Monday, October 31, 2011

Medical Mondays: Licorice Ick!

In honor of Halloween, I wanted to talk about candy. Of course too much candy isn't good for you, but can it actually land you in the hospital?

Licorice can.

Licorice come from the root of the plant
Glycyrrhiza glabra. It's been used for centuries as a flavoring, sweetener, and medicine.

Though anise and fennel taste like licorice, they are unrelated.

The main compound responsible for licorice's distinct flavor and pharmaceutical effects is
glycyrrhizin. Glycyrrhizin is 50 times as sweet as table sugar. Besides being used in drinks, teas and candies, licorice is also added to tobacco products.

Licorice root extract has been studied in the use of a wide variety of illnesses, including:
  • viral hepatitis
  • Kaposi's sarcoma
  • stomach and mouth ulcers
  • bowel conditions, such s Crohn's disease and irritable bowel
However, excessive glycyrrhizic acid has been shown to cause problems, such as:
  • water retention and swelling
  • low potassium levels
  • heart failure
  • elevated blood pressures
So how much is safe? Apparently, the safe daily amount of licorice is 50 grams a day. That's 12 licorice jellybeans. Not much, right?

a British woman had to be hospitalized for licorice poisoning after consuming 200 grams of candy per day. That's a 48 black jellybean-per-day habit! Man. I knew there was a reason why I avoided those black jellybeans. And it's not all about those gunky black teeth either.

Happy Halloween everyone. Hope it doesn't land you in the hospital!

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer. This is for fictional scenarios, only! Please check out the boring but necessary disclaimer on my sidebar --->
Also, don't forget to stop by Laura Diamond's Mental Health Mondays and Sarah Fine's The Strangest Situation for great psychiatric and psychological viewpoints on all things literary. :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Author Spotlight: Jessie Harrell

Happy Friday! Welcome to another Author Spotlight. This week we have Jessie Harrell, who's both a writer and a lawyer. With me as a doc in the house, all we need now is a priest and we'd have the makings of a good joke, I'm sure. :) Take it away, Jessie!

How do you develop a mental picture of your characters?

I like to find pictures of actual people who I think look like the character's image I have in my mind's eye. For example, this shot of Heidi Klum encapsulated the image I had for Aphrodite.

(photo source)

(It may be too early in the morning for Heidi. I think I got a new wrinkle just looking at her.)

I printed all of my images, tacked them to a bulletin board behind my desk, and then referred to the faces whenever I was stuck. Having a real person to look at and think - what facial expression would he make? - was a great help.

If you decided to self-publish, what was the final push that allowed that decision?

Honestly, it was being so close to having a home for DESTINED, but not trusting a smaller publisher to give it the love I thought it deserved. I had several "near misses" with agents and smaller presses (and one offer from a smaller press), but after getting some good advice from industry experts, I decided to take on the challenge of self-publishing. Trust me, this was not a decision I made lightly. I've been researching the industry for over three years and I knew I had to have an amazing cover, a knock-story and avoid editing mistakes. So, I've hired professionals all along the way and forced myself not to rush the process.

Timing also played a role in my decision because I've been working on DESTINED since long before Greek mythology became "hot" in YA lit, but I also know trends don't last. I wanted DESTINED to come out this year with other titles like The Goddess Test and Starcrossed, which pretty much meant I needed to publish it myself.

How did you decide to get into writing?

My husband and I are both attorneys, and like any career, we've both had our moments of dissatisfaction. Not long after our daughters were born (2005 and 2006), we had a growing collection of picture books lying around and my husband said, "We should write picture books. How hard can that be?" And from there it snowballed.

While he bought books like Writing Children's Books for Dummies, I actually took an online course in writing that had us sample all the different genres (from board books to YA). Although I still have some picture book ideas floating around, my inability to say anything quickly or succinctly made me realize writing from tots would be a lot harder for me than writing for teens. A few SCBWI conferences, years of writing practice, and lots of help from CPs, beta readers and the folks at #yalitchat, and here I am!

What's on your bucket list?

I've always wanted to ride a camel near the pyramids of Egypt. (And I have to mention that I just crossed three things off my bucket list on my last vacation -- zip-lining through a rain forest, cave tubing, and jumping off a rock - granted it didn't qualify as a cliff, but that's as close as I ever plan to come.)

