Thursday, June 28, 2012

Winners & the Poetry Pact Blog Hop: On Being Bullied

First of all, hooray to the winners of last week's giveaway!  The winners are:

Angie H. 
Kelly Polark
Juliet P. 

I'll be emailing you about your prizes. Congrats guys!

And now, onto the Poetry Pact Blog Hop. When Angela Felsted asked me to participate in this, I thought, secret pacts? Hush-hush groups that got me through bad times?

All I could think of was this. It's an excerpt from an essay I wrote and never published. There was no group, just my mom. And yes, she got me through one of the worst times of my life. So here we go.


In fifth grade, seemingly overnight, my classmates hit that tricky age when a profound difference between generic and designer jeans came into existence. Pretty faces and perfect hair were worth everything. Oddly-named, small, ethnic girls were the least worthy of all.

Suddenly, the girls who’d always made me laugh were laughing at me. I could do nothing right. My clothes were too old. They were too short. I was too short. My house was too square. It was too big.

I breathed. I existed.

My mother watched me, perplexed, as I withdrew at home, lost my appetite, and cried until my pillow dampened with saltwater. I begged relentlessly for new clothes. It was the only thing I might fix, since there was no return receipt on my ethnicity. But money was tight, and Izod shirts were a waste of money on a stupid reptile logo.

The bullying and isolation continued into sixth grade. My “friends” alternated between including and excluding me, based on whims I cannot decipher to this day. When it got to be too much, my mother would sense the overflowing anxiety bubbling in my heart and take me aside after dinner. She’d close the kitchen door, pat the linoleum floor, and let me talk.

Being close to the earth made sense to Mom. In the little house in Seoul where she grew up, the rooms were kept heated with hot stones placed beneath the floorboards. Warmth would rise up, insistent and comforting, whether the family ate dinner or curled up on their flat mattresses for sleep. I remember visiting in second grade, that same year I’d transferred to this school, in awe of my pleasantly toasted rump while my grandmother fed me rice cakes and snuck me pieces of chewing gum.

So now, decades later and hundreds of miles away, we lay with our spines against the tough linoleum, staring at the amber light fixture on the kitchen ceiling. She gave me the space and time I needed to talk. At first, I didn’t say much. But before long, it came out in a deluge. One by one, I’d talk about each girl and detail her personalized brand of alienation.

Mom didn’t say much. I don’t think she knew how to produce the feel-good lines in English to make it all go away. They probably wouldn’t have worked on me, anyway. Instead, she just listened to it all, absorbing the bitterness, fury and despair of her eleven-year old daughter. Occasionally as I talked, I’d see liquid tracks slipping down her cheeks. Night after night, we’d both splatter that perfectly clean floor with the misery that was my social life.

It was then that I first saw, with agonizing clarity, her love for me. In that wretched time of my life, I saw my pain through her eyes and thought, only love could hurt this badly.

What she had to offer wasn’t words. It wasn’t just food, a warm house, clothes, or an education. She couldn’t fix my life then. She couldn’t and wouldn’t apologize for bringing up her three children in land so different from her native home. But she could lay a perpetually warm hand on mine and offer me a bit of sanctuary. She could share my suffering, and show me a wealth of love and acceptance that existed outside that daytime torture.

One day, the hurt miraculously lessened. My classmates and I were thrust into the bustling metropolis called middle school, and the mean girls were diluted into a sea of new faces and new friends. I would find confidence in myself, in increments. I began to suspect I was smart. On certain days of the week or month, I experienced a bizarre, alien contentment in not looking like every other girl. I began to actually believe my mom when she said I was beautiful.

My mother quietly accompanied me into that new era. Warm hands and all, she celebrated the return of my smiles. Though we never again needed that linoleum floor to dispel the bad times (for there would be more to come—it’s life, after all), I would never forget that moment of clarity, that first time I understood her love for me.

Now that I’m older and wiser (though some days I feel too old, and not nearly wise enough), I see my own three children growing up in an era where the same hurts get flung with painful accuracy. Social Survival 101 now has a huge chapter on Social Media Survival as well, and together we’re all trolling through new waters.

