Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014

Before 2015 rolls in, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the wit, candor and beauty shared by bloggers across the globe. Here are my top ten favorite reads. If you like what you read, please support their writing by subscribing to their blogs and/or checking out their published works. If you’ve got a favorite to share, add a link in the comments and spread the word.

Black Friday: THE Toy of 2014!

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THE toy of 2014 is hidden in this photo

I wish I hadn’t been eating lunch when I read this post. Not because it was disgusting, no, but because I literally choked on my sandwich it was so damn funny. Well done, dumb white husbands, specifically, author, Clayton Smith, one of a handful of contributors to this top shelf website.

http://www.dumbwhitehusband.com/especially-dumb-cyber-monday/

 

Aww, thank you, Jan!

84_0.478284001377119273_9781620151631-thumbnail-bpfbtJT Twissel shone a light on my book, Four Rubbings and I’m grateful. She swears, though I don’t have the necessary access to her dashboard to confirm it myself, that this was her most popular blog post of 2014. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity, Jan.

http://jttwissel.com/2014/05/22/meet-jenn-hotes-a-creepy-obsession-becomes-a-novel/

 

Puppy Kindergarten, I mean two words that come together to create mayhem, right?

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Darling Ms. Lucy

This winning post comes from the website, It Happened at Purity,  where writer,  Kate, comments on life in a small northern California town. The unlikely star of her popular blog is Ms. Lucy, Kate’s pound rescue. In fact, Lucy’s adoring fans often stop she and Kate as they walk the streets of Ft. Bragg to say hello. Here’s my favorite post from the past year:

http://ithappenedatpurity.com/2013/09/20/puppy-kindergarten/

 

 

 

A Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen

9780316102537_p0_v1_s600Avid reader, book author and educator, Vicki Conrad, is growing a loyal group of followers with her well-written book reviews. She knows her stuff and it shows in her popular blog. From the blog of Vicki Conrad, here’s a great review of a YA book I’m adding to my must-read pile immediately:

http://beginningsandbookends.com/2014/11/10/a-blind-spot-for-boys-by-justina-chen/

 

 

My Own Personal Penguin

happy-feet-penguin-birdIt started out with a silly YouTube video of beautiful Benedict Cumberbatch. But, because I’m a hyper-emoting writer, soon I got contemplative. What did I try to do but fail miserably at time and time again?

Then, after I posted the blog I was still scratching my head, but not about my weight, but this; why is it when something is painful to write, it makes the best reading? Anyhow, I was encouraged to hear back from readers that the blog helped them. I’m glad of that. And, in spite of my nervous, squirming family, I’ll keep writing my truth and I’ll continue to share it because I love you.

http://www.jenniferlhotes.com/blog-post/personal-penguin/

What Mortuary Students Do in Mortuary School (you know you’re curious!)

Okay, on a much lighter note (sort of) From Confessions of a Mortician comes a blog post about what students do in mortuary school. It’s a question not many have been bold enough to ask, but here’s the compelling results:

http://www.calebwilde.com/2014/12/21-spectacular-examples-of-what-mortuary-students-do-in-mortuary-school/

 

Hope in a Full-Length Mirror

IMG_3420Best-selling author, Tess Thompson, lives and breathes her authentic self and her blog is no different. She shares her stories; the victories, defeats and everything in between with a rawness I adore. This one about having the courage to hope for love again was powerful:

http://tesswrites.com/2014/11/06/hope-full-length-mirror/

 

 

Garage Regret 20 Years Later

This special post from Deb shows how regret and tragedy can stretch from one generation to the next if we’re not mindful:

http://www.corduroynotes.com/2014/04/garage-regret-20-years-later.html

 

Dear Rick Steves

IMG_1722Well, Rick Steves never wrote her a response, but I’m grateful author, JT Twissel took the time to post this. Her account of driving in Europe made me bust a gut laughing:

http://jttwissel.com/2014/10/23/dear-rick-steves/

 

 

 

 

Day in the Life

CeriFrom MIT student, Ceri R. (yes, nepotism is alive and well people) a candid day in the life of a college coed. I wish I’d been this cool and frank and well, awesomesauce in college. Ceri’s putting a human face on the college experience in her own fresh and candid voice. Well done.

http://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/day-in-the-life

 

 

 

 

 

My Own Personal Penguin

happy-feet-penguin-birdBefore we officially begin, can you take a moment to click the link here and watch Benedict Cumberbatch, the darling British actor best known for his BBC portrayal of Sherlock Holmes?