When Psyche receives a prophecy gone horribly wrong, she learns that even the most beautiful girl in Greece can have a hideous future. Her fate? Fall in love with the one creature even the gods fear.

As she feels herself slipping closer into the arms of the prophecy, Psyche must choose between the terrifyingly tender touch she feels almost powerless to resist and the one constant she's come to expect out of life: you cannot escape what is destined.

Destined is a fresh and heartachingly romantic retelling of the Cupid & Psyche myth from debut novelist, Jessie Harrell.

Available on Amazon

Find Jessie on Twitter and her blog!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dissecting Tadpoles for Literary Purposes

First off, thank you all so much for your good wishes on my recent news. I've been overwhelmed by all the woots and squees and other indescribable sounds coming from the comments section of my last post. Big bear hugs to you all!!!

Back to earth now. On to subjects more squeamish than squee. Like tadpoles!

I used to work in a lab in college and the few years after graduation. I did fun things like radioimmunoassays, thin-layer chromatography, slicing bits of paraffin-embedded frog for slides.

I also dissected out hundreds of tadpole gonads.

Ah yes. Those critters never stood a chance. Call me the Jean Claude van Damme of tadpole dissection. I'm fairly sure I could still snip out a tadpole's gonads in three minutes flat.

Why does this matter? It didn't occur to me that my experience there might pop up in my writing later. A lab plays prominently in The Fountain (the lab, mind you, not the tadpoles), and I'm so thankful for that bit of experience I didn't have to research on the fly.

Do you have a life experience that's made its way into your stories? Do tell! And for the non-writers out there, I'd love to hear an unusual life experience that your blog followers don't know about you. :)


Also, go check out Deb Salisbury's blog on how kids/pets/plants (or other things cared for) affect her writing. See my previous post, Laura Diamond's, and Sarah Fine's if you missed them!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Over the Moon And Taking You All With Me!

I dreamed about this moment for years. Despite the incessant feelings of inadequacy and fear that my writing wasn't good enough, I kept trying. There were a lot of rejections. There was the nauseating query roller coaster. A few near misses. Throughout it all, the fear was constant.

Some of those fears went away when Eric became my agent in September, but not all. Having an agent is no guarantee of being published.

So we cleaned up my manuscript, sent it out into the scary world of publishing houses, and waited. I expected months of waiting. Rejections. Revision suggestions, if we were lucky.

When Eric called me about ten days after we went on sub and I saw that 212 area code, I figured he would say something like "Can you stop blogging about stinky things? It's kind of sick."

But no. There was an editor interested in my manuscript, one who really got it. That was when I realized I had a new talent. I could jump up and down, dance in place, bite my knuckles, silently scream, and talk on the phone as if I was perfectly sane.

After a few more calls and and a heckuva lot more knuckle biting, this finally happened about a week after that first phone call:

Lydia Kang's THE FOUNTAIN (current title, CONTROL), about a 17-year-old who must rescue her kidnapped sister with the help of a band of outcasts with mutated genes, set in 2150 when genetic manipulation has been outlawed, to
Kathy Dawson at Dial, in a good deal, in a pre-empt, for publication in 2013, by Eric Myers at The Spieler Agency (World).

(Yes, this is the same Kathy Dawson who was the editor for Chime by Franny Billingsley, a current National Book Award finalist--that Kathy! Excuse me while I get a little dizzy here and accidentally hit a wall. Ow.)

I am over the moon.
Okay, more like entered another galaxy! But while I'm flying high right now (and pinching myself enough to turn half-purple), I'm taking a lot of people with me on this celestial celebration.

My hubs and kids, who have been so patient while I tapped away at my laptop every spare moment of my life the past few years.

My family--parents, in-laws, siblings and their hubs, and the rest of my wonderful family that never laughed at my efforts to be an author.

My crit partners--Laura, Julie, Artemis. You guys are goddesses to me! You have been both close friends and teachers. You taught me SO much. Christine Fonseca critted a single chapter of an old novel a few years back, but she opened my eyes to making every sentence count.

My amazing betas--Dushana (cheerleader extraordinaire!), Gale, Becky, and my three awesome teen betas--Jennifer, Claire and Sam.

