Life

07/22/17 inspiration , Life , Meditation , Mindfulness , positivity , quotes , self-inquiry , Swami Satchidananda , yoga # , , , , , , ,

Digging One Well

I have always been a well-digger, by which I mean I have always had a lot of interests. I’m a naturally curious person, and at various times in my life I’ve immersed myself in everything from writing to business to marketing to politics to cooking and baking to homemaking to antiques and antique selling to Buddhism to yoga to meditation to fitness…

You get the idea.

It took me awhile to realize there is a difference – a big one – between an interest and a passion.

There are a lot of great things about being curious, but one of the downsides is that it’s easy to get distracted. The sad truth of it is that there are only so many hours in the day. There is only so much available psychic space in a day too.

The last fifteen years or so I’ve gotten better about sensing when I’m off track, when I’ve let my interests monopolize my time instead of treating them like a condiment to the meal of my passions. There are so many fascinating things in the world and they have never been more accessible to us than they are right now. What can I say? It’s easy to get sidetracked.

The Indian proverb above is expanded upon by Swami Satchidananda who explains it this way:

“There’s no value in digging shallow wells in a hundred places. Decide on one place and dig deep. Even if you encounter a rock, use dynamite and keep going down. If you leave that to dig another well, all the first effort is wasted and there is no proof you won’t hit rock again.”

Sometimes we dig deep and actually hit water. In that case, we should sit awhile and enjoy the fruits of our labor, taste the water and see if it’s to our liking. Even if it is, there is no guarantee it will always be that way (and no guarantee the well will always have water – wells do run dry). And for the record, it’s okay if you hit water and decide to move on anyway. I’m a big believer in the idea that sometimes you have to get what you think you want to know you don’t actually want it.

Either way, it’s natural and healthy that we should re-evaluate our priorities from time to time. We are always changing. Every second of every day cells are dying and being born in our bodies, perceptions are shifting, we are accounting for new information by discarding that which is no longer true or useful and making room for that which is.

Well, I hope we’re all doing that. Jesus… I’m freaking glad I’m not the same person now I was when I was twenty, and I pray to the Universe I am not the same person when I’m seventy that I am now. That’s part of the magic, isn’t it? The knowledge that there’s a vast repository of experience and knowledge out there? That we are free to draw on it at any time?

I’ve dug a lot of wells, but the through-lines of my life have been reading, writing, and learning. I have never lost my desire for any of these things. Lately I’ve been sensing myself at a crossroads. Some of it is probably that Caroline, my youngest, will be leaving for college next month, and while I still have two young people at home (one getting his Masters and one commuting while he gets his undergrad degree), knowing the kids are all officially adults is a huge change that’s bound to bring some introspection.

But the truth is, I’ve never really lamented my impending empty nest. My children and I are incredibly tight (as those of you who have seen us en masse at book events can attest!). I miss them when they go. But there are so many things I’ve been waiting to do and experience and it really does feel like time.

So the big question for me is which well will I dig next? Specifically, how will I use my words to honor the things that have moved to the forefront of my consciousness?

Because I’ve always been committed to a joyful life. I’ve done some intense things to achieve joy and harmony (quitting a lucrative career with nothing else in the works, moving 3,000 miles to a place where I knew no one, getting a divorce), and one thing I can say with certainty is that I have never regretted a single one.

I’m incredibly fortunate to live in such harmony. I acknowledge this with gratitude while also saying for anyone else out there who feels the need for change that I have made conscious choices to live this way, and in case you should think I live a trouble-free existence (no perfect-life filter here!), there are sacrifices (I have no health insurance, as the sole breadwinner for my family, my income is sporadic, which can be terrifying, etc.).

All of which is to say you have the power to radically alter your life if you feel the need – and so do I.

In fact, I’ll let you in on one of my favorite secrets: THERE IS NO LIMIT TO THE NUMBER OF TIMES AND WAYS IN WHICH YOU CAN REINVENT YOURSELF.

Say that again for yourself. Believe it. I do.

I’ve always found it most helpful to work backward from what I want. Working forward from where I am now can be too intimidating. I’m not sure I would have known what to do with the advice to move 3,000 miles with four kids or get a book deal. But knowing I wanted a book deal meant knowing that I had to have a book to sell which meant knowing I actually had to learn more about craft and finish a book, possibly several.

So that was my first real writing goal: finish one book, even if it sucked (it did).

But I dug that well through five books to sell Prophecy of the Sisters. I did not allow myself to be distracted by other interests or by doubt or by anything but the shovel in my hand, the dirt I was throwing over my shoulder, the possibility of water.

So what do I want now? I want to travel freely and expand my writing to the areas that have been speaking to me lately. I want to continue living joyously and help others to do the same. I want to keep learning and being open to all the possibilities.

With  that in mind, I’m doing a lot of centering work right now to determine the best road to take for the next phase of my journey. I know which direction I’m heading, but I’m still charting the course.

I hope you’ll join me on the path. There is room for all.

<3

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02/01/17 Life , Meditation , Mindfulness , Politics

Coping Mechanisms for the Resistance

I was supposed to write this post at the beginning of the year. It was meant to be a kind of New Year’s post about moving forward in the post-election world. But the truth is, it’s taken me this long to get my head around what’s happened and where we are, and the hits come on an almost daily basis.

This isn’t a political post. But for those who are saying, “Give Trump a chance,” I can only say; have you been watching the news? The night he was elected I knew I’d have to give him a chance. Then he started appointing anti-Semites and racists and mysogynists and homophobes and even people who just don’t know shit about the job for which they’re applying. He’s got so many conflicts of interest it makes the allegations against Hillary (all unproven) seem like a kid stealing a candy bar. He has ties to Russia that could amount to treason. He is looking to roll back discrimination protections for the LGBT community and to appoint a Supreme Court judge who will vote to reverse Roe V. Wade, putting millions of women at risk for dangerous pregnancies and illegal abortions. He has alienated our allies to such a degree that they are scrambling to form new alliances with other countries and he has instituted an unconstitutional ban on immigrants based on religion – but not from any of the Middle Eastern countries that actually have a history of importing terror to the U.S., or (not coincidentally) from any of the Middle Eastern countries where he has business interests. Through all of this he has not issued one unifying, reassuring statement to the people of this country.

