Life

02/18/13 Life , The Sunday Experiment # ,

The Sunday Experiment – Sidetracked

Welp, this week’s Sunday Experiment was, if not a failure, an experiment in compromise.

After doing the math on a project due this week and realizing there was no way I could finish it if I didn’t work on Sunday, I had to accept the fact that there was no way I was going to get my day off.

I thought about taking it anyway and just dealing with the consequences, but since said consequences might be a project well past its due date, my conscience wouldn’t let me go that route.

At the same time, I didn’t want to blow it off completely. Since taking one day off a week, I can feel myself getting edgy and stressed as I approach the six day mark. I NEED that time, not only to recharge but also to work my best the rest of the week.

So I decided to compromise. I set my normal Sunday Experiment Away Message on email and didn’t check it (except for one email I owed someone) or Facebook/Twitter all day. Then I tried to focus on February’s goal of mindfulness/compartmentalization by really enjoying my morning coffee and the work breaks I took to have lunch with Rebekah, run to the store, and watch a movie with ice cream later that night. In between, I really focused on work.

And while I missed the total break (and I can already tell I’m going to feel it later in the week), I got some work done and the respite from email and social networking was nice. It also reminded me how much more efficiently I work without the distraction of the internet.

Hello, Mac Freedom!

I guess there are times in life when you really CAN’T take the break you need. But working it in most of the time IS a buffer against those times you can’t, and it’s still possible to compromise – even if it’s with yourself. I’m hoping to finish this project by Thursday and may just reward myself by taking a long weekend (gasp!) before starting my next big one.

What about you? Anybody still doing the Sunday Experiment with me? How’s it going?

<3

0 likes no responses
02/14/13 Life , Little Things , Uncategorized # ,

Little Things – Homemade Treats

Little Things – Homemade Treats

Those of you who follow me online have probably figured out that I love to cook. What you probably don’t know is that this was not a forgone conclusion. My mom was a single mother and often worked two jobs to support me. She didn’t have the time or the inclination to cook regularly, so it wasn’t something I learned at her knee.

My grandmother, however, loved to bake. Famous for her boysenberry pie, homemade candy (divinity to die for!), and endless jars of jam, it seemed she was always cooking up something.

When I first got my own place I called her all the time for cooking and baking tips and advice. She spent hours with me on the phone talking me through things and even sent me her recipes, copied in her own hand. Now that she has passed on I treasure them even more.

Maybe it was the feeling of comfort and home and security I felt while in my grandmother’s house — smelling pie crust browning, sugar dissolving on the stove, fruit turning into jam — that turned me into someone who loves to cook. Maybe it’s in the genes (Rebekah loves it, too). Whatever the reason, I love cooking great meals for people I love.

But as much as I enjoy cooking an awesome meal, there’s something singularly soothing about baking. I don’t know if it’s the warmth of the kitchen as the oven heats up or the smell of all that sugary goodness or the almost subconscious concentration required to measure and spoon, but baking is like therapy for me.

In our house, we make everything from scratch. This way I know what’s going into the finished product and we can spend time together while we bake. And let’s be honest, homemade just tastes BETTER. The best part is, anyone can do it anytime. As long as you have pantry staples (mine are flour, sugar, cocoa, chocolate chips, vegetable oil, butter, eggs, and vanilla), you can make almost anything. Craving ooey-gooey brownies? Warm-from-the-oven cookies? A gorgeous, old-fashioned layer cake?

You can probably make them right now!

All reasons why homemade treats are this week’s Little Thing. Like this AH-mazing Red Velvet Cake (minus the red, since we don’t do dye) with cream cheese frosting and toasted walnuts that I made today for my four favorite Valentines. I whipped it up in no time flat while drinking coffee and catching up on email this morning.

Hope you have a week full of wonderful Little Things! And feel free to share your favorites here or on Twitter using #littlethings.
<3

0 likes 2 responses
02/12/13 Life , Recipe of the Week # ,

Recipe of the Week – Potato Leek & White Bean Soup

Recipe of the Week – Potato Leek & White Bean Soup

 

This week’s vegetarian recipe is my very own. I had another Potato Leek Soup recipe that I used before we stopped eating meat, and while that one didn’t have meat, it did have a lot of cream and butter and absolutely no high-quality protein.

 

This one has very little animal product (only a little Greek yogurt, which you cam omit to make the recipe vegan) and the addition of white beans gives it some much needed protein and fiber. Because everything is blended together, you won’t even know the beans are there (and trust me, neither will your kids – mine didn’t until I told them) and they add nice flavor while also thickening the soup.

 

I make a giant pot of homemade soup every Monday in the winter and we munch on it all week. This is a staple. Cheap, easy, and nutritious, it’s a great way to add a little warmth to a winter night. I serve it with an apple salad – my kids favorite – and we’re good to go.

This recipe make a ginormous pot of soup. I’d say it probably serves 10-12. You can halve it if you’re not hardcore like us and you just can’t handle all that soup.

 

😉

 

You will need;

2 tablespoons olive or grape seed oil (or you can use canola)

3-4 leeks, sliced

2-4 garlic cloves (depending on how much you like garlic), minced

2-3 good size potatoes (white, russet, eastern – doesn’t matter!), chopped

10 cups of water

8 teaspoons of veggie broth paste (you can substitute 10 cups of ready-made vegetable broth if you want, but the pa

ste is amazing and much cheaper in the long run, plus there’s less waste/packaging)

2 small or one large can white beans (any kind is fine, although I usually use Great Northern)

1 cup Greek yogurt (omit to make vegan)

2 tablespoons tarragon, salt & pepper to taste

Halve and slice white and light green part of leeks. Saute with olive oil and a couple tablespoons of water until leeks are translucent.

Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Then add potatoes.

Cook for a couple of minutes and then add all the water and the broth paste. Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are soft (this shouldn’t take more than10-15 minutes since the potatoes are cut somewhat small).

Add beans and yogurt (if using).

Remove from heat.

Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend until mostly smooth. You can also use a potato masher and do it by hand, although the soup won’t be as smooth (it’ll still taste good, though!).

Turn heat on simmer and add tarragon and salt and pepper to taste.

I serve with a simple apple salad – greens with chopped apples and walnuts, dressed with equal parts olive oil and raspberry vinegar, a sprinkle of salt, and little ground pepper.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 likes no responses
02/07/13 Life , Little Things # ,

Little Things – Stella Perfume

Little Things – Stella Perfume

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a girly-girl. I vaguely remember a time when I wore dresses and skirts, but it was so long ago it feels like I’m remembering another person. Now my style is more Katherine Hepburn than Grace Kelly, although I am willing to give Sophia Loren or Diane Lane a whirl.

😉

 

But one thing I ADORE is this perfume. I found it by chance when I received a sample from Sephora and was so hooked I immediately splurged on a full size bottle. Sephora describes it as, “A fragrance based on the contrast between the freshness and softness of the rose, and the dark sensuality of amber, Stella is a sophisticated scent focused on an intense sense of femininity.”

I like it because it has a classic rose note that is reminiscent of old-school perfume while being fresh and modern. Also, the scent lingers in a nice, subtle way and is just a little bit sultry. I use it literally every day, even if I’m spending the day alone and working in my pajamas. It’s a little thing that just makes me happy (and it makes my room smell nice, too). And while it’s not super cheap, a bottle lasts me about a year and is well worth the price.

Plus, the bottle is gorgeous.

What about you? What’s your favorite scent or perfume? Why do you like it? Share here or on Twitter with #littlethings!

<3

<3

0 likes 4 responses
02/06/13 Life , The Sunday Experiment # ,

February Focus – Mindfulness

February Focus – Mindfulness

Those of you following the Sunday Experiment know that I’ve been working at finding more balance in my life. After wading my way through two years of near-constant work, it was past time.

Even though I’m only a month into what’s morphed from a simple New Year’s resolution into a year-long project, I can already see that this experiment will probably save my sanity. The scariest thing of all has been realizing how quickly everything can become out of control — and how easy it is to tell ourselves the crazy, hectic lives we lead are NORMAL.

But it doesn’t have to be, and I’m determined to take back my life. In January, I concentrated on taking one day a week off. And when I say off, I mean OFF. No work, no email (not even to peek at my Inbox!), no Facebook, no Twitter, no computer. It sounded like a reasonable goal, but if you’ve been following my Sunday Experiment posts, you know it’s been surprisingly difficult to really take a break. Not because of outside forces, but because I have forgotten how to relax.

I am my own worst enemy. Even as I’ve given myself permission to take one day off a week, my brain will not SHUT UP. It is next to impossible to flip through a magazine, read a book, or watch a movie without a constant stream of thought in my head. And I realized that when this little voice is playing, it’s usually not even to expand on what I’m doing at any given moment. It’s to think about things that happened yesterday (or last month), to contemplate what I’ll do the next day when I go back to work, to strategize mentally about my career, sometimes projecting myself a year or more into the future.

I started thinking about it and realized this is a problem of mindfulness. Not surprisingly, mindfulness is a core tent of Buddhism, a philosophy that rings more and more true for me every day. In Buddhism we’re instructed to set aside thoughts of yesterday and worries of tomorrow to be fully present in the moment.

What IS surprising is that this idea mimics another, more businesslike concept; compartmentalization. When I worked in an office, one of my bosses once commented how good I was at compartmentalizing. I had four kids at home (all of them under the age of eight). I worked through an entire pregnancy in a male-dominated field and didn’t tell anyone until I was four months along, even though I suffered from crippling morning sickness and had to drive with my boss to innumerable client meetings pretending to be fine. It didn’t matter if I’d had a fight with my then-husband or if I’d been up late with a sick baby, every morning I got up, went to the gym, and showed up to work with a smile.

And my boss was right; compartmentalization was key. When I was at work, I couldn’t afford to think about what was happening at home, if I was missing something, if the kids were okay. My time at home was precious, making it easier to set aside problems of work for the few hours a day I actually got to enjoy my family.

I like to think that mindfulness is a kinder, gentler form of compartmentalization. It’s something we should learn in the spirit of being more fully present in every moment rather than something we do to “deal with” the extraordinary demands of life gone crazy.

And it’s surprisingly hard.

Even though I’ve actively practiced mindfulness in the past, it is HARD to be in the moment. The mind is unruly child. It wants to watch TV, eat junk, and stay up late when what it really needs is silence, healthy food, and a solid eight hours of sleep.

But this month, I’m really working on it. Because a day off – or a month or a year – isn’t going to do me any good if I can’t turn off the noise and really be in a given moment. So in February, my goal is to be PRESENT. It’s to really feel the steering wheel under my hands when I drive, really notice the beauty of the snow-covered fields around me. It’s to LISTEN to my children when they talk to me instead of thinking about what I have to do when they’re done. It’s to enjoy the feel of the wooden spoon in my hand when I’m stirring this week’s batch of homemade soup, to smell the rosemary and sage, to really take in the feeling of comfort it all brings.