I know my kids will have bad days in the social arena. To say that my heart aches in anticipation of these days is an understatement. It’s mothering angina, and yes, it takes my breath away.

When the time comes for them to need me to listen, I'll bring the warm hand and the hard floor.

But most importantly, I'll be there.


Thanks for guys for listening.  Candace Granger started a wonderful anti-bullying campaign, the End. It. Now. Project. and it deserves more attention and support, so please check it out. 

Also, check out the wonderful posts in the Poetry Pact Blog Hop. And thank you for stopping by!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Giveaway Time!

A few weeks back, I polled people on what they'd like to win on a blog giveaway.

Here are the results. There were a total of 82 people who voted, and people could vote more than once.

54% gift cards for books
10% gift cards for other stuff
34% books
32% ARCs
18% writing stuff
8% hand-crafted item
19% random stuff (like plush microbes!)
25% critiques

I have a few things to celebrate.
But most of all, I want to celebrate you guys. I took a 3 week blogging break in May, and I came back more appreciative of the blogging community than ever before. I missed you guys.

So I picked the top four most-requested giveaway items. Here they are!

**A first 5 pages or query critique**

**A $15 Amazon gift card**

**Your choice of one of the following books:**

AAAAND...**an ARC of Elizabeth Richard's fall debut, BLACK CITY!**
 (which is excellent, btw!)

A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war. In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable--they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash's long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they're caught, they'll be executed--but their feelings are too strong. When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

Here's the Rafflecopter method of entry, and I tried to make it as painless as possible. No need to copy and past links. Honor system, folks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 18, 2012

Medical Mondays: Doping 101

In competition, the athletes with the biggest, fastest, strongest bodies--the ones with the most endurance and are immune to the pain of injuries and training--win. The drugs in doping can help a competitor achieve this.

1.  Anabolic steroids. These drugs, most often ending in an -one and -iol (testosterone, androstenediol, for example), build lean muscle mass and reduce fat. Bye bye potbelly, hello biceps. Not only do they masculinize the users (including women--who'll drop their voices and start growing hair in unfeminine places) they can also make you aggressive, depressed, shrink your testicles, and cause acne and liver damage. Fun times!

2. Peptide hormones and growth factors.
  • erythropoetin-like agent (such as EPO, or Epogen) stimulate the bone marrow to grow more red blood cells. Red cells carry oxygen to your body. The more you have, the more oxygen you can deliver to your exercising body. The real Lance Armstrong is dealing with this one.
  • insulin. Apparently it's used along with steroids to boost energy storage in muscles and continue the anabolic effect of steroids.
  • growth factors (growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor, etc) also used to increase muscle mass.
  • hormones like corticotropin, leutinizing hormone, also used to add mass and optimize muscle growth
3. Beta agonists. You've probably heart of albuterol. It's a commonly used inhaler for people with asthma. These types of meds can be inhaled or taken as pills. The widen the airways, can be used as a stimulant, and may increase muscle mass.

4. Hormone modulators. These are things like aromatase inhibitors (commonly used to treat breast cancer or osteoporosis). This one had me scratching my head. Apparently, when using anabolic steroids, the balance between natural estrogens and androgens (female and male hormones--both of which are found naturally in men and women) goes off kilter. Men using steroids can sometimes paradoxically grow breasts (called gynecomastia) because of this imbalance. Using anti-estrogens like aromatase inhibitors can prevent a bodybuilder from needing to buy a bra at Victoria's Secret. Secret indeed!

5. Diuretics and masking substance. Diuretics, such as thiazides, are meds that make you pee like a racehorse, which may help you pass your urine drug test. Other substances, like dextran, albumin, and mannitol, can mask the actual illegal chemicals.

6. Blood enhancers. This includes blood transfusions (your own banked blood, or someone else's) an chemicals that help your blood carry more oxygen, like perflurochemicals or blood substitutes.

7. Gene doping. Yes! This is not sci-fi, this is real. You are not allowed to have genetically modified cells injected into yourself.