This man has already been given far more chances than President Obama was given by the GOP.

The time for chances is over. Now it’s time to fight.

But fighting takes a lot of mental energy. It’s emotionally draining and even depressing. In the real world (as opposed to Trump’s world where, when it gets to cold, he can simply decamp to the “Winter White House”, which is apparently the new name for his estate, Mar-a-Lago) we have to work. We have to buy groceries and take care of children. We have to socialize without giving the impression that we are a hair’s breadth away from screaming out loud.

And that all means we have to cope. We have to balance. We have to practice radical self-care while continuing to fight in whatever capacitywe can manage, because not fighting just isn’t an option right now.

hey girl coping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With that in mind, I’m going to share some of the things that have helped me over the past couple of months as I’ve sought some equilibrium. They’re strategies I’m going to focus on this year in my quest to remain sane – and dare I say it? – even happy while this shit show runs its course.

Meditation

I’ve written here about it before so I’ll keep this short, but it is unrivaled in its ability to open up some blank, white space in an overcrowded mind. It can be difficult at first (which I always see as a testament to how badly it’s needed, because if we can’t sit quietly with ourselves for ten minutes a day, we’re in trouble), but it’s so worth the small amount of time it requires. It gets easier over time, so stick with it. No special equipment is needed, you can do it anywhere, and many Buddhist monasteries offer free meditation instruction. In lieu of that, you can search this blog for my previous posts about it or contact me with any questions.

Compartmentalization

I used to pride myself on my ability to compartmentalize – focus on the task at hand to the exclusion of all else – when I was juggling work in an office with four small children at home. Now I realize that it’s just another word for mindfulness, which has been a cornerstone of my spiritual practice for the past couple of years. One of my favorite sayings is “The lesson will be repeated until it is learned.” And boy is it true.

In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes;

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly — you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. This is the disease. You believe that you are your mind. This is the delusion. The instrument has taken you over.”

Compulsive thinking is a disease, and it’s frighteningly easy to fall into it at a time like this. Learning to breathe into the moment, to truly be wherever you are, is a tremendous gift. It means that when you are using your mind (which we all must do right now), you are fully engaged in that activity – not preoccupied with fear of the future and all its possibilities, but focused on the action you are taking that moment. When you aren’t using your mind to take political action, be in the moment then too. Fully engage with your family and friends without looking at your phone. Really watch a movie without letting your mind wander. Spend a whole afternoon drinking tea and reading a book. Whatever you’re doing, be there doing that. When you notice your mind wandering to anxiety-producing topics, gently let those thoughts go and bring yourself back to the moment at hand. Sometimes it helps to really notice the feel of a chair under your body, the color of your child’s eyes, the feel of a soft blanket against your cheek – whatever you are experiencing in that moment. I’m nowhere near where I need to be, but remembering to be fully present and limiting the times when I’m in anxiety-producing situation has helped a lot.

PemaChodron sky-weather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media

Listen, we need it. It’s part of life now, and if you’re a writer or another public figure, it can actually be a detriment not to have it.

But with all the political activism going on right now, social media can be a quick road to burnout. I’ve found that limiting my time there helps. I’ll sign on for about a half hour in the morning, a half hour in the afternoon, and a half hour at night to catch up. Then I really try to stay off and to be fully present in the rest of my life. Some days I’m more successful than others, but generally speaking it allows me to be politically active while maintaining a sense of sanity. Being fully present in the rest of my life is a reminder that I DO have a life beyond what’s happening in the larger world. And I think we need that now more than ever.

Physical activity

This has been a huge coping mechanism for me. I started going back to the gym again about a year and half ago, and although I feel much better physically, it’s also helped my mental state tremendously. I’m able to burn off some of the manic energy that I have in times of high-stress, and it leaves me relaxed and also helps me sleep well at night. Sometimes on a Sunday I just get outside and go for a walk. Being in nature helps. I’m lucky to live in the country, but going to a park is just as lovely and good for the soul.

Breathing

This might sound like a silly thing to add, but in times of stress we actually forget how to breath properly. Instead of oxygenating our body with full deep breaths from the diaphragm, we tend to breathe shallowly. The feeling that comes with shallow breathing goes hand in hand with anxiety and panic attacks. I use Darth Vader breathing when I feel this way. A yoga teacher taught me this technique; breath in deeply through the nose until your belly inflates, then exhale forcefully (mouth still closed) up through the chest and throat and out through the nose. It will sound a little bit like Darth Vader and you should immediately feel more clear-headed. You can do this anywhere! Just take three deep breaths like that whenever you feel anxious. All that oxygen will help take your anxiety down a notch.

Lastly, I would say to remember that everything is temporary. Everything. We have been through dark times before, but I fully believe the light is always there too. It’s there in the love of family and friends, in the common purpose we find with others, in the rising and setting of the sun and the ever-changing and unchanging ways of nature. We will fight the injustices that have been perpetrated and those that will come. But we must continue to live – and love – as well.

Isn’t that what we’re fighting for?
<3

M

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09/11/15 Indie , inspiration , Life , Uncategorized # , , ,

A Head Full of Fear

Head_Fear_QuoteI saw this quote about a week ago and have been thinking about it ever since. I’ve always had a saying that has served me well;

Never make a decision out of fear.

You’d be surprised how many decisions are fear-based when that is your litmus test.

Now because this is the internet and the internet is full of trite sayings that, when dissected under the magnifying glass of critical thinking, aren’t helpful and might actually be harmful, I’m going to give you a disclaimer.

Fear can be good. Fear makes you look both ways before crossing the street. It makes you think carefully before making a career decision that might have lasting implications for you or your family. It keeps you from driving too fast and eating too much junk food.

That’s not the kind of fear I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the kind of fear that paralyzes you. The kind of fear that keeps you from taking a step in any direction because something might go wrong. Like many people, I struggle with that fear on a weekly basis. The burden feels greater because I am responsible for other human beings, and I don’t want to fuck things up for them.