Sounds easy, right? I’m betting it won’t be at first, but like everything with the Sunday Experiment, I think it will pay off in spades.

What about you? Do you find it’s difficult to really be in the moment in this crazy world? Is it something you notice? Ir is it just a way of life at this point?

0 likes no responses
02/05/13 Life , Recipe of the Week # ,

Recipe of the Week – Chili Enchiladas

Recipe of the Week – Chili Enchiladas

I found this recipe from Eating Well via Pinterest a few months ago and it quickly became a favorite in our house.

First let me say this; we LOVE Mexican food. One of the hardest things about moving from California to our small New York town is the lack of good Mexican restaurants. I quickly learned to cook anything and everything we missed from California.

Turning vegetarian was another challenge, because anyone who loves classic Mexican food knows that if you’re not using meat, you’re using cheese.

Sometimes A LOT of it.

And the kids and I agreed when we became vegetarians that we would be HEALTHY vegetarians, replacing meat with legumes, tempeh, and grains like quinoa – NOT cheese.

This recipe is the perfect solution. I was skeptical at first (mashed beans and Greek yogurt? veggie broth enchilada sauce?), but I’m telling you; it’s AH-mazing. Plus, it’s super quick and easy. I make a few changes to the original recipe as follows;

Use Ancho chili powder in place of New Mexican Chili Powder and halve the amount called for in the recipe (it was way too spicy for the younger kids as is). The Ancho chili has a really nice, smoky flavor.

Add a bit more Greek yogurt – about half a cup – to make the beans creamy.

Add a little water to the bean/yogurt mixture for easy spreading.

Otherwise, this recipe is perfect as is! Make it vegetarian by using veggie broth and vegan by omitting the cheese or replacing it with soy cheese (I’ve made a cheese-free version for someone with dairy allergies and got rave reviews).

Also, the shredded iceberg in the photo is essential! It add some nice crunch and also offsets the heat of the chili powder. It’s one of our favorite Friday night dinners.

Hope you enjoy it!

<3

0 likes 2 responses
02/04/13 Life , The Sunday Experiment , Uncategorized # ,

The Sunday Experiment – Balance

The Sunday Experiment – Balance

A month into the Sunday Experiment and I realize how truly fucked up my head is.

It is HARD for my brain to take a break from writing, thinking about writing, worrying about writing, etc. for even one day. Even without checking email (which I didn’t do for the second Sunday in a row), Facebook, and Twitter, I caught myself obsessing over writing-related things several times throughout the day. I had to forcibly move my mind away from it, which tells you how how of control – and out of balance – my life has become.

Basically, this frog is better at relaxing than I am.

I was halfway through my yoga routine – something I usually LOVE – when I realized that I just wasn’t feeling it. I was trying to hurry and get into the shower so I could have lunch with the kids and watch The French Connection (something Kenneth and I had planned to do). So why was I forcing myself to do yoga ON MY DAY OFF?

I had to consciously give myself permission to skip it, because while I usually see it as a critical part of my everyday routine, taking one day a week off IS OKAY. Right?!

Which is why the Sunday Experiment has made it clear that time off is only a small part of the problem. The real problem is one of balance.

In short; I’m out of whack. And I haven’t even realized it, because somewhere along the line, out of whack became normal. So I’ve decided to turn the Sunday Experiment into a year-long quest for balance, focusing on one component every month. January was about giving myself one day a week completely away from work and technology and the demands thereof.

In February, I’ll focus on Mindfulness, because I’ve realized what a huge problem it is for my noisy mind. I’ll post more about that later this week. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about the things that make balance difficult for you to obtain. Is it juggling work with family? Over-scheduled kids? Getting enough sleep? Eating right when you’re busy?

Share your challenges in the Comments section and I’ll choose ten issues that speak to me, too – one for each month March through December.

We’re going to make balance our bitch. In a Zen sort of way, of course.

<3

 

0 likes 6 responses
01/31/13 Life , The Little Things , Things I Love # , ,

The Little Things – An Amazing Cup

It sounds crazy, but one of the things I love most about having coffee in a good hotel is the cups. They tend to be big, complete with a saucer and weighty feel that makes you feel like your breakfasting (I feel very British typing that and I don’t know why) at the Four Seasons even if you’re really at the Hilton.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the Hilton.

Anyway, I bought a set of these cups and saucers at a local auction a few years ago. They’re Hungarian porcelain, and I think I paid something like $10 for ten of them. Back then, I was selling antiques to make a living while I wrote Prophecy of the Sisters, and I spent many hours sitting at local auctions, bidding on things I loved and thought I could sell.

Problem is, when you buy things you love, you usually don’t want to sell them. Case in point; these cups. They sat in my “to be sold” pile for months before migrating to my cupboard, used only on special occasions.

But I’m not really a believer in “saving” things for a special occasion. Every day is – or should be – a special occasion, and like so many things I “meant” to sell, these cups became part of my daily repertoire. Now I use them for my morning coffee every day, and you know what? They make every morning a little special, even if I’m on the sofa instead of at the Four Seasons.

The best part about this “little thing” is that it’s a cheap way to give yourself a little luxury every morning of the week. And you don’t have to buy one from a store. Take your time and search yard sales, auctions, and flea markets for the perfect cup, one that makes you feel special every time you use it. It can be a dainty cup and saucer, a heavy hand-thrown mug, or old hotel porcelain (I suspect this is what my Hungarian cups are). Whatever speaks to you, the search is part of the fun!