8. Stimulants. Caffeine? Okay! Sudafed (pseudoephedrine)? Only in tiny amounts. Crystal meth?  Adrenaline? No.

9. Narcotics. I know that work out hurt, but no, you cannot pop prescription pain pills.

10. Cannabis, or pot. Or weed. (I wonder if this will change with the legalities of cannabis changing right now.)

11. Glucocorticoids. These are super powerful anti-inflammatory meds, also helpful in recovering from that tough work out. Good for asthma exacerbations, bad for pro athletes.

For more info, check out the comprehensive list by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The CBC gives a nice description of how and why these substances are used.
And the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency also has a nice overview.

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Title me happy!

Yes! I am so excited that my book has a new title. I was technically on a blogging break when this happened, so here it is, in all its Control-ishness.

When I first wrote my book, the original title, THE FOUNTAIN, was the first thing that popped into my mind. Somehow, it managed to stick like Gorilla glue with an OCD complex.

I knew it had to change. I knew from the very beginning. The title didn't encompass more than a single aspect of the book, and that wasn't good enough for me.

Plus, Darren Aronofsky already has a movie with this title. It scored slightly more rotten than fresh by critics on Rotten Tomatoes. I don't know about you, but when I'm eating a tomato, "slightly more rotten than fresh" doesn't cut it. Call me a food snob, but...

...anyway. I digress.

So I made a huge list of other titles that were mildly sucktacular. Possibly stinktacular. I submitted them to my ├╝ber-editor, Kathy Dawson, but luckily, this one popped into her brain.

It has several meanings (none of which I can go into, for spoiler reasons.) But when I first heard it, I admit I was surprised. I guess I thought my title would end up being something like:

The Unbearable Lightness of Not Being My Main Character
How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Process of Revision
Bore-me: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Lydia

But instead, it was simply CONTROL. And it's perfect.

Me = Happy.

So--how do you find the perfect title for your work? Do you get it on the first try, or go through many changes? Oh, and if you can--tell me the title of your current WIP! Pretty please? With non-FD&C-red-and-preservative-free cherries on top?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Poetry, Secrets, and the Cure for Bloggorrhea

In the hope of not committing severe bloggorrhea, I shall try to keep this post succinct. And I shall fail. Ahem.

First, I'm in a poetry anthology that just got published! Whee! First, a little backstory.

*sigh* Isn't it pretty?
In early 2011, Angela Felsted asked me to join a Facebook group called the Poetry Pact. The goal was to try to write a poem regularly, daily if possible, but us lesser humans were allowed to choose a looser schedule. I chose one poem a week; I failed. But I still ended up posting almost 20 poems that year and got to read countless others from some amazing poets.

This year, Angela and another poet, Richard Merril, selected poems and edited the compilation for this anthology. It is amazing to see so much talent (my stuff is amateurish in comparison) put together in a real, solid book.

One of the best parts? The proceeds to purchasing the anthology goes to Direct Relief International, a non-profit organization committed to helping those suffering from poverty, civil unrest, and disasters.  

The lovely authors in this anthology are: Angela Felsted (Author), Jessica Bell (Author), Jim Murdoch (Author), Laurel Garver (Author), Lydia Kang (Author), Madeline Sharples (Author), Richard Merrill (Author), Kerala Varma (Author), Glynis Smy (Author), Alaine Benard (Author), Artemis Grey (Author), Roslyn Ross (Author), Angie Ledbetter (Author), Caleb Mannan (Author), Emily Kruse (Author), February Grace (Author), Janice Marie Phelps (Author), J.R. McRae.

The paperback is available at Amazon for $4.50 and the Kindle version for $2.99. That is some bargain priced art, people.

AND...We are giving away three copies of the paperback version on Goodreads! Contest ends July 6th, and it's open internationally, so enter now!

Okay! That was happy blog item #1. On to #2.

Angela is also hosting a Poetry Pact Blog Hop between June 27-29th. All you do is post a story about a secret pact you've made with friends in the past, or a hush-hush group that may have brought you through hard times. No poetry need be involved!