But friends, I am so, so, SO glad I have not let fear rule my life. I didn’t let it rule my life when I got out of two bad marriages. (yeah, my track record there isn’t so great, but you know what? Everyone is happier now, my kids included). I didn’t let it rule my life when I ditched a very high paying but unsatisfying job in my home state of California for a quieter life in rural New York where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t have a job. I didn’t let it decide whether I should write back in 2004, when I got serious and started writing the books that led me to Prophecy of the Sisters and my first deal with Little Brown. I haven’t let it rule my life while I’ve experimented with a bunch of different genres – from YA Gothic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, Steampunk, and contemporary fiction to adult romance and psychological thrillers.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been scared. It doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes either. But I haven’t regretted any of them, because I’ve been in motion. I’ve been MOVING. And even the things that seemed like mistakes at the time, later looked like exactly the thing I needed to lead me to the next good thing that WASN’T a mistake.

Isn’t life funny that way? I’ll bet if you look back on the “bad” things that happened to you, you’ll find that the vast majority were precursors to something good that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been confronted with the “bad” one. If you think about taking away that one negative experience, what would you lose that was good?

And I’ll let you in on another secret; almost always, the thinking about doing something scary is worse than the actual doing. That’s because we build up all these scary scenarios in our head, and statistically, they aren’t ALL going to come true. Plus, when you’re moving, you don’t have as much space in your brain for worrying and being scared. You’re too busy taking steps, looking around, making something happen.

For the first time in a long time, I feel in control of my situation. Wanna know my one regret?

Not taking control sooner. Being so scared that I stood still for so long, or if not still, that I didn’t move in the one direction that offered the most promise.

So look your fear in the face, dear friends. What’s the worst that can happen, really? What’s the best? Is your avoidance of the worst worth sacrificing the possibility of the best? Will you be satisfied later, when you’re still in the same place because you were afraid to take a step? Because here is one absolutely universal truth; nothing in your life will change if you keep doing the same things over and over again.

And you know what? Taking a step isn’t very hard. It’s just one step. Take one today and another one tomorrow. You will be two steps closer to the thing you want, and you’ll be so busy moving, you’ll be surprised by how your fear recedes into the background. Free up all that space in your brain and psyche and imagination for something better. Because there is always something better than fear.

<3

 

 

 

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08/07/15 kindness , Life , quotes # , ,

Morbid… But True

Dead_Midnight_QuoteSeriously. What would happen if we did this? Would we all be kinder?

Because that would be nice.

<3

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07/26/15 Life , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Self-Publish , Shadowguard Series , Writing # , , , , , ,

Leaning In to Life and Work

Work_Hard_QuoteMan… it has been a crazy couple of months, you guys.

I came off BEA with a huge work high and rode it all the way into July. In the two months since, I’ve written a whole book, completed a big freelance editing project, completed a smaller freelance editing project, built a pseudonym from the ground up for the Mob Boss series (including new name, domain name, new social media accounts all around, etc.), and developed a new YA concept (with character analysis and synopsis). I’ve absorbed information about self-publishing until I’ve felt like my brain will explode (metadata anyone? covers? blurbs? ISBN #s?), and I’ve connected with lots of awesome new people in the romance genre and in the field of self-publishing. I’ve read like crazy to keep up on things, maintained my household (including the weekly monster grocery shops that seem to go with the territory of having four young people in the house), and spent time with my kids when I can (and when they’re home).

And I’m not going to lie; it hasn’t been easy.

The thing is, I’ve considered self-publishing romance ever since I wrote the Shadowguard novella series (a series of adult romances based on the world in A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS) almost three years ago. I wanted more control over my career, both creatively and financially. I wanted to have the freedom to experiment and to release books as often as I wanted. But there was always a reason why I couldn’t.

I was too busy.

I wanted to focus on my contracted YA work.

I was worried about writing romance under a name most well-known in the YA genre.

I was worried about trying to build a new platform for a pseudonym.

All of which were valid concerns, and none of which have really changed or been resolved.

I’m still to busy to be doing this.

I’d still like to focus on my YA work (I’m not under contract at the moment, but I’d like to be).

It’s probably not a good idea to write adult romance under a name most well known in the YA genre.

It is difficult and time consuming and humbling to start over with a new name.

But you guys… I’m doing it. I’m working constantly. Some things have fallen by the wayside. I’m up until 3am most nights, even when I’m so tired I don’t think I can keep my eyes open. Even when it means I’m only getting four hours of sleep. It’s Sunday morning, and I’m writing this blog post instead of doing something else, and I’ll spend the rest of the day working, too.

Basically, this is me right now.

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But I’m doing it.

I think a lot about Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to lean in, even though it was directed more at women in traditional careers. She’s right; it takes guts to lean in. It takes courage to risk everything over and over again. It takes heart to choose your dream over and over again.

And one thing I’ve learned is that dreams are built not on the big moments, but on the little ones. Every time you work when you want to sleep or play. Every time you push when you want to settle in. Every time you risk when you want to play it safe. Every time you believe when you want to quit. THOSE are the moments that build dreams.

But you MUST have those moments.

Because dreams aren’t built by sleeping. They aren’t built by doing the same thing over and over. They aren’t built by being comfy. And they sure as hell aren’t built by quitting.

You have to WERK, my friends.

And the truth is, even that is no guarantee of success. You may fail. You may have to recalibrate. You may have to change course, take a detour, even take a break. But make no mistake; you will not get what you want if you aren’t willing to work, sometimes for years, often through countless setbacks. But the time will pass anyway. You may as well pass it in pursuit of something you really want.

This seems like a no brainer, but it’s interesting to me how many people I meet who want big things but aren’t willing to do the big work. After awhile, it gets boring hearing people TALK about what they want to accomplish.

Watching people DO is so much more interesting, don’t you think?

And when it comes to writing, doing doesn’t just mean output. It means honing your craft (go back to school if you must), learning from others, reading constantly, experimenting, and writing thousands of words that no one will ever read.

