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Thursday, December 1, 2011

A book I gifted and it's impact on me and one special reader.

For the next month, between December 4th and the 31st I'll leave this blog post up as part of a Holiday Blog Hop. The way it works is that several authors are listed on a central page. If you click on Jo Ramsey's Blog (highlighted below), it will take you to a page with links to their sites where there will be contests and giveaways galore, along with some lovely blog posts about books that have been given or recieved as gifts and the impact of those books. (Remember, the site doesn't go live until Sunday, December 4th).

For my contest, just leave a comment below and let me know how you can help me spread the word about me and my books. You can follow me on Twitter @pjsharon, @secretsof7scribes, or @yabeyond. You can "like" my Facebook Fan Page @, or sign up for my mailing list on my website @ Just let me know what you've done and I'll put you in the running to win a signed hardcopy of both Heaven Is For Heroes and On Thin Ice. Five random commenters will recieve a free download of On Thin Ice. I'll also be donating a copy of one of my books to a public library in your name. So thanks ahead of time for paying it forward and have a wonderful Holiday Season.

When my first book, Heaven Is For Heroes, came out in September, I had no idea how it would be received. As an indie-published author, I didn’t have the benefit of an agent or editor telling me if my story was good enough or assuring me that it would sell. So I wrote the best book I could and put it out there. I set up my promotional blog tour, and one of my first stops was The Jaunty Quills. Kristan Higgins put in a good word for me and the folks there welcomed me with open arms. I was honored to be a guest there among so many awesome and award winning authors and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Boy was I ever surprised when I had something like forty-five comments! I also offered a free e-book copy of Heaven Is For Heroes to a lucky commenter that day.

Little did I know that the woman who won that copy would become such an ardent supporter of my books. Not only did she spread the word to friends and family, she left a glowing review in several places and recommended the book to her local library. Five copies were ordered and distributed in and around Orlando. I was overwhelmed and ecstatic. This young mother of two teen aged kids has followed my posts and kept in touch through Facebook and has become a lovely friend in this process. Big shout out to Lorelei!

I am always amazed at the generosity of people and their willingness to support causes they believe in. That my book touched someone’s heart in such a way that they feel compelled to share it with others is humbling. This kind of readership is what every author hopes for and why we put such labor and love into making the next book as good, if not better than the last.

Thank you for being here and please Hop on Back to Jo Ramsey's Blog to visit the next site on the tour

Leave a comment here and enter to recieve an e-book copy of On Thin Ice. I'll also be donating books to local libraries. At the end of December one commenter will be chosen to recieve signed copies of Heaven Is For Heroes and On Thin Ice. Thanks for participating.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Inspiration for ON THIN ICE

While thinking about a blog topic, I began daydreaming about ice skating. It's been a few years since I've skated, but the chilly day and working on my final revisions to my upcoming release, ON THIN ICE, brought the sport to mind. I miss it terribly and think about it often. My location in the hills and my schedule have kept me from returning to skating, but it is surely in my blood and will remain a part of me forever.

Hand in hand with thoughts of skating come memories of my mom and how proud she was of my accomplishments. She's been gone for thirty years and I still hear her voice, "Patience and perseverence will get you far in life."

Stick-to-it-iveness, she called it.

I started taking skating lessons when I was ten. I was a bit too late to catch up with the competetive skaters who had started when they were as young as three or four, but I excelled nonetheless, and loved to zip around the ice executing daring maneuvers that only fearless children and serious athletes would attempt. Skating was an escape for me. Life at home was chaotic at best and more often painful than happy. When I skated, I was transported by the music, the intensity, and the focus required to master the art. I trained hard and sometimes skated four to six hours in a day several days a week. Though I only competed for a few years, the lessons I learned have stayed with me through every endeavor I've taken on since. There were times that my mother pushed me. She had too much invested in me not to want me to succeed. I didn't always understand that at the time, and it was often a source of tension for us.

Mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was twelve and she died four years later. I found out a week after her death that I was pregnant. I was sixteen and a junior in high school. Needless to say, these events put an end to my competetive skating, and I took a huge left turn into the struggles of life as a single parent. Again I leaned on the lessons I learned through my years of training in the world of figure skating. Sacrifice, hard work, self-discipline and commitment were the strengths that got me through some very difficult years and led me to persevere and succeed later on.

These same traits are the cornerstones to becoming a published author, no matter what road you choose, traditional or otherwise. I'm grateful today that my mother believed in me and taught me to believe in myself. I'm thankful that she pushed me at times and at others let me decide for myself what was right for me. Sometimes I learned lessons the hard way, falling repeatedly and picking myself up, brushing off the snow and trying again. Maybe because of that, or inspite of it, the lessons stuck.

ON THIN ICE is a labor of love and the book of my heart. Some of Penny's story is mine and other parts are how I would have liked for people to be and things to have turned out. I often say that writing allows us to re-write our history in some ways. When I first shared this story with others I was told it would never "sell" because I didn't follow the "rules" of story structure and plot. I heard terms like, "too many subplots," "too much telling," and "no one would believe that one teenaged girl could go through so much and come out sane." That one was from a contest judge, LOL.

Yet here I am--happy and healthy with two wonderful grown sons whom I truly admire. I may be breaking the rules, and I may fall. But for me, life is about taking chances, learning and growing, and sharing my experiences with others. Hard lessons are part of life, but I hope that by putting myself out there--on thin ice so to speak, there is a teenager somewhere who reads my story and chooses not to learn the hard way.

What lessons have carried you to where you are today? Did you have to learn them the hard way? Have you written them into your stories? Leave a comment and enter to win an advanced reader copy of ON THIN ICE coming December 15th.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Family Trees

Here in the Northeast, Mother Nature has given our precious trees a serious haircut. The devastation is widespread and heartbreaking to see, but I know that in time, we will recover.

The premature winter storm and the recent death of my last surviving aunt on my mother's side has me contemplating my past, my present, and my future, and how they are intertwined.

The increased frequency of freak storms the past few years lends to the theory that climate change is here to stay and will likely only get worse--a grim prediction, but one founded on common sense and intuition as much as scientific data. Millions of Massachusettes and Connecticut residents experienced first hand how dependent we have become on the comforts of modern technology. Without electricity and phone service, and with rationed gasoline supplies and no internet, they were virtually dead in the water. If not for shelters, or friends and family members who so graciously offered to share the comforts of a shower, a warm bed, and a hot meal, many more people's lives would have been lost to cold and hunger than the few sad deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from people trying to warm their homes with propane heaters and no ventilation.