YouTube Link to Benedict Cumberbatch Blurb!

Alright, welcome back. So, Mr. Cumberbatch struggles to pronounce, ‘penguin,’ correctly. And, if you noticed, the harder he fights to get it right, the worse his pronunciation becomes. It’s funny, silly and sweet to see a highly capable person struggle to achieve something others find easy, isn’t it?

But, Mr. Cumberbatch’s interview with Graham Norton got me thinking. Don’t we all have our own personal penguin? It could be a professional skill like public speaking. It might be appearing to have nice table manners in front of others. It could be driving in a careful way when you’ve got your mother-in-law in the car. Whatever your penguin is, you over-think your actions until matters disintegrate into a crumbled pile of disappointment and frustration.

Well, I’m no different. My personal penguin is weight loss. The harder I clamp down on my calories, the more I sabotage myself by eating the wrong foods. My only success at being fit comes when I run. But, for two years, even the act of walking hurt my feet to the point of tears; so, I gained weight. A lot. I can’t tell you the exact number because I refused to get on a scale, but I’d guess it was close to a hundred pounds. And when you’re the height of a garden fairy, like me, it shows.

feet on a bathroom scale - isolatedAs an American woman, I’m not alone in this, but I struggle with my body image. I have since I hit puberty, in fact, the exact moment came when my mother offered to pay me a dollar for each pound I lost. We were on the way to the grocery store and her words were not only unexpected, but crushing.

Before her offer, I was under the assumption that I looked fine, actually I didn’t give my body a thought. I was a two-sport athlete and in my offseason, I ran regularly. Yes, I had a buxom chest, but I couldn’t help that. No matter how hard I exercised, I was a 36C. I was healthy. I got my share of attention – wanted or not – from boys. Before that moment, I felt good in my own skin. But, nothing crushes the old psyche like criticism from your mother.

I’d love to report that I’ve evolved into a self-loving woman, but that would be a lie. Even today, I struggle with my body image. I dress to downplay my boobage; opting to wear dark, loose-fitting shirts that become sort of a visual void, a nothing to the keen observer. Yes, I’m trying to achieve a textile black hole where my mass just sort of disappears. It’s a dirty little secret I share with other busty women. But, lately, I find I want to talk about it.

The other day, on a quest for a new bra, I went to Macy’s. The kindest woman helped me navigate the lingerie department. I explained to her that I was meeting Macklemore that night and needed a better bra so my dress fit properly. (actually I told her I wanted my girls to sit up straight) She laughed, saw through my body insecurity immediately, and said, “You know. Women pay thousands of dollars to have breasts like ours.” And we laughed. In that moment, some of my old hurts healed.

I’m raising my daughters to be different. My teen tells me what her off-target subjects are and I respect that. I don’t ask, inquire, hint or nag about those places where she is most sensitive. Because, I realize she nags herself enough about those things – it’s an internal dialogue of self-loathing and she doesn’t need my voice in the conversation. Yes, I compliment her, but only when it’s authentic. Even that, she tends to disregard, but that’s okay.

And because of my experiences, I don’t make body-centered observations about my daughters. No matter how well meaning it might’ve been for a family member to suggest I exercise with them, or choose a more slimming color, it hurt. It did its damage. And I refuse to pass insecurity onto my daughters. They don’t know I struggle to seem confident in my own skin. I don’t want to pass on this trait to them. My wish for them is to have little disregard for what the world thinks about their looks and feel comfortable with all of themselves. And, for myself? I’m making progress. I don’t love or hate myself based on whether or not I exercise or eat properly. I’m trying to love myself consistently. And for now, that’s enough.

 

I Had a Ghostwriter for My Second Novel

Pardon the four day delay, but I couldn’t speak, post or tweet of this until I was back at home safe and sound. On the recent retreat I took to complete my second novel, I had company; in my bed, in the living room, as I stood on the roof deck, in the shower. No, I’m not talking about the kind of company that makes my wedding ring feel itchy, it was the kind that sends a chill down my spine.