Write now I am WORKING. Because I can’t control a lot of things. Maybe no one will like my work. Maybe I won’t be able to sell it at all. But the one thing I can control is the work. I can make sure I never have to look back and wonder if I didn’t work hard enough, and WHEN I reach my goals (because I will), I can look back and say, when the ugly monster of unworthiness rears its head (for me it always does), “You earned this, baby!”

And I can mean it.

Now stop reading and get to work.

And if you haven’t added Michelle St. James and/or Ruthless to your social media sites, would you consider doing so? I’d love to keep you posted on my progress, and all content on those pages is unique to those accounts (i.e. not repeated on the Michelle Zink profiles).

Michelle St. James Facebook

Michelle St. James Twitter

Michelle St. James Goodreads

Ruthless Goodreads page

<3

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07/08/15 Indie , Life , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Romance , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Writing # , , , , , , , ,

Some Like It Hot

You guys! I’m going to have a new book for you — in less than a month.

🙂

And this one is completely different, both because it’s my first full length adult romance (the Shadowguard books were all novellas) and because I’ll be joining the growing list of hybrid authors publishing both traditionally and Indie.  I’ll be going into the details in a later blog post, but the short version is that after six years, seven published novels, six novellas, one TV/book deal that never happened (the book was written, but the TV part was put on hold which also shelved the book), and countless samples, partials, and proposals, I’m anxious to have more control over my career.

Those of you who know me know that I’m prolific, and this will give me the opportunity to publish as much as I want in any genre. All of which means MORE books in MORE genres– starting with RUTHLESS, book one in a three book series.

 

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Two years out of college, Angelica Bondesan spends her time working as a barista, keeping in touch with her prodigal brother, and trying to figure out how to bridge the gap with her father, a wealthy real estate developer.

But all of that changes the night she’s kidnapped. Thrown into a windowless room, Angelica is positive there’s been some kind of mistake — until she meets Nico Vitale.

Gorgeous and frightening, Nico became the boss of New York City’s Vitale crime family after the execution style murder of his parents two years earlier. Since then he’s turned the old-school mob into a sleek, modern army of ruthless men who understand that physical violence — while always an option — isn’t the only way to get what you want.

Now Angel is forced to face the truth;

Her father is not the man she believed him to be.

Nico Vitale is dangerous, possibly lethal.

She is falling in love with Nico Vitale.

 

RUTHLESS will be out August 3rd, and the next two books, FEARLESS and LAWLESS, will be out in September and October respectively. It’s been loads of fun to read and write in a different genre, and I’ve been really impressed with the adult romance I’ve read in the past few months.

Best. Research. Ever.

Although fair warning to those of you who don’t like it HAWT; romance has gotten decidedly more wicked in the past couple of years.

😉

As part of this new chapter (see what I did there?), all of my adult romance will be written under the name Michelle St. James. It will be an open pseudonym, which means everyone will know it’s me, but I hope this will decrease confusion between my adult and YA work. I’ll be keeping the two separate to some degree, although I may occasionally post from the Michelle St. James Facebook page (Like it here to get updates, freebies, etc.) to my personal profile since so many of you follow me there. For now, www.michellestjames.com will forward to this site, and you can also follow the Michelle St. James Twitter profile. The Michelle St. James pages will have content unique to the adult genre including hot guys, adult romance recommendations, and anything else that might not be appropriate for my “mainstream” audience.

You’ve been warned!

🙂

I’ve watched a lot of my friends go Indie and have been so appreciative of the information they have so willingly shared. I’m going to try and pay it forward by being as transparent as possible, so stay tuned for updates on my progress (and some angst along the way, there will probably be angst). I’m considering this an evolution in my career, and I’m so excited to share the journey with you guys!

 

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06/06/15 Book News , Life , Reading , Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , , , , , ,

Newsletter – Incoming!

After much deliberation I have decided to join the ranks of newsletter-bearing authors. One of the hardest things about authoring in the modern age is knowing how much to share, how often to share it, and whether people are REALLY interested in hearing it. Here, I’m my own worst enemy, because my assumption is always that people are busy and overloaded with information, and it takes something pretty special to compel them to read something else on their computer.

Do I have stuff to share that’s something special? I’ll let you decide. But I do have stuff to share — about reading, writing, and life.

And sometimes I even have NEWS.

😉

So after taking an informal Facebook poll and confirming that a good number of my readers would like a semi-personal, once-monthly, quick and easy to read account of what’s going on — with my writing and everything else — I decided to give it a whirl. My plan is to include a couple of real life things (recipes, things I’m loving that month, etc.) with a personal snippet and a book recommendation or writing tip. I’m planning to keep it one page, and only put it out once a month.

But the big thing is that I’m going to make as many announcements as possible to newsletter subscribers first. And that includes my next book announcement.

If you’d like to stay in the loop, you can sign up for the newsletter here in under ten seconds. And if you decide to opt out at any time, all you’ll have to do is hit the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of each newsletter.

<3

0 likes 61 responses
06/01/15 Lies I Told , Life , Reading , Writing # , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

BEA Fun!

BEA Fun!

Whew! I’m back from the city and still recovering from the whirlwind of awesomeness that is BEA. In short; books, bloggers, books, authors, books, editors and publicists, and more fun and excitement than I usually get in a whole year (which, now that I think about it, must change).

I kicked off BEA with the EpicReads Blogger Party. This was most memorable because I FINALLY got to meet my editor, the amazing Jennifer Klonsky. It’s such a special thing to speak to someone on the phone and online and think they’re special, and then to meet them in person and realize you were RIGHT. Not only is Jen an incredibly talented editor, but it’s also so obvious that she cares deeply about her authors and their work that it’s easy to feel like you’re in good hands. I also got to meet my tireless publicist, Stephanie Hoover, who deserves extra credit,because she planned the party at the Bourbon Street Grille. And it was SO FUN. There were balloons and a photo booth and tons of amazing food and swag bags and just general all-around awesomeness. Of course, I didn’t get a photo with anyone, because I’m always too wrapped up in the moment to bother taking pictures, but here’s one of me cheesing in the taxi on the way to the party.

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😉

The next day I arrived at the Javitz Center for my signing and was blown away to find people already in line for me at 9am. This might not seem like a big deal, but almost everyone is out late partying at BEA, so I really appreciate that these awesome folks got up early and made their way to the conference center to stand in my line.  


