Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Total Immersion

I could be a life-long student. I love learning new things, and I'm fascinated by just about any idea--big or small. Our world is filled with unique people, places, things and phenomena. It's utterly amazing to me just how much there is and just how little I know.

And so, I am prone to total immersion.

When I come across something interesting, I research for hours, days and sometimes weeks. I get so engrossed in learning more that I don't realize how much time has passed. Or, that I've gotten off-topic numerous times because there is always something bright and shiny just around the proverbial corner.

I could be a life-long student.

And I don't think that's a bad thing. I mean, my passion for knowing doesn't hurt anyone--unless you count the dust bunnies which can be neglected when I'm on a researching tangent. But other than that, it's a harmless pastime. And passions drive us. They push us to do. For instance, my passion for all things psychological and child-centric means that so much of my reading/learning/knowing is about human beings, and tiny ones at that. This love spills over into my career and my writing. Not such a bad thing at all.

Anyone else a Cliff Claven? If so, what are your particular areas of interest? If not, what can you get totally immersed in?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

An Extra Five Hours

In five hours, I can watch two movies.
In five hours, I can eat both breakfast and lunch.
I can work, take a bath, weed my garden and write 5,000 words if my muse cooperates.

Five hours over the course of a week is a mere inconvenience.
Five hours over one month is a drop in the bucket.
Over the span of a year, this chunk of time barely exists.

But to moms who say goodbye to their college age children, Five Hours is a lifetime.

Last week, I dropped my only daughter off at college. Granted she's my second kid and Eldest--a son--has attended college for two years already, but he's only 45 minutes away. Dear Daughter is that plus five hours.

I can handle 45 minutes.

"Mom, I forgot my winter jacket."
"Mom, my new contacts are in, can you bring them?"
"Mom, I'm home." Just because he can.

Five extra hours makes all those things feel easy. As if I've taken them for granted.
Five extra hours means months in between each visit.
Five extra hours means I can't be there for the little things.
It means getting there for the big things will take monumental efforts and way too much time.

Oh, how I hate those extra 300 minutes that stand between me and my daughter.

Curse you, Time.
Curse you, Distance.
Curse the easy mobility of our society and the opportunities that tempt our children away from us.

If you can't tell, I'm terrible at letting go.
I love hard and fast and loyally.
I've spent my entire life doing right by my kids.

All I can do now is pray that I've done enough.

I love you, Connor and Lexi.
I love you for your spirit and independence and motivation to get out there and make an impact on this world.
I love you for being you and miss you both like crazy.

Hugs to all the parents sharing my boat where seconds turn to minutes and minutes to hours as we feel the distance between us and our children with an almost physical pain.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner...er, Novel Winners Announced

Will the winners of the Romantic Novel Giveaway please step forward to accept your prizes?

All winners have been sent an email they need to respond to in order to claim their prizes. If you did not receive it, please email me (atoconnor.writer@gmail.com) ASAP so we can have you reading in no time. Hope to hear from you soon!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Romantic Getaway Giveaway: a novel gift for Valentine's Day

Along with snowflakes and the winter chill, love is in the air. Which is why you deserve the chance to heat up your nights and warm your heart with strong, memorable characters.

  • Who: anyone 18 and older living within the US, Canada and the UK is eligible to win. Only residents of Canada and the US are eligible for the grand prize.
  • What: five new novels ranging in hotness from yearning young adult to sizzling, mature romance.
  • When: entries accepted between February 1st and February 10.
  • Where: blog hop between the five featured authors to learn how their protagonists learned personal acceptance before they could overcome the obstacles in their way.
  • How: scope out the prizes--and how you can win them--on the Rafflecopter form below.

While entering is quick and painless, reading your prize novel(s) will be nothing but pleasure. And so, without further ado, here's a taste of what you can win--or win and give to your sweetheart on Valentine's Day.

Driving Me To You by Julie Farrell combines strong female characters, good-looking guys, and an uplifting ride towards freedom. Miss Farrell writes modern romance for the modern woman. Farrell can be found on twitter (@julieanafarrell), facebook, Amazon and her website.


Evelyn Adams is the author of Love Uncovered, a steamy romance for the
mature audience. Miss Adams writes for the committed couple with the goal of helping them find their way back to each other, rekindle their passion or discover a new one to explore - together. Adams can be found on twitter (@evelynadamsFF), facebookAmazon and her website.