What about you? What’s a “little thing” that makes your mornings nicer? Post in comments or tweet with #thelittlethings.

<3

0 likes 4 responses
01/22/13 Life #

The Sunday Experiment

Many of you know from my New Year’s Resolution post (or from Facebook) that one of my goals in 2013 is to take Sunday’s off. Like, completely off. No emails, no social networking, no editing, no writing.

Basically, nothing work related.

I’ve been surprised by the comments and emails I’ve gotten on the subject. Ranging from, “I need to do this!” to “How will you live without the internet for a whole day?!” it seems everybody is curious about this experiment. Which is telling in and of itself. When did we get to a place where having ONE day off a week is an anomaly? When did we become so OVER-connected that it’s strange to take a day for family, reading, watching movies, taking walks, and napping?

And I’m not judging! Because I’m just as guilty as anyone else. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to take Sundays off is because I literally could not remember the last day I hadn’t worked in some capacity. If I wasn’t writing, I was answering emails. If I wasn’t answering emails, I was posting on Facebook and/or Twitter, and not always because I wanted to. A lot of the time, it was this feeling that I would lose marketing ground, that people would forget about me and my work, that in the fast paced, all-information-all-the-time world we live in, I would fade into the woodwork without constant reminder of my presence. My work and my career were a constant itch at the back of my mind, an ever-present voice in my head.

And that is no way to live. It kept me from being in the moment, from fully enjoying time with my family. Ironically, it reminded me a lot of the life I left behind in California. The one where I couldn’t even go out to lunch with one of my kids without a running diatribe that went something like this; “I have exactly twenty minutes before I have to pick up so and so. Then, if I hurry, I can get to such and such’s appointment and still get home in time to start dinner at six. If we’re done by seven, I can get two loads of laundry in before bed. Oh! And I have to meet Vicki at six tomorrow morning instead of seven. I should write that down. And also, I should prepare for that meeting with XYZ company. I can do that before bed.”

Doesn’t it stress you out just reading it?! It stresses me out all over again. One of the weirdest things about leaving that life behind was the idea that I had TIME. I would be sitting with the kids or taking a walk or playing a game with them, and I would start to feel anxious and rushed, even though I had nowhere to go and nothing pressing to do for the first time in years. I had to teach myself to be in the moment.

I’ve let myself get there again. And while I actually enjoy my work now, it’s still unhealthy to live with that voice all the time. It’s still unhealthy not to have real downtime. I don’t think we’re built for this constant connectedness. The human soul needs time to center itself now and again.

This last Sunday was my first day “off” this year. It was a little different than I’d planned, mostly because Rebekah was moving back into her dorm after the holiday and I spent the day helping her get settled. Even so, there were a few lessons that I’ll carry forward to next Sunday and beyond;

1. Even checking my email took me out of the “day off” mentality. I didn’t answer them, but as soon as I saw them sitting there in my Inbox, I’d feel myself tense up and the voice would be back, planning how I’d respond on Monday. Next week, I’m going to try not even opening my email. I’ll set an away message so people know I won’t respond until Monday. Hopefully, that will remove some of my anxiety that people will think I’m a slacker for not responding right away.

2. This was somewhat true for Facebook as well. I logged in a couple of times from my phone while I was waiting for Rebekah to put everything away, and even that little thing made a difference. All of a sudden, I had everyone’s “noise” in my head and I was back in it.

3. Being mindful made a difference. I didn’t fully appreciate my time when I was just moving from one activity to another. I enjoyed it more when I paused to really think about what I was doing, to really acknowledge to myself that this was precious time doing something I loved (like going to lunch with Rebekah after we’d unpacked her room). With this in mind, I’m going to plan a couple of things to do next Sunday. Instead of taking the fun out of it, it will give me something to look forward to during the craziness of the week and I think I’ll appreciate it more when it comes, even if it’s just a plan to take myself out for a cappuccino and read or to sit on the couch with a cup of tea and a chocolate croissant. Who knows? This may backfire, making me feel TOO planned. But I’m going to give it a try!

And I’m going to continue this experiment throughout the year. If you’re feeling stressed out or too busy, if the voice in your head had become ever-present, if the noise of the world has become your own, maybe you’d like to join me?

<3

0 likes 6 responses
01/13/13 Life #

Better Late Than Never

You guys! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Okay, so I’m a little late. I was busy blowing horns and wearing party hats. And then I was busy with the flu, which wasn’t nearly as much fun.

I always give some thought to resolutions as I close out one year and begin another. And while I understand people who don’t bother with them (the argument usually being that if you want to change, you should do it then and there, not wait for a new year), I’ve made a lot of positive changes through resolutions in the past. Among them; becoming vegetarian, starting a garden, composting, quitting soda, quitting TV, making yoga a part of my daily life, and going to meditation practice at my local Buddhist center.

All of those are things I did as a result of resolutions. Even more amazing, they are things I’ve stuck with. So I thought I’d share a few of mine for 2013.

Long yoga at least three days a week – Making yoga a part of my daily life was a big deal, but I’m finally at the point where it is a habit. It is fairly rare for me not to do at least a basic flow. The problem is, I rely on my tried and true sequence of poses a little too much. Now that I’ve made it part of my routine, I’d like to expand my flow from an average of 20 minutes to about 40.

