Friday, September 20, 2013

The Evolution of Dreams

When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer.

I loved journalism and dreamt of becoming a reporter. I would interview my neighbors and write up my own little newspapers, pretending to be a journalist with the feather in my cap.

I wrote my first book at seven using the computer at school. It was titled "Poison Ivy," all about a little girl who gets poison ivy. Six pages of emotional and riveting storytelling, I tell you.

When I hit my early teens, I fell in love with poetry thanks to my grandmother. I loved reading the works of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, picturing in my mind the visions they saw in their thoughts as they transcribed that emotion to paper. I wrote hundreds of poems (yes, when I should have been paying attention or studying), and started building on my dream of writing.

Then I toyed with the idea of being a teacher during my senior year of high school. I selected that as my major upon entering college. Within a semester I changed my major from education to mass communications. I adore teachers and think that they have one of the most difficult and fulfilling jobs on the planet; however, my heart just wasn't in it. I wanted to write. I wanted to change the world.

In mass comm, I fell in love again with broadcasting. During my time as president of our college television station, I delved into this newfound love of portraying the written word on-screen. I became part of our radio station rotation, hosting a show with two of my good friends.

Then I tried out for the play one semester. I loved performing in my very tiny, debut-and-only role; but moreso, I loved the idea of writing those roles.

And that's when my dream - the vision of what I wanted to do with my life - came alive. I knew, finally, what I wanted to do.

I wanted to write books and movies. And maybe books that became movies.

My plan was simple. I'd move to California, try my hand at getting some experience until I could find something that would give me the opportunity to pursue my dream.

Then my heart was broken by my college boyfriend and my mom was diagnosed with (and cured of) early-stage Paget's Disease (a form of breast cancer). I put my plans on hold, but became more determined to achieve my dreams. In the meantime, I found a job I adored and people I liked working with and began learning the PR and marketing ropes.

The day J walked into my life, though, my heart couldn't help but skip a beat. People scoff at the idea of love at first sight but for me, it was. I knew. I knew the moment we were introduced that we'd be married someday. I adored him, and while we remained just friends for a year, we eventually did date.

At 22, I knew I had plenty of time to make my dreams come true. Even better, with any luck, I would have the love of my life with me wherever I ended up, working on the arts he loved so much.

Then at 24, the path made another fork. My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer and given a few months to a year to live. That, however, is a story for another day (you can read about it here). When the end to her journey drew near, my heart was broken. I held on to the dreams I had because they gave me a focus on the future so that I hopefully would not fall apart when she left.

J and I talked about moving in together in Chicago, where I could get my foot in the door somewhere. Two months before my mother passed away - and a week after looking at apartments in the city - two little lines on a stick diverged into yet another fork in life's road: I was pregnant.

When mom died, I focused on work and pregnancy. When my little man was born, I tried to learn the ropes of motherhood without my own mother to lead the way. I thought, okay, I have a few years before he starts school and I won't want to move him away from his school friends. I still held out on that hope! After all, I was only 26.

We bought a house because we needed more space. We had plans to fix it up and sell it, moving on to something new. While California now seemed a little out of reach for me, I hoped that Chicago would present me with something close to home and still on the path of the dream I held: writing scripts and books.

Then the housing market tanked. (If I drew a picture at this point of all the forks in the road, it would look like the giant elm tree in my yard during the winter.) There would be no selling without taking a giant loss on the house, and I couldn't do that to us. Five years passed and we found ourselves married and parents to a little boy and a new little girl.

Then our son started school. And soccer. And Cub Scouts. And baseball. Our daughter started dance. Since the day they were born I saw my dreams started to shift from those I wanted for myself, to those I wanted for them. That doesn't mean I lost my dreams; they just became secondary to those of the beautiful little boy and girl I helped create.

Recently I was speaking with a friend and said something along the lines of, "Well, I will never be able to just pick up and move somewhere to give this writing thing a shot. Those days are past. I'm resigned to typing away in the comforts of my living room."

My son (the old-souled second grader), overheard me. (I should really know by now that even when his attention is buried in a book or a video game, he selectively hears everything I wish he wouldn't while ignoring everything I wish he would!)

