Friday, December 28, 2012

Writing Resolution - No Gym Membership Required

Ah, New Year's, one of my least favorite holidays. Not sure why really. It's supposed to represent new beginnings, and the hope that this year will be better than the last. It could be that I already miss Christmas and New Year's Day is just a reminder that next Christmas is a long way off.  I did try the party thing for a few years, but since I'm not especially social, I would usually hide in a corner with a plate full of cocktail weenies and a beer hissing at anyone who tried to talk to me. Probably not the best idea.

New Year's is also the time to fail at resolutions. I tend to be a little competitive, so I hate failing - or as I call it "losing." Every year I have the best intentions to stick to with my goals, and every year I lose. My resolutions usually involve losing weight and getting healthier, so yeah, I basically set myself up to fail. The gym ads have already started on television with lots of great specials to start off the year. That's why they make you sign a contract to pay for at least twelve months because they know they won't see you after January.

So what should I do this year? Pass on the resolutions? You'd think as a Behavior Analyst I could change my own behavior, but I don't always listen to me when it comes to self discipline. Same reason doctors make the worst patients, I guess.

I've decided to pass on the weight thing this year and focus on writing. A novel idea since I'm a writer. As I stated in earlier blogs, I have been bogged down with promo stuff since publishing my first book, and it has been a time sucking problem ever since. My WIPs are suffering, and I have not done a decent amount of writing in months. I don't have a lot of free time; and when I do, I'm often too tired to write. Let's face it, Facebook and Twitter stuff is a lot easier than writing.

So my goal for this year is to write before I get onto Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. I've tried it this week, and I have already finished more than 7 chapters including starting the third book of my Dion series. If I stick with it, I figure I have the potential to write 365 chapters in 2013. That's a lot of books. Goals are easier to accomplish if you have friends, so you can help. If you see me on Facebook or Twitter, ask me if I've written my chapter first! If I haven't, tell me to get busy!  

What's your New Year's resolution?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Ghost of Christmas Past

When I was very young, I remember going to my grandmother's house for Christmas. She had two brothers and two sisters, and my great-grandparents were still alive. We would have a small family gathering on Christmas Eve and then spend Christmas Day all together.

After my great-grandparents passed away, and my grandparents got older, my mother had a more difficult time packing everything up and traveling four hours to their house for the holidays. She started doing Christmas at our house. Sometimes my grandparents and uncle's family could come. Sometimes they couldn't. I often found my mother putting up Christmas decorations while listening to holiday music and crying. Being a huge Christmas fan, I never understood why she was so upset. I asked her once and she said that she missed the way Christmas used to be when she was younger . She missed her family. "Christmas is for children. When you get older, you'll see."

In the spring of 2004, my mother was diagnosed with pancreas cancer. They expected her to die within months, but she was a fighter. I scoured the internet looking for anything that would help, and her oncologist was an angel with an open mind. In the summer of 2005, the cancer had spread to her liver and we were able to get into Stanford for a new localized radiation treatment called "cyberknife." She underwent two treatments that completely eliminated the spots they targeted on her liver, but it was spreading faster than they could treat it. Her cancer was winning. It was unlikely she would make it to Christmas.

By early December 2005, she was weak, but she insisted on going Christmas shopping for the grandkids while she could still get out. In just a few short weeks, she was barely able to get off the couch. I would go over there every day to wrap the Christmas packages she had carefully chosen. She wanted to make sure the grandkids were taken care of. She sat on the couch and gave me orders (one of her favorite past times), and I laughed and wrapped packages like I didn't have a care in the world until I could get home and fall apart. When the last gift was wrapped, I knew her business was finished. She had been holding on until I was done. I sat next to her and we talked for a long time. We knew her time was coming to an end. I told her how much I loved her and she told me she loved me too and to take good care of her grandkids.

At a little after 5:00am Christmas Eve morning 2005, I got a call from the hospital that my mother was gone. We were devastated. We went through Christmas in a fog that year. My brother and sister-in-law helped with the food and we kept it together for the kids' sake.