Meditate at least once every day for any length of time – As with yoga, just making meditation a part of my life has been a huge accomplishment. I now have a meditation cushion in my office, and that is a good reminder to meditate. Unfortunately, I still tend to forgo meditation when I’m very busy or tired, probably the very times I need it most. So this year, I’m aiming for daily meditation, even if that sitting period is only five minutes. I’m banking on the fact that forming the habit is the most important part, not the length of the sit.

No animal products Monday through Thursday – Shortly after becoming vegetarian, we all realized how much better we felt on the days when we didn’t eat any animal products at all. For awhile, I was able to be vegan Monday through Thursday, but then I got lazy. I’m aiming to go back to that schedule in 2013 because I just FEEL better.

Take one full day off a week – I realized while having the flu that I can’t remember the last time I had a real day off. And by that I mean no Facebook, no Twitter, no answering emails, no writing, no editing (for myself or my freelance clients), no revising. That has to change because I am FRIED. So I am aiming for one full day off a week this year, a day in which I don’t have to do anything at all.

Take one weekend off a month – Okay, this is crazy talk! But I’m going to try.

Finish two projects – I have two projects that are at the 35,000 word mark. This year, I will finish them bot in addition to the other projects I have under contract.

What about you guys? What’s on tap for you in 2013? Do tell!

<3

0 likes 12 responses
12/10/12 Life #

A Little Goes a Long Way

… toward yourself and others. It’s rough out there.

<3

0 likes no responses
12/08/12 Life #

An Unexpected Gift

A friend once told me that it’s not wise to ask things of the universe for oneself without balancing it by sending those same things to others.

At the time, it sounded a little hokey, but since this is a friend I trust with these things, I promptly started balancing the mantras I said for myself with ones said for others. Sometimes my good energy is directed at someone specific, but most of the time, I just send it out there for anyone who might need it.

This is surprisingly easy to do when things are rough and I find myself leaning more on meditation and mantras, as one is likely to do when things are rough (I imagine this is like praying for some people – lol!).

What’s also surprising is how easy it is to fall away from these habits when things are GOOD. That’s something I’ve been working on – meditating regularly and using mantras even when things are going well rather than saying, “Thanks for the good shit, Universe! Later!”

After long dry spell in which I’ve worked my ass of with seemingly no progress, let’s just say this was a very good week.

A very, very good week.

I like to think it’s a mix of hard work, good fortune, and who knows? Maybe the result of someone else sending their good energy to me.

So this weekend, I’m going to make time for the cushion. And I’ll be sending all my good energy out to the universe and hoping it finds those of you who need it most.

<3

0 likes one response
12/05/12 Life , Writing # ,

The Art of Mixing it up

Since announcing the release of my new adult novella series, I’ve gotten a ton of email. Questions range from why I decided to branch out from YA to why I chose a small e-press to whether or not I’m worried the diversification will hurt my brand.

All good questions.

And while there are lot of answers I could give, they all boil down the same thing; I’m a writer. Not a writer of YA novels or a writer of short stories or a writer of adult novels.

A writer.

But somewhere along the way, the art of creativity had gotten lost in the business of publishing. Most of the writers I know are artists. And like all artists, they long to stretch their creative ability, to try new things, to see if they CAN. It’s the reason we see Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life and Burn after reading. The reason fine artists doodle. The reason Neil Gaiman writes a book like Coraline along with one like American Gods along with an episode of Doctor Who.

The problem is, until very recently, that kind of creative exploration was reserved for people who had the artistic clout to pull it off (see above), people who could afford not to care what it did to their “real” career, or people who explored their various talents in secret, either under pseudonyms or in the privacy of their home offices.

When I thought about trying something new, it wasn’t fear of not being able to do it that stopped me. It was worries about my brand, what my publisher would think, whether my agent would be supportive, whether advocates of traditional publishing would despise me for what they might see as a betrayal.

And those are just not the things that inspire creative growth.

But times are changing. And while there is much debate over the demise of traditional publishing and the merit (or lack thereof) of e-publishing, we’ll save that discussion for another time.

The fact is, there are more opportunities than ever to explore and stretch our creativity as writers, as artists. And while there are still those who want us to believe that doing so will “dilute our brand”, the truth is, all evidence is to the contrary. There is a long list of authors who are writing across genres, and unlike in the past, they aren’t all mega-bestsellers.

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at the adult market for awhile. I love writing for young people, and the YA genre will always have a special place in my heart. But I’ve written twelve YA novels (including the ones that haven’t been published or have yet to be published), and I have been itching to try something different. To challenge myself to something completely foreign and terrifying and exhilarating.

Last year, I started two adult novels. I still hope to have them published traditionally (I think they’re a better fit for that kind of distribution), but in the meantime, another opportunity reared its head when I mentioned my idea for an adult novella series to Georgia McBride of Swoon Romance (an imprint of Month Nine Books). Georgia encouraged me to give them a try and then offered to publish them under the Swoon Imprint.

I was hesitant to mention it to my agent. There has been so much animosity between traditional publishing and e-publishing that I half-expected to be considered a traitor just for saying it out loud. But after some discussion, I was pleasantly surprised to receive his blessing. And you know what?

It’s been FUN. Foreign and terrifying and exhilarating. But FUN.

I have no idea how it will impact my YA brand, if at all. It shouldn’t. I write for young people. Now I write for adults, too. Every now and then, I even write a letter or a note excusing my child from school or an email. They all come in handy from time to time, although I imagine if I sent one of my adult novellas into school in place of a note excusing my child, the teacher would be, er, surprised.