My good, good friends, both writerly and not--Sarah, Deb, Jane, Grace, Phyllis, and so many others--you know exactly who you are--you cheered me on throughout the whole journey. I always felt like I didn't deserve the premature praise.

My agent, Eric, of course. He saw that maybe, just maybe, I'd written something special that needed to be shared with the world.

The brilliant and insightful docs, poets, and writers of the
Seven Doctors Project who nurtured my poetic and writerly beginnings years ago.

The Querytracker forum writers. They critted my first, awful queries. They answered my stupid questions yet never told me I was stupid for asking them. QT is truly one of the most supportive, helpful, kind, online communities ever.

And last but far from least, the tirelessly supportive blogger/writer community. You were always there. ALWAYS. You guys never gave up on me. You listened. I listened back, and learned so very much from your posts--about life, about writing, about surviving the crazy world of a writer.

It's a big party. Thank you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I am forever grateful.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Author Spotlight: Melissa Goodwin and Writing in the Dark

***FYI, for those of your stopping by because of the news (*see my profile! There's something new there!*) I'll be blogging about it Monday. :) ***

Hello all, and welcome to this week's Author Spotlight. I've brought the author, and my loyal blog followers have provided the questions. This week we have Melisssa Ann Goodwin with us. Hi Melissa! Ready, set, go!

The Writing Process
: What do you look at when writing - meaning, window, wall, photos, etc.?
I write with my eyes closed. I know that seems a little weird. I think maybe I was supposed to be a filmmaker, because I always “see” the scenes in my stories as though I am watching a movie. So it’s easier for me to see my movie with my eyes closed. I write at the computer, and I can type pretty fast, but I’m not that accurate even with my eyes open. I make lots of mistakes typing with my eyes closed, but usually I can figure out what I wrote because I remember what I was seeing in my imagination when I wrote it.

(Cool. I get my best ideas in the dark, so this is kind of the same thing!)

The Publishing Process: Has an editor annihilated your absolutely favorite line in your book? Did you take it meekly or fight for your words?
It wasn’t so much that the editor annihilated my line, as that she just took all the fun out of it! It was a line in The Christmas Village, when Grandma explains to Jamie what “piece de resistance” means. But she gives him a playful explanation, not a literal one. The editor wanted to have Grandma give a literal translation. To me, what she suggested sounded like Grandma was reading a definition from the dictionary. BORING. I told the editor exactly what I just said a minute ago, “You took all the fun out of it!” My version stayed. Interestingly, the editor also told me, “I just put things out there, but I like it when writers have their own point of view.” Sometimes writers feel too powerless, and I think this shows that perhaps they should be more confident about sticking to their guns when they feel strongly about it.

Writing Miscellany: Do you fear that your ideas would dry up?
I used to be petrified about this. But then I took a Tom Bird workshop, where he had us sit and write on giant pieces of paper and we had to write from left to right and top to bottom and just keep writing and writing without stopping or thinking or thinking or stopping and keep on going without stopping forever and ever amen. I thought this was extremely strange, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me as a writer. As the hand moved across the page, somehow stuff moved from the brain through the hand to the paper – stuff that I had no idea was in there, waiting to come out. I’m always a little scared before I sit down to write, but I’ve learned to trust in the idea that “if you write stuff, it will come.”

Random or Weird questions: What is your opinion on Pluto no longer being a planet?
I’m a Scorpio, so this was very hard for me because Pluto was one of my ruling planets, along with Mars. But I’ve gotten over it, because, really, who needs TWO planets bossing you around?

Jamie wished that he could live in his grandma's perfect little Christmas village, and now that wish has magically come true. But is the village really what it seems? What stunning secret does it hold? And how will Jamie ever get back home? The Christmas Village is a holiday adventure the whole family will love, filled with suspense, secrets and surprises to the very last page.

Available on Amazon
and Smashwords!
The Christmas Village Book Blog
Melissa's personal Blog

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Guest Post: Angela Felsted

Hey guys! Today the lovely Angela Felsted is guest posting on a topic near and dear to my heart: how writing poetry affects the writing of fiction.

Angela is an amazing poet/writer whose book of poetry, Cleave, is now available for preorder.