Now what? What about Christmas next year, and the year after that? Where would we go? What would we do? Everything had changed. I remembered what my mother had said about the holidays when I was younger. I could let Christmas be forever tainted by my mother's death, or I could count my blessings and look at all of the amazing family and friends in my life. I knew that I didn't want my children to find me listening to holiday music and crying. I wanted them to love Christmas as I do.

So while I respect the ghost of Christmas past and will always remember the good times, I choose to embrace the ghost of Christmas present - to always be thankful for what I have today. I can't change yesterday and tomorrow is yet to be. I know my mother would approve.

This season, I wish for you, all the magic, wonder, hope and joy that is Christmas. Happy holidays my friends :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mental Health Services "Slipping Through the Cracks"

This is a controversial and emotional blog post. It is my opinion based on my 25+ years of experience in the field of psychology.

The recent school shooting in Connecticut has given politicians another reason to push gun control. So many people in social media outlets like Facebook have been at each other’s throats arguing about this issue. However, I’m here to tell you that guns are not the issue. Cracks (and sometimes canyons) in services to the mental health patients are really to blame.

When I started going to college, I began working at the Stockton Developmental Center, which was a locked facility that had been around for years housing some of the most mentally disabled people in our community including the “criminally insane.” I had seen disabled people in public, but I had never seen people like these. Many of them were nonverbal and were no better than animals. I’m not saying that to be mean, it’s just the facts. They were infants in adult bodies. It was difficult to keep clothes on them and some even ate their own feces. Imagine a two year old mind in a large, adult male body. During my employment there, I saw many staff members sent to the hospital after patient rampages. I myself was hit, kicked, scratched, and bit several times. One time, a patient bit me in the face because I told him it wasn’t time to smoke yet.

These people needed constant care and supervision. They received three meals a day, had a warm bed, clean clothes, daily showers, activities, medical and dental care. They were not fit to be in the community. Not because we were mean as a society, but because they were dangerous and could not care for their basic needs. The problem was that the people making the rules didn’t actually work with the patients. We were given programs designed to make their days seem “normal.” Meaning, they were made to get up early, eat, walk to another facility on grounds (if they could walk), do different jobs or leisure activities, go back to their units for lunch and back to the “work” facilities in the afternoon. I spent much of my time on the floor holding rampaging clients down or trying to avoid getting beat up. Why? Because they weren’t normal. You wouldn’t plan a day like that for a 12 month old, but the powers that be insisted on using the patients’ chronological age not their mental ages. They made silly rules like the patients couldn’t watch cartoons because that wasn’t age appropriate. I still watch cartoons. Stupid.

The politicians and other people involved in de-institutionalization in the 1980’s were reacting on feelings and not reality. “Those people shouldn’t be locked up.” “They deserve to be free.” So, they turned them out and closed many of the developmental centers. Some of the worst went to the few centers still open while many were sent to care homes unequipped to deal with these severely disabled patients. Many of the mentally ill patients were turned out on the streets unable to care for themselves. Help was available, but they had to be responsible enough to access it for themselves. Politicians said they had the right to refuse treatment. It was an uneducated decision that had horrible repercussions.

While I was working on my graduate degree, I started working for a program that provided behavioral services to severely mentally ill adults diagnosed with schizophrenia. What I learned working with this population could not be contained in this blog, but I will tell you this – when they were sent to us, they were psychotic and unable to care for themselves. With treatment and medication, they improved significantly and would readily acknowledge the fact that they were incapable of making decisions about treatment when they were in that state. They couldn’t even provide for their basic needs much less find their way to mental health. The people who came to us were there mostly due to suicidal or homicidal behaviors. The rest were left to suffer because they were not deemed a danger to themselves or others. I beg to differ.