Angela is offering some amazing prizes for those joining the blog hop.
  • A copy of Madeliene Sharples Leaving the Hall Light On
  • Stephen King's On Writing
  • Blake Snyder's Save the Cat
  • 3 copies of Angela's poetry chapbook, Cleave 

Okay, the bloggorrhea is ending now. You know what the cure is? Not Pepto Bismol. Not Imodium, or tincture of opium! No indeedy. For the love of babbling, it's to stop talking about your new poetry book.

So. Have you ever written poetry? If you do, why? If you don't, why not?


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Elana Johnson: Surrender! Bacon! Awesomesauciness!!

I am so happy to welcome a long time blogger friend Elana Johnson. We've known each other way back from my Querytracker days and I think she might have actually invented the word "awesomesauce." Her newest book, Surrender, is out this week! *insert crazy Kermit dance*

All right, then. Let's get on our awesomesaucey way, shall we?

First, some questions! Because I always torture authors with my middling questions. That's what I do.

When during the course of writing/publishing Possession did you get the ideas that eventually became Surrender?
Oh, boy. See, POSSESSION was written and intended to be a stand-alone novel. It wasn’t until it went into copyedits that my agent and I discussed a possible sequel. And it’s not a real sequel, either, though some have said it is.
     I knew I couldn’t write from Vi’s POV again, and so I needed something else. I needed someONE else. In the end, I came up with two people, and their stories are intertwined throughout SURRENDER.
     I wrote an outline for SURRENDER for my agent—it took me three months. I seriously wanted to cry everyday. I then wrote the book in 25 days. I’ve learned that when my agent wants an outline, I can draft the book in less than a month, and then take a week to put together an outline. No matter what, it’ll take less than the three months of torture I put myself through to outline SURRENDER.

Do you think that writing Surrender and Insider Information was harder or easier than Possession? Why?
I definitely think it’s harder to write additions (sequels, companions, shorts) to stories that are already published. Because POSSESSION is printed. It’s solid, right there in black and white—it can’t be changed.
     The author has to make everything in the additions line up with what’s already in black and white. So that’s why SURRENDER and INSIDER INFORMATION were harder to write.

If you could tell Elana the Younger (by five years) a thing or two, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to fail at this. Oh, and there are going to be a lot of people who won’t like your book. That’s okay. Oh, and spend the bulk of your time writing new stories instead of obsessing over something that’s not working. Oh, and… Just kidding. But I’ve learned a lot in the past 5 years!

If all the bacon on the face of the earth suddenly disappeared, and in fact, all pork products suffered a mysterious disappearance, what new food vice would step up to that responsibility?
Holy mother of pork products. I do not want to live in that world! I think the next food vice after bacon would be cheese. There is little I wouldn’t do for a good piece of havarti with dill… Very. Little.

Thanks Elana! And now, here it is, Elana next book!

About SURRENDER: Forbidden love, intoxicating power, and the terror of control… 

Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi. 

All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn. Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque....
Aaaaand, there's a giveaway!

You can win one of five SPECTACULAR SECOND books this week! It’s easy peasy lemon squeezy. All you have to do is fill out this rafflecopter widget with what you’ve done, and you can win a signed copy of either INSURGENT (by Veronia Roth), A MILLION SUNS (by Beth Revis), CROSSED (by Ally Condie), PERCEPTION (by Kim Harrington), and IN HONOR (by Jessi Kirby)—all spectacular second novels by some of today’s hottest YA authors.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 4, 2012

Medical Mondays: The Death Strike

Oh the heart. That delicate package of muscle, blood, vessels and electricity.

We've probably all heard of stories of people getting hit in the heart and dying. Sadly, it's happened to many young athletes. Does this sound famliar?

A young, 15 year old boy is playing baseball when he accidentally gets hit directly in the chest with the ball. He falls unconscious and the coaches call 911 and grab an emergency AED (automated external defibrillator). Despite CPR and using the AED, the boy dies. 

Many writers are tempted to use it a means to kill of characters. After all, a simple blow to the chest as a way to instantly kill someone? What could be more dramatic, right?

So let's talk about it.

Commotio Cordis (Latin for "agitation of the heart") is the technical name for this phenomenon.