When I got word this week that my aunt Rita had died (of old age, and unrelated to weather), what struck me most in her passing was that she was the last of her generation from my mother's family. Both of my mother's parents died years ago, and she had lost both of her brothers before she died herself at the age of fifty. My mother's two remaining sisters lived on until my aunt Lillian died a few years ago at ninety, and then aunt Rita, a woman well into her eighties passed this week. Being the youngest of my siblings I didn't have the same relationship with, or memories of my aunt as they did. I remember she was very proud of my skating accomplishments when I was a kid, but because of time, distance, her mental illness and simply the business of life, I hadn't spent much time with her over the years--an irrevocable loss to be sure.

As in all of life there are lessons to be learned.

1) Even the mighty oak can be felled in the span of a moment. Change is inevitable and we must learn to adapt, work together and help one another or we will surely parish. As Jack Shephard from "Lost" would say "We have to stand together or die alone."

2) We only get this one life to know and embrace the family we have, so don't waste time on pettiness or be so caught up in business that we miss a chance to know someone special. Every person in your family (good or bad)has the opportunity to enrich your life if you let them. And even more importantly, we have a chance to enrich theirs.

3) Finally, what I gather from this crazy week is that our future is linked to our past and we should never forget our ancestors and what they have taught us. From the pilgrims who settled our shores and endured the brutality of nature, we learn patience, endurance, and ingenuity. From the early pioneers who crossed this great country and conquered the elements to survive, we learn courage and perseverence. Our ancestors, no matter who they were, have left us a legacy worth preserving. The only way we will survive an uncertain future is to make sure to teach our children the lessons of our family tree so that the next generation may benefit from their experience and so that our history is not lost.

What has your family tree taught you?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Teens HATE to read? Seriously?

At a recent book signing at the Enfield Mall, I was struck by number one, how dead the mall was compared to when I used to hang out there on the weekends with my friends, and two, how many teenagers reported that they HATE to read. Blasphemy! Horrors! And what’s up with that?

“Really?” I asked in shock.

In keeping with current vernacular, the young ladies replied, “Seriously. With all the crap we have to read in school, we like, have NO interest in reading.”

“Wow! So if I said this book is a young adult romance between a seventeen year old girl and a nineteen year old Marine who was wounded in Iraq, you wouldn’t be interested?”

Eyes widened, snarky smiles lit up their faces, and eyes rolled—all signs of interest for teenage girls—whether they will admit it or not. Since I had captured their attention and felt like I was on the cusp of breaking through a barrier of some kind, I pressed on. I thought, if I could influence these young girls to become readers, how cool would that be? My mission was clear. I needed to change their minds about reading. I gave them each a copy of the book and laid out the challenge.

“Read to the end of chapter one, and I dare you to put down the book.”

They all giggled and took the books, satisfied grins on their faces that they had been gifted a kind of treasure—for free! The only thing I asked in return was for them to go on Amazon and leave a review after they read it. They all smiled and said they would. We’ll see. Most importantly, the possibility exists that they will read the book and it will change their minds about reading.

I couldn’t blame them entirely for their disdain of books. After all, I too had to endure reading such classics as The Red Badge of Courage, Farenheight 451, and Catcher In The Rye. And who could forget Chaucer, Fitzgerald, Hemmingway and the works of Shakespeare? Umm…most of us, probably. I’m not against reading good literature, but kids in today’s world of immediate gratification and technological warp speed want to read about people they can identify with. They want stories that draw them into a world where kids are powerful—where they can take on the monsters and win—thus the fascination with the paranormal. Harry Potter, Twilight and the thousand other vampire, werewolf and witch stories available on today’s shelves have kids drowning in magical possibilities. Again, I can’t say I blame them. I too, read to escape the harsh realities of a world spinning out of control. So can we find a compromise?

This is a new generation of readers and we need to offer them books with stories that will engage them while also offering real, identifiable characters. If there are underlying life lessons, moments of poignant emotional revelation and reasons to root for our heroes and heroines, all the better.

Help me out here. How can we make teenagers LOVE reading again? Any ideas?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Multi-tasking. Asset or Addiction?

In a time when there has to be a law against texting and driving, and fast food restaurants have provided us with meals on wheels, how far will we take the concept of multi-tasking? Is multi-tasking an asset or an addiction?

I’m an avid multi-tasker from way back, myself. Call me obsessive compulsive or call me efficient, I’ve become adept at juggling many projects simultaneously.

I used to do homework and listen to music at the same time when I was growing up. As a parent I learned to do at least five things at once. Now I watch TV as I write, though I confess I cannot listen to music while I write. Even without caffeine, I have a ridiculous capacity for doing many tasks at once.

But is it the adrenalin rush that has me so dependent on my Android phone? Or is there a bigger plot we have as yet to uncover? Muaaaahhhha! The internet allows us to be in many places at one time, and technology offers us limitless possibilities. Scary? Yes. Exciting? You bet. Addictive? Maybe. So when is enough really way too much? These are a few of my quirky little multi-tasking obsessions…er…tricks.

1) I practice singing, plot out scenes in my current WIP, or plan my next marketing strategy while in the shower or while I’m out walking my dog in the woods.
2) I exercise while watching last night’s shows or catching up on episodes of Days Of Our Lives.
3) I check messages and e-mails while waiting for my next appointment or, I hate to confess, waiting for the light to turn green.

How do you know when you’ve gone too far?

You know you are doing too much when you are texting or checking your e-mails while sitting on the toilet.

You know when you are doing too much when you have six Scrabble games going at the same time and you are still working a full time job.

You know you are doing too much when you forget to eat, shower, sleep…you fill in the random necessity you’ve forgotten.

You know you are doing too much when Amazon algorithms become your next focused thought.

So tell me readers, “What crazy multi-tasking habits do you have?”

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Unexpected Experiences

Since HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES came out almost three weeks ago, I’ve had a number of unexpected experiences that I wanted to share with you.