As a professional in psychology, it makes me sick to walk around downtown (San Francisco is especially horrible) and see these poor people walking around in the winter without shoes, no coats, no way to care for themselves. Who in the hell thinks it’s their “right” to live that way? If they had the proper treatment, they wouldn’t choose to live like that. I know. I’ve seen it firsthand.
I understand the ideal of allowing people to refuse treatment (or not seek it for whatever reason), but we don’t do lobotomies or drill holes in people’s heads to let out demons. Today’s professionals in psychology are much more capable of treating patients and helping them live better lives. Sometimes, they are not well enough to make that decision for themselves. Developmental centers were not warm and fuzzy, but they provided for people’s basic needs and gave them the medical care the needed. They were certainly preferable to living on the streets.

Mental health care here in our county is affordable. We have a vast network of mental health programs here, but the patient has to seek out that care. Unless they injure themselves or someone else, treatment will not be forced on them even if they need it. In some states, even the most basic mental health services are not available, and families struggle with mentally ill family members looking for help they’ll never get.

We have to address mental health issues in this country. We have to provide for those among us who are not able of caring for themselves. Families and care homes are not equipped to deal with extreme aggressive behaviors, and their pleas for help fall on deaf ears. Politicians and others want to make it an issue of gun control, but I can’t tell you how many people I have seen injured by mentally ill patients using their fists, knives, and even a three pronged garden tool. Many mentally ill patients are harmless (to others if not themselves). If they are psychotic, and focused on hurting someone, they will use whatever is available to them. I will say it again – we have to address the mental health issues in this country. Until we do, we will continue to experience tragedies like school shootings and other acts of violence by those mentally ill people who have “slipped through the cracks.” Gun control alone is not enough.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Story that Changed Everything

If you read my blog or follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I home school my son. What you may not know is that it wasn’t by choice. Evan is an amazing bundle of energy in motion. To say that he is a challenge would be an incredible understatement. I spent most of his earlier years fighting with doctors and schools to get him the help he needed, but it became clear that they just didn’t have the faith in my son that I had. I knew he could overcome the obstacles he faced, but I felt alone in that. He didn’t fit in at school, and they wouldn’t do anything to help. His issues made him an easy target for bullies, and I often found myself in the principal’s office because of Evan’s behavior and fights. I had a novel idea, why don’t you actually do something about the bullying instead of all this lip service and poster crap about not tolerating bullying while burying your heads in the sand. They wanted me to medicate him. They wanted Evan to fit in. I finally realized that Evan wasn’t going to fit in, and I didn’t think he should have to.

By the end of fourth grade, I was tired of fighting. Tired of making excuses and forcing Evan to go to a public school where the people didn’t understand him, and apparently, didn’t want to. When he started making statements like “I’m stupid. I can’t do anything,” that was the last straw. I made the decision to try home school. I was terrified. When I started college, I was an English major in the teaching credential program. My goal was to teach high school English, but I barely made it through the first year. I realized I was not cut out for teaching, and I switched to psychology never to return. What made me think I could teach now?

The thought of being completely responsible for Evan’s education paralyzed me with fear. If he failed, I would have no one to blame but myself, but I couldn’t allow him to continue to struggle and fall behind because of his situation and not because of his potential to learn.

The last two years have been a roller coaster of ups and downs. When we first started, Evan couldn’t work independently at all. Not at all. I had to sit by him constantly to keep him focused. The beat down he had taken in public school had taken its toll, and he had no confidence in himself. There were many days I questioned my decision and my sanity. Our biggest challenge was writing. He could not write one sentence. Not one. Writing was so punishing, he outright refused to do it at times. Using the computer didn't help. He hated the entire writing process.

Through the charter school we are in now, I have been able to get him occupational therapy, speech therapy, and a resource teacher. Plus, we have an incredible supervising teacher who keeps me on track and sane. His progress has been nothing short of amazing. Watching him blossom these last two years has erased any doubts I may have had about home schooling.