There are a lot of things that have to be just right for Commotio Cordis to occur and cause a fatal arrhythmia (ventricular fibrillation).
  • the object hitting the victim can be another person (football) or an object. When it's a projectile, it' usually solid, like a hockey puck or baseball, though occurrences with soccer balls do occur (more outside the US than here).
  • it has to hit precisely over the heart--not a few centimeters to the left or right.
  • the velocity has to be just so--the closer to 40 mph the more likely it will happen. Too slow or too fast, and it won't.
  • the timing has to be just right. The projectile must hit precisely during a tiny window of the cardiac cycle, specifically during the upslope of the T wave. You know those squiggly lines on the EKG you see on those medical shows? Well, down there in the orange area, in the midst of a single heart beat, is when this phenomenon occurs. It's about a 20-40 millisecond window of time.
From Wikipedia
Here are a few more useful factoids:
  • Sadly, protective chest wear does not prevent this from happening
  • Only 25% of people who suffer from this actually survive, but hopefully this number is increasing with the rapid use of CPR and AEDs.
  • it's hard to pinpoint how often this happens, but the ones most often affected tend to be young males under the age of 25.
  • It most often happens during impact sports, including football
  • though the heart beats faster during physical activity, the window of vulnerability on the cardiac cycle doesn't shorten. Thus, the window occurs more often when the victim is physically active. Another reason why sports make this more of a risk factor.
Why does it happen? There is a theory that the impact triggers activation of an ion channel in the heart muscle which causes the fibrillation to occur.

The bottom line? If you're going to use it in fiction, use it judiciously. It has to make sense if it's going to happen to your poor character. 

Finally, a thank you to Indies Unlimited, whose post inspired mine. :)

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, June 1, 2012

Tamara Hart Heiner: Altercation and Interview!

Hi guys! Please welcome Tamara Hart Heiner! Her new book, ALTERCATION, the sequel to PERILOUS, is ready to meet the world!

Stop by her blog for links to her blog tour participants and more deets. And now, on to the interview!

What advice do you have to other writers tackling sequels? 
Sequels are like any other book: you need to know how the whole thing is going to go and end before you start the first one. Each book needs to have a story that can stand on its own (although, depending on your publishing house, it's okay to end on a "to be continued" cliffhanger). You want readers to be able to pick up your sequel and understand it even if they haven't read the first book. But don't give them so much information that they don't need to read the first book!

You're a great suspense writer. What other genres do you write, or do you concentrate on one? 

So far I've only been able to do suspense. I tried writing a romance once; I found it so boring that I added a serial killer. :)

If you could speak to yourself form five years ago, what advice would you give yourself? 
Five years ago, I was on the right path. I'd go back even further to ten years, where I would tell myself to start writing again. If I'd realized ten years ago that this was what I wanted to do, I think I'd be ten years ahead of myself!

Thanks Tamara! And here's some fun stuff about her blog tour. EVERY DAY she will randomly select one person who made a comment on that day's blog. The winner will then get to decide if they would like an ebook copy of PERILOUS or ALTERCATION.

But if that's not enough, leaving a comment also gets you entered into the PRIZE DRAWINGS. This won't be random; it's cumulative. Every comment youleave counts as 1 point. If you are a follower on her blog, you get 1point. Every time you tweet or share on Facebook about the tour, it's one point. She'll even add it up for you; just include Tamara on the tweet@tamaraheiner or on Facebook @tamarahartheiner.

THIRD PRIZE: 50-page critique of something of your choice (if you're not a
writer, a $5 gift card)
SECOND PRIZE: lot of five YA books
FIRST PRIZE: $20 gift card to

About the book:

The FBI promises Jacinta Rivera and her friends that they are safe. Jaci wants desperately to believe them but weeks of hiding from their kidnapper, alias "The Hand", have left her wary. Hidden from the public eye in an FBI safe house, Jaci must reconcile both the mysterious disappearance of her father and the murder of her best friend.

A betrayal lands Jaci back in the grasp of The Hand, shattering her ability to trust and leaving her to wonder if she will ever piece together her broken life.

Available in paperback (on June 5th) or as e-book (available now) on Amazon!
Also available at 20% off at Wido!