Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Look what is new & improved!

At last! Book 3 in the This & That Series is finished!



Like most of you know, I had all three books in the This & That Series spruced up...now they're all fresh and clean and ready to enjoy by readers like YOU!

Then & Now, a.k.a. Candace's story, is now ready for you to grab...for only $2.99.

CLICK HERE!

Have a great summer! I am.....because I'm in the good ol' USA until late July. God bless America!

xoxo
Brooke

Look what is new & improved!

At last! Book 3 in the This & That Series is finished!



Like most of you know, I had all three books in the This & That Series spruced up...now they're all fresh and clean and ready to enjoy by readers like YOU!

Then & Now, a.k.a. Candace's story, is now ready for you to grab...for only $2.99.

CLICK HERE!

Have a great summer! I am.....because I'm in the good ol' USA until late July. God bless America!

xoxo
Brooke

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Fresh and new!

My time spent editing The This & That Series this month has really paid off!




I've got fresh, clean, silly, funny, and revamped versions of book 1 (Baby & Bump) and book 2 (Apples & Oranges) available on Amazon and at Smashwords today.

Click here to grab your copies>>>>>>: Book 1 is 99 cents, and book 2 is only $1.99!

Book 3 (Then & Now) is in the works and coming soon!



Can't wait for you all to see what's new in Lexie, Candace and Marisol's world!

xoxo
Brooke

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Cyber Bullies

There was a time, not so long ago (actually more like 5 years ago) when I got caught up in a cyber-bullying situation that really, really rocked my world. For years I haven't spoken about it. I keep my thoughts and opinions about some of the social media nastiness I witness (often) to myself, and I just do what I am on Facebook, or Twitter, or wherever I am trolling that day to do...I advertise my books.



Because ultimately, I have a personal Facebook page to keep in touch with my friends and family while we muscle our way through enjoy this expat adventure we're on, and I keep about 99% of my personal feelings about life, love, religion, politics, and the pursuit of happiness right there. My work Facebook page, or my work Twitter feed, are usually reserved for the surface-level stuff. Books, check ins, the occasional opinion on a particularly sleazy reality show I am enjoying...you know, the more benign content that won't ruffle too many feathers. Because I personally don't like ruffling feathers. In fact, I hate it.

I don't like my feathers ruffled, and I don't enjoy ruffling other people's feathers. No buena.



However, there are folks out there in the world--especially in the publishing world of cyber space--who love, love, LOVE to ruffle feathers. They, like me, hide behind their laptop or smart phone screens, cackling in their PJ's as they rock the boat and toss insinuations and insults out into the giant abyss, much like astronaut pee.....just WHOOSH! Out into the darkness, never to be collected again. Once they're out there, they're out there. And some (not me) enjoy that freedom.

I, on the other hand, have the type of personality that almost immediately regrets many of my words. Whether they're eloquent and intelligent, stupid and crass, or just poorly meditated...I almost always second guess everything I say. And I have the unique ability to rehash those conversations for years to come. Usually while I am in bed, trying to sleep.



Because my brain hates me.

But I digress...

So recently, an author friend of mine complained of a cyber bully she was dealing with, and her story sounded eerily familiar to mine. It was a former co-worker/friend, who she'd drifted apart from. Now the friend was feeling resentful of her success (though it wasn't in any way threatening to her own success--but bullies don't care about things like reason, so whatevs...) and she and her new coworkers (fellow authors, bloggers, Facebook and Twitter trolls) had started following her wherever she went on the web, only to negatively comment or poke fun at whatever she said online.

Sounds harmless enough, right? I mean, hell. We're all in our mid-thirties to early-forties, or close to that age bracket, I should say, and we're all adults with one thing in common: we're all writers, just trying to sell a few books, and make a career for ourselves. You would think that would bond us together, but noooooooo...

Often times, that drives an even bigger wedge in-between us all. And I hate it. Like, a lot.



My cyber-bully situation was almost the exact same scenario. We started off as friends, writing partners, supporters. But it quickly became clear to me that a partnership with this particular person wasn't going to work for me. No major reason. Our styles of critiquing were just too different, and I was spending most of my time apologizing for my critiques, instead of actually helping this person, because they had a thinner skin than I was used to. She needed more of a cheerleader, and I was more of a drill sergeant, if that makes sense.

So I moved on. I tried to stay friends, but just being friends wasn't enough. If I didn't work with this person, I shouldn't be working, period. And so the friendship quickly dissolved, too.

No big deal. Except that it was.