This year he is able to work independently, and does not fight. His confidence grows daily as he is able to accomplish goals and complete his work. The one hold up has been writing. Despite my best efforts, that continues to be a problem. While he has improved, he will only write what is necessary and will never write anything independently. I had resigned myself to the fact that this was going to take longer to overcome, but I had my doubts that he would ever write. I was disappointed because he is so creative. He started making “movies” as a way to tell his stories, so I encouraged that and made sure he had the equipment to do it. I let him tell his stories through film.

The other day, he was playing with an old wooden puzzle of the United States I bought years ago. It came in handy when learning the states and their capitals. He had it sitting up a little, so when he removed Texas, the other states started caving in. He cracked up and started making up a story about it. That wasn’t unusual. What shocked me was the fact that he turned to me and asked me if he could write it. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Before I could reply he said “Maybe I take after you mom. Maybe I could write.” I could barely speak past the monstrous lump in my throat. I opened a word document, and my son, for the first time in his life, wrote something voluntarily - completely on his own. It is the greatest story I have ever read.

I want to share it with you. I didn’t change a thing because, like Evan, it is perfect just the way it is.

What Happened to the USA
By Evan Franco

It was a lovely day in America, but Texas was tired of staying in one place for years. “I’m sick of staying here all the time,” he said one day, “I’m the largest state in the world, I shouldn’t have to be stuck here,” he continued. “Oh come on Texas,” said California, “You’ve been here for millions of years, why would you say you don’t want to stay here anymore.” Texas didn’t answer, he just grunted rudely.
          The next day it happened, Texas wiggled and wobbled. It caused a US earth quake. “TEXAS!!!” cried California “STOP THIS NOW!!!,” but Texas didn’t stop until, CRASH!!!!!!!!!, Texas broke free and flew away. Good bye guys, I’ll send you a postcard, FROM MARS HA HA HA!!! The he left earth. Many people were left with no home, no job and no family.   
          “He’s gone” said Nevada. “I really miss” CRASH!!!!!!!!!!!! Oklahoma and Kansas fell. “Are you all right guys” said Colorado (the dust clears) “I think so” they replied. “Man that was a hard fall”, then there was another loud CRASH!!!!!!! Nebraska fell along with North and South Dakota. “It’s happening” said California. “What?” said Idaho. “If we don’t Texas back in less than an hour the US will fall apart.” “We have to get Texas back.”
          On Mars, “so earth, I used to live there, you like evergreens yeah you do.” Then a letter flew out of nowhere and hit Texas in the face. “OW MY EYE!!!!!!!.” “It’s a letter from earth, oh its probably just them saying how happy they are without me.” He opened it and showed him a picture of what was happening. “Oh no” he said “I didn’t know THIS would happen. He made a decision “I have to go back.” “Sorry lady mars states, I must go back to earth, my friends need me” he said strongly.
          50 minutes had past and Texas was still not back. “LOOKING FOR ME!!!” said a voice. “Could it be” said California. It was, Texas came back. Everyone cheered, Texas was home. President Obama was contacted and reconstruction on the USA began. 70 years had past and things were looking good. Finally after 700,000,000,000, years later the US was rebuilt and Texas learned that no state is more important than any other.

What Happened to the USA
By Evan Franco, M.E Franco’s son

Yeah, if you’re wondering, the last line made me cry. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Write? What if I'm Wrong?

So it's been a little over a year since I published my first book. In that time, I have also published my second book, expanded my Facebook network, started a Facebook fan page, got on Twitter and Goodreads, started this blog, and ran some free promo days for my first book. I'm currently working on making a website. All the things that are supposed to equal increased book sales. I have been scouring blogs and books looking for that magic bullet to success, but I am still swimming in an ocean of indie authors all with the same goal.

