Monday, January 8, 2018

Special Something

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: The Danger of Undeserved Power
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At Morris High, they were it. The ones to be. Christina wasn't sure how it happened, and she didn't precisely care. Other kids watched them to know what to wear, how to talk, where to be. She and her crew. They were the what, how, where. Why? Because.

After a while, Christina believed it was the way it should be.

When new girl, Tae, got introduced in third period Bio on a Wednesday in February, it was a point of interest, not concern.

Christina, being magnanimous, and appreciating the ambitious vintage Converse/ skirt combo Tae chose for her first day, welcomed the new comer after class. She was popular, but she wasn't a heathen.

"Hi, welcome to Morris. Mr. Novac is a dick, but he'll go easy on you, since you're the new kid."

Tae looked at her. "I don't need anyone to go easy on me."

They stared, and Tae pushed past, her Converse squeaking on the polished tile.

Christina gaped. Did Tae understand the gravity of what she'd done? Did she know she committed social suicide in less than a half a day? Becoming aware she stared after Tae in the middle of a bustling hallway, Christina looked around. Kids plowed along, giving her sideways glances.

She couldn't interpret those glances, not like normal. Like the school band, Christina felt out of tune enough to notice and for the whole melody to grate the ears. What were the glances trying to tell her? Were those looks giving her deference? Pity? Admiration? The faces flowed by, and they had no meaning. Worse, some of the kids didn't look at her at all. Christina put a hand to her stomach. 

"Hey, 'tina." Emma's voice chimed right behind her.

Christina whipped around.

Em's face scrunched in. "What's wrong?"

"The new girl's a bitch, and we hate her."

Without so much as a question, Em nodded.


Weeks passed, and the warfare escalated. Christina even felt a bit sorry for Tae. But then she remembered those glances in the hallway, how the kids had made her feel pitied, or worse, something to ignore. It was Tae's fault. Who comes into a high school mid senior year, and is bitchy day one? Who does that? Well, Tae, that's who. And this is what it gets you. 

Except... Tae wasn't participating. Infuriating beyond belief, Tae seemed immune to their daggered glances, their cutting comments about her body, little pranks Em found so amusing. It might be time to take it up a notch. The girls had been talking about it last night. Some of the ideas they’d come up with were really horrible. Horrible in a perfect kind of way.

Em and Abby’s shoulders brushed Christina's as they walked three-wide down the hallway. Each held a textbook to their chests, displaying the French manicures they decided were the look of the week. Girls passed by on either side, their nails hot pink with lime green tips, causing Em and Abby to smirk. That was so last week.

Christina searched the hallways for Tae. Distressingly, Christina noted it was getting easier to find her. Why? She had an increasingly large number of people around her at all times. Tae laughed a lot, and was loud. It was obnoxious.

Ah. There she was. 


WHAT was happening? Michael Polowski had his arms around Tae's shoulders. Christina seethed. Michael was asking her to prom any day. He was hers. She stopped. Naturally, her girls stopped with her, causing a bottleneck in the middle of the hall. Em glanced between the two enemies. 

Abby, never one to let a silence stand, called out, "What're you doing with that hoe bag, Mike?"

Christina couldn't've said it better. Tae's nails were black. Damn it! That was next week's color, now Christina was going to have to revise the schedule. She would not have kids thinking she was following Tae's Conversed footsteps.

Enraged, Christina walked up to the group. Her girls followed perfectly on either side of her. 

With Mike's arm still around her shoulders, Tae smiled. "That, like, a prey response? Make yourself bigger to scare away the predator?"

What the eff was the hoe bag talking about? And, wait, was Tae the predator in that analogy?

Christina stalked up to her, anger clouding all her thoughts. She'd never been in a fight before. The angry part of her was cheerleading, do it, do it, do it... wipe that smirk right off--

Christina came wide with a punch. Tae swatted it away, but Christina was already coming in, no thought to what she doing, only to hurt.

Then she was down on the ground, staring up at Tae, who had her Converse planting Christina to the ground. There was enough force on her chest to prevent her getting up, not enough to prevent her breathing. Stunned, she lay there.