He asked me later, "Mom, are you sad?" Surprised, I said no and asked why he thought that. He replied, "You said you always wanted to move somewhere and be a writer and you didn't get to do it because of everything you have to do here. Does that make you sad?"

Big learning moment for this mama. First, I need to watch what I say and how I say it around the wee ones, because I never want my kids to feel like I didn't get to do something because of them - they are the most important people in my life. Second, I needed to explain to him everything I just said up above, in terms a seven-year-old can understand. I believe it's important to hold onto your dreams, and set the example for your children to never stop striving for something better. To show them that life weaves a road for us and our dreams change or shift from time to time, but they still remain out there for us to achieve. But I also believe that sometimes, better dreams come our way even if we don't see them as such at first.

I sat with him and said that once upon a time, I did have some different dreams. I told him what they were and why I had them. And then I told him the very thought I think about every time I start to wonder what life would have been like if I'd have flown out to California upon graduation: he and his sister are my new, improved dream.

See? Aren't they cute?

It's true. There are moments where I wonder what if. When I wonder if I actually could have made it. When I wonder if I have any talent or skill. When I wonder if I could have made a difference in the world somehow by writing compelling and moving storylines for the big screen.

And then my thoughts shift to those two, beautiful, sweet, charming - and sometimes irritating when they fight with each other - kids that I get to love. I cannot imagine life without them. Not without children, but without those two specifically. My funny and loving son, who emptied an entire bottle of baby powder in the living room; who grosses me out with wiggly teeth; who laughs so hard he hiccups and burps at the same time. And the cute and cuddly daughter who plays dress up daily; who has such a strong will I've given up fighting her on school outfits; and who poses like she's the next top model in every photo I've taken of her since she was old enough to pose.

Okay, maybe she doesn't pose like a model every time I take a photo.

As we were wrapping up our little chat, he asked me if I thought I failed - "like when you fail a spelling test, mom" - because I didn't get to do what I wanted to do.

I said that no, I didn't feel like I failed. I felt like I found a path that led me to a better dream. I asked him if he thought it meant I failed that I wasn't writing primetime television episodes and wasn't famous. He responded by telling me, "Mom, everyone in my whole class knows you write books. You're famous in the second grade."

It might not be Hollywood, but it feels pretty good. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

"A writer mom. Like you. And an artist and a drummer."

Sounds good, kid. Whatever your dreams are and however they change, may you have a little kid just like you to remind you that you have succeeded in life. Just maybe different than how you'd first imagined.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Reading Giveaway!

Does anyone like to read? I'd like to do a little giveaway - the first two books in my Healer Series!

And the bonus? You can pick paperback or Kindle edition, since I know some people enjoy the smell and feel of an actual book in hand, while others relish in the technological advances that have made all books a quarter inch thick ;)


All you have to do to enter is stop by my Facebook page at and "like" the page, and leave me a comment about where you heard about the contest from! That's all! Then you are entered to win the two books. You have until September 20 to enter!

The Touch has been out since August 2012, and book two, The Vengeance, was just released this past August. Check out the reviews, read the descriptions below, and if they jive with something you'd like you read, please take a moment to enter!

Have a great Monday!


The Touch
AJ McCallister can cure any illness with a single touch. Sometimes, however, the laws of his secret world forbid it - and sometimes good people must die. In a search for normalcy, the Healer finds more than a new home down south in Lee as the hard to resist Addie steals his heart. He faces a momentous decision between abiding by his ancient clan’s laws and upholding history, or allowing an enemy to kill Addie and her daughter. With either choice he will end up alone. AJ must decide which is harder: living next to Addie without her love, or not having her around at all? Find us on Facebook at for more news and events.

The Vengeance
Come on! I can't post the description! It would spoil the suspense of book ! However, you can read it here if you're like me and sometimes read the last chapter of a book first ;)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Featured Author - Serena Smithe (P.S. She's only 14!)

Today I have to introduce a pretty amazing author, my cousin's daughter, Serena Smithe - just a little note to start off this write-up: she's 14.

That's right - 14!

I think any 14 year old that can write an entire book is pretty talented.