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This image comes courtesy of TripAdvisor.com. If you look to the left of the lighthouse, you’ll see Room 303, where I had spectral company.

It was an early birthday present to myself, I drove north to Bellingham, Washington and checked into the beautiful Hotel Bellwether, a property which fronts a lively harbor. My only room request was that it contained a desk, because I knew if I had three days to devote to the effort, I could finish my second novel, the follow up to Four Rubbings.

My room was #303. It was a delightful suite which overlooked the harbor and mountains. I’d brought a bundle of sage to burn, so I could cleanse the energy in the space and make it suitable for writing, but couldn’t get a match to light. No matter, I turned on the Seahawks game and dove into my writing. When I looked up from the computer the sunset was painting the sky in streaks of pink and I was starving. Notebook in hand, I supped and returned to the room. I finished two chapters and went to bed. Alone.

steve-donna-o-meara-ghost-in-the-hall-at-the-hawthorne-hotel-one-of-america-s-most-haunted

This image comes from Steve & Donna O’Meara’s account of a ghost at the Hawthorne Hotel.

Knowing I never sleep well in strange places, I took a Benadryl and left on a light. An hour after retiring, I heard footsteps cross the room and stop at the edge of the bed, then there was the clear sound of someone breathing over me, just inches from my face. When I opened my eyes, I fully expected to find a man looming above, but there was nothing. Nothing.

Gathering my wits, I double-checked that the door was locked, then piled pillows around my ears; I was determined to get a few hours of sleep. And after a short time, it happened again. Footsteps, breathing, and then nothing. I tried once more to light the sage, but the matches were still damp. Instead, I turned on the television for the white noise and wrestled with my pillows until sunrise.

On my morning run, I looked at events with a sober mind. Yes, it was a spirit – I didn’t imagine it. But, it was not dark or threatening, only curious. I knew this from experience – the experience that comes from being awakened by a demon standing over your childrens’ beds. Yes, I know what dark spirits look like and smell like. I also know they’re hard to get rid of. They leave scars. What existed in #303 wasn’t that. It was a curious spirit, intrigued by the creative process. So, when I returned to the room, I had a word with him, “Yes, I know you’re here. I just don’t wish to acknowledge you. Please stop bothering me.”

The following nights in my suite went roughly the same way. And when I checked out on the fourth day, my book was complete. Yes, I had a ghostwriter, of sorts. I’ll never know his name, but he was there, reading over my shoulder and maybe he knew what he was doing when he kept me from sleeping. Because, together, we got the words down, the story completed. So, for that, I am thankful to him, my ghostwriter.

No More #NaNoWriMo Updates Please! (pretty please)

girl_with_hands_over_ears_screaming_42-17094837If you’re active on any social media then you’re well aware that it’s November, the month that has been become, “National Novel Writing Month.” The hashtag #NaNoWriMo has been trending on Twitter since November 1st and is mentioned in every third post on Facebook. Meh.

I’m a writer, so you’d think I’d adore all the positive encouragement, posted word counts, and shared advice, but I’m over it. Way. Over. It.

Writers out there, go for it. Do this thing. Silence your inner-governors and write, dang it. Sink into the heads of your characters without shame this month, and the month after, and the month after that. But, because I realize writers are a tenderhearted crew, I’m going to say this nicely, (shaky hands offer you a warm cookie and cup of tea), “Please don’t post about it.”

#NaNoWriMo updates are about as interesting to your potential readers as reading a bus driver’s account of his morning routes, or listening to a play-by-play of a cardiologist’s morning surgeries, or watching a video taken by a dental hygienist of his afternoon cleanings. It’s rather dull. (remember, I’m trying to be gentle)

Ellie's books

Don’t forget that after that novel’s written, you’ll want to find readers that love your book.

If you are tickled with what you’re crafting this month and just HAVE to post about it, then make it interesting. A fellow Booktrope author had the idea to post the last sentence of your work-in-progress at the end of each day. What a great way to entice and intrigue readers. If that doesn’t appeal to you, try sharing an interesting story or fact you stumbled upon when you were doing your background research. That’s always received well. Or what about sharing a picture of your pile of writing-fueling candy bars? Or even better, post a selfie of you in your writing garb, makeup-less face and all.

