Friday, September 28, 2012

Feel-Good Friday: A Few Pom-Pom Shakes for Writerly Me

 I'm not inherently a zombie fan, but I did fall in love with Carrie Ryan's zombies. And even while her living-dead made me look over my shoulder a time or two, zombies are not what I worry about when I think End of the World. Rather, I wanted something different than flesh eating mutants for the upcoming anthology, THE FALL: tales from the apocalypse.

Ironically, National Geographic Magazine provided me with the perfect End of the World scenario, and Solar Flare was born.

I just finished the final edit of this short story, and I can't tell you enough how good it feels to be done. Don't get my wrong, I love editing. Nearly as much as I love writing. However, there's something about teasing out the lesser-developed threads that turns a good piece of writing into something great. (Thank you, Jean Oram, Uber Editor of the Century!) More info will come, as the release date nears.

In other joyous news today, I finished putting together a registration package for a writer's conference in which I'll get a professional critique of (and a professional peek at) WHISPERING MINDS.

Fingers crossed that things go my way!

Now to get the next 327 pages in tip-top shape.

Have a safe weekend filled with good, clean fun.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Teen Tuesday: Instant Gratification

Instant. Gratification.

Sounds amazing, right?

Instantly you're happy and satisfied and filled with warm fuzzies. Instantly your itch is scratched, and you get what you want RIGHT NOW. Without a moment's hesitation, your wishes and desires are fulfilled.

Want a soda? Great, here's two. Want a piece of triple chocolate cheesecake with truffles on top? Why not the whole thing? Chubby butt? No problem, we've got diet pills. Think Top Choice Grade A Boy is cute? No prob. Just make yourself available.

No prob. Really, it's not. Because if you want something, why shouldn't you have it?

Actually, there are two problems with this mindset:
  1. It feels so dang good to be instantly satisfied. The high from it is nearly addictive and does nothing to train our bodies and our brains to work for results. Instead, we simply go in for another high.
  2. Secondly, the consequences. And Lord, can they pile up.
At sixteen, my daughter already has a handful of friends adventuring into parenthood. Sure that one night of creating the baby was heavenly, but the long term effects are catastrophic. I don't think I need to mention diapers, midnight feedings, two-year-old temper tantrums, teething, potty training, back-talking, learning to read, homework, rule-breaking, groundings and teenage drama for you to get that one night of pleasure can equal an insurmountable amount of time, effort and money. None of which teens have a whole lot of.

But let's not forget about that friend of my friend who shared a romantic evening with Top Choice Grade A boy and brought home a life-long case of genital warts? Life-long. As in she had to tell her fiance before they got married that she would be bringing ugly little friends to bed with them--'til death do they part.

Or that classmate of mine who indulged in a few drinks too many and has been in a wheelchair for the past twenty years? I'm sure his euphoria died the minute his truck struck an electrical pole.

Oh, the pitfalls of instant gratification are many, and trying to avoid them all sounds like a dull and boring life. But, I'm here to testify that it's not. Really. Because if you play it safe--not stupid--you can find those warm fuzzies you crave so much.

"How?" you might ask.

By knowing what you're craving.

Do you want the cute boy to like you, or do you just want everyone to think the cute boy likes you? Because if Cute Boy actually liked you, he'd respect you and wouldn't want you to do something to make yourself look sleazy and skanky. Sure he might want his own instant gratification, but if the long-term craving is different than a quick romp, he'll settle for a cold shower and time spent with you.

If you simply want to feel popular by adding another notch on Cute Boy's bed post then expect some of those unpleasant consequences we talked about earlier. And one we didn't--nobody respects a promiscuous girl. Not even the promiscuous girl herself.

Do you want to drink yourself stupid, or do you want to feel comfortable and cool at the party? Like you actually fit in? Because these are two completely different cravings, and each should be handled differently.

Just an FYI, drinking yourself stupid will only feel good for about 35 minutes. After that, you're just stupid. You'll trip over carpet fuzz and probably puke on the cute boy you're trying to impress. And at the end of the night you'll reek, look like a raccoon from h#ll with your eyeliner dripping down your cheeks and will miss out on all the good things happening around you. Namely the other sober people who just want to hang out and have fun. They do exist.

If you want to feel comfortable hanging with a large group of kids, find the right group of kids. Find the kids who like the things you like. I guarantee you'll be surprised at the number of teens who don't actually want to drink or smoke or act like morons. They're out there. Probably debating if they should drink to fit in, just like you are doing right now.

So, do yourself a favor and take that first step. Reach out to someone you have something in common with. Forge a friendship where instant gratification comes from being with a true friend and all the goofy inside secrets you share. My oldest son and his friends hung out in our living room playing piano, strumming guitar and singing. Sounds quirky, I know, but that's what made them happy. Smart happy, not stupid happy.

If you can do that, you'll have more warm fuzzies than you know what to do with--and no icky surprises that may haunt your life forever.

