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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back: Reflections on 2013

Evening Clouds, Dec. 2013
Most years, I do New Year's Resolutions. This New Year's Eve, I'm not making any. Though I think they're a great idea, I think that for me, going into 2014 would be best spent reflecting on some of the lessons I've learned (and re-learned) in 2013.

Lesson #1: If you've purged yourself of any sort of harmful habit (certain relationships, diet, lifestyle, etc.) and you pick it back up again, expect the results to be the same and sometimes worse this time, and the next, and the next.

Lesson #2: Some people can drink responsibly. Others can't. Either way, it's something that shouldn't be taken lightly. Alcohol is a drug that if mishandled, can ruin lives.

Lesson #3: Being able to balance the way I spend my time is a must. Making memories with my family and friends is more important to me than making money. Along with that, having quiet personal time balanced with social time is important.


I'm going back to grad school in January, and my husband is starting a new job. 2014 will be a great start for both of us. I also turned 30 in 2013, and he'll be turning 30 in 2014. We're entering a new decade of life together. I think you learn things and make resolutions as you go along, not necessarily at the end of one year or the beginning of another. My goal for the rest of my life is to constantly learn and grow as a person and let myself change with the ebb and flow of the tides.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Clouds

I took this picture Thursday evening. The sky was beautiful with its fluffy and wispy clouds reflecting the colors of the sunset.



Monday, December 9, 2013

Snapshot From "Icemageddon"

Twitter has playfully nicknamed the winter storm that blew through on Friday "Icemageddon." Especially in Texas, we don't get nice fluffy snow; we get ICE, which pretty much shuts down the state. Close to 300,000 people lost electricity in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex (me included!), making for a very cold, rather stressful weekend. But I did take this neat little picture up at work yesterday, which shows the more artistic side of this storm I'm talking about.



Pretty neat, huh?


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Why Is Reading Still Important in the Modern-day Technological Culture? (Guest blogpost by author Joshua J. Johnson)

Today I'm hosting author Joshua J. Johnson as a special guest blogger, and he's going to discuss why he thinks reading is still important in our fast-paced, technological culture. Check out his thoughts!

***

Today I’m here to talk about a subject that, as soon as I was invited to talk about, I knew it was a topic that I wanted to discuss: why reading is still important even in a technological culture.

The world, technologically, has advanced so much in the last ten, fifteen years, what with the Internet getting bigger,more children having laptops,more television apparently being watched, and so on. During all of this, many a times has the question of ‘But how will the publishing industry survive?’ has been asked.

However, we’ve seen that recently people are reading more and more than they have ever done. Sure, people seem to be leading busier lives, with more commitments and more hectic schedules, and finding the time to read can be a difficult thing to do— but we’ve come up with more ways to be able to read the books that we love. For example, you can read books on e-readers: the Kindle and the Kobo and so on gave us the ability to take hundreds of books along with us on planes, on holidays, on trains, whilst commuting— wherever you are. You can read on your mobile phone, on your laptop, on your iPad, and more.

Not only has reading on the go become more and more popular due to it being easier to do, but it’s allowed more people to buy and read more books. E-books, often, are priced less than a cup of coffee— something that many people buy everyday. Authors can now be connected with on the Internet, on Facebook and Twitter, sharing pictures on Instagram, blogging about their lives on their sites, doing videos on YouTube, and so on and so on. Technology has improved their relationship between the author and the reader— something that we didn’t have many years ago.

But this doesn’t answer the question of why reading is still important in the technological culture. Sure, we have more methods for connecting and reading and talking about books and authors and writing and reading, but that doesn’t mean it’s important. Just because something may seem easier in the modern day, doesn’t make it more important.

And yet reading is important. Parents encourage children to read, teachers do, schools do, libraries do, events do, book fairs do, the Internet does, and even more. Reading has become a popular thing, and— in all honesty— I do think Harry Potter did bring this back. Sure enough, children read, but Harry Potter was a large boom: it introduced so many children to reading, and they grew up with the books. It was the thing that everybody was doing, they were the books that everybody was reading. Eventually, these readers grew up, but they had grown up surrounded by this love of reading, and as soon as the last book was released, they went onto discover new books and grow in their love of reading.