These are all great ways to share the process and connect with your potential readers in an organic way this month! Because, I realize the purpose of #NaNoWriMo is to connect writers with writers, encourage the craft. Well, do that, but don’t litter your feeds with it. Instead, use #NaNoWriMo as a way to not only encourage the craft, but as a vehicle to connect, not alienate, potential readers; yes, the people that will one day fall in love with your novel.

 

The Man Bun and Other Questionable Choices (to me)

ManBun3-Chris-Hemsworth

Ah, Man Bun. Nailed it!

I’ve got a new obsession to add to my list; right behind coffee, Benedict Cumberbatch, and indie bands trails, Man Buns. I’ve capitalized the term, because this is the standard spelling for the burgeoning new trend. Three days ago, I lived in ignorance of Man Buns, but now, after combing the interwebs, I’ve got a definite opinion about them. Mostly yuck.

Brought to my attention by fellow Booktrope author, Tess Thompson, in a Facebook post, I realized, yes, I’ve seen men wearing their hair in buns. Though, Thompson felt her home state of Oregon was to blame for this abomination, others disagree. Here’s a funny blog post from Harvard that puts the cone of shame on Disney’s, Mulan, specifically “hot warrior, Shang.” <Harvard blog post> In the end, they cast a verdict of “HATE IT!” on the trend.

Others vehemently disagree, not only approving Man Buns, but go so far as to call them sexy. Here’s one of those dissenting voices: <Man Bun Everything Right Now>

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The man purse. Why?

To me, I lump the Man Bun trend in with the man purse phenomena of the 90s and the recent attempts by men to not only bear a child, but give birth. Maybe I’m being too ambiguous here, but I don’t like it when men adopt our more womanly traits and roles. Maybe I’m territorial, okay I know I’m territorial, but the truth is, women are my favorite gender. Yes, I said it. I love men, too. But, being a woman, I’m biased.

Men are fabulous, too. You can focus really well; shut out the world to finish your task. You’re generally physically stronger than women. You make amazing fathers, stretching the comfort-zones of your children (and worried wives), you are great drivers’ ed instructors, you look better in shorts and much, much more. But, to be sexy, all I want is a man that’s comfortable in his own skin, not someone desperately trying to be different. That’s it. So, until Benedict Cumberbatch grows his hair out and swirls it into a bun, my verdict is, “skip it” on the trend.

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Does the man in this photo by bigstock look comfortable in his own skin? Does he?

The Not PC Halloween

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Costume-in-a-box circa 1970s

As a child of the 70s, I have to giggle at my youngest daughter who began planning and creating her Halloween costume back in September. It’s one of the striking differences between her generation and mine. Back then, we asked, begged and cajoled our mom to take us to the grocery store to pick out our costume in a box. It consisted of a mask with two tiny air holes in the sort-of nose position and a cheap drape thing that we threw on over our normal clothes.

Our planning was null back then, except for coordinating costumes with the kids that would be trick-or-treating with us. Or maybe we were innovators, I don’t know. But, for two amazing years in a row, my brother and I went as the Peanuts gang with the Gurwell children. I was Lucy, for obvious reasons – bossy, mouth, and cruel to Charlie Brown, especially when it came to football. Then two people would go as Woodstock and Snoopy and my big brother would be either Charlie Brown (snicker) or Linus. To see a preview of the classic Peanuts’ Halloween special click here.

In subsequent years, our not so PC costumes included hobo with a runaway satchel and bum (similar to hobo – but no satchel and extra soot rubbed across the face). We didn’t have fancy schmancy treat buckets, either. Instead, we used the pillowcases from our beds. It was fortunate that my older brother had Peanuts sheets the years we went as the coordinated gang. He nailed the whole look. Dang.

