All Magic Comes With a Price

all-magic-comes-with-a-price-11If you read or watch fantasy you’ll recognize the old adage, “All magic comes with a price.” But this notion can extend far beyond magic to the every day trivial world. Broken down simply, where there’s good there has to be bad. There’s a balance. A yin yang of sorts. I’m sure you recognize this in your own life. Ever have a really great day, but in the back of your mind are wondering, “When will the other shoe drop?” Some might say that’s a pessimistic attitude, but it’s not. It’s an attitude of someone wise beyond their years who has an understanding of the balance of the universe. Whether you believe in God and Satan (good/bad balance) or are an atheist, there’s no denying that we appear to be living in a constant state of flux between good events and bad events in our lives.

Why am I entering such a philosophical state of mind all of a sudden? Because I had a high this week that had me floating on cloud 9 for days. But last night, it all came crashing down. The ultimate yin yang scenario. I should have expected it, but apparently, I haven’t grown wise enough in my 39 years to shut down my naivete to all things balance.

The Good

My son was asked to sub in on the travel baseball team he’s dreamed of getting on. He was so nervous about failing, but he blew everyone away with his hitting and fielding. He even caught the last hit to lead his team to victory. The coach said he did great and asked him to play again. Freakin’ awesome!

The Bad

Our mortgage broker notified us last night that our closing costs went up $3,000 due to a school tax error (they only set aside 3 months instead of a year in initial estimates). And our closing is in 10 days. 10 days! $3,000! Holy cow, that’s ridiculous!

But this high and low appear to be necessary for the world to “work.” In my mind, these two events are equal. I would pay $3,000 for my son to have an awesome game and increase his chances at making the travel team. I bet you think I’m crazy! But being on the travel team gets you into the school team, and excelling on the school team gets you…scholarships. You see where I’m going here? That $3,000 is paid back over and over again in savings if he gets even half a ride to college. So yes, the bad came with the good, but I still feel we’re coming out on top with that great game.

Call me an optimist. 😉

Have you noticed a balance in your own life between good and bad events?

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Why You Shouldn’t Read Reviews

Everyone comes to a book with a different background. Those backgrounds are what help form their opinions. Some readers are extreme bibliophiles that read 200+ books a year. Because of this they’ve “seen it all” and are extremely hard to please. They’ve been hardened to plots and are searching for the next Da Vinci Code or Hunger Games. Anything below this level is trash. These types often post 1 and 2 star reviews on Goodreads. Then there’re the readers who are lucky to read 2 books a year. Their friend tells them about a book they “have” to read. They read and it and think it’s amazing. The best book they’ve ever read…because, well, they’re comparing it to a total of 10 they’ve read to date.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are the prudes that didn’t expect a steamy scene and pooh pooh the book on principle. There are the romantics who don’t think there’s enough love in the book. There are the conservatives who think there’s too much violence. Then, of course, there are the “would-be writers” who rip apart books because they want to flex their writing-God muscles for the world to see. And I haven’t even mentioned the trolls. People who go around and give 1-star reviews either for the fun of it or to bring down their competition (in the case of authors).

But here lies the real reason not to read reviews. You can’t “unread” them.

“Oh, but I’ll form my own opinion,” you say. “These reviews won’t bias me.”

I beg to differ.

When Twilight first came out, I had just started taking my writing seriously. I had A LOT to learn, and because of this, was still reading books with a “reader’s mind,” not a “writer’s mind.” For the first half of the book, I actually enjoyed it. I found the plot interesting and was sucked into Bella’s world. But then I made the mistake at peeking at the reviews. Immediately, the veil of innocence dropped from my eyes. People (most likely other jealous writers flexing their writing-God muscles) complained about the constant sighing, the repetition of words, the telling, and how whiny and weak-minded Bella was. When I went back to reading, I was broken. Errors glared at me as if highlighted with yellow marker. I rolled my eyes at every sigh and gritted my teeth at every word repetition. I hated Bella for being so co-dependent on Edward. Basically, I fell out of love with a story that I might have liked had I not read the reviews.