Their siblings followed suit, their friends borrowed their books, reading became more popular. Sites like Goodreads were created— a place where people can connect and get together and discuss books. Authors became more interactive. Fan-sites made books more popular.

Technology enabled this, and it will continue it. Even film adaptations of books— think CITY OF BONES, DIVERGENT, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, etc.— are becoming increasingly popular, introducing yet more people to reading books.

No matter how far technology advances, reading will still be important, because of all of the above. Instead of books dwindling due to technology, technology will instead help to enhance the experience of the reader. It’s human nature that people want to tell stories and read stories and share stories, and I don’t think it’ll die out. At least, I really hope it doesn’t.

Despite the fact that libraries and bookshops have been seen closing down recently— which is very sad— it’s due to the fact that people are getting their books by other methods, not because people are choosing not to read.

To round off, reading is still important, even if this technological culture, and I think it is this technological culture that will help the book industry to grow, and to continue opening up more new experiences for both the author and the reader.

Thank you very much for having me, and I hope you continue loving books just as much as I love reading them and writing them.

Thank you.
***

Author Bio:

Joshua J. Johnson is an author who lives on the East Coast of England. He began writing books after he learned that they don't just randomly appear on the shelf, but rather people actually sit down and write them. When he isn't writing his next novel, he enjoys reading, watching How To Train Your Dragon, and drinking milkshakes. He is also the author of BONES ON THE SURFACE and SOULLESS, as well as the upcoming YA novels THE SWEET LIFE, and THEIR TIME TO GO. You can find out more about him at joshuajstories.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter @JoshuaJAuthor.

SOULLESS Blurb:

Mia and Roxanne have always been the best of friends, supported each other through everything, and always been happy for one another... but that's when things were simple. Fast forward to their teenage years, and life is now full of complications.. but only for Mia. Everything seems to happen to Mia, whereas Roxanne seems to have quite the sweet life-- literally. She has the family, her bakery, and the love of her life-- everything that Roxanne wants. But one day something terrible happens, and Ryan-- her boyfriend-- is nowhere to be seen, and people go missing and bodies are found. Creatures appear in your bathroom, down your streets, and inside your bakery, and along with them they bring blood, action, and hunger-- a hunger for souls. Written from different points of view, SOULLESS will raise questions about each character and humanity as a whole, whilst being packed with action, guns, cakes, blood, kisses, and romance. Because the question is: Who is the villain after all? Maybe it just isn't who you think it is... From the author of BONES ON THE SURFACE, and the much-anticipated THE SWEET LIFE and THEIR TIME TO GO, comes a story like no other...


image.jpeg   Buy SOULLESS -->here<--.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Beauty of Transition

Front yard tree
Autumn is such a colorful time. It's one of my favorite times of year. It's ironic to think that the leaves take on such vibrant hues because they're at a time of death, a time of transition...

The transition of the leaves is a good reminder for us to stay strong during transitions in our own life. When we experience death, whether literal or figurative, it can feel cataclysmic. But these times are also beautiful times because our souls have the opportunity to be like the phoenix, who rises from the flames, even more beautiful than before.

It's hard, but transition can be beautiful. Instead of fighting it, maybe we should embrace it peacefully like the autumn leaves...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New Author Interview

Please check out my newest author interview over at Jon Herrera's blog -->here<--. He asks me some questions about The Divided Trilogy, as well as what advice I have for other writers and what I'm working on these days.

Hope you're all having a good week!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Don't Fear Silence (or A Realization that People May Talk Too Much)

This weekend, I've come down with an incredibly annoying case of laryngitis. I've been battling a cold all week, and I didn't take enough care of myself when I should have. (I'm am also dealing with some Life Stress, such as my husband losing his good job with the health insurance...not knowing yet if I got into grad school...etc.).

So long story short, I can't talk. I've realized I've taken many things for granted when I had my voice. Simple things like answering someone's question, being able to pick up the phone, grabbing the attention of my hyper dachshund when he's chasing his tail--these are all things I now cannot do. And it's frustrating.