First, I want to acknowledge all of the wonderful friends, family, writers, and readers who have supported me and bought the book. You guys have made all the hard work worth it. Thank you to those who have left such great reviews on and Those reviews help to generate these crazy stats called algorithms within Amazon’s software. Algorithms drive books up the recommended reading list, which helps other readers find me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your efforts and I encourage you to do the same for other authors you want to support.

Secondly, I know that this sounds crazy, but I had no real expectation that anyone would like the book. I was fully prepared for harsh criticism and what I’ve gotten has been genuine praise and congratulations on a job well done, which makes my heart swell and palms sweat at the same time. It makes me want to work even harder to make the next book, ON THIN ICE, meet that same standard and exceed it if possible. As writers who love our stories like children we have given birth to, we want everyone to love our characters as much as we do. So thank you all for the positive feedback. I do promise that the editing will be more thorough on the next book. I’m still working out the bugs in my system, so please be patient with me.

Third, I wrote this story to honor our military and their families. I especially wanted to bring focus to the generation of young adults who have grown up with this war and seen siblings, parents, and friends effected by the tragedies of living in this difficult climate of world conflict. I’ve met some amazing people in the past few weeks, both in person and in the cyber sphere, that have spoken about their grief and loss as well as their anger and sadness over the wasted and devastated lives of our lost and returning soldiers. I have a new and deeper understanding of the impact of speaking out about people’s pain. I am also glad that they found my story to be uplifting and one of hope. I am humbled beyond words.

Lastly, I’d like to say for the record that I am officially pooped! I’ve been on a wild and difficult journey to indie-publication. Although it’s been a labor of love and a challenging growth experience, it has been much more than I could have imagined. Realize dear friends and readers that the goal to become published authors comes with a lot of hard work, discipline and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone on a daily basis. Choose your path wisely and boldly follow your dreams, but be careful what you wish for, because you may just get it.

What unexpected experiences have you had in your latest climb to the top?
Two lucky commenters will win a free e-copy of HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES
. Contest runs through Sunday night at midnight and is open to all commenters. I look forward to spreading the love!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Weekend Events

It’s going to be a beautiful Columbus Day weekend! It will also be my very first book signing event. I’m excited and a little nervous, but mostly I’m looking forward to meeting people and enjoying a few more 80 degree days.

If you’ve never been to the Granville Harvest Fair, it is a fantastic event. From the Granville Elementary School all the way up to where I’ll be at the Old Meeting House at the top of the hill, there are crafters, food vendors, orchards and good old fashioned fun.

I’ve been at this event for the past several years with my chair massage booth in the same building as the amazing quilters and potters and bakers displaying their crafts. They even have a bus to transport you from the famous Granville Country Store (their cheeses are found in many major grocery chains), up the giant hill to the apple orchard and Old Meeting House. Of course if you’re looking to enjoy the gorgeous weather, you could always walk the half mile up and enjoy the historic homes along the way.

I’ll be there on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, and then on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and Monday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Normally I would be there all day on Saturday, but I’ll be doing double duty and will be speaking on an author’s panel for the CT Romance Writer’s meeting in North Haven, answering questions about independent publishing. The internet has allowed me to be in two places at one time, but I haven’t quite mastered how to do that in the flesh.

So if you’re looking for a fun fall activity and want to enjoy some Berkshire leaf-peeping, I hope you’ll stop by and visit me up at the Old Meeting House on Route 57 in Granville, MA. You can get a massage, an autographed copy of Heaven Is For Heroes, and have a piece of homemade apple pie with cheddar cheese on top. One-stop shopping for all your favorite little indulgences.

I hope to see you there.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What can I do for you?

Hello, my Friday blog followers. I’ve had quite a week touring on blogs and talking about my new release, Heaven is for Heroes. Humungous thanks to Kristan Higgins and the Jaunty Quills as well as Jo Ramsey who hosted me earlier this week. I’ve had some very positive feedback about the book and am heaving a sigh of relief. I still have my work cut out for me but the early reviews and sales numbers are good, thanks to all you wonderful friends and readers.

So I’ve been thinking about what I can do for you. Other than getting that next book out there, I was wondering, what could I add to my website that would be entertaining and fun for you--the folks that this is really all about. I’ve started by updating the look of my blog. Do you like it?

I want my website to reflect the kind of books I write, so when I redesigned it last month, my goal was to make it more user friendly and give it a little YA curb appeal. I hope you noticed. I’ve added playlists with links to YouTube for songs that reminded me of my main characters, Jordie, Alex, and Levi. I see the theme song for the book being “Just a Kiss” by Lady Antebellum. Every time I hear that song, I think of the scene where Alex and Jordie kiss after their first real date to a drive-in movie. Or the scene where they are stranded on a beach overnight and each of them is fighting the temptation to take their relationship to the next level.
I’ve also added an excerpt from the book and I’ll be adding both a playlist and an excerpt from ON THIN ICE over the next few weeks. For Halloween, I’ll be participating in a blog hop with several other authors where we’ll be giving away treats to readers who want to follow along and take advantage of free e-books, tee shirts, book marks, or other surprises. Check back the third week of October when I’ll add a link to my homepage to direct you on how to participate.

That’s it so far. I’m open to suggestions about what you would like to see added to my website. Do I need more pictures of hunky guys I might cast in a Heaven is for Heroes movie? This pic of Alex Pettygrew reminds me of Levi. And wouldn't Hayden Christensen make a dreamy Alex Cooper?

Maybe I should put up free chapters of my books, links to other YA sites, or a section for short stories and poetry…or not.

So you tell me…what do you like to see on a website?

Friday, September 16, 2011

What the heck is a Blog Tour?

As a soon to be published author (8 days and counting), I've been wading through the mire and muck of marketing and promoting. I've researched, talked with industry professionals and read everything I can about all the avenues to "selling" a book. The common thread I keep coming across is "exposure".

Being a little resistant to the idea of "exposing" myself, I'm leary about how to go about this. I am on Twitter, Facebook (yes, you can go ahead and "like" me now under my PJ Sharon Author Fan page, and I'm blogging. This brings me to my topic for today. When I announce to my friends and family that I will be doing a "blog tour", I get a funny look and a "huh"?