So when are reviews good? When they come from a legitimate book review blogger. There are hundreds, if not thousands, out there to choose from, not to mention the up and coming youtube book vloggers. Simply check out a few sites until you find one who covers books that interest you. Whether it’s YA, romance, erotica, whatever… Read a handful of reviews then check out the books for yourself. Do your opinions match? Like his/her writing style? Then you’ve found a reviewer to trust for life.

What are your experiences with reviews? Do you find they impact your opinion of books? Have you been successful in “unreading” them?

What I Wish I Knew as a Teen

When I was a teenager, I had my entire life mapped out. I planned to marry a rich, brown-eyed man with muscles like the men on gothic romance covers. We’d have exactly one boy and one girl (never 3 because it creates a 2 against 1 dynamic that irked me growing up). They’d both be smart and sweet with my blonde hair and blue eyes. My son would play baseball and my daughter would be a ballerina. I’d work as an elementary school teacher and we’d all live in a beautiful house with a 2-car garage and picket fence.

And I was POSITIVE it was going to happen. I mean, why wouldn’t it? Life is what you make of it, right?

But I learned real quick that life never happens the way you think it will. It certainly didn’t for me.

  • I started off my adulthood living in a mobile home park (no garages or fences here!)
  • I married a farm boy with hazel eyes who most definitely wasn’t rich
  • I gave birth to a boy, then a boy, then another boy (3 kids and not a tutu in sight).
  • My oldest son has ADHD and learning disabilities
  • I work in an office

Then my prejudgments came back to haunt me.

I didn’t want to be one of those women who have a cheating husband.

I had a cheating husband.

I didn’t want to be one of those women who gets a divorce and upsets their kids’ lives.

I got a divorce and upset my kids’ lives.

I didn’t want to be one of those women who have a live-in boyfriend with kids in the house.

My boyfriend lived with me for three years before we married.

I didn’t want to be one of those women who have a different last name from their kids.

I got married in September and took my husband’s last name.

I didn’t want to be one of those women who have children with their new husband, making their other children feel like outcasts in their own home.

This has yet to happen. But looking at my track record…

If you break down my life in this manner, it would appear that God took all my wants – EXPECTATIONS — and brought them down on their ear. Not one of my plans came to light. It’s as if he puffed up his chest and said, “Julie, Julie, Julie, you think you know what you want. But I know what you NEED. Judge not others’ lives before you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Life will happen as I see fit. I HAVE A PLAN FOR YOU.”

And you know what? He’s right. Life didn’t go the way I planned. But in the process, I grew stronger, gained confidence, started writing, and met a man who dotes on me and spoils us rotten. I may not have girlie tutus in the house, but my boys are cuddlers, who make me feel loved. And instead of sharing my kingdom with a princess, I am the sole queen of all. It’s a wonderful feeling.

So my happily ever after eventually did happen, just not the way I expected. As an adult, I can now appreciate the important lessons I learned on this wild adventure called life. If I could go back in time to my teenage self, I’d tell her one simple thing.

Let go of the reigns and enjoy the ride.

What HOPE Means to Me

I’ve been accused of being the ultimate optimist. If there’s a bad situation, I’ll find the silver lining. You’d think this would mean I’m a positive person, and always smiling in my unicorn-prancing rainbow-skied world. But the truth is it’s just a coping mechanism. It’s how I SURVIVE. I focus on the good, and avoid the bad completely until it burrows into the recesses of my mind. Paired together, optimism and hope are my weapons in battling all that is bad in the world. It’s worked so far, but I’m no psychologist. And if you’ve read THE GLASS CEILING, you may recognize these very traits in my main character, Heart. So many of you are amazed at how caring and hopeful Heart is after her terrible childhood. Well, now you see where these traits were born from. Just like me, it’s her coping mechanism. If she doesn’t keep hoping there’s more out there, a way to escape, she’s lost to the tunnels forever.