I don't know how long this is going to last. But in my enforced silence, I started thinking about some of the positive benefits of not being able to talk. Let me start off by saying...

I think people talk too much anyway.

Some personal info: over the past couple of months, I've been trying really hard not to speak negatively about anyone just for the sake of conversation/entertainment. (Speaking to a confidant about a personal issue is different.) What I'm referring to are those moments when you're with a friend or your significant other and a small silence ensues, so you panic and immediately think you have to fill it. So you come up with the latest gossip, and you fill that silence with something that's ultimately petty and useless and sometimes even poisonous.

Have you ever noticed how it's the people with the least amount of maturity that can't seem to handle being quiet?

If you think about it, there really isn't a whole lot to talk about on a day to day basis. Sure, there are those times when you have more to say, like when you visit with a friend you haven't talked to in a while, and you catch them up on things going on in your life. It's fine to discuss movies and books and talk about the plans you have for the week, you know, positive, harmless things. It's also cool to have discussions about personal philosophy and life observations. Just don't venture into pointless, negative topics that don't do anyone any good. It can turn into a really nasty habit that is hard to kick.

Another habit of people who talk too much is what I call "The Neverending Problem." These are generally personal problems, often fixable, but they continue to remain unfixed. For whatever reason, the person cannot or does not want to fix this problem. Despite that, the Neverending Problem continues to be talked about every day. OMG. There's nothing worse than replaying that same old "My life sucks, but I'm not doing anything about it" record over and over and over. If you're not going to have respect for yourself, then at least keep quiet about it, for heaven's sake.

Finally, and perhaps the worst trait of the incessant talker, is the problem with staying silent even when others are talking. These are the poor folks who interrupt any and all conversations they walk into, and they sometimes even manage to make that conversation about them. Good grief! That's taking the obsession with talking to a ridiculous degree.

All this silliness could be avoided if we learned how to keep our mouths closed. What's wrong with keeping some of your thoughts to yourselves? What's wrong with simply observing life, quietly, and letting there be peace instead of drama?

When I was a young girl, and even through high school, I was considered by many to be "too quiet." The popular girls would often quip, "You're so quiet, Carrie," like it was a crime. I talk more now than I used to, but I can sense myself slowly returning to my old quiet ways. I've developed a new respect for silence, and I'm not afraid of it.

Anyway, that's my thoughts for today.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dallas Arboretum Pumpkin World (Picture Post!)

To celebrate my 30th birthday this month, my friend Bethany was so sweet to take me to the Dallas Arboretum!


(Actually, there were three of us if you count B's unborn daughter!)


The Arboretum is doing a Fall/Pumpkin theme right now, which is quite the sight to see. It's really magical! Take a look:


Entrance Pumpkins


Pumpkin Path


Flowers and Pumpkins


Pumpkin Labels 


Very Orange Pumpkins


Pumpkin Vine


Jack O Lantern


D for Dallas


Pumpkin House


Pumpkin and Squash Circle


Rows of Pumpkins


Haunting Path


Intriguing Tree Circle


Pumpkin Love

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Celebrating 30 and 60 with the Concert of Concerts: Sarah Brightman!!

This month marks my mom's 60th birthday and my 30th birthday! So I thought it'd be a special treat for both of us to see one of our favorite musicians, Sarah Brightman, in concert this month because she was going to be doing a show right here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. I got some good tickets, and Mom came down to go to the concert with me and spend the night.

Here we are posing in front of my Halloween wreath (and Kaiser, of course, had to join):



Mom said, "Let's look at each other," for one of our poses, so we have a nice little shot here:




And I always like doing bunny ears, so here's my fave pose:




Now...onto the concert!!







While we were waiting, I could barely contain my excitement. Here's the view of the stage before the concert started:


A few fun facts about Sarah Brightman:

- She is the bestselling soprano of all time.
- She was the first Christine in Phantom of the Opera.
- She was married to Andrew Lloyd Webber for many years but is now divorced from him.
- Webber wrote the part of Christine just for Sarah Brightman and her lovely voice.
- In 2015 she will be the first person ever in the history of the world to perform a concert in outer space.