So let me explain. Over the next few weeks, I'll be a guest on several blogs. As of now, they are fellow writer's blogs. I do plan to search out blogs that will lead me to my target audience, who are teens and young adults, but for now, my focus is on getting the word out that I am publishing my debut contemporary YA romance, Heaven is for Heroes, on September 24th, a book I think will appeal to adult readers as well. I know you are all probably tired of my shameless self-promotion, but on the outside chance that someone new is reading my blog, I'm obligated to inform them of this wonderful news.

So a blog tour is essentially the e-published author's schedule of appearances--taking over the traditional book signing tour. Thanks to the internet, we now have the ability to reach countless readers and focused groups rather than hanging out at the mall where maybe twenty people will stop by to peruse your wares (which I'll also be doing in October).

My upcoming blog appearances are scheduled as follows:

Tues. Sept. 20th, I'll be on Jennifer Fusco's MOD (Market or Die) site talking about my marketing and promotions experience since deciding to indie-publish.

Fri. September 23rd, I'm doing an author interview at Jo Ramseys site followed by an interview with my main character, Jordie Dunn, on Tuesday, Sept. 27th--also with Jo. I'm especially excited about that, since it takes the focus off me and you get to meet one of the coolest seventeen year-olds around.

Kourtney Heintz has offered to re-run a guest post I did a few weeks ago. I'll be talking about my writer's journey on her blog on Sunday, Sept. 25th.

And last but not least, NYT and USA Today best selling author, Kristan Higgins of the Jaunty Quills, has been kind enough to allow me to drop by on Thurs.Sept. 29th. This post is all about the book. What inspired the story, why I wrote it, and why readers will hopefully love it as much as I do.

I hope you'll stop by and visit, leave a comment, take your chances to win a free e-book copy of Heaven is for Heroes, and enjoy the ride along with me. I'm sure I''l be planning more appearances, but this is a great start and I'm so thankful for the opportunities that these great ladies have provided. I couldn't do this without them-or you. See you there!

Any ideas for future blog tour locations? I'm looking for YA sites. Thanks!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Welcome To My World

Hey Everyone,

I'm glad to have my blogger site back on line and my new website up and running. I've learned so much in the process of creating my own website, linking all of my social sites (I'm still not set up correctly with Facebook, so don't friend/like me yet--I'll let you know:), and uploading my book for final print so I can have it available by the September 24th release date. So here I am with twelve days to go, and I feel like Chicken Little, a grand adventure looming ahead.That's actually my dog, Zak, who takes his watchdog duties very seriously.

I look forward to spending time with you here on Friday's when I'll blog on a topic related either to my books, the writing world, or other adventures I encounter along the way. I'll also continue to blog as Tuesday's Child on the Scribes blog, discussing all things writerly with my sister scribes. The site (click on the link at the upper right hand corner just above my Home Page Link) has become my second home and has a growing collection of short stories and great posts from the scribes as well as many noted authors and industry professionals. Pop on over for a visit to learn more.

Watch for updates on the Calendar page of my site; pics, slide shows, and videos on theAdventures and Photos page, and go to Extras, to get a sneak peek at excerpts of my books, playlists of songs I think fit my books or characters, and to follow contests and giveaways as they come along. As a newbie in the indie-publishing world,I hope you'll be patient with me as I figure out how this crazy business works. I'll try to share important industry information and you can count on honest and straightforward posts from me about my observations and lessons learned on the journey.

Thank you so much for sharing your time with me and I hope I can entertain and inform you with my weekly blog updates. Stay tuned!


Monday, June 6, 2011

Blah Blah, Blogging

Blah, blah, blog…

I’ve come to the conclusion that Quality is more important than Quantity, and More is Not Better. I live by these words, use them in my work with clients, and they certainly apply to blogging.

Since I’m now wearing more hats than the Queen of England or Jackie O, I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling somewhat overwhelmed. Essentially, I’ve become a book publisher overnight, which means I am PR person, marketing director, sales and promotions manager and, oh yeah…author. The tasks involved in self-publishing are akin to starting a small country—not designed to be tackled by one person. Apparently, it takes a village to raise a child and a small corporate entity to launch a book.

I keep telling myself to take it in steps, take small bites so to speak--handle things one day at a time. If I can only get all my ducks in a row and put all the pieces together, I can stop mixing my metaphors and eventually get to where I’m going. But staying focused has been extremely challenging. Especially with the pressure to blog on a regular basis (3x per week is recommended by the marketing experts). How much do I really have to say? And who cares anyway? My blog posts aren’t changing the world, making it a better place, or serving the greater good in any way. In fact, they are simply taking up cyber-space and costing me precious writing time in my effort to have my name hit the airwaves a million times. I’m also asking a lot of my busy friends and followers to spend their valuable time keeping up on the minutia of my world. I respect them too much to burden them with this expectation. Yet, writing, reading and following blogs is the way, we are told, to gain recognition and sell books.

I don’t doubt that repetitious exposure to our name is key to gaining an audience, but I’m not convinced it’s the best use of my time. Life is becoming increasingly complicated. I feel as if I’m creating a monster that I will have to keep control of and tame somehow. I had to ask myself if all of this pressure and stress is worth the return, and if it’s the life I truly want. At my core, I am an individual who values a balanced and healthy lifestyle above all else when it comes to my work and daily life choices. It has taken me most of my life to achieve that goal and I am proud of how far I’ve come. I know what makes me happy and what I have to do to maintain my peace of mind. I’m not afraid of hard work, but on my present course, I am at risk of losing my balance. When the monster begins to control my life, I know I need to go back to basics. The saying Keep it Simple rings true for me.

In my attempt to simplify my life and manage the monster, I’ll be cutting my blogging down to Fridays on my website and Tuesdays on the writingsecretsof7scribes blog site—for now—no more I’m still learning, still tweaking my job description and trying to establish what works for me and what doesn’t. Expect changes for awhile until I master my new career path and become efficient with my process. One of the benefits of indie-publishing is that I am the boss and nothing is written in stone. Flexibility was one of the pros on my pros and cons list of why I chose this route.