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I saw so many awesome readers, including Rebecca, a former Borders bookseller that I’ve known since Prophecy came out in 2009.


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I had an overflow line, but the people at BEA were nice enough to move me to another table at the end of my signing time, so I was able to keep going until every last book was gone. I was sad to hear later that I’d missed some of my of my favorite readers. Darn it! But these radiant beauties got my last two books.

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After my signing, we made our way to the HarperCollins booth, where I waited through an entire cycle of books to snap this picture of my cover on the digital screen. Because I am patient like that.

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I met lots of new readers and bloggers, and even got little presents from a few, including this cute little bag of goodies from Swoony Boys Podcast (there was candy, too…. but that’s gone now).

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🙂

Then I was able to get a picture of Kenneth and Rebekah, who made me laugh, helped spread the word about my signing, and kept me from going insane or becoming dehydrated from lack of water.

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We spent the rest of the day walking the floor, picking up tons of amazing books, including the much-anticipated City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg, Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee, and Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica. I was also able to meet up with dear friends like M.J. Rose, which is always a special treat for a hermit like me.

But of course, I didn’t get a picture!

Later that night I attended the HarperCollins author party. It was basically perfection, and I had a good mix of time spent talking to other people in the industry and time alone, gazing out at the incredible views from Tribeca Rooftop and really appreciating how far I’ve come, and how lucky and grateful I am to still be writing books for a living, and to be living this wonderful, terrifying, exhilarating writing life. I’m glad I had those few moments when I didn’t need anything else. I didn’t need anything MORE. I’m going to try and remember that feeling for all those times when I feel like what I’ve done so far isn’t enough.

Because really, it’s pretty freaking amazing, and whatever else happens in my life, I will always have published these six (soon to be eight) books. I will always have been here. I will always have done this.

Plus, there were mini donuts, warm cookies, and shot glasses of milk.

😉


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After the party I met up with my sidekicks for a proper dinner (there was so much amazing food at the party, but I never eat much at those things because I’m always too busy visiting and taking it all in) in Tribeca. The lighting for pictures was poor, but I actually took one, and let’s be honest, it’s not possible for these two to take a bad picture.

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We left tired but happy. Conferences and workshops are a good reminder of why it’s so important to stay connected to the writing community — and that goes double for people like me. I’m lucky in some ways, because I feel like I can be happy and content in almost any situation. But that can be dangerous, too, because I get stuck in a rut, writing in my isolated barn house, feeling perfectly content until I actually go out and DO SOMETHING. Then I remember that I’m a change junkie, that I LOVE learning and experiencing new things, and I get the itch to do something dramatic.

This trip came at an especially important time. Kenneth and Rebekah just graduated from college and are looking for full time jobs in the city, and Andrew will be going to college in September. Most likely, it will just be Caroline and me in the fall, and she’ll be gone two years later. It was nice to have the reminder that I can still be engaged in grown up life without kids, that I have something to offer and something to gain by being around others. I returned home invigorated about my plans for the next two years (and boy do I have some surprises for you, readers!) and even more determined to begin laying the groundwork for the next phase of my life. I don’t know much about it yet, but I do know it will involve living somewhere else, travel, and lots and lots of writing.

No matter how much fun it is to be out of the routine, it’s always nice to come home. Especially when you’re welcomed by kids who are happy to see you.

And this.

<3

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04/20/15 Lies I Told , Life , Writing # , , , , , , , , , ,

Kirkus calls LIES I TOLD a “touching” Thriller!

It’s been such a whirlwind two weeks celebrating the release of LIES I TOLD that I’m just now getting to share this with you guys.

A few months ago I found out Kirkus had given LIES I TOLD a STARRED review. Most of you probably know this is a big deal; Kirkus is notoriously tough on writers, and they have a very, very high bar to star something. I was completely blown away and grateful, because the review really validated all the hard work I’ve done on craft these past couple of years.

Fast forward to release day and THIS pops up in my Twitter feed;

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Yes, you’re reading that right. Kirkus actually tweeted about LIES I TOLD, calling it a “touching” thriller and making it clear that it’s an exception to the rule.

So… yeah. I’m just kind of bragging.

😉

And sharing! And reminding you that LIES I TOLD is out now, and I’d love if you’d give it a shot. And if you already HAVE given it a shot and enjoyed it, I’d love it if you’d post a review on Amazon/B&N/Goodreads, because it really helps bring the book up in the search algorithms.

For those of you who have done all these things and more, I continue to be grateful and overwhelmed by your support. I think I have the best readers in the whole world.

<3

 

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04/09/15 Funny , Lies I Told , Life # , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LIES WE TOLD Video

I’m so excited to share the video Caroline and I put together to celebrate the launch of LIES I TOLD. This isn’t a book trailer. It’s a compilation of lies told by or to real life people, and their explanation of how the lie changed them and how they moved past it. Some of them are funny, some heartfelt, and one is even shocking, but one thing the video illustrates is something Grace Fonataine in LIES I TOLD knows firsthand; Sometimes the worst lies we tell, are the ones we tell ourselves.

And my lie is in here, too. Yikes!

Enjoy! And you’ll get extra entries on the massive $250 gift card giveaway if you share the link.

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03/20/15 Life , Uncategorized # , , , , , , ,

Andrew Zink is My Son

Andrew_WhiteHouseAnd today, I couldn’t be more proud.

Many of you have probably heard of the uproar in our town. It’s been covered by NBC News, the Washington Post, and the LA Times, among others. You can look it up online (or on my Facebook feed) if you want to see the news stories, watch the interviews, or listen to Andrew on the radio. Frankly I’m too tired too post links. But the short version of the story is this;

As part of National Foreign Language Week, Pine Bush High School decided they would enlist bi-lingual students to recite the pledge – a different language for every day of the week. This activity was approved by administration. Monday and Tuesday were supposed to be Spanish and Japanese, but the kids who volunteered for those recitations got nervous and decided not to take their turn. On the third day, a very brave young woman named Dana and a teacher met my son, Andrew Zink, in the office as he was preparing to do morning announcements. Andrew is Student Senate President and Senior Class President, and daily announcements are one of his responsibilities. The teacher and student asked Andrew if they could recite the pledge in Arabic instead of English for that day as part of Foreign Language Week. Andrew agreed without hesitation. Dana began reciting the pledge, and immediately students in class began booing and catcalling. At first, Andrew didn’t think it was a huge deal. He assumed some people would be angry – he knows the dynamic of our small rural town – but he didn’t think the backlash would be so great.

