Swim Mom, you are a registered nurse and an author. Which comes first, the nurse or the writer?

I’m not a nurse who writes, but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, I dreamed of becoming an author when I grew up but became a nurse to avoid poverty. I later brought my two passions together and write about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. My stories are clean reads, meaning free of gratuitous sex, violence, and foul language. I think that much of popular media and entertainment today is saturated with these elements, and I choose not to use them. When I’m not writing, I work part-time as a campus nurse at a community college.

Do you have any unusual writing habits?

My repetitive strain injuries dictate a pretty unorthodox writing style. I don’t (can’t) write every day, a practice recommended by many authors. I have to respect my limitations or suffer pain and loss of function for days. So I work in spurts, constantly prioritizing my tasks, doing as much as I can to finish the novel I’m working on and promoting my other work. I use a number of devices to assist me: iPhone, tablet, Dragon Dictation, laptop, PC, pen and paper, whatever it takes. It’s frustrating, but I’m managing to pull it off.

What’s your advice for others considering writing a novel?

Don’t give up. Understand that this is a difficult undertaking and may offer little to no reward at the end, other than the fact that you completed it.

Thank you, Marianne, for joining us today! Please see below for her bio and the buy links for Swim Season!

Marianne’s Bio:

marianne-sciucco-wearing-authors-supporting-our-troops-t-shirt-at-assateague-island

During swim season, you can find Marianne Sciucco, a dedicated Swim Mom for ten years, at one of many Skyline Conference swim meets, cheering for her daughter Allison and the Mount Saint Mary College Knights.

Sciucco is not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, she dreamed of becoming an author when she grew up but became a nurse to avoid poverty. She later brought her two passions together and writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues.

Her debut novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story, is a Kindle bestseller; IndieReader Approved; a BookWorks featured book; and a Library Journal Self-e Selection. She also has two short stories available on Kindle, Ino’s Love and Collection.

A native Bostonian, Marianne lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, and when not writing works as a campus nurse at a community college.

Purchase Links:

Swim Season is currently only available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Swim-Season-Marianne-Sciucco-ebook/dp/B01JVHIW3O

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.com/Swim-Season-Marianneamazon UK-Sciucco-ebook/dp/B01JVHIW3O

Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Swim-Season-Marianne-Sciucco-ebook/dp/B01JVHIW3O

Amazon Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/Swim-Season-Marianne-Sciucco-ebook/dp/B01JVHIW3O

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What NFL Players & Authors Have in Common

The family and I took a weekend getaway recently for hubby’s and my birthdays (which happen to be three days apart). On one of the mornings, we were in line for the breakfast buffet (yum!) when my eyes zeroed in on the shirt of a man walking past me. In big, bold letters, I saw the words NFL Alumni. Three thoughts immediately crossed my mind: the first being, Wow, cool!, then, Yeah, he looks like he could be a football player, and lastly, Oh … that’s kinda sad. 🙁

Why the sadness, you ask? Well, if you have to wear a shirt to tell people you were in the NFL, that probably means you aren’t well-known enough to be recognized as an NFL player.

Aww. 🙁 I almost wanted to go over and say, I know how you feel, buddy.

But I didn’t because I’m an introvert and even if I weren’t, it would’ve been a very strange thing to do. 😉 Instead, I told hubby about the shirt and how it struck a chord with me. It also made me wonder if there are any “I’m a published author” T-shirts out there in the world. In case you were wondering, the answer is yup! (They have them in pink, too—see below!)

Image courtesy of zazzle.co.nz/https://www.zazzle.co.nz/i_am_a_published_author_t_shirt-235621872671373455

The fact of the matter is that while there are 1,696 football players in the NFL (thank you, Google!), most of them won’t be as popular as Joe Montana or Tim Tebow. Likewise, most published authors won’t ever become a household name like J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. (Hmm, maybe the key to success is to have initials in your name, haha?)

But that’s okay. Because most of the time writers write for the pure joy of writing. And writers publish for the pure joy of being able to see their name in print, hold their book in their hands, and to smell its pages—okay, maybe not everyone likes the smell of books*, but you get the idea. 😉 The bottom line is: Authors don’t write and publish books to become famous. We do so because we’re creators and we love to create and share our creations.

And, yup, there are a lot of us out there in the world, way more than the number of NFL players. Since you may not recognize a published author if you happen to pass by one at say, a breakfast buffet, it’d probably be a good idea if we made it easy for you. We could wear a shirt that tells you so. Hopefully if you see it, you’ll think to yourself, Wow, cool! She does look like she could write a book. I wonder what it’s about?  How did she get her inspiration?  Where can I get a copy?

If you do wonder about what it is that authors do, we would be more than thrilled to answer your questions. We’d love to hand you a business card. We could point you to our Amazon author page and show off our babies (the paper ones, not the human or furry ones). If you’d like to get technical, we could even talk about genres, story arcs, characters, and settings. And quite honestly, we wouldn’t mind at all if you wanted to ask for our autograph. (Kidding, not kidding!) 😉

After breakfast that day, I felt an odd sense of camaraderie with that NFL player. 🙂 Weird, I know, considering I didn’t talk to the guy, but I understood his passion for doing something he loved and was good at. Mostly, I admired his confidence and courage to share that part of him with the world—or at least, anyone who happened to see his shirt. Does that make me want to go order my own shirt? Sure … if it didn’t cost $43.50! 😛 Someone needs to let that company know that not every author has sold as many books as L.M. Montgomery. (Hmm, seriously though, I think I need to change my name to initials!) 😀

Take a listen to this cute song, “I Won’t Say I’m in Love”, from the Hercules soundtrack. I haven’t seen the movie, but I came across it on YouTube and it’s the perfect song for my next book’s playlist. 🙂

What would you want to share with the world about yourself on your T-shirt?

*Check out this nifty graphic for the chemical explanation behind the aroma of books.