Blogging, for me, is about connecting to my readers—people who will read my books and love my characters enough to want to follow me to the next book. From a business standpoint, my goal for blogging is to focus on building my Brand and garnering attention for my books. To best serve both of these functions, my posts will be related to some aspect of my writing. Whether I blog about craft, about my characters, my journey, or something related to my books, I’ll try to do what a blog should do—entertain, inform, or instruct, while gaining attention of readers interested in what I’m doing. In my opinion, staying focused and consistent is really the way to gather an audience.

So if you’ve enjoyed Fitness Fridays, go to my website and check out my Health Corner. For writing secrets, follow my writingsecretsof7scribes posts on Tuesdays, and subscribe to my website to receive e-mails about updates to my site.

In your opinion, how much is too much?
Happy reading, and blessings to the blogosphere!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Stay Strong, Stay Fit

As part of Fitness Friday, I thought I'd talk about what it takes to stay strong. As a personal trainer, I know the benefits of keeping my body and mind in optimum condition. I'm not perfect by any means, but when I'm consistent with exercise, I'm a better writer, and a happier person. So here's how it works.

Resistance Training
To build strong bones and muscles, you should do strength training on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym three times a week or lift weights. You can get all the benefits of strengthening your body by using your own weight as resistance. Plank work, stabilization exercises with a physioball, and your typical lunge and squat routine will tone your muscles and make you feel strong and fit.

If you aren’t into aerobics and don’t enjoy sweating to the oldies, maybe you should try something more functional. Find an activity you enjoy and kick it up a notch. Walk briskly, bike for an hour a few times a week or join a water aerobics class or swim program. Cardiovascular conditioning requires getting your heart rate up and keeping it up for at least a half hour 3-5 days a week. So get moving but do something you enjoy so you’ll stick with it.

Functional Strength
Resistance training and aerobic conditioning are great, but don’t forget about balance and agility. I’d rather be able to make it up three flights of stairs with my groceries than bench press a car. That means, I need to practice good body mechanics, balancing exercises and agility drills. Jumping rope, taking a Zumba class, or learning Tai Chi can be great for improving your functional strength, so let’s put the ‘fun’ back in functional and try something new.

What are you doing to stay strong?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

WHY I'm passionate about writing YA romance

So here we are again to answer the Wednesday Why? Why I chose to write YA romance.

When I began this process about five years ago, I knew I wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write. All I knew was that romance novels comprised 55% of the book market and romance was something I knew about. At first, I was a little schizophrenic about genre hopping. I’d have an idea for a story and just go with it, pantsing my way through and gradually amassing two full length paranormal romances, two romantic suspense novels and a story that fell into genre no-man’s-land but seemed to have a YA voice—or so I was told.

I entered that manuscript into several writing contests and took third place in one and second place in another. After many submissions to agents and editors and just as many rejections, I thought a lot about that story—SAVAGE CINDERELLA. I wondered what about it worked and what didn’t.

Critique partners and contest judges liked my writing but noticed that my third person narrative took me out of the character’s deep POV and there was too much telling and not enough showing. If you are a writer, you have probably heard these comments as well. So rather than letting discouragement keep me from forging on, I took some on-line workshops and decided to study, rather than just read, other people’s writing.

I spent a lot of time reading in different genres trying to decide what I loved about each. Of course, I loved it all, but once I started reading YA books I was hooked. Go figure. Maybe it was because my own teen years were filled with drama and angst of epic proportions, and I could identify with what these kids were going through.

I thought HUNGER GAMES was brilliant, I inhaled the TWILIGHT series, and everything Sarah Dessen has written, I’ve enjoyed immensely. So is it dystopian, paranormal, or contemporary YA that floats my boat? I’m convinced I could write all of it, because really, it’s the characters that make the story, and I love writing about teens in any setting. Their emotions are so strong and immediate, and it’s fun to see their evolution from the beginning to the end of their stories. A lot happens and changes in a year when you’re sixteen or seventeen. I realized that I’m especially drawn to characters enmeshed in family drama. Clearly, I can relate.

I finally had an idea for a YA story and once I began writing in first person, my character came to life. It was like re-writing history or creating an alternate reality for my teen self. Although there is some part of my real life and personal experience written into each of my main characters, they are definitely not me. They are more like best friends who share their stories with me and want me to tell the world about them. How cool is it that I get to dish juicy gossip about ‘friends’ and they don’t mind a bit. In fact, they insist that I write every detail about their sordid problems and that I get it right.

In the end, I guess I’m passionate about writing YA romance because there is a hopefulness that shines through. Those firsts—dates, kisses, break-ups and make-ups—all of those milestones that change us forever are filled with possibility and emotion. For me,possibility and emotion is why I read and also why I write.

So tell me, what are you passionate about, and what inspires you to do it?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Remembering Dad

My Dad, aka Earl the Pearl, fought in WWll. He often told stories about peeling thousands of potatoes, hiking for miles with a fifty pound pack, and camping out and sleeping in mud. He shared the places he traveled, his favorite being Australia--Madagascar and New Guinea--not so much. What he didn't share were the memories that woke him screaming in the night for the next fifty years. He never spoke about the horrors of war.

Post traumatic stress disorder wasn't diagnosed back then, and men and women who suffered from it, suffered in silence for fear of seeming weak or cowardly. I like to think we have evolved enough to better understand and treat this affliction for what it is--a psycho-emotional wound that requires treatment as surely as any physical injury. Back in my Dad's day, survivors were considered lucky to come home in one piece. They were told the "shell shock" would wear off. I know this to be untrue.

Growing up, I never understood my dad's emotional distance, why he felt the need to lock doors and windows at night, or why he nearly jumped out of his skin if you caught him off guard. Why he couldn't sit with his back to the door at restaurants and why he always had a far off look in his eyes. People don't realize the impact on the families of those suffering from PTSD. As a child and well into young adulthood, my relationship with my dad was lacking at best and his emotional absence was devastating on many levels. I wish I knew then what I know now.

After doing much research for HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, I finally understand that It's the wounds you can't see that take the longest to heal.

My special thanks to our troops and to all who have served. May we honor and respect them enough to take the shame out of seeking treatment for all of their wounds--and not expect them to just feel lucky to have survived. And thanks to my dad,who for all his short comings taught me about Patriotism, honor, and the value of hard work. Lessons I carry with me daily. Thanks for doing your best Dad.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Agricultural Athlete?