She also has a breathtaking book trailer. Check it out!

Okay, enough gushing. Take it away Angela!


“Excuse me but, your roots are showing.”

For years I labored under the impression that writing poetry would help me with my prose, mostly because there is no better way to practice repetition, rhythm, and symbolism than to write poetry.

Unfortunately, there is also no better way to practice ignoring traditional rules like those of punctuation, capitalization, and basic sentence structure than to write poetry.

Don’t believe me?

Just read a little e. e. cummings.

For the duration of this blog post, I’m going to liken poets to brunettes and writers of prose to blonds. It is hard not to notice, at times, the abundance of blonds who have dark roots.

While poetry and prose can go hand in hand, it’s a true skill to incorporate the two. So I have divided my fellow poet novelists into two camps. (1) Those who use the structure, rhythm, and imagery of poems to tell a story, while leaving out the many layers of meaning inherent to poetry. (2) Those who write straight prose while using their poetic roots to enhance their novels.

In the first camp we have authors who have created and pioneered the verse novel, those like Sonya Sones and Lisa Schroeder, both of whom I admire and respect. And in the second camp we have poets who have turned to straight prose, but cannot hide their poetic roots. I have decided to highlight three of them.

Margaret Atwood

In the “Handmaid’s Tale,” Ms. Atwood continually finds greater meaning in household routine—the taking of a bath, the covering of a canopy bed, even the sparseness of a handmaid’s room. She doesn’t use quotation marks (a sign of poetic license); her protagonist is introspective; and the ending is up for interpretation.

Carrie Jones

Though she writes in straight sentences and uses quotation marks, she isn’t afraid to use alliteration, or to repeat words for emphasis. Take this section from NEED:

“A noise escapes my lips—guttural, panicked, pathetic. I swallow, straighten. That is not how I am going to be. I am not going to die a wimp while waiting for the killer to get me. The snow plasters itself to the spruce trees. It touches my hair, coats my jacket and my pants, presses itself into my sneakers.” (p. 156)

Her use of alliterative words—panicked, pathetic—swallow, straighten—wimp while waiting, mixed with what she chooses to repeat, give her words a punch that other writers would be hard pressed to produce.

Laurie Halse Anderson

Because Ms. Anderson personifies feelings and uses down-to-earth pictures to create emotional context, much of her writing reads like poetry. This is a passage from Wintergirls that is one of my favorites:

“All of the badness boils under my skin, stingy ginger-ale bubbles fighting to breathe. I unbutton my jeans, sliding the zipper open one tooth at a time. I twist to the right and push down the elastic band of my underpants. . .


I inscribe three lines, hush hush hush, into my skin.” (p. 61)

Ironically, many novels which use poetic language are criticized by readers who believe this kind of writing gets in the way of the story. While I see their point, I don’t know that I’d want The Handmaid’s Tale, Need, or Wintergirls written in any other style. Poetic devices slow readers down and makes them think, and isn’t that what good books are meant to make us do?


Thank you Angela! (I think I'm in group 2. Though grouping me with the likes of Anderson, Jones and Atwood make me think there needs to be a group three--for the less goddess-like poet/writers out there!)

Also, go check out Sarah Fine's blog on how kids/pets/plants (or other things cared for) affect her writing. See my previous post and Laura Diamond's if you missed it, and stay tuned for Deb Salisbury's next week!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Medical Mondays: Fish Odor Syndrome

Hey! Welcome to Medical Mondays and I apologize for getting this post in super late.

So you know, a genetic defect can wreak all sorts of havoc on the human body. Every tiny little mechanism that keeps us functioning properly can be tampered with, so-to-speak, on a DNA level.

This interesting one is called Trimethylaminuria. In this rare disorder, people are unable to break down a certain compound in their diet. As a result, the molecule trimethylamine builds up and is released in the person's sweat, urine, and breath.

And--you guessed it--trimethylamine smells like fish. (I know, I know. My cartoon is inaccurate. Sufferers don't LOOK like fish. Call it artistic license, okay?)

There are treatments. Affected people have to avoid foods that cause buildup of this molecule, such as legumes, fish, and meat. And taking activated charcoal or chlorophyll might work.