But each of those things have a place. I’m choosing to believe my professional writing is the same, and I hope my YA readers will continue to enjoy my YA novels (I have more coming!), my adult readers will look forward to the next installment in the Shadowguard series, and maybe, just maybe, some of you will enjoy the other surprises I’m hiding up my sleeve. Because the more I try, the more I stretch, the more I feel myself getting BETTER. Like all of this writing across genres is only serving to make me a better writer in EVERY genre.

Don’t I owe that to myself? To ALL of my readers?

I’m not gonna lie; I’m a little bit scared, but mostly I’m just grateful that in this day and I age, I have the opportunity to be true to myself and my idea of who I am as a writer.

Because when you get right down to it, that’s the only part that matters.

And don’t forget; you can enter to win free books and a $50 or $25 gift card just for helping me celebrate! Also, please note my lovely new ADULT BOOKS tab at the top of this website. There you will find covers and summaries of the first two Shadowguard novellas.

0 likes 6 responses
09/05/12 Life , Reading # ,

Travel by Book

A couple of years ago I started a tradition of reading travel books over the summer. It arose out of an inherent love of travel and my inability to take a real vacation that year. Sometimes, it’s just too expensive to travel with kids, but the magic of books is that you can go anywhere and “see” anything with the flip of a page.

I love all kinds of books, but the nature of my work means that I’m almost always reading YA or adult fiction as research, for blurb, to help a friend, as part of my freelance editing work, etc. Having a finite time period to binge on travel books is something I really look forward to every year.

This summer I read three amazing ones. I highly recommend them all!

The first book I read was WILD, by Cheryl Strayed. A profoundly moving account of a young women who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail alone, it inspired and touched me. One of the things I loved most about the book was its intensely personal voice. Totally untrained and spiraling into serious self-destructive behavior following the death of her mother, Cheryl wasn’t a typical candidate for a hike of this magnitude. But you know what? She did it. And she was transformed. I was completely addicted to this book and highly recommend it to anyone – but particularly women – at a crossroads.

Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman was next. I was so riveted to this book that for two solid weeks I actually wanted to give up my writing time for reading (*gasp*). I think this book spoke so loudly to me because Rita didn’t start traveling until she was in her 40s and because she did it entirely alone and with no real experience.

Another thing I loved about Rita’s account is that she ended up living full time, essentially, as a nomad on very little money. The thing that she valued most about travel was the opportunity to meet and learn about people and their cultures up close and personal, so she spent most of her time in hostels, backpacker hotels, and living with friends she made in other countries along the way. It was a glimpse into the kind of life I’ve dreamed about post-kids, and I’m inspired by the fact that Rita is still living abroad today (in Turkey, as of now). If you’re looking for proof that there IS another way to live, this is your book. Rita is now a big proponent of a gap year for American students (I say “American” because many other countries already advocate gap years). After reading this book, I’m in total agreement.

My final book of the summer was The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman. While geared to a younger crowd (Rachel was in college when she begins traveling), I got so much out of this book. Mostly, it just added to the increasingly-large amount of anecdotal evidence that it IS possible for women to travel safely alone. This was a book I wish I’d had when I was seventeen. It might have changed the course of my life (not that I want that NOW). Rachel spends a lot of the book trying to reconcile the very American push for her to get a college degree and a “good” job with the glimpses of another kind of life she gets from young Europeans she meets traveling abroad – young people for whom travel is an integral part of their life education, not the mark of a loser who isn’t in school. I recommend this for any young person, but especially those not sure what they want to do and not sure the traditional path of college is for them, at least not right out of high school. I gifted it to Rebekah before she left for college because I thought it would inspire her in this newly independent phase of her life.

It was a bit sad to reach the end of my summer travel reading! I still had books I wanted to read and places I wanted to (virtually) visit.

But don’t worry. They’re on the list for next year,

😉

0 likes no responses
08/29/12 Life , Uncategorized #

Goodbyes and Get-On-With-Its

Last week marked a momentous occasion for the Zink household; I sent my beloved girl, Rebekah (pictured here at graduation with her best friend), off to college.

The date, of course, had been looming for a long, long time, ever since she was accepted in the Spring and we started receiving information about move-in. But somehow, it still came as a shock to actually drive away without her.

As many of you know, she and I are extraordinarily close. As she’s grown, she’s become more than a daughter. She’s become a friend and my nearly constant companion. Which is only part of the reason I know this will be good for her.

She’s only going to school about a half hour away. In fact, she could easily have commuted (and many of the local kids here do commute to this university). But I really felt that it was time for her to get out in the world, to see some of it through the lens of her own eyes, to develop memories and experiences apart from those we’ve shared.

All of which is a reminder how very much our children teach us. Because I’ll be honest – it was tempting. Aside from the obvious incentive of keeping her home, there were very real financial incentives for commuting, too (room and board makes up more than half the tuition).

But, as my children have taught me, love isn’t selfish. As much as I want to keep them close, I also want them to see and experience everything the world has to offer. And they just can’t do that from home.

My mantra to them lately has been, “Adventure is out there!!! Not in here… Out THERE!”

And it is. Not just for them, but for me, too. For years, I’ve been daydreaming about the places I want to see and the things I want to do when the kids are all grown up. Soon, I’ll get my chance. So it’s time to put my money where my mouth is and start dreaming, not just for my children, but for me, too. Time to stop mourning the loss of one thing and celebrate the start of something new. In short, time to get on with it.

So this is me. Getting on with it.

<3

 

0 likes 8 responses
07/25/12 Life #

Me, Myself, and I; My Quest to Banish Ego

In my bid for inner peace, I’ve been thinking a lot about ego for the past year or so.