The treats were not too much unlike today’s treats, except no one bothered trying to be healthy. Sure, you’d come across the occasional dentist’s home, and get a toothbrush. But, after the razor-blade-in-an-apple scares, even fruit went by the wayside. But, the one year that I will never forget, regretfully the last year I was allowed to trick-or-treat, I ended up with half a pillowcase full of Pal bubblegum. It was new on the market, and clearly sold at a low – low – low price, because every other house gave it away that year.

e0ab1f286c4b0c49b2f2f0f38cde8bf1Pal bubblegum is in fact the ugly kid sister of Bazooka Gum. Pal, if you can work up enough saliva in your mouth, is good for three, maybe four chews TOPS and then it becomes a flavorless lump. Terrible. Terrible stuff. That year, my chocolate bars felt all the more important, and I was careful to make my haul last by eating only two pieces a day. I nearly got to Thanksgiving before I’d worked down to the Almond Joys.

So, tonight when I open the door for the kids, I plan to give them a handful of chocolate, not organic or nut free or gluten free, no. They’ll have tromped up and down rainy Seattle hills, and I intend on giving them a true treat when they knock on my door.

Speaking of treats, I’ve got one for all of you. Amazon is offering my first book for FREE this weekend to Kindle Unlimited users. For your Halloween treat, download Four Rubbings and start following the mysteries in real time. :)

Happy Halloween, all.

The MARIOKART Effect

Jenn's Bumper Sticker

Don’t make me do it. One more bad drive and I’m printing this and taping it on my rear window!

The last few weeks while driving my kids to school, I’ve been shocked by the things I’ve witnessed behind the wheel. Am I showing my age? Probably. But, the things I’ve watched other drivers do reminds me of the way I drive when I play Super MARIOKART with my daughters on our Xbox.

1346495994-mario-kart-7-1440x1152-wallpaper-gamerswallpapers-com

Notice that there is no sub-head that says: A Driving Instruction Tool

After another white-knuckle drive home yesterday in which I avoided two near collisions, I designed a bumper sticker. Yes, so help me God, I did. And if my afternoon commute doesn’t go any smoother, I’m going to print it and tape it to rear window of my car.

So let’s look at the key ways the game differs from real life:

  • There are no seatbelts in MARIOKART, so safety isn’t really a priority. In real life, safety matters
  • In the game, we get an infinite amount of lives. If you happen to “die” you’re promptly parachuted back onto the road. And in real life we just die
  • In the game, reading and obeying signs is optional at best. In real life, signs reminds us of the rules. If we don’t obey them, we get pulled over by a police officer
  • There are no speed laws in MARIOKART
  • There are no blinkers on MARIOKART vehicles. There are in real life – but drivers are increasingly forgetting to use them (flibberty, flibberty)
  • In the game, the goal is to finish first. In real life, the goal is to get to a place alive
  • In MARIOKART, fire is a minor inconvenience, as is driving off the road onto the surrounding landscape – both slow you down for a short time. We all know what happens in real life if you drive off the road
  • There’s no gas or electric-charging needed to run the vehicles in MARIOKART, but in real life, we need fuel. Is this why I’ve noticed so many young people walking down the highway with a red gasoline can in their hands?
  • In the game, lanes don’t matter, and lane lines are a mere suggestion. In real life, staying within the lane makes all the difference
  • In the game, we pass quick and close to cause another driver to spin off the course. In real life, we’re supposed to give each other some space so we stay safe when we pass
  • When we play MARIOKART, we laugh and scream and cheer.  In real life, crazy maneuvers  lead to road rage, permanent nail marks in steering wheels and chronic TMJ in other drivers
mario_kart_double_dash

Where are the seatbelts? And what the heck is Luigi holding? Does this look safe?

So, younglings, the next time you hit the road, and I’m talking about actual asphalt – not pixels, remember what you learned in driver’s ed. Obey the law, be courteous to other drivers and make it your goal to get to your destination in one piece. Leave the crazy antics for the gaming, okay?

 

Why Parakeets Are Better Left Dead

Mount St. Helens killed my brother’s budgie parakeet. But an obsession with Egyptians only made matters worse.

the budgie trioMy brother wanted a pet goat, but they weren’t allowed in an apartment. So, Garth moved on, visited the local pet store and brought home a budgie parakeet. He named the bird, Woodstock, after the little bird in Charles Schultz’s famous comic strip, Peanuts, Snoopy’s best friend.