Following the Pledge, Dana was harassed at school, called a terrorist and told to “go back to the Middle East.” Andrew wasn’t vilified until he contacted a newspaper. This was seen as traitorous by many in the district, set in a town with deeply racist roots (it’s changing, but not quickly enough) and a history of silence about those issues (in 2012, the NY Times published an article describing systematic abuse of Jewish students and the administrator’s lack of action when confronted with that abuse, a situation that led to a lawsuit against the district and a subsequent public uproar). The anger immediately turned to Andrew for “creating an issue by telling the media” and “talking to the media to get attention.”

I guess if a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, it really DOESN’T make a sound. That was sarcasm.

Now to understand Andrew’s motives, you have to understand Andrew. This is a kid with a deep, deep passion for politics and for his country. He knows more about political history and modern politics than 99% of American adults. He has volunteered on local political campaigns and used to ask me to take him to the town’s Democratic Party (a very small minority, I might add) meetings before he could even drive. He wants to change the country, change the world. The highlight of turning eighteen for him – he could FINALLY vote. And he can’t WAIT. He has plans for a political website geared toward educating young people and making politics understandable and accessible to them. He CARES.

Because of the history in our town, and specifically the town’s tendency to shield problems from attention so that everything looks pretty from the outside, Andrew truly believed that this issue would not prompt change unless a spotlight was shone on it. Even at eighteen, he understood that to be overcome, ignorance and prejudice must first be brought into the light, and he knew from the Jewish discrimination suit that the tendency would be for everyone to pretend it hadn’t happened, to avoid talking about it and just move on.

To some degree, I understand this tendency. Unfortunately, the goals of the school district and people like Andrew, like US, are in some ways opposed. The district not only wants to keep things calm, they NEED to. Jobs depend on it, insurance depends on it. And that’s just for starters. But for students like Andrew, the goal isn’t calm. The goal is growth.

This is a complicated issue.

I don’t want to vilify the district here. I think they are in a very tough position, and I do believe the principal at Pine Bush High School cares, and that he wants to see this growth in the town. . He was damned if he did (“Why did you let a student read the Pledge in Arabic?!”) and damned if he didn’t (“Why WOUDLN’T you let a student read the Pledge in Arabic? What about diversity?!”). I understand why the principal apologized immediately following the Pledge, but I wish he hadn’t. In my view, when you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you choose to be damned on the side of right. You COMMIT and let the chips fall where they may. My grandmother would have said, “Make yourself happy. At least then you know one person is.” I will translate that here into, “Do what’s right. Whatever happens, at least you know you did what’s right.” This is how I’ve taught my children. When you’re in doubt, distill everything to one question if at all possible; What is RIGHT?

Then you do THAT. Because it’s right.

In a district that has severe prejudice (and not just against Jewish people or Muslims, but against African Americans and other ethnicities as well), the right thing here is to say, “Look, we know this is going to painful for some of you, but we’re going to support diversity in every way we can. You may not like some of it, but it’s the way it has to be for our district to move into the 21st century, and for our students to be prepared for the global society they will be entering.”

And then you stick with it.

I understand how difficult this is, especially when so much of this deeply rooted prejudice comes from parents who themselves haven’t moved into the 21st century. It’s been interesting to read the tweets coming from former Pine Bush students in support of Andrew. Most of these kids have gone onto college and now have a broader view of the world. I’m not sure some of them would have stood up for Andrew in this situation back when they lived here. But the real world isn’t like this, and they know that now. We do our kids a disservice to let them think that it is.

The saddest part to me has been the hatred and vitriol directed at Andrew and at our family, many of it from adults across the country. Things like this;

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And this;

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That is difficult to see, and difficult for Andrew to see, but whatever he may say when he’s trying to act like it’s no big deal, the hardest part for him has been going to school and seeing former friends turn their backs on him. And while many of his peers support him, others have bombarded him with tweets like these that are well into cyber-bullying territory even after he tweeted that night, “To everyone who disagrees with my decisions, I respect your right to do so and hope we can have a productive conversation. Goodnight PB.”

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Although, for a little levity, I did appreciate this;

 

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Andrew is President of Debate Club. It’s not a bad strategy.

😉

Andrew’s younger sister has not been immune and has been subjected to shouts of, “Fuck Andrew Zink!” when she walks by people in the hall (sorry for the language, it’s ugly, but so is this). I guess it’s okay to shout things like that – as long as we don’t do it in Arabic.

Is this what we do? Turn our backs on people who have a different viewpoint than us? Turn our backs on people who bring light to a situation that needs to be addressed? Is this what we teach our children? I know they’re kids, but many of them are kids we’ve nurtured since childhood, kids who have been welcomed into our home and family. I’m not going to lie; it’s really, really hard to see them publicly bash Andrew for doing what he thought was RIGHT. Because while Andrew has been the subject of these vicious attacks, many of them from ADULTS from all over the country, he has not once attacked someone personally. Instead, he’s made a point of saying that he respects everyone’s opinions and hopes a productive dialog can be had on the issue.

I can only hope the parents in our community use this as a means to discuss the merit of respectful disagreement as opposed to personal, hate-filled rhetoric. Can we keep talking about this? Can we talk to our kids reasonably, without coloring their minds with our own opinions, about why they feel the way they do? About whether those feelings are a result of reason or emotion? About what to with the negative feelings when they have them?

I hope so. I KNOW there are others here who feel the way we do, but I have to admit it sometimes feels like we’re rowing the boat alone.

On the other side, many, many people have been lovely and supportive.

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How did this happen? The truth is, I think Andrew and this issue have become a symbol for a deep-seated prejudice in our country. It’s hit a nerve, and when you hit a nerve, it hurts for a reason.