Romance, women and New Adult are the things J. Lea Lopez writes well. She's the brains behind Sorry's Not Enough and a self-described indecisive--which really means she's not content to sacrifice her own happiness in order to follow a "traditional" path. An ideal she applies to her writing as seen by her vow to not sacrifice her voice or her integrity by jumping on a cash cow trend or genre. You can find Miss Lopez on twitter (@JLeaLopez), facebook, Amazon and her blog.



Author Jean Oram tweets (@jeanoram), facebooks, and blogs. Her novel Whiskey and Gumdrops is the second book in her Blueberry Springs series. Contemporary chick lit and Jean Oram go together like hot chocolate and marshmallows. Macaroni and cheese & love and marriage. For a taste of her delicious books, pop onto Amazon and give Blueberry Springs a try.


And lastly, me and my MC, Gemini Baker. In Whispering Minds, Gemi is faced with a dysfunctional childhood that has tainted her journey into adulthood. Her parents' alcoholism has impacted every moment of Gemi's life--a realty that crashes in when her beloved granny dies and leaves Gemi alone with the ghosts of her past. Before she can move forward, she must first unlock the secret within and learn to love herself despite all that is broken. And, of course, there's a hot guy whose smexiness oozes off the page and turns Gemini's insides out.

So, if you're ready, sign in and join the Rafflecopter giveaway to win one--or all--of these romantic novels.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Call For Submissions: middle grade short stories

The bullies of today become the inmates of tomorrow.

Sad, but true. Not only do the bullied face a hard life of low self-esteem and potential chemical use, the bullies themselves face a much higher risk than their peers of spending time behind bars in their adulthood.

Bullying makes you mean. It makes you disregard other's feelings and safety. It turns off the power switch to dignity, self-respect and personal responsibility. In short, picking on your peers today creates the adult monsters of tomorrow.

Since these are all issues important in my line of work, I urge everyone to do their share to stop bullying in its tracks. A step that starts long before middle school lunch table drama and high school death threats. A step that begins with kindergartners who have yet to solidify their behavior patterns--who still have a chance of becoming something more than the inmates in years to come.

My editor at Elephant's Bookshelf Press takes this message to heart and is heading up a middle grade anthology of short stories on bullying. If you'd like to contribute--or know someone who might--please follow the submission guidelines below:

  • Short stories should be geared toward middle grade students (roughly 7-12 years of age), and should be no more than 2,500 words long.
  • Short stories can be told from the points of view of the bully, the bullied or the bystander and should have a clear resolution that shows the appropriate way of dealing with bullying.
  • These stories should be engaging and not preachy. From historical to futuristic, kids need to connect to the story, the characters and the message. In other words, don't write down to these youngsters, but help empower them to come up with their own solutions.
  • Short stories must be submitted by February 15 to catwoods.writer@gmail.com (the acquisitions editor on this project) with the words "EBP bully anthology" in the subject line.
  • No payment will be made for accepted stories, though an author bio, links to a website or blog, and a free copy of the anthology will be provided to included authors. 
Projected publication date: May 5

Happy writing!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Just Wow! As I watch the world crumble...

The world has gone crazy.

As in crazy-Crazy. With a capital C.

An inmate on death row fights his impending lethal injection (at taxpayer expense) because the medically approved drugs have not been used before and it might cause him undue anguish and worry and maybe at the moment of death, a little bit of pain.

Excuse me for a minute while I process this. A man who brutally raped and murdered a pregnant woman is constitutionally protected and DESERVES the right to die peacefully?!?!?

What about his victim? Shouldn't we consider her last hours, last minutes, last seconds--hell, her last breath--when she pleaded and fought for her life and the life of her unborn child? Did she get to die peacefully with no pain and no worry? Where is her constitutional right?

Or let's consider this: two teens who laced a young lady's drink, gang raped her, photographed her nude body and then shared the pics around school to classmates got a slap on the wrist--one a thirty day sentence and the other a whopping 45 days. A third is yet to be sentenced.

Lest this sounds about right to you, I would like to add the final detail to this tragedy: the young gal committed suicide eight days later because of the mental anguish she was going through after being drugged, raped and put on public display. I can't imagine that her death by hanging was worry free and painless.