Schultz’s Woodstock flew with an awkward mix of klutz and peril. He smacked into trees, fluttered upside down, spun wildly and landed on the ground with stars and spirals drawn around his head. Garth’s bird was either an avid follower of Peanuts or suffered brain damage as a chick in the egg, because he flew exactly the same way. That is, when he got the chance to spread his wings, which wasn’t very often.

Yes, because a dirty little secret about bird ownership is that it comes with a hefty side dish of guilt. When you purchase a wild animal with survival skills long ago stripped from the DNA, you’ve made a lifelong commitment to keep your pet from doing the main thing he was born to do, fly. He’ll live in a cage. With clipped wings. So he will never get away. Never. Because, the truth is, you haven’t purchased a bird, no, more like your own feathered prisoner. And that makes you his warden.

Ninety-nine percent of Woodstock’s life was lived in a tiny cage. His sole companionship came from a mirror attached to the wall. The reflected Woodstock made the real bird bob his head up and down in a somewhat pornographic way. Besides eating and bobbing, Woodstock’s entertainment consisted of sharpening his beak across a large cuttle bone, sitting on a wooden perch, and crapping on newspaper. Not an excellent way to spend a life, in my opinion.

jenn's version copy

My drawing of the budgie trio. Pen and watercolor.

I think Garth sensed the emptiness of Woodstock’s life immediately, but I’ve always been slow on the uptake. On Saturday mornings, after ingesting a bowl of sugar-coated cereal and watching a few hours of Looney Tunes, I was happy. Something about the afterglow of Tweety cartoons and the crash from the sugar made me keenly aware of Woodstock’s imprisonment. I found myself begging Garth, “Open the cage. Let Woodstock fly.”

It didn’t take much to encourage Garth, I suspect because he was already chanting the same thing in his head. He’d open the door and Woodstock remained on the perch. Garth would call his name, and Woodstock stayed on the perch. Finally, Garth would reach in and gently pry Woodstock’s curled nails from around the perch and release him into the room.

I always hoped that Woodstock would circle above our heads in graceful loops to our cheers and whistles. Nope. Woodstock’s flying, if one could call it that, resembled the inky up and down readouts of the old fashioned EKG machines. It was all quick drops and high bursts. The bird sputtered up and down in the air, almost hitting the ceiling, nearly smacking the floor, creating spastic Vs in my mind until, wham! He slammed into a window or wall, lost a handful of feathers and then crawled up the drapes where his long nails got caught in the fabric. He jerked and bobbed frantically, losing more feathers, until he was freed by Garth’s gentle hands. It was unnerving, heartbreaking and horrifying. And somehow, within minutes of nestling Woodstock into his cage again, I forgot the cruelty of letting him fly.

Well, I liked Woodstock, and because he was Garth’s, I assume Garth loved him. When we moved into our house, Woodstock came with us. He had a place of honor on the corner of Garth’s desk, next to a stack of books about Egypt, my brother’s latest fixation.

Then, on May 18th, 1980, Mount St. Helens blew. I don’t remember any house-shaking booms, but the sky outside became pocked with ash sacs. And poor Woodstock died of a little birdy heart attack during the eruption. We found him dead in his cage and left Garth to bury or flush him however he saw fit. I was sad, but not sad enough to miss Bobbie McPherson’s birthday party at Farrell’s, a restaurant that offered, “magical fun for everyone” in their ads. Her mother, God love her, ordered the most expensive item on the menu for us, the volcano ice cream sundae.

photo_FarrellsZoo_Vertical

Farrell’s volcano ice cream sundae

May. Woodstock died in May. I don’t remember Garth mentioning the bird again, and then summer came. We went to California to stay with our family there. Before we left, Garth, who’d gotten heavy into Egyptians, made an immaculate black pyramid and set it in the bare spot on his desk that Woodstock’s cage once occupied. I thought maybe he’d put it there as a sort of memorial to his first pet. After that, I didn’t give another thought to the bird, his death, or Garth’s grieving.

The summer sped by, but at the end of August, it was time to return home to Mom and school. Before we arrived, Mom changed bedding, vacuumed and dusted our rooms. In order to clean Garth’s desk, she had to move the black pyramid. And when she lifted it up, she found a petrified Woodstock. Woodstock. If anything could bring the bird back to life it would be a few months sitting underneath a pyramid, right? That’s what the Egyptians believed would happen, resurrection, new life.