Now, when you say ego, all kinds of things typically come to mind; people who are stuck up, “egotistical”, condescending, etc. But I’ve been thinking of it in terms of the idea that ego is a separate entity from our true selves. An entity created and fed by the way others perceive us and our attachment to those perceptions.

I’ve read a lot on ego, but this is by far the most profound and fascinating explanation of ego, what it does, and the harm it can cause us. This description by Osho explains that the ego given to us through the perceptions of others is a “false center,” one that causes us misery because it needs to be fed constantly, and the only way to feed it is to be pleasing to others, or to “the society” as a whole. It goes on to explain that much of human misery arises from being a slave to the ego.

The more I’ve thought about this, the more I’ve found it to be true. I used to dread going places sometimes, even someplace close like the store. I eventually traced part of my annoyance to the fact that I had to shower, put make-up on, make sure my hair was presentable, put on a certain “outward” affect, etc. when what I really wanted to do was go out, get the errands done, and come home to work or do something else I enjoy. And my need to do all that pre-errand prep arose from ego; my desire that others would find me pleasing.

The same can be said of a lot of things. If I’m anxious in public, it’s because I’m concerned with how others perceive me. If I’m hurt because I feel someone has snubbed me, it’s because I fear how they see me, that they don’t like me, or perceive me as somehow not being “good enough”. If I feel bad over negative reviews, it’s because my work (and in some way, myself) hasn’t been accepted the way I wanted it to. The way I needed it to to feed the ego.

There are areas where the line is blurry. I hate getting negative reviews, but even when I manage to set aside my feelings about how others perceive my work, there is a very real concern; my livelihood and ability to support my family. But in general, eliminating the ego-driven things I do and say is helpful. I feel more at peace now and spend more time doing the things I love with the people I love. I don’t feel obligated to maintain friendships that aren’t good for me (though I’m always friendly when running into people I know), attend events I don’t enjoy, wear make-up to the grocery store (and now, I rarely wear it at all), say things I don’t mean, etc., etc.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the things we do for us and the things we do to serve the ego. I’ll go to a birthday party for someone I care about, even if the event itself isn’t something I want to attend (I’m a recluse by nature). But I’ll do it out of love for the person in question, NOT because people will think I’m a selfish bitch if I don’t go.

Then there are things we do just for us. Things we enjoy and love and feel passionate about. Those things represent our truest selves. When we are true to our truest selves, a lot of life’s suffering and uncertainty and petty little unhappiness falls away, because we can focus on the experience of being in each moment without that little voice in the head, “What if so and so is mad at me? What if they don’t like me? What if they think I’m a slob? What is they think I’m rude/ugly/stupid/humorless?” And on and on.

I still wear make-up every now and then. But only when I WANT to for whatever reason. I still go to social events, book events, parties for work or because I genuinely look forward to communing with others. I still buy new clothes for myself when I find something that really speaks to me or something I just love looking at, but not because I think others will judge me for not being put together enough or wearing jeans and a black t-shirt (my uniform) for the 100th time. I’ll splurge on nice perfume, not for anyone else, but because catching the scent throughout the day brings me pleasure. I’ve turned to vegetarianism (and try to be vegan 3-4 days a week) and yoga, not because I want to look better, but because I feel healthier and have more energy. I refuse to weigh myself or be concerned with weight in any way shape or form. I did that for too many years. It was all about everyone else and it made me miserable. Now, I just want to feel good in my own skin. I couldn’t care less what the tags on my clothes say.

It’s a work in progress. The ego is an old, insidious friend. We now who we are when staring at ourselves through the lens of others. Losing that means we have to see ourselves as we truly are.

And that can be scary as fuck.

But also wonderful and beautiful and so, so liberating.

<3

0 likes 15 responses
06/30/12 Contests & Giveaway , Life # ,

A Week, er, MONTH in the Life!

Since I’ve been off the radar so long, this week’s Week in the Life is a Month in the Life.

Enjoy!

And don’t forget this is the last day to enter the Escape Into Books Super Summer Giveaway!

0 likes no responses
06/25/12 Contests & Giveaway , Life , Prophecy of the Sisters # , ,

Here I Am!

So sorry for the radio silence, guys. The last month has been extremely busy as I’ve prepared for Rebekah’s high school graduation and attended book events, all while under some very tough deadlines.

But Rebekah is officially a graduate (I can’t believe it!), book events are past until August when I attend YA Fest in Pennsylvania, and my deadlines are starting to feel somewhat under control.

Whew!

Having said that, it IS summer, so while I’ll try to keep up with my regular blog features, I hope you’ll forgive the occasional lapse. I plan to spend the summer working on three new proposals (and getting back to work on my adult novel), hiking, sleeping, catching up on movies, and spending time with my teens (especially Rebekah who will be moving into her dorm August 23rd). In between, I’ll do my my best to keep up with Song of the Week, movie reviews, Thursday Night Write, the Friday Poll, and my Week in the Life.

A couple of quick updates;

You can still enter to win one of two big summer prize packs in the Escape Into Books Super Summer Giveaway. Entering is easy, and both prize packs contain summer essentials like a big stack of my favorite guilty reads, a tote bag, gift card, lip balm, body spray, etc. But it only runs until the end of the month, so hurry!