After a few weeks, I realized (through social media) that she'd found some new critique partners, and that they, too, had followed me on things like Facebook and Twitter. I thought, "Not a problem. The more the merrier." But I was wrong. It didn't matter what I posted, what I said, what I commented about, what my opinion was...it was twisted and misconstrued. It was made into a drama of epic proportions, and I was being baited into online, public arguments on the daily. I was told that I needed to give up my career and leave the good writing to the ones who knew what they were doing. I was called names and told I would never get another contract again (though the joke was on them, I still get contract offers, I just choose to self pub. Go, me!) I was called fat, stupid, ugly, and untalented.

I was being made to look combative, snarky, untalented, and cunning to my readers. Some of my more loyal readers and book bloggers started sending me emails, asking why I was always in trouble online, and who so-and-so hated me. It was embarrassing and all consuming. All the relationships within the publishing world that I'd worked so hard to build up were becoming strained, all because I had this disgruntled acquaintance and their toadies following my every move on social media.

This is what it felt like every time I logged into my work Facebook account.


Now, I have to pause my story here to say: I was never told to kill myself. I was never subjected to the living hell that so many kids are put through nowadays. I have friends whose teens have been told their lives don't matter, that nobody likes them, and that nobody would care if they died. That never happened to me. Thank God. Because I have the type of heart that probably would've broken into a million pieces if that had been said to me. I'm sort of a sensitive person...so having a career in the publishing world is challenging enough. But being told I am worthless? Yeesh. I can't handle it.

If your kid is suffering through that, TELL THE SCHOOL. Blow the whistle! Get them some help! Kids nowadays don't know how to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They will believe what these cretans are saying, and it's up to YOU to make them understand reason.

And if your kid is the one doing the bullying: your kid sucks. Fix this problem immediately. You should be ashamed.

During my bullying issue, I was told that my writing sucked, and that my life's work was pathetic and that I had no place in the business. And that, my friends, was a hard pill to swallow. I can't even begin to tell you how hard I took those words. I'd taken to crying all the time. Felt ugly and useless. Like I was a hack, and that all of my fans were going to find out that I was just a poser, and I was going to lose them all. I let their cruelty dictate what I did with my career for a very long few years. I quit my local branch of the RWA (Romance Writers Association) and stopped going to local writing events. I stopped doing as many book signings in my hometown, and skipped the big conference in Bellevue I loved attending. I  withdrew not just from my writing, but from my readers, and believe it or not, they noticed.

It took me a few years to come out of the fog that surrounded me after that happened. Once I blocked all of the bullies and established some clear, concise boundaries with all of the people from the writing/publishing world that I chose to continue working with, I discovered that I was perfectly capable of having a career, even if some other authors didn't like me very much. I discovered that really the only thing that could keep me from continuing my career was me.



But it took me a long time to come to a place where I know that without a doubt. I no longer require reassurance from my other author friends. I no longer need constant comments on my posts or Tweets to know that I am relevant. I don't need reassurance from other people in the industry, because I get all of my confidence from two super-duper important places now.

1.) My readers who loyally keep buying my books.

2.) Me.

I'm not sure why people--especially grown-a** women my age--feel the need to bully other writers. I don't know why they feel the need to create online drama and social media firing ranges. I don't know why oh why oh why oh why so many authors feel the need to tear other authors down, in order to build up their own readership. It's one thing to read and dislike a book. Nobody can like every book, and I'm not opposed to a bad review. They happen. I'm a big girl, I can take it. Yes, even from a fellow author. But a personal attack? Calling someone untalented, or useless, or fat, or ugly, or stupid? Come on, writers, we can do better than that. We're better than that. Seriously.

If your own success hinges on tearing someone else down, then is your success even legit?

Just food for thought.



All in all, I think my friend is handling her cyber bully much better than I ever did. She hasn't let it chase her out of her local RWA chapter, and she sure as heck hasn't backed down from any of her future engagements. I wish I'd been that strong. I wish I'd stuck up my middle finger to my cyber bully and their toadies and just went on with my life, as if they didn't exist. But since I haven't figured out how to go back in time, I'll settle for learning my lesson over the last few years of soul-searching and continued success. I commend anyone who, like my friend, stands up to her bullies and tells them to take a flying leap. Because cyber bullies are the worst kind of trash. They're too chicken you-know-what to say things to your face, so they hide behind their computer screens in their PJ's, destroying people's confidence, because they feel so rotten about themselves.

I'm glad that part of my life is over. I'm grateful that my cyber bullies moved on. I'm grateful that I was given a lesson in how to behave towards people, especially fellow authors, because I'm not sure I understood that prior to my own icky situation. Sometimes God gives you a lesson in the form of humble pie. :)

xoxo
Brooke









Monday, May 23, 2016

Edits...edits...and more edits...