Tae leaned down, her black nailed-hands draping over her bent knee, and her brown eyes inches from Christina's face. "Let's be clear." 

Everything had stopped. The hallway had taken on a hush. Everyone was watching this. Tears sprang to Christina's eyes. Where was Em? Abby?

Christina had hit her head on the way to the floor, she was sure of it. Her body was numb all over.

What was happening? Tae's eyes were changing, the pupils going oblong, the iris' slanting.

Christina tried to draw a deeper breath, to clear the illusion. The Converse prevented it.

Tae whispered, "All your power is borrowed, baby. I’m taking some back."

Abruptly, the weight pulled back from her chest, and Christina took a deep gulp of air. She struggled to her feet. Em and Abby stood there, stunned. Christina wiped the tears away and walked off. Around her, she had more attention than she'd ever gotten. More heads turned her way, more whispers. But there were other things, too. Snickers. Laughter.

Christina swallowed. Something had been taken from her. She didn’t have the name for what it was.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Oh God, how did this happen? I might be a morning person...

I've never been a morning person. My mom knew when I was a little kid, just don't speak to me. That's been changing over the past couple of years. The first inkling I had that I could possibly convert to the dark side (the happy, bright-eyed bunch of weirdos who truly enjoy getting up before the sun) was doing my first #Whole30 program. I won't even lie; it was strange. Without carb hangovers, needing daily antihistamines, and gluten-fog, I was waking up before my alarm. Not in a oh-my-God-why-can't-I-sleep kind of way, but in a hey-I'm-ready-to-start-my-day-let's-do-this way. I promise you, that had never in the history of me happened.

And, oddly, it was cool.

I've been working with business coach since May of 2017, and while I primarily decided to hire a coach for our dog training business, I also tacked on the curve ball of telling the coach, "Hey, I'm also going to publish three books next year, can you help me be accountable?" He was game.

Somewhere around September of 2017, my coach, Dave Garcia, and I had a conversation wherein I was lamenting my psychological issue surrounding setting aside time to write. Writing was extra. Writing did not food put on my table. So I felt guilty doing it, when I could be doing some productive. (So original, amiright?)

He asked how writing time made me feel. That was easy. It made me feel refreshed, accomplished...happy. He asked if writing, instead of viewing it as something superfluous, might be something more necessary. He had my attention. I'd never thought of it that way.

Then he asked me if maybe setting aside writing time, instead of viewing it as a burden might be considered a boon to other areas of my life. If, ultimately, giving myself the gift of writing time would make me a happier person, a more attentive wife, a more focused business owner.

Yes, to all the things. My husband would comment about how much happier I was when I'd had time to write. It was a very noticeable difference.

All of a sudden, an internal switch flipped and I decided that I had to make writing a priority. But when?

Along with coaching, I'd been doing a good amount of self-development reading. The Miracle Morning, The Power of Full Engagement, Extreme Ownership, among others. I think around the time I was having the 'can I really give myself permission to write' conversation, I was reading The Power of Full Engagement. In short, I had been telling myself to write at night. Close up the business shop at a reasonable hour, and give myself the evening. This just wasn't working, and I was getting frustrated with myself with my 'will power' problem. I had the time. I just wasn't using it.

Full Engagement is about recognizing that humans have natural ebbs and flows of energy and just because you set aside family time after a twelve hour work day, doesn't mean your family time is going to be good time. That's what was happening with setting aside writing time at night. I was already sapped. My energy was gone for the day, my mind was swirling with business. So what other options did I have? Getting up earlier....pfft. No way. That's straight up crae-crae. Immediate dismissal of the idea.

But then I considered it. Really considered it. I wanted to write. I needed more time to work on launching a second career as an author. And what I was doing wasn't working. Like, at all. So, what the hell, I'd try it. I'd get up early the next morning and try to write in the morning. If it didn't work, it was easy enough to reset the alarm.

Except, when my alarm went off at the disturbingly early time of 7:15 am the next morning (no judgement, I own a dog training business, we work later hours... and that's the story I'm sticking to) Anyway, the alarm went off and I was happy, excited. It felt almost illicit, this hour and a half block of time I'd carved out just to write. Hubby definitely wasn't up. Even the dogs were like...what the eff are you doing, I'm going back to bed. Also... my mind wasn't yet embroiled in all the business stuff, at any rate, the office wasn't even open. I left my phone on my bedside table, didn't even touch it to check notifications. It was just me and my story.