Hope is a wonderful thing. It’s like standing at the bottom of the hill and not knowing what lies beyond the crest. Success? Love? Happiness? That’s the magic of hope. You just don’t know. It’s my absolute favorite part of querying agents. The not knowing. Every ding of your email could be an agent wanting to see your manuscript or better yet, offer you a contract. It’s like Pavlov’s bell, except instead of salivating, my heart does a parrump when I see that glorious envelope at the top of my phone’s screen.

I remember a friend complaining a few years ago that she was 28 and still not married. Of course, I kicked in my silver lining booster. I told her that although she’s unmarried now, there’s still “hope” she’ll marry a doctor. As opposed to me, who at that time was stuck in an unhappy marriage, and was most definitely not married to a doctor. I stressed to her that even though she didn’t have happiness “now,” she still had a chance of happiness in her future. (Years later, she ended up marrying her dream Italian guy and was able to use her favorite little girl name, Giovanna. And I found renewed happiness in a second marriage. Yay!)

Book sales also promote the feeling of hope. Each sale is important because you never know where your break is going to come from. A debut author’s “success” (and I realize success means something different to everyone) is like a river being held back by a massive rock wall. Each sale removes a pebble. Obviously, pebbles aren’t going to put much of a dent in the wall, but if just the right pebble is removed, no matter how small, it can cause a leak, which can then gain speed of its own accord until it begins breaking down more pebbles, and more pebbles, then rocks and boulders. And before you know it, the entire wall has been obliterated, the water has rushed through, and you’ve become successful. All because the right pebble was removed. The right person bought your book. It could be a huge blogger who took a chance on you. A sorority sister who has a popular Twitter feed. A celebrity who just happened to see your book come across Instagram. For me, each sale promotes hope. I’m living Christmas every day of my life, surrounded by packages wrapped in shiny paper and bows. Every fan is a gift and my hope is higher than ever that my time will come, and I will succeed.

But if we want to be honest with ourselves, hope is only the start of something greater. Something even more powerful. And that’s faith. That’s where true success comes from. It isn’t until you have FAITH that good things will come your way, and you’ll find everything you’re looking for in life.

A Tale of Two Toothbrushes

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Once upon a time, there was a prince and a princess who lived in the kingdom of Saratoga Springs. They enjoyed doing many exciting activities together like slaying dragons, sword fighting, and even shopping for food. On one such shopping adventure, they found themselves browsing the toothbrush aisle (the princess was always on the lookout for new and improved products).

A brightly colored package caught her eye. Inside, sat a red vibrating toothbrush like the one she had at home, except this pack held two.

“Why, two are better than one, and it’s just a dollar more,” the princess said. “Now we can share, my sweet prince, and you can have beautifully clean teeth, too!”

The prince smiled his dazzling smile, albeit not as white as the princess’s, and dropped the package into the cart. “What a wonderful idea, my princess. I knew I married you for a reason.”

The days passed and the prince and princess started preparations for their long trip to the Land of Chocolate. They packed exactly four shirts and four pants each, undergarments, and bathing suits for the magical indoor pool that sprouted bubbles from tiny holes. All that was left was their toiletries.

The princess retrieved her special toothbrush from the left side of the toothbrush holder. The bristles were beginning to wear down. Soon she’d need to purchase another one. She lifted up the prince’s toothbrush and noticed his had barely any wear.

“Sweet prince,” she called. “Can you please come in here?”

Within moments, he entered from behind and leaned his chin on her shoulder. “Yes, my love.”

She whirled to face him, an accusatory look in her eye. “Are you brushing your teeth, mister?” She recalled the sweet garlicky breath he’d had the night before.

“Of course.”

“Every single day?”

He nodded.

The princess placed the matching toothbrushes side by side. “Then why is my toothbrush more worn than yours?”