What kinds of things do you like to do? What quirks or passions do you love about yourself and would like to share with others? Name at least one person (in your mind) you admire for NOT doing all the dumb stuff to fit in.

Just once this week, think before you act. And next week, do it twice!

Alexandra Tys~

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Stripped Down Sunday: Photo Shopping Your Face

A writer friend of mine admitted that she had her head-shot photo shopped to get rid of the wispy hairs on her forehead. I, too, have photo shopped my face, but only once. I erased the crow's feet from around my eyes for our Christmas card.

It's not a proud moment, as I firmly believe in being who we are--in all our perfections and imperfections for the world to see.

And yet, every day, we get up, shower, do our hair, add some make up, dress in certain styles and spend inordinate amounts of time trying to improve our image. Why?

And to what lengths will we go to show the world on the outside what we feel like on the inside? What are we willing to do to show everyone that we are beautiful and worthy in some way. Even if our unruly hair or wrinkles get in the way.

Isn't it enough to be who we are?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Feel-Good Friday: Two Truths and a Lie

Right about now, I bet you're wondering who the heck I am. And you should. After all, hanging with strangers can be as unsafe as diving head-first into quicksand. To help you along, I'm going to tell you two truths and one lie. You can decide for yourself which one you think is the fib and why.

Even though each question has a bit more info added to it, the entire question is either a truth or a lie. No tricks going on here, just a tiny fib.

  1. I've swam in four of the World's "Seven Seas". (Here are the Seven Seas for your quick reference: Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.)
  2. I've eaten rabbit, snake, alligator, squid, chocolate covered ant and bear before. The worst meal I had was when a waiter brought out what looked to be a sandcastle of baby octopi. So sad...
  3. All my family pets have been named dumb things: Spot, Fluffy, Muffin, Cookie, Blackie, Tiger, Bear...yeah, I wasn't very original back in the day!
So, there you go. That's me in two truths and one lie!

How about you, what quirky truth do you want to share? Have you figured out my lie?

Alexandra Tys~

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Teen Tuesday: Hope versus Motivation

In my college psychology class we discussed an experiment on hope. It's a gruesome story and one I don't like repeating. However, it illustrates my point perfectly. In short, rats were left to drown in a bucket of freezing water. At the moment they gave up, they were dipped out, dried off and fed snacks. After this miraculous rescue, they were plunged back into the water and left to their own devices.

Now, a normal rat will swim about thirteen to fourteen minutes before fatigue sets in. Not so with the previously-saved rats who were still swimming nearly three days later.


That's what the scientists called it. That's what many inspirational speakers call it when they recount this horror story of an experiment.

Others call it motivation.

What's the difference? And how does that difference affect you and your upcoming years of highschool survival?

I believe hope is something that comes from outside yourself. It's something you cannot achieve on your own. It's merely a thought you can hold on to that influences what you do. (I hope someone saves me soon!)

Motivation, on the other hand, speaks of action. It's making a conscious choice to work toward a goal. (Swim. If I stop, I'll drown. If I swim, I'll reach safety. Swim!)

Hope puts the outcome in someone else's hands, while motivation leaves it firmly in yours.

As teens, you need to take control of your lives. You need to start making choices that will affect the outcome of your future. Don't chug a six-pack and hope you make it home after the party. That's ridiculous and dangerous. Not to mention stupid on many levels.

Instead, let your desire to make it home happy, healthy and safe motivate you to choose
  • not to drink
  • not to ride with someone who's been drinking, or
  • to seek a sober ride home.
You alone are in charge of your actions. Don't just sit back and hope things will work out in your favor. Rather, think about what you want in life and use that goal as motivation to succeed.

What things can you control as a teen? Think about all the paths your future can take--teacher or burger flipper, business CEO or bar fly, muscian or teen mother. Now, what choices can you make that will help you reach your goals? Which ones will inhibit your ability to reach them?

Sink or swim? The choice is yours.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Stripped Down Sunday:The Boy Next Door Syndrome

You know the routine. There's a girl and right next door lives this boy. He's all the things the girl wants, but she doesn't know it yet. Instead, she spends all her time sneaking under the fence to graze on the greener grass. She breaks a bridge--or twenty--takes him for granted and pushes him completely out of her life. Until one day he's gone. And that's exactly when she wants him.

Cliches, I know, but cliches packed with truth. In life, we so often fail to realize the good things we have, and we always seem to want more.

We live it, we read it, and we cry about it. Time and time again. But, we never, ever learn from it.

I married my high school sweetheart. This summer we celebrated our twentieth anniversary. About ten years into my marriage, an acquaintance expressed the feeling of awed disgust. "I don't know how you did it. I never could have married INSERT HER GUY NEXT DOOR'S NAME HERE."

Me: "Why not?"

Her: "Because, what if there's somebody better out there?"

Me: "There is."