Many who have questioned Andrew’s motives in going to the media have asked why he did it. The answer, straight from his mouth, is simple; “I’m really just hoping to start a discussion about what being an American is, and what defines being an American.”

That discussion is being had now. I’m receiving emails and tweets from people who are discussing this issue at work and at home, from teachers talking about it in class. This is how change happens, not by hiding the truth in the shadows, but by shining a spotlight on it. That isn’t always comfortable to people (it has not been comfortable for us), but only then can we begin to affect change.

In the end, I can only find comfort in the words of my amazing son.

“It’s not our language that makes us American, it’s our beliefs.”

Amen, son. Amen.

<3

 

 

 

 

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03/10/15 Life # , , , , ,

The Unessential

Bruce_Lee_Unessential“Hack away at the unessential.”

This is what I’ve been working on the past couple of years. It isn’t easy. If you’re a Pleaser like me, you want to help out, you want to participate, not necessarily because you enjoy it, but because you want to make other people happy (Elizabeth Gilbert has a nice post on FB today about saying No, and that’s very much the same thing). But that’s no good. Then everyone else is happy but you are frazzled and UNhappy, and there is less room for your particular brand of joy because all the corners or your life are stuffed full of the unessential.

You know what happens when I don’t participate? Nothing. Eventually an event comes along in which I want to participate, and I enjoy those quite a lot.

You know what happens when I don’t help out? Someone else does.

There are plenty of things I enjoy participating in and LOTS of ways I enjoy helping out. I’m learning to make my contribution there and trust that there are others in the world who enjoy making theirs where I don’t. It’s left much more room for the essential – family, reading, writing, taking walks, going to the movies. I’m better for it, and I’ve come to believe that being as centered and at peace as possible is the very best thing we can all do for the world at large.

If you’re feeling frazzled, stretched too thin, or generally unhappy, take a few moments to ask yourself what you’d like more room for. What can you hack away at to make those things possible? Some of the things I’ve given up over the past few years include the PTA at my kids’s school, TV (I watch a little bit on Netflix, but streaming means that I’m never a slave to the TV line-up), social events that don’t excite me, and dating. That last one is a biggie! I’ve been single by choice for seven years, because frankly, a significant other just isn’t as essential to my happiness as all those other things I mentioned. Maybe someday that will change, but I’ll deal with that when the time comes.

Make your own list! And as the kids say; you do you.

😉

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02/24/15 Life # , ,

Making Time

Goethe_Things-That-MatterToday I finally thwarted my most used excuse (“I don’t have time”) for not getting yoga and/or meditation in, and I thought I’d share how I did it. It’s simple, too; I no longer allow myself to open my computer in the morning until I’ve done both.

“Attaching” something to an everyday task is the best way to make it a habit. For awhile, I was attaching meditation to my morning shower, i.e. meditation time was right before I took a shower in the morning. But 3-4 days a week I’d find that I got caught up answering emails, posting to my social networking sites (and YOURS! 😉 ). I’d look at the time and think, “I need to hurry and shower! I guess I’ll try to get everything else in later.” Except “later” never actually materialized as a good time to meditate or do yoga.

Isn’t that always the case with “later”? He’s a tricky little bugger, isn’t he?

😉

Anyway, I thought about the source of my distraction (work) and decided to try putting yoga and meditation BEFORE it instead of after. And you know what? It worked! I’ve had four solid days on this schedule and I feel SO MUCH BETTER.

Is there something you’ve been wanting to make a daily habit? Try attaching it to something you MUST do every day (like brushing your teeth or eating dinner) – but make sure to attach it BEFORE the must-do event and not after. I hope it works as well for you as it’s working for me.

🙂

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02/16/15 Life , Recipe of the Week , Recipes # , , , , , , , ,

The Paleo Vegetarian

Whole30Ha! I got you there, didn’t I? That’s because there’s no such thing.

Except there will be for the next thirty days, because today is the first day of Whole30 for me. As many of you know, I’ve been a vegetarian for the last three years (I guess I would technically be a Pescatarian, since I did sometimes eat fish). It wasn’t as difficult a transition as you might expect. I was ready to eat healthier and also wanted to do my part to contribute to a sustainable way of life for the planet (modern cattle and poultry farming techniques wreak havoc on the planet in more ways than one and require WAY more land and water than an equivalent amount of plant food).

To be honest, I was surprised when my teenagers all decided to go vegetarian, too. But they did, and we all went veggie cold turkey. Immediately we all felt better, more energetic, CLEANER.

Until I didn’t.

About a year ago I started feeling sluggish and tired. After an initial weight loss, I actually started to gain weight, something I didn’t understand because I was eating SO CLEAN. Not just vegetarian, but very little sugar or processed food and tons of whole food, veggies, etc. I didn’t notice it right away. It was more that one day I realized I just didn’t FEEL WELL, and when I looked back, I realized I hadn’t felt my best for quite some time.

So I started reading about body chemistry and metabolism and all kinds of other science-y type things, and I came to the conclusion that I am probably insulin resistant. It doesn’t really surprise me. Some of my family members on one side have diabetes, and I’ve always felt a little shaky when I eat too many carbs or too much sugar. My hope that it would be enough to eat clean and include lots if plant protein just didn’t prove true.

In my reading, I came across the Whole30 program, which is a kind of hard-core, 30-day Paleo regimen designed to help you determine which foods don’t work with your body by first eliminating them, then slowly reintroducing them one at a time. The plan relies heavily on animal flesh and veggies (plus smaller amounts of healthy fats and fruit). After reading the book, the science made perfect sense to me, and I definitely recognized some of the symptoms of insulin resistance in the way I’d been feeling. One of the things I like most about the program is it’s reliance on how YOU feel eating certain foods. The first thirty days is the same for everyone (no sugar, alcohol, carbs, dairy, or legumes of any kind), but after that, it’s up to you to decide which of the restricted foods make you feel healthy and which don’t. This makes perfect sense to me. I know lots of vegans and vegetarians who are super fit and healthy and who FEEL GREAT. I also know lots of people on Paleo-type plans who are equally fit and healthy and who also FEEL GREAT. I think the human body is more mysterious than we are willing to admit. A one-size-fits-all nutritional plan just doesn’t make sense to me. Instead, I think it’s wiser to focus on eating whole foods (processed food and sugar isn’t good for anyone) and then pay attention to our body’s cues to determine what’s best for us.