He pointed at his old blue toothbrush still sitting in the toothbrush holder. “Oh, that’s simple. I switch back and forth between the two toothbrushes.”

The princess looked at him through one eye and cocked your head. “Hmm, I guess that makes sense.” She placed both brushes into a storage bag. “Well, when we are in the Land of Chocolate, remember that your brush is the newer one and mine is the worn one.”

“I certainly will.”

The trip to the Land of Chocolate went smoothly and the prince and princess easily kept track of whose toothbrush was whose. Upon their return, the princess placed the worn toothbrush on the left and the newer toothbrush on the right just as they’d been before.

The excitement of the trip slowly wore off and their days returned to normal. On one such normal day, the prince suggested to the princess that they go out and explore the local merchant’s goods. The prince’s breath drifted in her direction, and she plugged her nose.

“Sweet prince, your breath is not so sweet this morning.”

His face reddened and he replied, “I must confess, I didn’t want to say, but now that you’ve mentioned it, yours is not so fresh either, my dear.”

“To the bathroom then,” the princess declared. “We brush.”

Although the prince and princess had done many activities together, they’d never brushed their teeth at the same time. What a nice treat. In front of the sink, they reached for their brushes and knocked fingers.

“You first, my princess,” said the prince in his most chivalrous way.

“Why, thank you.” The princess took the toothbrush on the left, now worn completely.

The prince’s face paled. “Is that the toothbrush you always use?”

“Of course. It’s mine.”

He shook his head. “That’s the toothbrush I use. The one on the left.”

“No, sweet prince, yours is on the right.”

“Oh dear. I thought mine was on the left. We’ve been using the same toothbrush all this time.”

The princess’s eyes widened and her cheeks puffed out like the frogs on the moor. “Oh dear, is right.”

 ~*~*~*~*~

The lesson to be learned, my friends, is that when buying a two-pack of toothbrushes to share, make sure they come in different colors.

Our Trip to the Sweetest Place on Earth

Do you know where the “Sweetest Place on Earth” is? Why, it’s Hershey, PA! Also, the place I spent my Valentine’s Day weekend. I love history and chocolate and this place had plenty of both. I learned many interesting facts in the Hershey Story Museum that I bet three-quarters of the chocolate eating population doesn’t know. For example, Milton Hershey started out as the son of a poor farmer. He had a 4th grade education, and remained a bachelor much of his adult life. When he first started into the work force, he was a printing apprentice, but quickly got fired after losing his hat in a printing press. Next, he moved onto confectioner’s apprentice, and his sweet tooth told him this was where he belonged.

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After quite a few failed attempts at running his own business, he finally found success with  caramels (Lancaster). He made his first million and began coating his caramels in chocolate. He soon noticed that people were sucking the chocolate coating off the caramel, then throwing away the middle, and then decided caramels were just a fad. Chocolate was the way to go. But at this time, only the rich could afford chocolate. He set out to change that. He sold Lancaster and invested all the money into the first chocolate factory.

Besides making chocolate affordable, he wanted to make a pleasing work environment for his employees. So he built a town for them around his factory in the middle of dairy country (actually called Derryville). He offered wonderful benefits, affordable housing, schools, sports teams (baseball and hockey), and entertainment. He literally built a small utopia. Probably the most notable thing he did, however, was to build a school for orphaned boys, which has grown exponentially over the years and helps boys and girls alike. In fact, on his death, he left all of his 60 million dollars to the school!

Here are some other miscellaneous fun facts:

  • He didn’t marry until he was 40 years old, and his young wife died early due to an undiagnosed disease. He never married again.
  • He had a ticket for the Titanic, but rescheduled for an earlier ship due to his wife’s illness.
  • Many of the factory improvements and ideas came from his employees on the floor.
  • One of these ideas is transporting chocolate from one part of the factory to another via bathtubs on wheels. And they still do it this way to this day!
  • He welcomed competitive candy companies to plant their roots in Hershey. One being a popular company called Reese’s. Later, Hershey would supply chocolate to them, and then eventually buy them out.
  • During the Great Depression, when all other companies were cutting hours and pay, he decided to create work for his town by starting construction on the Hotel Hershey, which is based off an architectural design he and his wife had fallen in love with overseas.
  • Milton Hershey created a similar utopian town for his workers in Cuba.
  • Hershey is the only company to use fresh milk in their chocolate recipe, which is why he so wisely built his plant amongst the local farms of his childhood instead of in a big city.