Sadly, I see no true justice in these stories, only a gross misunderstanding of when rights are forcibly taken and when they should be based on one's own actions.

In my mind, those who rape or murder in cold blood have forfeited their rights to a peaceful, worry free existence--or death. After all, they have forcibly taken the life of another--cruelly ripping from murder victims every last right they were entitled to along with their last, gasping breaths. Likewise, rape is neither painless nor peaceful. Certainly, living as a victim isn't worry free. In fact, it condemns survivors to live every future moment tainted by the memories, suffering, fear and pain of their assaults. The course of a survivor's life--and every relationship in it--has been irrevocably changed. Their lives are no longer their own.

Now, whether I believe in capital punishment or not isn't the issue. The issue--my issue--is the way we seem to spend more time, money, effort and compassion on a criminal's rights than on the rights, dignity, pain, suffering and endless hell that the victim's are plunged into--if they survive at all.

In this respect, I fail to see why the scope of cruel and unusual punishment entitles prisoners/convicts to not suffer any pain or worry when the reason they are behind bars is for the pain and suffering they have caused others.

I am infinitely saddened when I see the death penalty carried out by a victim of sexual assault upon herself, while her perpetrators walk free. Free to live, love and assault again.

Furthermore, My heart breaks for the pregnant mother who fought for her life during a brutal assault that culminated in not one, but two, deaths. True her murderer was finally euthanized, but to much public and judicial outcry. Even in his death, taxpayer money will be spent to sue our own government for carrying out a sentence that was legally handed down, all because it took longer for him to die than for past inmates--he passed away after twenty-five minutes--and he "appeared to gasp" for air during his lethal injection.

Two simple questions...how many times did his victim gasp for air as she was being stabbed and beaten and how long did her torture last?

Compounding the issue of a death row inmate's constitutional guarantee to die peacefully is the fact that it is illegal for the general population to die peacefully. I used to work in the health field and was repeatedly told by cancer patients that their treatments were more painful than the disease. I know first hand that death does not whisk you away poetically on a single, quiet exhalation.

New Mexico is under the magnifying glass for allowing a doctor to prescribe medication that will end a terminal patient's life when that sane, terminal patient has deemed that living is simply too painful to continue. NM is only one of five states that protects a terminal patient's right to die peacefully--in a very limited fashion.

So, the message we are sending is that the only people who deserve to die with as much dignity and comfort as is possible in death are those who have destroyed another person's life.

The world is a Crazy place, my friends.

As a writer, I'm not sure which is worse: our reality or the sickening realities found in many dystopian novels today. What do you think?



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Words and Winners

Let's talk numbers.

The other day, the choir director at our school asked how many words my novel was. Whispering Minds is a little light with 67,000 words, as many YA novels fall between 65k-85k.

He asked because he writes weekly columns for several regional publications and is tossing around the idea of getting into short stories on his way (maybe) to writing a novel.

I write on both ends of the spectrum, and can tell you that both short stories (500 words and up) and novels are equally intimidating.

That said, I have another short story accepted for an anthology on Regret. Such a yummy theme in all its hindsightedness. I'm willing to bet that if we knew the lasting consequences of our actions, we wouldn't do half the stupid stuff that fills our days.

And one of those things filling my days is accumulating words. I am crazily writing my 2013 NaNoWriMo project and failing miserably thanks to my MC's sex/nationality change. Ugh. Yet I push on toward reaching that goal of 50,000 words in thirty days.

Which is why you haven't seen me.

Which is why you may not have realized that my Goodreads Giveaway ended. It did. And now ten new winners will receive 67,000 of my words that I carefully constructed in 2009 for NaNoWriMo.

Congrats to all the winners of all the prize packages for my Whispering Minds giveaways. May your November be filled with wonderful words that take you on amazing journeys.

And if you're looking for a few words of your own, I recommend that you read the novel Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I've read it three times this year. Twice in the last week. Partially because I'm helping a speech student cut a few hundred words from it for competition, but mostly because I love it. As an FYI, this amazing novel has four and a half stars.

There, did you see all the numbers I threw at you? Now it's your turn.

What is your NUMBER ONE fave novel of a) all time or b) this year? I'm looking for a few good prose pieces for my speechies.

Until Next Time,

ATO