In a recent Time magazine article about a romance convention that was held in Chicago this year, the writer focused a lot on indie authors and the chances of making it big. Joe Konrath, Amazon success story and self publishing guru, was at the convention to do a Q & A about self publishing. I like to read his blog and one of the things he said that has stuck with me was to get off Twitter and write. He said the main thing you can do to be successful is publish quality books. The more books you have the better. He suggested not even bothering to promote if you have less than three books published. If people like your writing, they will come back for more. At the convention Q & A session, Konrath, along with another successful indie author, said that blog tours and a lot of the other things authors do are a waste of time and do not really effect book sales. I have to agree. I have tried blog tours, guests posts and other networking ideas, and all have had only had a minimal (and temporary) effect, if any, on book sales.

Konrath also said that working the Amazon algorithm system to get your books on the best selling lists or on recommendation lists is the best was to increase sales. After joining KDP Select, I did a few free days for my first book after I released my second book. I had a huge number of downloads, and it skyrocketed up the Amazon lists and reached as high as #2 in Occult Horror and #42 on the overall top 100 on Amazon's free list. I was surprised by the increase in book sales on my second book. The sales even continued on my first book after the promo period. As my book dropped in the rankings, so did my books sales. My sales are definitely better with two books than when I had one, so I have to ask myself, what if Konrath is right? What if I'm wasting my time doing so much promoting using venues that don't seem to be helpful - something I have observed first hand. What if I just need to write more?

I don't think completely blowing off social media is the right answer. I think for people who know how to work social media, it can be a powerful tool. I'm not one of those people. I'm going to continue to try to learn how to use social media to my advantage, but I think I need to reassess the amount of time I spend doing it. I have a very limited amount of free time, and the time I use for promoting now is the time I used to spend writing.

My goal for the next year is to cut my social networking time and write more. I think Konrath is right about that. If readers like my books and want to come back for more, I'd better have more for them to come back to. As for the Amazon algorithms, no one really has the answer on how to make that work. It has something to do with sales and reviews; but overall, it still remains a mystery since authors can't totally control reviews or book sales.

I've built a lot of friendships on social media over the last year, and I don't want to lose those. I think there is still something to building a good network and fan base. Unlike Konrath, I don't think it is a waste of time to promote with less than three books. I enjoy meeting and supporting other authors and talking with fans. I just have to find a better balance between promoting and writing. Who knows? I could be the next indie success story!

Monday, December 3, 2012

The-Adonis Blog Tour/Interview with Charity Parkerson

I am very happy to welcome to my blog, erotica author, Charity Parkerson. Charity is a talented writer and a fabulous person to chat with. I am very excited to be a part of the blog tour for her latest release The-Adonis. Yeah, it makes me Charity was kind enough to let me ask her some questions as well. Stay tuned after the interview for more information about The-Adonis and Charity's other books.

Q: I know you say you blush when you write erotica. How did you get into writing it?

A: There has always been a heavy romantic factor in my books but my first erotica Sarah’s Dirty Secret was a challenge that I set for myself. I didn’t think that I had a true erotica in me but I wanted to try. I half-expected it to be a huge flop, but it wasn’t, and it was so much fun that I kept writing them.

Q: Erotica is a hot genre right now (pardon the pun). What are some of the challenges of writing in this genre?

A: It’s hard for me to get past the harsh wording. It’s a necessary part of erotic writing but I cringe every time.

Q: What do you find sexy?

A: This has the potential of being a long list. I’ll keep it short. A man that smells good, doesn’t mind talking sexy to me, and confidence is a mega turn-on.

Q: Have you ever considered writing in another genre? If so, what would you like to do?

A: I wish that I could do a good murder mystery, but I’m in love with falling in love. I think I’ll probably be a romance/erotica writer as long as someone is willing to read my work (even if it’s only my mom) lol

Q: Looking back over your work, tell us about one of your favorite characters?

A: Jazz Anderson from The Society of Sinners. He’s sexy and the most powerful man on Earth. That’s irresistible.

Q: I LOVE your new book cover. Tell us a little about your book cover designs and artwork.

A: I love designing covers. I spend hours looking through stock photos and then blending them together to fit the picture I have in my mind of the story. It’s another outlet for the creative side of me. 