Welcome to Fit-Fri, where I'll be offering my insights into how you can get and stay fit. This Friday I'd like to talk about us crazy weekend warriors who dive into spring like we're starved for getting our hands in the dirt and our faces into the sunshine. I'm talking gardening, of course. After such a long winter, it feels amazing to have 80 degree days where we can plant flowers and vegetables without fear of a late frost. Even up here in the Berkshires it's said to be safe for planting. I prefer to wait until the first week in June, myself. I've lost too many tomato plants by putting them in too early, but I digress.

Before you get caught up in your weeding and mulching, make sure you stretch. That's right, I said stretch. With the constant forward bending, pulling, pushing,and  twisting motions we do in the garden, we need to treat this like it's an athletic event. Especially if you've been sedentary throughout the winter.

 Stretch your hamstrings, calves and quads (downward facing dog and dancer pose are good for this). Do some trunk twists and arm circles. Stretch your chest and shoulders by clasping your hands behind your back and pressing your knuckles down toward the ground. Bend your knees and arch your back a few times. Take frequent breaks and stretch again. Just like sports, stretching before, during and after will reduce your risk of injury and your soreness.

Use good body mechanics as much as you can. Bend your knees and squat rather than leaning forward for long periods of time. Sit or kneel, using a small stool or knee pad to keep you comfortable. Change positions frequently. Give yourself a time limit, so you don't get stuck in one position or spend eight hours in the garden in one day. Moderation is key. Just like with other forms of exercise, build up slowly until your body becomes conditioned again.

Make sure you hydrate. It will keep you from feeling drained at the end of the day. Drink plenty of water and if you sweat a lot, replace your electrolytes by eating a banana or drinking grapefruit juice or gator-ade. Something with potassium and sodium will do. Sugary and caffienated beverages can dehydrate you further.

Don't forget sunblock, a wide brimmed hat, and gloves. Hazards of the sport can include overexposure to the sun and critter bites. I've heard the ticks are really bad this year, and with all the rain, the mosquitos are out in full force as well. There are some really great natural bug repellents. I think the most effective products are the ones that have Neem. I've bought this at both EMS and at the Whole Foods Store. It's made from plant oils and is non-toxic to humans and animals.

Now that you have all the scoop on staying fit and healthy while you transition from the winter duldrums to summertime fun, I 'll expect an invite to a barbeque or two so I can see those fabulous gardens. Don't forget to take pictures of your masterpiece, and feel free to email me your shots. I'll post them over the summer. At the end of summer, I'll have a vote on the best pic and will send a signed copy of my book, HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, to the winner.

 Most importantly, enjoy every moment of soaking in the fresh air, sunshine and time to reconnect with the earth. You'll find you feel more grounded, your creativity will soar, and you'll sleep like a baby.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday Why's? This week, 'Why I write.'

When I was little, even before kindergarten, my grandfather taught me to read and write. We played games mostly, since he lived with us and babysat me while my parents both worked. We would spend hours playing spit and rummy and go-fish, to the point I could add and subtract way ahead of my classmates once I went to school. I could also tell a good story.

Grampa used to tell tall tales and he would sit me on his lap and help me write them down. He would make up part of the story and then ask me what happens next? When we were done, he always smiled--something that was rare for him. I have wonderful memories of my grandfather, although I hear he was a son-of-a-gun (I'll keep it PG), to his own kids and even to my older siblings. Whether he was trying to make up for all his ill deeds or was just partial to me and my sunny, unflappable disposition, I'll never know. What I do know is that he planted a seed. A powerful passion for writing, telling stories and crafting a good tale.

I continued to write after he died when I was ten. Keeping journals and diaries on and off for many years, writng poetry and short stories, never considering publication. Until I went to a financial seminar where Harv Ecker, motivational speaker and finance wizard, talked about creating passive streams of income. When he suggested that writing a book was a way to make money, (you write the book and then collect the royalties), I thought,  I'm a decent writer. How hard can it be?

OMG! Six years and seven manuscripts later, I still haven't made a dime. Yet I keep learning, growing and writing. Some days I think I must have been crazy to embark on this journey. At first, I started looking at what people read (55% of the book market being romance) and thought, I know about that. I could write one of those. Again, I asked myself, How hard can it be? OMG! Harv is probably having himself a good laugh right about now.

 With indy-publishing my first book in September, I am taking on the new role of publisher and author, as well as director of marketing and promotions. I haven't even stopped to count how many hats I'm wearing at once. But amidst all of this chaos and craziness, I go back to the reason why I write.

 I love to tell a good story, and I love making people smile. So what about you? WHY do you write? Or quilt, or play sports? What inspired you to do what you are passionate about?

Friday, May 20, 2011

FITNESS FRIDAY--Balance Grasshoppers

After growing up in a chaotic house with seven kids and three adults, (that's ten people, one bathroom, eighteen hundred square foot house kind of chaos), I realized the only way to survive in life was to find some sort of balancing point. Thanks to that epiphany, (and more than a few years of counceling and support groups), I somehow found my way from figure skating to martial arts, and then yoga. All of these practices have taught me about balance--the yin and yeng of life.

 I live by the motto 'BE WILLING TO DO WHAT'S HARD, AND LIFE WILL BE EASY. IF YOU DO WHAT'S EASY, LIFE WILL BE HARD.' (I think Harv Ecker said that one)I know how challenging it is to take care of ourselves. We are high maintenance and for most of us, life is a tightrope walk--always struggling to stay on some center line and not fall too far off to one side or the other. I would like to share with you what I know about finding balance. For now, let's talk basics.