Serena Smith The Witch Games
She's published her very first book, The Witch Game. Here's the synopsis: Sarah Johnson is just a ordinary girl. Straight A student. Doesn't get into drama, doesn't break the rules. That all changed when her and her best friend Crystal Anderson, get invited to the party of the year. James Marcob is the host, and even Sarah has to admit her attraction. When the party takes the turn for the worst, Sarah, James and Crystal hide in the underground maze. Where they find a old ouija board. They set it up and start to play. Ignoring the rules they accidentally set something free that would be better off dead. It has been lurking in their small, desolate town for centuries. The hometown legend. The witch. With things spinning out of control, they need to escape the maze, but what then? They can't leave a witch wandering around there town forever! Can they?

So head on over to Amazon and pick it up, and be sure to leave Serena a review when you're done! For more on Serena and other authors, visit my Facebook page at

And now, a little more about Serena in her own words:

My Pen name is Serena Smithe, it's a bit of a inside joke between me and my friends! Well Smithe is but the first name... That's all me!!!

Background in writing
The only background in writing I have is what I've learned in school. In elementry school I never really had any inclination towards writing until 5th grade, where my teacher made writing fun and I realized what I really wanted to do. And now I've done it!

Books Written, Most recent book
So far I only have one book written. It is The Witch Game, which can be bought now on Kindle.

What you love most about writing
What I love the most about writing is the ability to transport someone from their life into a world where some things may be similar, but you are put through the adventure, the excitement, the love, the hurt, and the sadness of the main character. I would love if I were able to do that for someone, even if it is only one person.

The best book you've read
The best book I have ever read? This one I will have a problem answering! I have always been a reader. Even when I didn't truly appreciate writing. But at this point in time I would have to say the best book I have read is the Divergent series. I love how the author uses her words to make us feel. I just love that. My second favorite book series is the Wake Trilogy by Lisa McMann. I don't think I will ever get tired of reading about Janie. :)

What types of books you normally read
I honestly read almost every type of writing. Except for historical fiction and non-fiction. I've tried and I've realized that I just don't find much enjoyment in reading those books.

What or who inspires your writing?
Anything and everything inspires my writing. I use aspects of beauty and horror i see in the world and try and incorporate it into what I write. I feel that if I have only one source of inspiration... It will run dry and what will i write about then?! :)

Where do you come up with the ideas for your books?
My ideas just come to me at random times. The Idea for The Witch Game came after I had a conversation with my best friend, about our dream guy. I had brought up the trials of a 'Perfect Guy' and then the idea just came to me.

The genres you write and why.
I write fiction, fantasy, romance, adventure, etc. I really enjoy not having to make things 100% realistic. People have secrets, and I like how they can come back to haunt them. I just write what I enjoy to read.

What does a book need to be considered great?
It needs to be able to make someone laugh out loud, not be able to fight back tears, even when surrounded by others, makes you hate one character SO much you want to scream. Put you in another persons shoes. I just love those books and they're what you would call great.

Who are some of your favorite authors (Indie and otherwise)?
I know I will forget some but I'll try to name as many as I can
1. Cassandra Clare
2. Veronica Roth
3. Simon Holt
4. Lisa McMann
5. Stephen King
6. Suzanne Collins
7. Anne Rice
8. P. C. Cast
And that's all I can remember off the top of my head! Though I'm sure there are a LOT more. :)

What will be your next project?
My next project will be the second book in The Witch Game series. I can't wait to finish this book and move onto the next. I have a couple other books I'm working on, but the next book is my main project at this point in time!

Please send Norman Reedus

Alongside my best girls and my wonderful husband, I've been lucky enough to see quite a few movies in the past couple years (I was never a big movie person). And I've noticed that there is always some great hero who survives explosions and near-death scenarios to save the day.

It's usually the likes of Gerard Butler or Bruce Willis, who - don't get me wrong - are good-looking and brilliant, clean cut men. And I adore them, I do. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't mesmerized by Butler in "Olympus Has Fallen". And while I would trust them all to save the day, there is only one badass dude I want you to send if I ever get kidnapped:

Norman Reedus.