Q: You are in a podcast with another erotica author, Melissa Craig. How did that get started?

A: Last year, I won an award and was approached by Harold Leavitt with FromPage2Screen to do an interview about it. I was so nervous, since I really hate the sound of my own voice, and I had never done a podcast before. However, about a week after the show aired Harold contacted me to let me know that my interview was their highest rated show ever, and asked if I knew any other author who they should interview. I knew Melissa and I also knew that she would be a great fit so I suggested her. The producer for FromPage2Screen, Stuart Bannerman, invited the two of us to join him in a live interview and that show ended up having an even higher rating, so they offered us our own show. Since then, Melissa and I have struck out on our own, but of course, we still have a place in our heart for Harold, Stuart, and the entire FromPage2Screen network.

Q: When you aren't writing, what do you like to read?

A: Most people would think that I’m a big erotica fan, but actually I love historical romance more than anything. My top three picks are: Julie Garwood, Julia Quinn, and Eloisa James.

Thank you so much for the interview Charity! Check out the links below to see how you can get a copy of The-Adonis. Also, see Charity's blog to see the other stops on the blog tour!

by Charity Parkerson

Grecian Fantasies hosts one of the hottest balls in town, a naughty Nobody-Knows-Your-Name masquerade that is not only exclusive, but is also not for the faint of heart.
Pleasure, fantasy, fetish, and vice are all on the menu at this ball. The only thing not up for grabs is the notorious woman behind its creation, but that is about to change. 


“I’m Weston,” he said as he wound Rob’s ribbon around his neck, tying it in a neat bow, and making himself appear as a giant unwanted present. “What’s your desire?” Rob started to tell Weston that he desired for him to go away, but a bright yellow feather caught his eye once more, and his gaze found the Goddess across the room.
“I need you to fetch someone,” Rob answered, deciding to use the awkward situation to his advantage.
“Oh, yay, a threesome,” Weston cheered. “May I suggest Mike over there,” he said, pointing to a gigantic man wearing a plain black mask. “He has lumberjack hands,” Weston added cheerfully.
Rob paused. Lumberjack hands? No, he was not going to ask. “What are lumberjack hands?”
“You know, he can wield his . . .” Weston began before Rob waved his hand, cutting him off.
“Never mind, I get the picture.” And he did, too. He would never be able to wash this moment from his mind. Getting back on track before things got out of hand, Rob pointed across the room. “Bring her to me,” he ordered.
Weston’s face fell as he caught sight of the woman to which Rob referred. “I cannot,” he stammered, sounding horrified.
“What the hell? I thought you were supposed to fulfill my desires or some shit?”
Weston seemed honestly distraught over Rob’s aggravation. “I’m sorry. If you ask me to fetch anyone else for a bit of fun, then I am at your service, any service,” he added, raking Rob’s body with his eyes. “However, that is Theadonis and I cannot do as you command.”
“The Adonis,” Rob repeated, sounding ridiculous even to his own ears. “I thought Adonis was a man. That is no man.” As the words left Rob’s mouth, he found himself tilting his head to one side and studying the woman closer just in case he was wrong.
 Weston rolled his eyes. “Not ‘the Adonis.’ Theadonis. That’s her name. She is the owner of Grecian Fantasies.” 

Bio: Charity Parkerson was born in Tennessee, where she still lives with her husband and two sons.  She is the author of several books including twelve Amazon bestsellers. You can like her on Facebook. Be sure to visit her at website and you can read her blog here. 

Her “Sinners series” was voted one of the top ten best books by an Indie author in 2011- Paranormal Romance Reads

She was named as one of the top three Indie authors of 2012- The Book Connection  

She is a member of The Paranormal Romance Guild, is a Goodreads moderator, a member of Coffee Time Romance, and co-host of The Melissa Craig and Charity Parkerson show.

She won author of the week in August of 2011, and is a three-time winner of The Mistress of the Darkpath.

You can follow her on Twitter @CharityParkerso