The morning time was productive. Beyond. That, and by giving myself a creative outlet, it didn't deplete my energy. It renewed it. I was managing my energy. The irony? After a day of work, I was way more likely to have more left over at the end of the day to continue writing. And if I didn't, well then, it was ok because I'd gotten a bunch accomplished in the morning. Gone was the guilt at not doing what needed to be done. In short, it was freaking awesome and probably ranks as one of the best decisions I made last year. My alarm is now set for 6:30 Monday through Friday, and I've honestly considered going to 6:00 am. This morning time is fast becoming something sacred to me.

It's January now. Start of a new year. I've been doing this morning routine consistently for a couple months. I completed a draft of the third book in my series at 105k words doing this morning routine. I've worked on some indie author stuff. I've written blog posts and started a short story. It's been the most productive few months of my writing life. And I did it all before 9:00 am.

Pretty soon I may have to admit the truth: I've converted.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Letter of Encouragement for #NaNoWriMo2017

Last year, 2016, I completed my second NaNoWriMo. But I almost didn’t. I almost couldn’t.

November is usually a magical month, fall is in full swing, with the colors in Michigan spectacular. We’re getting ready for a day of thanks, shared with friends and family. And Nano. What’s not to love about November?

Well, election day, as it turns out.

November 2016 ranks as one of the worst months of my life. My entire world view was threatened, as it was for millions of Americans. After the election, my desire for writing was gone. I balanced on the edge of depression. I didn’t want to leave the house. Tears would fill my eyes at random moments. I tried to understand what had gone so terribly wrong, how our country could be so hateful and misguided.

I still don’t understand it.

The days following the election were horrible and I did no writing. It was the last thing on my mind. I’d been going at a decent pace the first week of the month to finish Nano. Now, two weeks in, I felt hopelessly behind. I would never catch up. Best to call a time of death.

Then I got a message from my friend, my writing buddy, Nikki. We’d discussed being accountability buddies for Nano in October, but she was on the fence. Now, she was doing it. It breathed some life into my Nano and I decided to fully reanimate that corpse, Walking Dead-style and dammit, I was going to finish. And I did. November 28th, a few days to spare, despite having not written for 10 days in November, I pushed past the 50k line.

Today, a few days into Nano 2017 and a bit behind where I wanted to be, I know a couple things for sure.

One, without my friend Nikki I wouldn’t have finished Nano 2016, and this is how I feel about that:

Cherish those writing buddies.

Two, the finish line was all the sweeter for the adversity.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Lovely C.C. Dowling, Everyone

A few years ago, I signed up for a Writer's Digest on line workshop. Part of that workshop was mingling and meeting other participants. Fatefully, I met one of my very best critique buddies, C.C. Dowling. She and I have shared highs and lows of this publication journey, and for her, this is a loooong time coming. I'm so excited for her, I can't even--

C.C.'s debut came out a few days ago, and I think everyone should know and buy it, of course.

When college senior Jane Lamb dies suddenly, she discovers that the afterlife is less pearly gates and fluffy clouds and more standing in line at the DMV. But before she can spend eternity lamenting over her short, unremarkable life, she’s offered a do-over—as a Conduit, a reincarnated messenger contracted to reap souls.

Determined to do things right the second time, Jane takes the job and reincarnates as eighteen-year-old college freshman Liv Hartley. Only, the excitement for her new life doesn’t last. There are consequences to bearing the coveted infinity symbol tattoo marking her as a Conduit, and Liv quickly finds that getting a second chance doesn’t mean getting a better one. Possessive demons, stolen assignments, and a love life that’s decidedly complicated are all a far cry from the mundane existence Jane led. But with more questions piling up than bodies, there’s only one thing Liv knows for sure: life doesn’t get any easier after death.

Filled with sparkling wit, conflicted romance, and more spirit than a haunted mansion, Conduit is a fun-filled paranormal that explores the idea of regret, love, and what we would give to live twice.