Today is Day One of the program for me, and while eating meat feels strange, I’m excited to see if this way of eating makes me feel better. I’m a big believer in listening to my own instincts – physical and otherwise. I trust myself to know when something isn’t working for me or my body, so I’m putting faith in myself to recognize when I need to make a change. I’m keeping an open mind and will re-evaluate based on the way I feel at the end of thirty days. The Whole30 plan recommends eating humanely raised, pasture fed meat, and I’ll be doing my best to purchase meat from those kinds of sources.

I don’t AT ALL regret going vegetarian three years ago. In many ways, it’s prepared me for this kind of eating plan. I already eat very little sugar, have flirted with veganism and so don’t rely on dairy, and have already all but eliminated processed food  (trust me, when you stop eating it for awhile it doesn’t even taste good anymore). The biggest change will be giving up brown rice and legumes, because they have been a major part of my diet for the past three years. I’m hoping the novelty of meat will take the sting out, at least for the first week or so.

😉

Anyway, I wouldn’t even be mentioning this here except I know many of you follow my vegetarian recipes (oddly, my Vegetarian Stroganoff recipe is one of my highest-ranking posts) and I didn’t want to confuse you. If you found me while looking for vegetarian recipes, I hope you’ll stick around! I share your commitment to a healthy lifestyle, whatever that may be for each of us, and I look forward to keeping you all posted about my progress.

<3

0 likes 8 responses
02/09/15 A Temptation of Angels , Lies I Told , Life , Prophecy of the Sisters , Shadowguard Series , This Wicked Game , Writing # , , , , , ,

New and Improved

If you’re here I’m sure you’ve noticed something; I finally ditched the old website for something new, sleek, and if I do say so, very chic.

😉

The old website was developed all the way back in 2009 just before Prophecy of the Sisters came out. The black lace made perfect sense, I swear! But of course, times are a changing, and my writing is ever-evolving. With LIES I TOLD soon-to-be-released and a whole slate of other non-fantasy projects (and even non-YA) in the works, I’m hoping this look will carry me through anything I choose to write. Hopefully it’s also easier to read, which is a complaint I sometimes got with the old site.

Now that the new site is up and running, I’ll be posting more often (this has been in the works for awhile). Stay tuned for more information about LIES I TOLD, PROMISES I MADE, and other super secret projects yet-to-be-announced. As we approach April 7th (the release date for LIES I TOLD), there will also be tons of giveaways and goodies.

So stick around, will you?

<3

0 likes 2 responses
12/10/14 AdviceforGirls , Life # ,

Advice for Girls

Believe it or not, boys are just as scared as you are.

It’s true. And as the mother of both two boys AND two girls, I have it on good authority. I can say with certainty that my boys (and all the boys and men I know) have had just as many awkward, embarrassing, terrifying, uncomfortable moments as the girls and women in my life.

The truth is, boys are sometimes nervous to talk to you. They wonder if they’re wearing the right thing or if they should get a haircut or if they smell after track practice. They replay the things they said to you in Trig. They talk to their moms about you (or their friends or their brother or their dad or their sister). They worry about getting you the right Christmas, birthday, or Valentine’s Day present. They wonder if they should hold your hand or kiss you or if it’s too soon. They worry about making a good impression on your family.

And then, oftentimes they work very hard not to seem scared.

Try to remember that the next time you feel dumb or awkward or embarrassed or terrified around a boy, the next time he seems untouchable and hopelessly cool.

You’re in this together.

😉

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12/05/14 Advice for Girls , Life # , ,

Advice for Girls #2

girl_in_hammockDo something nice for yourself every day. Seriously. Every day. Taking care of yourself is the most important job you have.

Sound hard? Expensive? Complicated? Time consuming?

It’s NOT. Give yourself a ten minute nap, make a cup of your favorite tea and take ten minutes to actually sit and enjoy it, paint your nails, give yourself a facial, go to a movie (going to the movies alone is fun!), make something nice to eat, buy a new (or used) book or check one out from the library and take some time to read it, have the cupcake, buy a new lip gloss (or climbing rope or light saber), meditate (this is truly the best gift I give myself every day), STRETCH (doesn’t that feel GOOD?!), take a walk…

Just give yourself something you want or need every day. Because let me tell you a little secret; the times when someone else will do it for you are few and far between, and you aren’t doing anyone any favors by neglecting yourself. You will BE better at everything, and more importantly, you will FEEL better when you are taken care of. Don’t wait for someone else to do it.

<3

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12/03/14 AdviceforGirls , Life # , , ,

Advice for Girls #1

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to learn that I’m a ponderer. It’s hard for me to turn my brain off even to sleep, which is probably why meditation has been such a lifesaver for me. We NEED white space in our brain, wide open space with no words or thoughts.

But I realized that a lot of the things I think about are things I wish I’d known when I was younger. Younger, like, twenty years ago, and younger, like, two years ago.

😉

 

So I decided to start documenting those thoughts in a simple way, on my social media sites with the hashtag #AdviceforGirls. I like to think they will come at just the right time for someone, and maybe in a parallel universe, a younger me will hear it too.

So today’s #AdviceforGirls is this; You are allowed to want whatever you want without apology. Period.

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Michelle Zink is the award-winning author of over seven novels. She lives in New York with too many teenagers and too many cats.
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"This arresting story takes readers to other planes of existence…"
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“An intense and captivating story…”
- VOYA (starred review)


“A fresh and engaging cast of characters, a page-turning plot and lyrical prose add up to an accomplished feat of storytelling…”
- The Guardian


“A captivating tragedy…"
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@MichelleZink
@gdcribbs Wild Geese is my favorite of hers, and one of my all time favorite poems.
@SaundraMitchell Lovely. Thank you! ❤️
@gdcribbs She’s my favorite.