Maybe Garth’s calculations were right, and Woodstock did rise from the dead. But, with no birdseed and water and mirror and cuttle bone and Garth after waking, maybe Woodstock decided that death was an improvement.

In death, Woodstock could soar like an eagle, avoid any obstacle and hold onto his feathers at last.

Jennifer Hotes is author of YA thriller/suspense novel, Four Rubbings.

Wow! That was easy.

This afternoon in my art loft, I spent a few hours catching up on all the emails I’ve ignored this week in order to help put on the Providence Hospice of Seattle Foundation fundraiser. Over a glass of  iced tea, I read and responded to emails, wrote to-do lists and tackled a few smaller projects. This is what happened out my window as I worked:

Before

As I began my emails, over a bowl of soup…

After responding to emails, checking social media and refilling my water cup...

After responding to emails, checking social media and refilling my water cup…

In less than an hour, a house that stood on the corner of my neighborhood for over three decades was demolished. How long did it take to build that house? A year, maybe? And now it’s gone.

After taking pictures from my roof deck, I went back to writing book two, the follow up to Four Rubbings. The novel’s sketched out in two notebooks, but I’m working in earnest to finish the manuscript before the first of the year. The hours I’ve put into it are already countless. I’ve done research, collected images, fact checked, not to mention the time I’ve invested in creating my cast of characters in the first place. In fact, I usually talk about the teens in my book as though they’re my own children, my four kids that live on paper. The actual writing of the story will go quickly, but I’ve no doubt it will consume me in the months to come. Why? Because I get inside their heads, set them in a situation and watch where they go and how they react. I quietly take notes, or write what you would call a first-draft.

I’m not unique, nor is my process. The fermentation of the story and characters, the editing, the proofing and finally the publication, it’s how a book is born. Even for the most prolific authors, like bestselling author, Tess Thompson, who writes 2-3 books a year, the process takes time.

And like that house across the street from me, the final product can be torn down in a blink: one reviewer, one bad blog post, one incensed reader and what took months to build can crumble down. Amazon’s been criticized for taking a day or more to post five-star reviews, but posting one-star reviews immediately. That needs to change.

I’m not asking you to stop reviewing books honestly, but be fair. If you hate romances, downloaded the book by accident, and didn’t read past the first chapter, then don’t post a review. Please. Don’t tear down a book that wasn’t written for you. Be mindful of the time, process and people behind the book, and act accordingly. Then, when you sit behind that desk and write your own novel, we’ll grant you the same kindness and consideration. We will.

Special Book Release News from Mary Rowen—LIVING BY EAR

mike_lbeLiving by Ear, a women’s novel by Booktrope author Mary Rowen, is being released today, September 16, 2014!

Living by Ear is the story of a forty-six year old Boston musician named Christine Daley, who took a “short” break from music sixteen years ago, in order to marry and raise a family. Now, however, she’s rethinking everything. Chris adores her two teenage children, but her marriage has become a sham, and she longs to perform again.

So after filing for divorce, she does her best to reestablish her own rhythms—both in music and love—but quickly discovers she’s up against much more than she’d anticipated. Her kids seem to need her more than ever, and her soon-to-be-ex-husband is throwing every obstacle he can find into her way. Adding to the dilemma is the astounding progress in technology, which has made huge changes in both the music industry and the dating world. Is there room in the mix for Chris?

This is what one five-star reviewer had to say about the novel, “I took this book with me on vacation, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The descriptions of the Boston locations were spot on. Christine, a middle aged mom who is trying to reconnect with her true self, is a great character. Her struggles and triumphs ring true. Once I started the book, I didn’t want to put it down.”

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headshot--smallerMary Rowen is a Boston area mom with a wonderful family that allows her time to write almost every day. She grew up in the Massachusetts Merrimack Valley and is a graduate of Providence College. She has worked as a teacher, writer, salesperson, and political canvasser. Her two music-inspired novels, Leaving the Beach and Living by Ear, are both available on Amazon, BarnesAndNoble.com, and other places where books are sold.

Please visit Mary online at: http://www.maryrowen.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mary-Rowen-Author/128709923953918

Twitter: @maryjrowen

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6925267.Mary_Rowen