I have to say, that after my trip to Hershey, I’m proud to be a Hershey lover. While other philanthropists of his time squandered their money in lavish mansions and material possessions, Mr. Hershey put his money back into his company and back into his employees. What a wonderful man.

SO now to my trip! (I hope you enjoyed the mini-history lesson.)

Here’s a view outside my hotel window (we stayed at the Hershey Lodge, which is a woodsy version of the fancy Hotel Hershey).

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It was -4 degrees before wind chill!

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The streets really have chocolate themed names and the streetlights are kisses.

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We each received a Hershey chocolate bar at registration and the bathroom had adorable kiss wallpaper.

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Everything in the hotel and town smelled like chocolate! They use the cocoa butter to makes soaps and shampoos. And even utilize the leftover cocoa bean shells as fertilizer for the surrounding farms. Nothing goes wasted thanks to Mr. Hershey’s frugalness and meager beginnings.

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On the first night, we took a Truffles for Couples class. I went with the milk chocolate. Hubby went with white. By the way, do you know the difference between dark chocolate, white chocolate and milk chocolate?

Milk chocolate has chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk, sugar

Dark chocolate has chocolate liquor and a small amount of milk and sugar

White chocolate has cocoa butter, milk, and sugar (all the unhealthy stuff!)

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The most amazing thing I discovered though while touring the Hershey Story museum was the early advertising campaign for their Hershey bars.

“A nutritious confection!”

“Eat as a meal!”

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It makes you wonder what “nutritious” products out there now will turn out to be unhealthy years from now.

Besides the museum, the awesome amusement park (closed for the winter), the Hershey Gardens, and the great restaurants, there is one more little known fact about Hershey, PA. They have outlets. Lots of them! Underarmour, Zales, Coach, Gap, Banana Republic, Disney, and many more. We went a little bit crazy with our spending. Yikes!

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But perhaps my favorite purchase is my Hershey Kiss bracelet. A reminder that anything is possible if you work hard and never give up.

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I hope you will be able to visit Hershey at some point in your life. It’s definitely the Sweetest Place on Earth!

The Glass Ceiling Book Tour

My two week book tour is almost here! Starting Monday, you can find me at the blogs listed below. Feel free to stop by, check out their blogs, comment, and enter the giveaway.

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Blog Tour Schedule – The Glass Ceiling

January 11th

Shooting Stars Reviews  http://shootingstarsreviews.blogspot.com

3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy,&,Sissy, Too!  http://3partnersinshopping.blogspot.com

All in One Place http://kirstylovesbooks.wordpress.com

 January 12th

Living in a Bookworld   http://livinginabookworld.blogspot.gr

A Dream Within A Dream  http://adreamwithindream.blogspot.com

Lost in Ever After   http://lostineverafter.blogspot.ca

 January 13th

Geeks in High School    https://www.geeksinhighschool.com

Under the Book Cover     http://underthebookcover.blogspot.com

Just Us Book Blog   http://justusbookblog.blogspot.com/

Literary Musings  http://literarymusing.weebly.com

 January 14th

The Voluptuous Book Diva http://voluptuousbookdiva.blogspot.com

Elements of Living Life   http://www.elementsoflivinglife.blogspot.com

Andrea Buginsky, Author  http://andreabuginskyauthor.blogspot.com/

 January 15th

SolaFide Book Club  http://solafidepublishing.net/solafide-self-publishing-and-book-blog/