Author Bio:
C.C. Dowling is an author who writes everything from gritty urban fantasy, to paranormal sci-fi, to steamy contemporary erotic romance (under a pen name of course!).

C.C. shares her love of writing with her love of singing, music, and science. She spent the first half of her college life performing, and the second half in a lab.

C.C. currently lives in America's finest city, with her husband (the financial shaman), her two children (who love to play in the yard with the faeries), and her very real pet dragon (who guards the perimeter of her house at night).

When she’s not working or writing (which is still technically working), C.C. can be found playing a round of disc golf, or desperately trying to figure out which pair of sandals are the most appropriate for the harsh Southern California winters.

You can find C.C. on Twitter @CCDowling, at her website [], and on her official author Facebook group, Misfits & Mayhem []. She'd love for all the misfits to join the mayhem. Also, get the latest release news by signing up for her newsletter [].

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Expectation Violation: Just Don’t Do It (Pelee Island Book House #2)

So last time, I talked about this grandiose idea of the SO MANY WORDS I was going to write on my writer’s retreat. I mean, what else are you going to do on a writer’s retreat but write, right? My hyper Type A-ness was definitely at work in the weeks leading up to the retreat. I was going to finish revisions on a novel, write a good part of another. Totally!


Um, yeah. No.

A writing retreat is many things. Equal parts awesome and frustrating for me, for many. Why frustration? Simply… frustration comes from unmet expectations. About midway through the retreat I came to a realization like a car speeding off a cliff. There was no possible freaking way I could do all that writing. Even in a week where, presumably, I had nothing else to do.

So, if I can give aspiring authors a piece of advice for attending writing retreats that probably seems at first blush counter-intuitive, it would be this: have no expectations.

Actually, that’s not entirely correct.

Here’s the type of expectations I’ve learned to avoid:
  •          I’ll finish ___ ,000 words while I’m there
  •          I’ll finally get that revision completely done
  •          I’ll bang out a whole short story (or three!)
  •          I’ll spend all my free time typing
Instead, consider these types of expectations:
  •         I’m going to meet some interesting people
  •         I’m going to learn something new about craft
  •         I’m going to try something different
  •         I’m going to go with an open mind
  •         I’m going to give myself the freedom to think about my story in a way that’s different in a new environment.
See, when you set expectations like the second set, there’s progress being made that isn’t set by a stringent set of “I will do exactly X.” Most times, when goal setting, specifics are important. I believe writer retreats are an exception. They’re nebulous and, ultimately, you’re not really sure what you’re going to get. I’ve been to a few retreats and even those which were held at the same place with a similar structure had a vastly different feel from year to year. So trying to plan out specifics before you get there is kind of like drawing a map in the sand on a windy day.

Self-doubt among writers is a real struggle. Something that spans the gap of age bracket, genre, career, and status. If you’ve gifted yourself with a retreat, don’t ruin it by violating your own expectations, and spending your time mentally whipping yourself for ‘wasting’ your time. Ultimately all that does is fuel the self-doubt fire.

Instead, try this. Enjoy it. Write when the moment strikes you. Give yourself the freedom to let your ideas percolate, take a walk, enjoy the scenery. When you figure that out, the retreat doesn’t have to be any parts frustration. It can be entirely awesome.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

What exactly do you do on a writer’s retreat, anyway? (Pelee Island Book House #1)

I had the incredible opportunity to go to a writer’s retreat at the Pelee Island book house. It’s a beach house on a pretty remote island in Lake Erie in Canada-land. I learned a ton, wrote a bunch, and have some writerly wisdom to pass on. Or basically, you can learn from the things I did…while not precisely wrong, certainly things I could’ve done better.

A writer’s retreat is an awesome step away from the day to day grind. The Pelee Island one was my third retreat over the last few years. A week spent talking with a small group of other writers, in various places with their career and their craft. This particular retreat was uber special because of the included workshop. 

The time was awesome, but probably the best was getting an opportunity to spend nearly two whole days listening, learning and asking questions of Chuck Wendig. If you don’t know Chuck, just stop right here and go to his blog. Read a post about writing advice and come back so you can have a full appreciation about the incredible opportunity this retreat represented, on all levels.