Also a quick reminder that the first two Prophecy of the Sisters novellas, Whisper of Souls (told from the point of view of Lia and Alice’s mother before her death) and Mistress of Souls (the highly anticipated novella from Alice’s point of view) have both been released and are available for download from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple. It’s been super fun to explore these Prophecy stories, and I’m especially excited for the release of the final novella, Rise of Souls, which will let you in on what happens when Lia returns to Altus Island after Circle of Fire.

I hope you enjoy them!

<3

0 likes 8 responses
06/08/12 Friday Poll , Life # ,

Friday Poll; Dresses, Dresses and More Dresses!

This is a picture of Rebekah, on her way to Senior Ball as I type this. At her high school, Prom is Junior year and is a formal event while Senior Ball is a semi-formal event.

It seems a little backward to me, but whatever. We got to buy two kinds of dresses over the past two years. That part was fun.

Anyone who know Rebekah knows she is a true girl-girl (in short, the exact opposite of me). She’s always been this way, often changing 3-4 times when she was as young as two, wanting to wear different outfits for different “events”.

If we went to get ice cream, she wanted to change first. If we went to the park, she wanted to change first. If we went to her grandma’s, she wanted to change first!

Not much has changed. If there’s an opportunity to dress up, Rebekah will take it. And sometimes she’ll make an opportunity if she’s in the mood (one time she wore a fancy dress to the store, just because it had been awhile since she’d had occasion to dress up). So she lives for time like this when she actually has a reason.

What about you? Do you like to dress up? What are your favorite kinds of dresses to wear when the occassion calls for something other than pants?

Weigh in with the Friday Poll!
<3

0 likes 2 responses
05/23/12 Life #

Living

Well, it’s 11:36pm and I almost didn’t post this week. I’m in a somewhat scary place right now, sort of teetering on the edge of an abyss I’m all too familiar with.

But that’s not what I’m going to talk about tonight.

Last Friday morning, I handed in a project and realized I hadn’t had a whole weekend off since sometime around Christmas. And let me tell you, I was feeling it. I was (and still am, really, because one weekend can’t totally make up for five months of all-out work) totally fried. Mentally, physically, spiritually, and creatively fried.

It’s my own fault. I have a difficult time just being in the moment, being happy with where I am. I’m what my old boss called a “driver”, someone who’s always pushing herself to do more, better, and who pushes other people – for better or for worse – to do the same.

Even when I’m working on one project, my mind is already half-tuned into the next alluring possibility. The next story, the next idea, the next project. It’s not uncommon to see five projects with back to back deadlines lined up on my whiteboard. What’s probably more uncommon is that often these projects and deadlines are entirely of my own making. It’s not enough for me to think, “Oh, I’m super excited about this idea! I’m going to work on finishing it sometime this year.” Instead, I think, “If I write 3,000 words a day seven days a week, I can have a draft done in 6 weeks, allowing for the inevitable crisis, and THEN I can start XYZ project and have that one done a month later.”

I’m exhausting myself just thinking about it. Now you know why I’m a fan of naps.

But I really needed this weekend, and it was one of those rare times when I had drained the creative well so totally, that I couldn’t possibly write one more word. So I took it. I didn’t exactly lay around eating bon-bons, but I did cook and bake for the sheer enjoyment of it, slept in (thank you, Rebekah, for taking Andrew to track Saturday morning), took naps, planted our garden, and read almost the entire Sunday Times.

And I have to tell you, even with the stuff I didn’t get to (like walking, which I’d planned to do because I so love visiting my river spot), it was shocking how different I felt. Not just better (although, there is that), but DIFFERENT. Something as simple as reading the paper – the Travel section, the Arts section, the Magazine – was a rediscovery. An “Oh, yes! I remember that I LIKE the world! It’s fascinating and interesting and full of wonder and curiosity” moment. It made me want to walk the streets of a strange city and talk to people I’ve never met and sit and stare at the water with NO PURPOSE except to drink it all in.

Most of all, it made me want to LIVE.

And therein lies the rub. For someone like me, someone whose work is more than work, it’s an obsession, a lifeline, it is all too easy to forget that what we write about is LIFE. And it is very, very difficult to write about life if you are too busy writing to live it.

So I’m going to try and be better about taking time for myself. Not to run errands and clean and organize, but to LIVE. To read and sing and listen to music in the car and meditate by my river and roam the beautiful backroads of this place I love and call home. Maybe, even, to take a nap on the sofa, read the paper, or read something, not for research or because I SHOULD, but simply because I want to.

I’m going to start with Sundays. I figure I should be able to keep myself away from a keyboard one day a week. Right?

With love…

MZ

 

 

 

 

0 likes 6 responses
Sign up for book news and free bonus content!

Michelle Zink is the award-winning author of over seven novels. She lives in New York with too many teenagers and too many cats.
Michelle Zink Online
Michelle St. James Online
ORDER LIES I TOLD
iBooks
Amazon
B & N
IndieBound

ORDER THIS WICKED GAME
iBooks
Amazon
B & N
IndieBound

ORDER A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS
iBooks
Amazon
B & N
IndieBound

ORDER CIRCLE OF FIRE
iBooks
Amazon
B & N
Indiebound

ORDER GUARDIAN OF THE GATE
iBooks
Amazon
B & N
Indiebound

ORDER PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS
iBooks
Amazon
B & N
Indiebound
Acclaim

"This arresting story takes readers to other planes of existence…"
- Booklist (starred review)


“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…"
- Publishers Weekly


“Zink’s methodical unfolding of events will draw readers in…”
- Kirkus


“Tingly suspense is craftily managed…”
- The Bulletin

Awards