School’s back…forever

What if you knew that soon you’d be thrust back into high school–

after you graduated

after you said goodbye

after you thought it was over for good

If you thought high school was a prison when you were there, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Dystopian, paranormal, romantic fiction for young adults. Now available for Kindle, iPad, iPhone, and Android. For a free sample, visit http://tinyurl.com/3nmkahq

To learn more, visit http://theacademieseries.wordpress.com.

The Metaphorical Twinkie (via CNJamesWriter)

A must read about American cultural attitudes and the arts.

Our cultural attitudes toward the arts are reflected in our food. Behold the Twinkie. This yellow sponge cake thing has no nutritional value, is rumored to last forever, and is nothing more than an over processed eatable “thing.” It’s not food; it’s an imitation. Our lives could be so much richer, and our understanding of each other could be so much more nuanced and complex if, as a nation, the arts were given equal billing to that of the suppose … Read More

via CNJamesWriter

Crafting Believable Characters (via CNJamesWriter)

Great article by my writer husband, Christian James.

To kick off the writing section of my blog, I figured why not upload my take on what it takes to make a good, interesting character. What do readers want to know about the characters? 1. The basics. The characters should be directly affected by the events unfolding in the story, i. e. the plot. Their demeanor, the way they dress, act, and interact with others should all stem from three places: 1. What is happening to them in the story. 2. Their p … Read More

via CNJamesWriter

Hooking your Audience

Think you have a few pages to hook your audience? Think again.

Last night, I explored my childhood bookshelf at my mom’s house with my eleven-year-old niece, Lilly. Then I watched as she went through the books one by one.

“How ’bout I read this story to you, Mimi?” Lilly said to me after piling up a decent-sized stack of mid-grade novels to take home.

“Sure,” I answered, excited to see some of my favorite stories being reclaimed.

Then I listened as Lilly struggled through the first line of one of the books. About half-way through that line, she stopped. “Uh, how about I try this other book?” she said.

“Okay. You don’t like that one?”

“No, I have to get a feel for them right off. I can tell right away if I’m going to like it or not.”

After struggling through the opening lines of two more books, Lilly gave up. I was sad, yet I understood. I was exactly the same way as a child, and I’m not far from there now. If an opener doesn’t hook me, I’m out.

Thankfully, Lilly’s mom and I made a strong enough sale on the rest of the books in Lilly’s stack (mostly because they had boys and possible kissing in them–Lilly’s almost twelve) that she still went home with a bunch. But today I’m left thinking about the openers we create for our audience, and the limited opportunity we have to grab their attention.

Earlier this week, I started reading Chris D’Lacy’s mid-grade novel The Fire Within. Admittedly, it was the cover that attracted me to it. (Think people don’t judge a book by its cover? Think again.) I have to give the cover artist high props for this one: it’s beautiful and intriguing. The problem: both the cover and the short cover flap description promise that the book’s about dragons. Now at almost half-way through it’s 350 pages, I’ve yet to encounter any dragons that aren’t clay statues.

Again, my thoughts turn to Lilly and my childhood self. Would I have continued reading? Heck no. And this is despite the fact that D’Lacey’s writing is quite good. (I’ve been studying his sentence structures and dialogue techniques as I read because I feel like I have a lot to learn from him–which is why I’ve kept reading despite the lack of dragons.) But I was promised dragons. How long do I have to wait to see them in action?

Here’s some things I made note of from watching Lilly and from my experience with D’Lacey’s book: 

  1. An opener must be short and powerful.
  2. Big words and difficult names don’t belong in the first sentence. (Lilly tripped over some of these and tossed the books aside immediately. You might say this applies only to stuff for kids, but I wonder…?)
  3. Deliver on your promises. If you say you’re going to give readers something, give it to them. Immediately. (Suspense is great, but please, at least give us a taste so we want to keep reading.)

What do you think? What do you love or hate to see in an opener?

Have you seen my new website? http://amysjoy.com

There’s an upside to everything

Over the past few months, I’ve posted quite a bit about my struggles with Graves’ Disease. What I haven’t had a chance to share yet is the story of life after the struggle. Why? Because I’ve been about doing things and enjoying life, feeling great! That’s right, after what seemed like an eternity of feeling miserable, I’ve finally come through feeling myself again.

This brings me to one of my biggest concerns before I went through treatment: I really thought I might not feel myself anymore. Or worse–maybe I wouldn’t be myself anymore. This probably sounds absurd, but for us hyperactive folks, it’s a big part of who we are. I have always been bouncy, energetic, and able to accomplish more in a day than many of my counterparts at work or at home. Treatment for Graves’ Disease set out to put an end to that–or so I thought.

But the truth was, I hadn’t been feeling myself for quite some time. It had been months and possibly years since I felt “normal”. I don’t know how the disease progresses over time, but as I think back, there were times were I can see some ebb and flow–where it’d get bad and then back off again and I’d feel almost right. By the time I received treatment in the form of radioactive iodine ablation (RAI), I’d say that I was about as far from feeling myself as I could get. (Though I’d rather not test that theory.)

So did RAI treatment change who I am? In terms of energy, no. The disease had slowed me done so much, that the treatment brought me back up to where I love to be. Yes, for a while I was a walking zombie. However, shortly after writing that article, I backed off the beta blockers (atenolol) the doctor had me on, and I did a complete reversal. It seemed that the drugs that had been making me normal for a while actually did the opposite once my thyroid had shrunk enough to produce less hormone to disrupt my system.

However, there is one major change. My other fear–which I imagine other hyperactives worry about–was that after enjoying years of eating as much of whatever I wanted and still maintaining a slim figure with or without exercise, I feared I’d quickly become obese. This fear, I assure you, is unfounded–at least in my experience. So what’s the major change? My appetite. It happened about two weeks after RAI treatment, and I swear, it was overnight. I went from consuming huge portions and constantly being hungry, to filling up on a couple of bites. (No joke.) Now at nine weeks after RAI, I eat about half the portion sizes I did before treatment. Could I gain weight? Yes. If I ate like I did before and continued not to exercise. Have I? No, because I’ve cut back and started exercising. (After not being able to do much for months, it feels fantastic to get my body moving again!)

While I surely would have preferred not to go through all of this (my wallet wishes I hadn’t too), it has had another very positive effect. Like many who’ve struggled through adversity, my experience with Graves’ Disease has changed my perspective on life and what’s important, and it’s given me even greater drive to achieve the goals I’ve set out for myself and do the things in life that make me happiest.

As they say, there’s an upside to everything.

I have a new website! Please join me there! http://amysjoy.com

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