Crystal’s Chaotic Confessions    http://crystalschaoticconfessions.blogspot.com/

Reading to Distraction     https://www.readingtodistraction.com

 January 18th

Happy Tails and Tales Http://happytailsandtales.blogspot.com

The Book Lounge    http://gbshortcake.com

 January 19th

Mythical Books   http://www.mythicalbooks.blogspot.ro/

deal sharing aunt   http://dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/

 January 20th

5 Girls Book Reviews    http://5girlsbookreviews.blogspot.com

Book-o-Craze   http://book-o-craze.blogspot.gr/

Kovescence of the Mind http://kovescenceofthemind.blogspot.com/

 January 21st

Around the World in Books     http://www.aroundtheworldinbooks.ca/

Teatime and Books    http://www.teatimeandbooks76.blogspot.com

Live Laugh & Love Books   www.livelaughandlovebooks.wordpress.com

Book Lovers Life   http://bookloverslife.blogspot.ie/

 January 22nd

Katie’s Stories    http://kjhstories.blogspot.com/

Reading Addict  http://readingadd.blogspot.ro/

Samantha Writes   http://www.samanthawrites.ca

Blog tour is being hosted by YA Bound Book Tours

Thank you so much to Sara for working with me and answering my multitude of questions!

YA Bound Book Tours

 

 

 

 

Julie LaVoie: Shameless Promoter

The book is done, but that’s not where an author’s job ends. The next step is perhaps as important as writing the book itself. Promoting it. It’s uncomfortable and shameless, but if you don’t do it no one else will, and your beloved book won’t make it past your circle of family and friends. 15  sales, tops.

So I apologize to all my Facebook friends and Twitter followers for the constant stream of plugs for The Glass Ceiling. It’s not fun for me and completely out of character. To get through it though,  I’m focusing on the creativeness of creating the teasers. I love graphic design and have utilized my background to come up with some teasers I’m pretty proud of.

I can’t believe my book will be released to the world in just a couple of weeks! It’s surreal.

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I Can See the Finish Line!

Things are moving along for both Glass Ceiling and Case of the Plant Killer. It’s odd working on two projects at once, but I’m certainly keeping busy! In fact, I just finished writing the second book in the Cassie Bigler detective-in-training series, The Case of the Missing Caterpillar. I’ve got to go through and edit it still, then it’s on to the publisher for review.

In the meantime, Case of the Plant Killer is being illustrated. How exciting is that? I’m finally going to have a face to go along with Cassie. I’ve already warned my kids that they’re going to be my mini-marketers at their school once that book comes out. They don’t care. They’re super excited about it.

As for The Glass Ceiling, I’m in my last week of line edits. Things are moving along so quickly, my publisher has moved up my release date to December. Yikes! I had all these plans of doing blog tours and getting ARC reviews months in advance. Now I’m scrambling to see what I can get done in just a month. But I should really count myself lucky. Some authors don’t even have their covers ready a month before release.

I’m currently in talks with the lovely people of YA Bound Book Tours. They’re working with me to squeeze in a 2 week book tour during January, which would make my December release a “soft release” and my hard release happening in January. I suppose this is good. Book releases aren’t exactly on peoples’ minds as they’re running around trying to get last minute Christmas gifts. Now January? Much better. People are trying to get their lives back to normal after a hectic holiday season and sit back with a good book. 😉 I hope!

As a newbie author, this promotion stuff is all very confusing to me and I’ll be amazed if I get through it with my sanity in tact. But it will definitely be a learning experience for next time! If you could give one piece of advice during the month before release, what would it be?

Wedding Pictures are Here!

They’re here! They’re here! After two months I can finally share my special day with all of you. It was so hard deciding which pictures to post, but I think these are my favorites. What a wonderful day we had. Beautiful sunny weather and smiling faces. Who could ask for more? Our photographer, Chelsea Ahl, did an outstanding job too. She did a lot of unique shots that were natural instead of forced. Love her!

(Click on the pictures for larger views)

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