1) HYDRATE-start your day with a galss of water. It's amazing how much fluid we lose in our sleep, simply from the act of breathing. Drink water often throughout the day. My rule is take your weight, divide by three and that's how many ounces you need to drink a day to stay sufficiently hydrated. ex.: 150 pound woman should drink 50 ounces of water a day. Fill a water bottle in the morning and keep it with you.
2) BREATHE-Take ten deep breaths in and out through your nose in the shower every morning and every night when you get into bed. You will sleep better, have more energy, be more relaxed and remain more centered throughout the day.
3)  TAKE CARE OF YOU FIRST-Mom used to tell me to 'mind your own business'. Being the youngest, I was quite the pest--I think precocious is the word. I couldn't help that there was always something exciting happening with that many people around all the time. But she was right. I figured out that I couldn't fix, change or otherwise control what other people did and that I was only responsible for my own personal well-being. Some people might construe this as being selfish. I call it self-preservation and self-caring. This lesson has helped me to LIVE AND LET LIVE. Ironically, when I do take care of me first, I am so much better able to take care of others. And knowing I am not responsible for anyone else's happiness takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of me to be a people pleaser. I find balance in knowing how to DETACH WITH LOVE.
4) TAKE JOY IN SIMPLE PLEASURES-A walk on the beach, butterflies in the garden, sunshine on your face, a beautiful melody, a rainbow after a storm, a waterfall in the woods, the taste of strawberries and whipped cream, babies and get the picture. There is so much beauty amid the chaos and darkness of life. Don't take anything beautiful or meaningful for granted.

Your yoga pose for the day is TREE POSE.
Stand with your feet together, shoulders down and back. Draw your belly button into your spine and lift up through the top of your head. Now shift your weight over to your left foot and turn your right knee out to the side so that your weight is through the ball of the foot, your toes are on the floor, and the right heel rests just above your left ankle. Take a breath in, place your hands together over your heart space in prayer position (or hold on to something sturdy if you have poor balance). Exhale, lift your foot so the sole of the right foot rests on the inner calf of the left leg. Lift up tall, balance, and breathe. Keep your eyes on a focal point. Hold for at least three to five breaths. Repeat on other side.

Balance is a blessing. It just takes practice.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fitness Friday--Yoga for Writers, Students and Computer Geeks.

I know I'm a day late, but I do plan to post on Fridays with some health and fitness tips for my friends and readers. Since my day job is as a yoga teacher and massage therapist, I thought I would share with you the benefits of yoga and a few key poses that are great for writers, readers, students, and computer geeks. As always, if you have an injury or health concerns about physical activity, consult your doctor before doing yoga or any other type of exercise plan. This first part, anyone can do, so take a deep breath in and out through your nose, lengthen your spine, and relax your shoulders away from your ears. Connect your feet to the floor and guess what? You are already doing yoga. Yoga is about awareness. Connecting your mind, body and breath.

Yoga is a 5000 year old practice that has been a path to enlightenment and good health to millions of people all over the world. And no, you don't have to be able to wrap your feet around your head to do it. As a matter of fact, even if you can, I don't recommend it. I'm not a fan of extreme yoga postures. Of course, each individual must find their own 'edge'--that place where you feel a stretch, are comfortably challenged and where you can maintain a steady breath. Yoga should not be painful! The people who are being injured at alarming rates are not practicing responsibly, or are not getting good instruction. One of the main philosophies of yoga is 'ahimsa' which means non-violence--towards others, but also towards yourself. Be kind to your body and it will be kind to you.

Anyone who spends time sitting at a computer or hunched over a desk all day NEEDS to stretch. So stand up, press your heels into the floor, tighten your thighs (without locking your knees), and tuck your belly button in toward your spine. Now take a breath in through your nose, raise your hands over head and lower your shoulders down and back, opening your heart space (chest). Turn your palms inward as if holding a big beach ball overhead and breathe in and out a few times, feeling the energy in your hands and legs. Release your hands slowly to your sides and relax. You just did Mountain pose (Tadasana).

Another good posture is yoga mudra. In standing again, clasp your hands behind your back, squeeze your shoulder baldes together and open your heart space. Now slowly bend forward, keeping your knees bent and raising your hands behind you away from your hips. Listen to your body and respect your limitations. If your shoulders and chest are super tight, you may not be able to go far, but with consistent stretching over time , your flexibility will increase. If this is difficult for you, you can use a belt or towel between your hands to make it easier. Hold this posture for a few breaths and come back up slowly.

There are so many wonderful postures that energize the body and mind, improve posture, increase the immune system, and reduce stress, I've decided to offer a couple of easy poses each week. This will be interspersed with other fitness and health tips that I think you will find are enjoyable and that improve the quality of your life. So tell me, have you ever taken a yoga class? If so, what kind? Do you have a favorite posture? Mine, if I had to pick one, is cow's face posture. Don't ask me to describe it. It would take too many words. If you haven't taken a yoga class, why not?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Taking the plunge!

Well, you've all read it here first. I'm taking the indy-publishing plunge! My pros and cons list was so heavily weighted toward the self-publishing side, I thought, why didn't I do this before?

 Terror, mainly. Self-promotion is my least favorite part of trying to get published, but it is a necessary component to the process whether I am traditionally published or whether I join the growing numbers of newbie and previously published writers who are taking control of their careers. No longer taken as a sign that we're not good enough to get a 'real' contract, many writers are finding great success in the world of self-publishing. I think I can be one of those people. The bottom line for me is that I love to write and I want to share my work with others. Getting paid for it would be a bonus.

The main comment I get in rejection letters is that my stories don't 'fit the market'. Publishers have very specific types of stories they are looking for and anything that falls outside of that model will probably never be picked up. I've done well in contests and I'm now capable of producing a decent book in about 3-5 months. I have six books in the hopper so to speak, so if I publish them a few months apart, my back list should grow pretty steadily from there.

I've spent the last few months researching and pondering and I feel like this is the best fit for me. I'm already self-employed and have a good head for business. I have a husband who is incredibly tech savvy and has agreed to help with formatting and designing professional book covers. I have a person available for proof-reading and editing, and my step-son who produces for TV, is willing to create book trailers for me. So now I have a staff! Better yet, they are all willing to work for food and massages.

If I can pull it all together my first release date will be September. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What do teens know about romance, and what's the difference between Adult and YA?

The obvious difference between Adult and Teen romance novels is the level of graphic sexuality--although the steaminess level of YA books has gone up considerably. Teen readers are curious. They want to know what real relationships are and what to expect when they find one. I know when I was a teenager, I thought a lot about boys, kissing, etc. I was consumed with fantasizing about that hunky hockey player or what it might be like to kiss that cute kid collecting movie tickets at the local theatre. Like most girls, I obsessed on romance--though I didn't know the first thing about what romance was outside of Happily Ever After fairy tales.