When the concert began, I totally lost my mind and had a "fan girl" moment. There she was! Mere yards away from me! This miracle of humanity whom I have adored for over a decade! SARAH! Singing! LIVE! How could anyone not be just crazy about her???



The acoustics of the place were perfect. Her band was spot-on. And the backdrops were mesmerizing. I thought I was in a dream!








When the organ music from "Phantom of the Opera" started up, I and about half of the audience nearly came up out of our chairs, freaking out. Even though she's 53 years old, she still (as Mom so eloquently put it) "hit notes that made your teeth rattle"! The audience totally erupted in cheers, whistles, and applause when she landed that final note in "Phantom." Woooooow!




I had no idea I could get that many goosebumps! **SIGH**




So, needless to go on about it, it was an experience of a lifetime. I'll close with a video of Sarah singing live from a previous concert so you can see exactly what I mean when I say her voice is AWESOME - make sure you wait until that note at the very end. Have a great week, everyone!



Thursday, October 10, 2013

John Lennon's Birthday

It's John Lennon's birthday. Happy birthday, John, wherever you are now! You were--ARE--truly an amazing soul.

I had the privilege of watching a documentary called LENNONNYC on PBS not too long ago. It was really, really cool, and if you want to learn more about John and who he was post-Beatles in his later years living in the US, then definitely check it out.

I'll close with some Lennon quotes for you to chew on as we remember this remarkable man:

"Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted."

"Love is a flower you've got to let grow."

"The more I see the less I know for sure."

"If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left in the Sixties, that's his problem. Love and peace are eternal."



Monday, October 7, 2013

C.J.'s Top 10 Movies Countdown (#1)

I thought it'd be fun to share my top 10 favorite movies with you. These are the shows that I have to watch at least once a year or I'd go into withdrawal. So in no particular order, here is #1:







 If you missed #2, here it is.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cousin Bobby's Wedding: Windows Phone Pics

This weekend was a wonderful reminder of what needs to be priority in my life: the people I love. I almost didn't go to this wedding because I was worried it would be too difficult to get away from the ever-stressful Rat Race. But I'm sooo glad I went... And apparently so was everyone else!

It was a fantastic time, getting to see this particular branch of my family (a spunky, stubborn, hilarious group, this one). It was healing to be around so many people who know me and love me, and whom I'm equally crazy about. And it was deeply fulfilling to my heart to get to share this monumental weekend with my cousin who's always been very special to me.

My dad and I took a few pictures with my new Windows phone, so I'll share those with you now:


Me with cousins Bobby and Teresa 


Bobby's parents, Aunt Annie and Uncle Ronnie


Me and Aunt Sue


Diana and Bobby, Bride and Groom 


A View from the Wisteria Arbor, where the ceremony was held in the San Antonio Botanical Garden










Monday, September 23, 2013

Another Reason Why Adoption Rocks

I just posted this pic on Twitter, but I'll share it here, too. Here I am with my little sister Natalie.





My mother and step-dad adopted her and her younger sister and her older brother a few years back, and I love them all to pieces. Natalie may look sweet and innocent, but she is quite the no-nonsense diva and hilarious - two amazing qualities that make her sparkle as a person - and I'm selfishly hoping that one day she'll get into theatre like her big sis *me* did in high school and college. But whatever she does, she now knows she is loved and that she is part of a family.

I'm not so convinced I need to have my own children, as in giving birth to them. I do, however, hope that someday I can adopt some kids that are already out there wanting and needing a place to call home and a woman to call "Mom." I know it isn't in everyone's heart to adopt, but it sure does make an enormous difference to the young one or ones you're taking into your home. I wish more people would consider it.

Though it's not a central part of the story, there's a little girl in Wings of the Divided who gets taken out of a horrible situation and placed into a loving home. My passion for adoption has gone into my fiction. ;)

A number of my long-time friends were adopted. My brother Caleb, whom I grew up with, was adopted. Adoption's just part of my ongoing life! And it's something I'm proud to say I support.