Yes, this stud pictured here. You can check out his instagram (filled with funny and sweet pictures) here:

For a man who isn't the main character, his persona Daryl Dixon certainly takes center stage on his show, The Walking Dead. The man doesn't need huge firearms or explosives to save the day - he simply needs his crossbow and a little knife. When he first held the newborn baby on the show and called her "Little Asskicker," my husband looked over at me with eyebrows raised and shook his head. He knew the already obvious - I was lost in the shaggy-haired-bad-boy-with-a-sweet-side swoony fog. Sorry honey. You get me back in between seasons at least, right?

In the show, Norman wears dirty, tattered clothing from years of being on the run from zombies, and he drives a motorcycle. In a zombie apocalypse. No windows or barriers between him and the undead - that's how badass he is.

So, to the world: if the zombie apocalypse ever happens, or if I am kidnapped by rogue G.I. Joe's or the next villain in Avengers, don't bother Bruce Willis or Gerard Butler or Liam Neeson or even The Rock. I'd rather be saved by the unexpected underdog hero in all his sweaty gloriousness. And then let my husband know he can just relax at home and wait. ;)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Featured Author: Denise Baran-Unland

Let me introduce you to Denise Baran-Unland, an exceptionally talented writer (in my opinion!). I have read Denise's book "Bryony," in which "the main character, 1970s teen Melissa Marchellis, trades her blood with a Victorian vampire for a trip back into time". I enjoyed the book, and especially the time and research Denise very obviously put into writing it. The details really brought the book to life and allowed me to envision what life was like in the Victorian era.

A little about Denise: she is a fulltime freelance writer that contributes to several newspapers, a hospital chain, and several non-profits. She's self-published two books in the BryonySeries - a third will be released by December - and a companion cookbook that is a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. She's taught features and creative writing and has overseen a newspaper for a homeschool cooperative and mentored homeschool high school students for the Herald News' former "Teen Scene" section. She is also a founding member of WriteOn Joliet, a local writing group.

The links to her books are at the end of this article - you won't be disappointed in the read! You can also check out the reviews on Amazon (via the links). If you check out her stories, be sure to share your thoughts in a review on Amazon - that's the best way to help an author! Read more about authors and literature on my Facebook page,

And now, for Denise's interview!

What is your background in writing?
  I've worked as a fulltime freelance writer since 1998. I write for several newspapers--primarily the Herald News in Joliet, IL, Adventist Midwest Health and several non-profits. I also take on selected independent projects.
   My fiction writing began in childhood. I wrote short stories in grade school and a novella, "The Inheritance," in the 8th grade. Much of mine "fun" writing fell off in high school and college. I was expecting my third child when I had the idea for the BryonySeries, a young adult, gothic vampire story about a teen girl that trades her blood with a Victorian vampire for a trip back into time.

What books have you written?
   Books one and two, Bryony" and "Visage," are both published. The third book, "Staked!" is in editing. A companion cookbook, "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from 'Bryony,'" is a fundraiser for "Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties." We also released a "holiday edition" to "Visage," but that is now out of print. I'm currently working on two spinoff series: "The Adventures of Cornell Dyer" and "Bertrand the Mouse."

What is your most recently published piece?

Why you chose to self-publish?
  I enjoy the creative control. My freelance work is for traditional arenas, so self-publishing provides me with the opportunity to gain knowledge in a different area of publishing and to develop new skills.

What do you love about writing?
   The fact that the right words can make people laugh, cry, smile, become angry, open their wallets, fall in love, etc. It's so much fun!!!!!

What is the best book you've read?
   That's hard one. Probably "Gone with the Wind."

What types of books do you read?
   My favorite is pre-20th century vampire and ghost stories.

What genre(s) do you write and why?
   My non-fiction, freelance work is people centered features. My fiction (so far) is classic, gothic vampire.

What does a book need to be considered great?
   Have well-written, realistic characters that leap off the page.

Who are some of your favorite authors (Indie and otherwise)?
   Leo Tolstoy, O. Henry, H.P. Lovecraft

   "Bryony": A 70’s teen trades her blood with a Victorian vampire for a trip back into time.
   "Visage:" After trading her blood with a Victorian vampire, a 70’s teen plunges into a misleading contract, trapping her into another bargain to save a life.

All BryonySeries books are available at
Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from Bryony:


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