Unequivocally there is a higher paying job, a more attractive dude, a faster car, smarter kids, better football players, cuter cheerleaders, skinnier gals, buffer boys, cuter hair, bigger houses, better co-workers--but there is only one guy next door. And if we are afraid to be happy with what we have then we won't be happy at all.

I'm not asking you to settle. I'm just asking you to assess what you have against what you need, then take good look at why you want more.

At the very least, learn from that acquaintance of mine. Fast forward ten years since the above conversation and she's still unmarried. Unmarried at 35 with no prospects, because every time she crawls under the fence, there's another green pasture, another fence, and another boy next door watching it all.

How do you let the Boy Next Door Syndrome rule your life? How do we break away from this mindset and start appreciating the things we have?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Feel-Good Friday: Of Clothes Lines and Shooting Stars

Every romantic relationship has a first kiss, and each one should feel magical. My favorite first kiss occurred on a dark night that can only happen in the country with few lights to wash away the stars. I was in my room on the second floor of our old farmhouse when I heard a thunk against my window. And another.

I snuck down the stairs so as not to wake my dad and opened the front door to the slightly intoxicated and very hot high school boy I'd been flirting with for years. After much coaxing on his behalf, we settled in under the clothes line on the side of the house. As our conversation meandered to whatever high school kids talk about, he leaned into me, until his arm pressed against my shoulder.

An electric jolt shot through my body, but all I could think about was his hands. We'd driven to basketball games together, and always, I'd watched his hands on the steering wheel. They were strong hands even back then. Capable of shifting gears without so much as a hitch in his sports car. Perpetually tan to match his naturally dark complexion. Drumming on his dashboard in perfect time to the music. Any music, but mostly The Cars.

He grabbed my leg and pointed into the night withhis other hand. "Did you see that?"

I hadn't. The only thing I saw was him. The only thing I felt was the burn of my bare thigh under his fingers.

"It was a shooting star. I've never seen one before." His husky voice filled the summer evening with awe. It filled me with something else all together.

No sooner had I told him it was lucky to wish on a shooting star than another light streaked across the sky. With experienced ease, his lips found mine. He tasted of cheap beer--something I can't drink, or even smell, to this day without thinking of him.

As we broke apart, his friends--who I didn't know had tagged along--burst around the side of the house and caught the clothesline right across their necks. The force of it threw them backwards onto the ground. In an instant, our new-found passion erupted into rolling laughter.

While my last first kiss wasn't filled with fireworks, it was a moment never before experienced and one never to be duplicated. That's the magic of the first kiss. No matter how many times you smooch after that, you'll never, ever be able to replicate the experience.

Thank, God. Because if those yahoos were still hanging around our house at night, I'd be a little worried!

Do you remember your first-first kiss, or was there another one far more important along the way? If you could do it all over again, what would you change about the most important kiss your of your life? And if you've yet to experience this magical moment, what do you envision to be the perfect setting, the perfect guy, the perfect kiss?

Spill it all on First Kiss Friday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Teen Tuesday: Want to Go Private? Book Review

This world is a scary place. So many of you are innocent and trusting, and at the age where you're seeking your indepenence from your parents and/or experimenting with personal relationships on a whole new level. Those are all good qualities as long as you temper them with a healthy dose of caution.

My sixteen-year-old-daughter is pocket-sized. A physical trait that makes her a greater target for sexual predators, simply by virtue of being easier to drag off or carry away. So says Pat Brown, America's top criminal profiler in her book, How To Save Your Daughter's Life. I read it, and I'm sold. Sold on the idea that so many teens and young adults needlessly put themselves at risk every single day.

Sold on the idea that caution is a good thing. Sold on the idea that you need to understand the nuances of relationships before you can ever protect yourself from the hidden dangers they may carry.

But, don't trust me. Trust an author who read through real-life transcripts of a cyber-victim's chat and wrote about them just for you. If you've not heard of Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman, I suggest you track down a copy now.

What's it about? When Abby meets Luke, she's feeling pretty punky about her life. Her best friend seems to be slipping away and her parents are more concerned about her grades than her social life. Online, Luke recognizes her need for friendship and cultivates a dangerous level of trust within Abby. He gets her. He cares about her. He wants to make her happy.


He wants to make himself happy.

Told in three parts, Want to Go Private? follows Abby's terrifying journey of trusting the wrong guy for all the wrong reasons, and the consequences of her misplaced trust.

This is a gut-wrenching story of a sexual predator stalking his victims online. It's a wake-up call to teens and young adults to understand the yearning within themselves and how easy it really is to fall victim to an experienced predator. Like Abby, I'm sure you're shaking your head and saying, "Not me. I know better. I would never."

Well, guess what? She said all those things, too. She was a good kid who got manipulated. And so can you.

It was a hard book to read. At times I wanted to vomit. I wanted to reach through the pages and smack Abby upside the head for being so stupid. I wanted to shake her and hug her and tell her she'd be okay. Just please, please, please stop making mistakes.

And I ask of you, teen readers, please, please, please read this novel. It just may save your life.

Alexandra Tys~