Needless to say, I had unrealistic expectations and no frame of reference based on the  rocky relationships I viewed all around me. It didn't seem to me like couples were very happy. My parents, after seven children, barely spoke to each other about anything other than dinner, money, or who's turn it was to clean the toilet. I was exposed to the dating rituals of four older sisters, but this wasn't all that helpful either since I was sent to my room every time someone started smooching. So like most young women, I had to figure it out on my own, and I have to say--it was disasterous.

I won't get into the gorey details, but I had many bad experiences, a severely broken heart, and still no idea what a happy relationship involved. It took me twenty years or so, but I finally figured it out, got lucky with the right guy, and discovered what romance is all about--RESPECT, TRUST, AND CONSIDERATION. Oh, and let me tell you now, that the Happily Ever After is an illusive little bugger, because nothing is perfect and if that is what you are expecting, you will eventually be disappointed.

I prefer to believe in Hopefully Ever After. This is how all of my stories end--with a positive outlook on life and the promise of a hopeful future. This is the best we can expect from any romance.

What do you think Romance is?

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Learning Curve

As a lifelong student of new and exciting ventures, I feel blessed to have a zest for learning and life. Whether it's taking continuing education courses for my Massage Therapy or personal training business, or on-line writing workshops and writing conferences where I can hone my skills as a fiction writer, I've come to the conclusion that I am hooked on the learning curve.

We all learn in different ways and at our own pace. I'm clearly enamoured with the process and all that goes with it. Sometimes there is frustration--will I ever be able to write a synopsis without gritting my teeth and yanking out my hair? I hope so. (I'm taking a workshop this month to teach me how to do just that.) Other times, it seems like I'll never quite grasp a new concept (show,don't tell--really?) or be able to keep up with technology. But then I breathe and relax and take pleasure in the little successes. Like getting my web site going or starting this blog (or learning how to download music to my new HTC Thunderbolt.)

Thanks to my parents, I have a great work ethic. And thanks to the school of hard knocks, I've learned to consider consequences. These lessons have served me better in some ways than any amount of education ever could, but when applied to learning a new skill or mastering a passionate pursuit, self-discipline and practice make the journey a series of experiences that lead to ultimate success. Along the way, I learn about myself and grow stronger, hopefully wiser, and get the opportunity to experience as much of life as I can fit into this one existence.

What have you learned lately that has enhanced your life experience or helped you to grow?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The art of writing fight scenes

Most of my stories are pretty tame and don't require me to write much in the way of fight scenes, although HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES has a a couple of brief scuffles I had fun with. I was recently asked to speak at an RWA meeting for the CT chapter. They asked me to discuss 'realistic fight scenes' because of my back ground in martial arts. Having attained the rank of Black Belt in the art of Shaolin Kempo Karate, I suppose one could assume I know a thing or two about fighting.

Since I couldn't teach everyone about martial arts techniques in the brief time I had to present, I decided to give tips on the right questions to ask.

1) Who is your hero/heroine fighting?
Make your villain a formiddable foe. Give him/her a special talent, weapon, or power that will give them an edge over your main character. We love to see our H/H as an underdog who has to pull out all the stops to overcome the villain. It must appear that your H/H cannot win against such a powerful foe. Then when he/she comes back from the edge, we can really cheer them on.

2) Why is your H/H in this fight?
What is at stake? Are they fighting to save the world, a loved one, each other? Are they fighting for a principle or is it life and death? This will determine the intensity of the fight. Give them big stakes! The bigger the stakes, the more impact your scene will have.

3) Where did they learn to fight? What kind of training do they have?
Military guys--Marines, Rangers, Navy Seals--they are trained to kill or be killed. They will not hesitate to take a life if theirs is threatened. They fight ruthlessly with precision, control and purpose. They think nothing of breaking bones, dislocating joints or slitting a throat if it serves the mission and saves the life of an innocent. They may have a moral quandary about it later, but in the moment, they are killing machines.
Cops, however, are taught to 'protect and serve.' They will use a weapon--gun, taser, nightstick--rather than engaging in hand-to-hand combat, although they are quite capable. They will use joint locks and seize and control maneuvers to capture their man. They are ethically and morally bound to saving lives, and will kill only when absolutely necessary.
Martial artists and street fighters will be adept with weapons--sword, stick, nunchucks, etc. Match your weapon with your your character. A woman will not tend to use a sword--which would be heavy. She will learn to use a staff or sticks. She might learn to use a knife, and will have to be seriously trained to kill without hestation--think Ziva David from NCIS

4) This leads me to the difference in the way men and women fight differently.
Women will tend to defend rather than attack. They will try to keep their opponent at a distance, knowing that they are at a size and strength disadvantage in most cases. Women will rely on their wiles, outsmarting or out thinking their enemy. They will throw objects to fend off an attacker, are more likely to kick or bludgeon rather than use their hands. They will use whatever is at hand, including nails and teeth! Meowww!

Men are more agressive and direct. They are ruled by their testosterone, pride and a need to conquer their enemy. They will attack and have no qualms about the consequences of their actions. Even at their own peril. We love them for their courage and applaud their recklessness because it shows that they are willing to sacrifice for what is right.

Lastly, make your fight scenes real by employing the five senses. Feel the pain, smell the sweat and fear, taste the blood, see the fog that comes over your eyes when you are punched so hard you hear bells and see stars. Give enough detail to paint a picture, but try not to bog down the action by including too much. Keep sentences short and crisp. Tighten your prose. Use vivid language and active voice, word choices that reflect the tone of the scene, and verbs that bring your prose to life.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hey Gang

Okay, so I'm a writer. I've been writing forever, but just started crafting Young Adult fiction this past year or so. I discovered that writing in first person was where my strongest voice came through and I had stories pouring out onto the page once I got going.

When I started writing fiction about five years ago, I realized pretty quickly that I had a lot to learn about the writing craft and the world of publishing, so I joined some writers groups and started the long process of working toward publication. Although I'm as yet unpublished, I feel like I'm really close. It's just a matter of getting the right story in front of the right person at the right time. Sounds simple enough, right? I figure I have time and perseverance on my side. I also have some great stories to tell.

My own youth is filled with amazing tales of teenage angst, drama and more than a few narrow escapes with destruction and mayhem. Stay tuned for upcoming real life stories that will curl your hair and leave you wondering how I ever made it to a happy, healthy, adulthood.