Monday, September 16, 2013

How I See Math Word Problems

I'm studying to take the GRE in attempt to get into grad school. There is a LOT of math on this test, ladies and gentlemen. I am one of those people who, try as I may, have an exceedingly difficult time wrapping my  head around the majority of algebra, especially word problems. So I located this meme to have a laugh and to properly display just how my mind doesn't want to function when I'm trying so hard to get it right:




For heaven's sake, I'm a writer, not a mathematician! **SIGH**

Friday, September 13, 2013

C.J.'s Top 10 Movies Countdown (#2)

I thought it'd be fun to share my top 10 favorite movies with you. These are the shows that I have to watch at least once a year or I'd go into withdrawal. So in no particular order, here is #2:





If you missed #3, here it is.






Thursday, September 5, 2013

Giving Birth to Characters and Dreaming Details

So...I'm kind of excited. I've been mulling over this new story idea, letting it blossom in my mind for as long as it would. (Some stories wither and die, as they just aren't meant to be written.) But this one I think has a good chance of going all the way.

I conceived a couple of characters a few weeks ago, both 11-year-old boys, and gave them names. But last night I did the thing that "gave them birth," as I like to say: I filled out character charts for them. I rapidly wrote down their every last detail, from their eye color to their order or birth to their bad/quirky habits. For me, I can brainstorm all I want, but filling out the character charts is usually what gets the story ball really rolling.

Here's a glimpse of my two boys' info. I kept it a little blurry so you couldn't cheat and find out too much about them before it's time. ;) (Oh, and thanks, Kaiser, for the photo bomb.)




I'll tell you something interesting that happened after I filled out these two charts. I had a dream last night that one of my characters didn't have the blond hair like I'd given him, but instead, he had red hair. This morning I changed his hair to red on the chart because I'm a firm believer of listening to the subconscious, even for seemingly inconsequential details.

The same thing happened to me when I was writing Wings of the Divided. If you've read it, you'll be familiar with my character the dark angel Malynko. When I first created him on his own character chart, I gave him snowy white hair. Well, somewhere along the creation process of that story, I had a very vivid dream...

The apocalypse was upon us. Bombs were going off everywhere - bombs that angels were setting off. It was pure chaos. I was in a crumbling house, scrambling to gather my things and escape, when suddenly the doorbell rang. It was strange because the only thing left of the house at that point was the frame and the door. Terrified, I felt drawn to the door - I had to answer it. When I opened it, there stood Malynko. I was too petrified to look up into his eyes, so I was stuck staring at his chest and his mouth, which grinned in that evil Malynko way. He wore his red general's jacket, but instead of white hair, his was long and raven colored.

When I woke up, I promptly his hair from white to black in my notes.


*****

Add C.J.'s angel trilogy to your library. -->Shop here!<--


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New Nightly Practice: The 30 Minute "Reading Time"

So my husband and I have decided we would both benefit having "Reading Time" for 30 minutes every night. During Reading Time we turn off our PCs, laptops, and smart phones (or at least leave them in another room), and then we read a book or magazine or newspaper on the couch together. And our books during Reading Time can't be read on an electronic device.

The reason we don't read our books on a screen during Reading Time is to give our poor strained eyes a break. There are all sorts of health problems that hit your eyes when you stare at the computer/phone screen for too long. Click -->here<--for more info on that.

Kaiser really loves Reading Time because it gives him the opportunity to snuggle in between us and chew his bone while we read. He gets really upset when we're both on our computers. He starts spinning in circles and barking at his tail and gets all anxious. It dawned on me one day that he's doing all that spinning stuff because he feels ignored. With Reading Time, he feels more included.

Our Reading Time might also be called "Meditation Time." There's a big difference in brain activity when you get absorbed in a book as opposed to jumping from Tweet to Tweet, headline to headline, and update to update online. Read -->here<-- how reading is like meditation and can help us be stronger than those compulsive distractions.

What about you? Do you have a routine that helps yourself break away from all this technology that has slowly taken over our lives?


Monday, August 26, 2013

C.J.'s Top 10 Movies Countdown (#3)

I thought it'd be fun to share my top 10 favorite movies with you. These are the shows that I have to watch at least once a year or I'd go into withdrawal. So in no particular order, here is #3:






If you missed #4, here it is.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Question of the Month



As I grow older, I witness my relationships with people morphing. Old relationships shift with age, and new relationships begin. The cycle of life and death continues in an inner way, and I find myself wondering ...do people change? Or do they merely remove their masks and reveal who they truly are?