Not all people with this disorder necessarily smell like fish. Some just have a strong body odor. But still. Why can't there be a genetic disorder where people smell strongly of, say, hyacinth? Or chocolate? Or, Chanel No. 5?

Well, maybe there are and I need to do more research. In any case, it does make you think about the literary possibilities...

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer. This is for fictional scenarios, only! Please check out the boring but necessary disclaimer on my sidebar --->
Also, don't forget to stop by Laura Diamond's Mental Health Mondays and Sarah Fine's The Strangest Situation for great psychiatric and psychological viewpoints on all things literary. :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pay It Forward Blogfest AND Author Spotlight with Ciara Knight!

Two great tastes that taste great together. Yep, I'm smashing two posts into one. I couldn't pass up the Pay It Forward Blogfest because it's 99.9% pure extract of righteousness.

I'm always plugging my buddies Laura, Deb, Sarah, and more recently, Julie. But I would love it if you could get to know these other gals a little better. You won't be sorry!

Krispy/Alz at a Nudge in the Right Direction
. Kooky stick drawings? No-holds barred book reviews that will make you spew soda out of your nose? Little bits of culture/food/whatever that are always entertaining? They've got it all. I love them. Cyber hugs to my girls.

Olga at Artful Nuance. I am NEVER disappointed when I visit Olga's blog. She is an artist, and her photography always takes my breath away. Can red be made to look any redder in a picture? I don't know how, but Olga always does it. She's thoughtful, introspective, and a wonderful person.

Rachna Chabria at Rachna's Scriptorium. Rachna has the kind of blog about writing where you want to pull up a chair, grab a steaming mug of chai, hang out and talk with her forever. She tackles all things writing-related with depth, gentleness, and yet a keenly sharp eye. She always gets me thinking.

There you go. Meet this ladies. You won't regret it! Thanks Alex and Matthew for hosting the blogfest!

Okay, now on to our Author Spotlight. Please welcome the lovely Ciara Knight!

How do you plot, if you’re a plotter, and how do you revise?

I have a strange writing process but it’s what works for me. I will brainstorm while driving or hiking because I can’t stand looking at a blank page without a story. It’s too intimidating. After I have the entire plot worked out in my head, I’ll write an outline. This will include setting, who’s POV (If writing multiple), goal, conflict, motivation, and disaster. Then I’ll open up a word document, close my eyes, and type like a crazy person. This is my rough draft that no one should ever see. After that, I’ll go through and just clean it up. At this point it is more of an extended plotline with dialogue. The third pass I’ll start layering more emotion, internal thought, ect…. I’ll usually send this version to critique partners. Once it is back in my hands, I’ll incorporate their changes and clean up sentence structure, repetitive words, etc…. Then it is ready to see the light of day.

How do you manage to do so much in 24 hours?

Caffeine. Seriously, I’ve always been a workaholic. In college I worked full time, went to school full time, and worked on a scholarship project. I’d work all week from 5:00AM – 11:00PM then sleep all weekend. I still do this. Caffeine up all week then crash and sleep in on Saturday morning. With three boys in the house, I know there won’t be any writing that day.

(OMG, this has become my new schedule too! Saturday morning sleep-ins are kind of sacred at my house now. :) )

Is there a different genre you might like to try and write someday?

I’d love to write sci-fi but I’m way too intimidated. I’ve always been in love with all things not of this world. Maybe one day I’ll give it a shot, but right now, I think I should keep my feet firmly grounded.

Favorite season of the year?

Fall! I’m a diehard hiker and there is no better time to hike in the southeast then in the fall. The sound of leaves crunching under foot, brisk air carrying the sounds of birds flying south for the winter, and the fact people aren’t so cranky now that the heat wave has ended, makes fall a fantastic time of year.

Sammy Lorre was cast from Heaven for conduct unbecoming an angel. Living in a demon-infested small town with no memory of her previous life, she faces never-ending purgatory until Boon saunters into her life with a promise of angelic love. But is he an angel from Heaven or a minion from the underworld preying on her human emotions? To discover his true identity, she must risk eternal damnation and her heart.

Love’s Long Shadow is Available at: Turquoise Morning Press | Amazon Kindle | Smashwords | Bookstrand | All Romance Ebooks/OmniLit

You can find Ciara on Twitter and at her Blog!