I went with vaguely large aspirations about what it was that I was going to accomplish on this retreat. I mean, it was a whole week. And if I had nothing ostensibly to do other than write? I mean, that’s got to be, what, at least 20k words, right?

Nope. In fact, as I write this, it’s Thursday. The retreat goes from Monday to Sunday. It’s Thursday and writing this blog post is the most typing I’ve done so far.

Don’t get me wrong, I did spend a good amount of time rereading the first book of my series, which honestly wasn’t even on the radar for the week at all. Nope, it was supposed to be the second book getting revised and maybe the third book getting written. 20k words is so…many…words. It’s nearly a novella. And I have written nothing so far, except this blog post. More about that in a later post.

What, you may be asking, am I doing, if I’m not writing? Well. Talking, eating, sleeping, learning, reading, pondering, watching birds, looking for snakes (strictly to avoid snakes). It’s a pretty primitive island, so driving around in a purple Challenger is pretty, um, ostentatious? I’m pretty sure they thought I was someone famous. Anyway. These are the things I’ve been doing. In fairness, when Chuck was here, it was a no contest kind of thing. And he got here Monday late afternoon and left Wednesday afternoon. So there were a couple days that were spent in a lets-learn-craft-and-become-better-writers mode! Important things, that may make the writing time at home all that much more fruitful.

I learned so much. So much that a single blog post would feel reductive. So, let it suffice to say, there will be more words coming out of the Pelee Island book retreat, if only in blog post format.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Asleep from Day ~ Cover Reveal!

One of the best parts of being part of the #Pitchwars community has been, by far, watching a group of newbie writers morph themselves into experienced authors. 

We're in this journey together and today, for one of us, a huge step has been taken. I give you the cover reveal for Asleep from Day, by Pitchwars class of 2014 alum, Margarita Montimore. This one is on pre-order, for sure.

A Note from the Author

Hi there! I’m super-excited to share the cover reveal of my debut novel, Asleep from Day. Before we get to the main event, I wanted to share a little about what inspired this book:

Back in the ‘90s, I came across this human interest news story that stuck with me ever since. A guy met a woman on a bus in Boston, they chatted for a few minutes, and the woman left before he could get her number. The guy was so taken with her and eager to find her, he plastered fliers all over the city with details of their brief chat (which, at one point, mentioned Kevin Bacon—insert Six Degrees joke here). Remember, this was in the 1990’s, back before Missed Connections and social media. He didn’t have online tools to help him find the woman. The fliers got so much attention, news outlets picked up the story and the guy ended up on TV talking about his search for this woman. I don’t remember if he ever tracked her down, but I was fascinated by the lengths this man went to for a woman he met for only a few minutes. It was romantic, sure, but also a little crazy and strange.  

Many years later, the seeds of that story took root and grew into something different as I found my premise: What if a girl met a guy and spent a seemingly perfect day with him, then got hit by a car the next day and completely forgot him? What if, as she started to remember, she wondered if those memories were real? What if she had strange dreams and surreal experiences that made her worry she might be making him up and question her sense of reality? Add a 1990’s Boston setting and Asleep from Day was born.

It had to be the ‘90s, because technology makes it easier to find people and back then, it was easier to lose track of someone. It had to be Boston because I lived there during my college years and wanted this book to be my love poem to that city.

In terms of genre, here’s the thing: I like stories that aren’t one thing. I get more excited when a book or movie or show has layers of different genres. And I got more excited about this story when adding layers to it; I wanted it to be realistic yet surreal, romantic but twisted, with darkness and uncertainty to balance out the sweetness. It’s not psychological suspense or romance or mystery, but it has elements of all of those.

For the cover of Asleep from Day, I was hoping for something dreamy and a little strange, but still beautiful. I love the final design Terry Montimore came up with.

About the Author

Margarita Montimore received a BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. She worked for over a decade in publishing and social media before deciding to focus on the writing dream full-time. She has blogged for Marvel, Google, Quirk Books, and When not writing, she freelances as a book coach and editor. She grew up in Brooklyn but currently lives in a different part of the Northeast with her husband and dog.