Friday, August 9, 2013

Five Fun Facts about SONG OF THE DIVIDED: THE DIVIDED BOOK 3

Just for fun, here are five behind-the-scenes/trivia facts about the third and final book in my Divided trilogy :) Enjoy!



1) I show my love of my favorite rock band, Led Zeppelin, in a couple of ways in this book. One of their songs inspired the name of a planet, and another song inspired a scene near the end of the novel.

2) Even though this book is the longest of the three in the Divided trilogy, it took me the least amount of time to write.

3) Among the many pieces of music that inspired me while I wrote this story, the Return of the King soundtrack is one that provided the most "aha!" moments while I brainstormed.

4) This book made me cry several times while I was writing it.

5) At the very end of the book, I was going to have Laphelle's fate set in stone. But after several years of growth in my own life, I changed it. I decided to give him a choice, as I have grown to realize that we are all a product of our choices.

*****

Add C.J.'s angel trilogy to your library. -->Shop here!<--


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

C.J.'s Top 10 Movies Countdown (#4)

I thought it'd be fun to share my top 10 favorite movies with you. These are the shows that I have to watch at least once a year or I'd go into withdrawal. So in no particular order, here is #4:


 


 If you missed #5, here it is.


*****

Add C.J.'s angel trilogy to your library. -->Shop here!<--

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Rolling into August 2013 (Random Life Update with Pictures!)

Hi, all, how goes it? It's hard to believe the summer is almost over - of course, for those of us who live in North Texas, the worst of the summer is upon us. I'm talking 100+ degree temperatures, days so hot and dry that the scenery goes all wiggly in the distance, yes. You step out of a swimming pool only to completely dry in one minute flat... I could go on and on. Needless to say, I'm ready for autumn! But endure August I must. Here's how I'm getting through the lengthy days.

So, I patted myself on the back earlier this year for whittling down my to-read pile to nothing, only keeping one book on the shelf at any given time so I wouldn't end up with more books than I could possibly read. Well, I'm back to a small-ish pile once again. Hard to stop yourself when you're visiting the bookstores and the days are really too hot to do anything but stay inside and read and/or watch movies! Here is my current pile:




For those of you interested in how my tillandsia "Jim Morrison" is doing, well...I'm sad to say that Jim passed away. (Maybe I shouldn't name my plants after rock stars who didn't make it to age 30. Hmm...) I did, however, purchase a few more, mostly of a different variety than Jim. Here's the bunch, so far nameless:




And here are a few prints that I recently got back from the frame shop. (Please ignore the flash on the glass.)






Finally, here's a little something I got on sale at Pier One this weekend. It's hanging above my bed. I was just having a conversation on Twitter with @GrimmReport about how all I need now is a sign right below it that says "Sleep," as well as one in my closet that says "Dress," etc. so I'll be all set if I ever get dementia.





What are you doing to entertain yourself during these long August days? If you're lucky, you're on vacation. Go ahead. Share. Let me live vicariously through you.


Friday, August 2, 2013

New Jen Naumann Cover Reveal!

Today I'm posting on behalf of my writer buddy Jen Naumann. She has a new YA Paranormal release coming out this month called Mind Static. Check out the spiffy cover and synopsis!





Although life has been pretty good to Keyanna Sanders, the day she turns eighteen she’s about to get everything she could ever wish for—a hot guy who’s really into her, a sporty car she’s always dreamed of owning, and the party of a lifetime that no one will forget any time soon. 

But before long, she’ll understand these wishes are more than a coincidence, and that they come at a steep price. Keyanna is more than just an average high school senior, her best friend is more than the innocent boy next door, and her sudden good fortune isn’t just by chance. When her estranged father suddenly re-enters her life, she’ll have to decide who to trust, and whether or not the man she loves has suddenly become the enemy.


Interested? Check out Jen's channels:

Website

Goodreads

Amazon

Twitter

Facebook



Have a great weekend, readers!