So I'm going through all three of my books in the This & That Series....






And I'm giving them a spruce up!

You see, in the process of writing a book--a process that takes months and months, sometimes somewhere between 6 and 12--the author will often stop seeing mistakes. It isn't because she's lazy, it's because she has read her own words no fewer than 11,934 and a half times since the day she typed "Chapter One." After a while........things get a bit blurry.



She gets bleary eyed and ignorant. She no longer sees the mistakes, even when they're glaringly obvious. It's not something she's proud of. It just happens.

#FirstWorldWriterProblems

And then she hires her editor.

In my case, the editor happens to be a gorgeous and wildly talented author friend, who, like me, has a day job, a family, a husband, and a life. So in addition to reading MY book no fewer than 8,903.8 times...she is also writing her own (incredible) books, parenting her own children, and working at her demanding day job. So, much like with me, she starts getting bleary eyed after a while. Her eyes cross as she goes through my work pass after pass. It's not because she's untalented. It's because she's human. Just like me. And humans eyes tend to roll when they've stared at the same words for 900 hours straight...



And sadly, and mistakenly, sometimes things get missed.

It's not because she sucks. It's not even because I suck. It's not because we're lazy, or that I'm too cheap to hire a good editor. My editor is amazing. It's not because we don't care, or that we're just trying to crank out books and make money without putting any care into the finished product. It's not that all self-pubs have poor editing--because that's an ignorant blanket statement. In fact, if anything, we're trying more diligently to put out the very best product possible than some of the big six publishers are!

Finding errors after I've clicked "publish" sucks.

Suuuuuuuuucks.



But, it happens. In fact, it happens with my self pubs, my traditional pubs, and everything in between. It even happens with books that I have purchased from major publishing houses as a customer! It happens. We hope and pray that it won't, but even the great Nora Roberts or JK Rowling have had some errors slip through. It happens. No matter what we, as authors, do...it's never perfect. As much as we want it to be.......it never is. Perfection doesn't exist. Especially in the world of publishing.

I could go off on a major tangent based on my traditional publishing vs. self publishing experiences, but I choose not to. *cleansing breath*



Moving on....

Which is why, as an author who values her readers loyalty, and who understands (from an author's perspective) how difficult editing truly can be...I am going in for another pass on the This & That Series. I am rereading my books, catching the things I can spot, and even putting a new set of eyes on it.

By doing this, I will be able to put out new, improved versions of Lexie, Marisol, and Candace's stories. And I am able to honor the people I care so deeply about: each of you. Because without you, dear readers, I am but a crazy chick with an overactive imagination and a computer

.



(Scary thought.)

My work will never, ever be perfect. This is a fact. But with help from some amazing, talented editors I will be able to continue to put out the best product I am capable of. And with the love of some awesomely supportive readers, I will continue to share my wacky stories.

Thank you for supporting me.

Off to the editing cave I go. :)

xxoo
Brooke

Saturday, May 14, 2016

I did it.

I was asked a question about my hair today......

And I didn't spill my whole sordid hair story to the person.



This is a real moment for me, because I tend to overshare, more so than keep people guessing. Whenever their eyes linger on my head for longer than necessary, whenever they comment on my hair, whenever they tell me I look nice, I instantly blurt out all the facts like this:

"OhmigoshthankyousomuchIamsogladyoulikeit,didyouknowthatIhavealopecia,andthatIwearawig?YeahthisisawigandIwearlotsofothersbecauseunderneathitIambaldandIlooklikeacancerpatientbutImnotsodontthinkImsickbecauseImreallyhealthy,IjustwearwigsandmyhairchangesalotandIloveyou,pleasestilllikeme."

Translation: "I have hair loss and wear wigs. And the only consolation to having sh*tty hair is that I can wear any wig I want, on any given day, and change my look in an instant. I know this must annoy you, and society in general, so I apologize for the way my hair loss, and my wig wearing makes you feel. Please still be my friend, and for the love of heaven, don't talk trash behind my back."



Yup. My overshare was actually a cover-up for a plea for people to treat me normally, despite my wearing alternative hair. Which, if you think about it, shouldn't be a problem. Treating someone differently because they're wearing a wig is just plain stupid. Alas, people do it inadvertently all the time, and instead of accepting that, and moving on.......I would apply the same tactic that I used to use when I was overweight.

I bring up the subject before anybody else can.



When I was fat, I made fat jokes and brought up my weight in social situations all the time. It was annoying. But I never realized how annoying it was until I'd lost weight. Then I realized I had nothing to lead with in my conversations. I couldn't break the ice by making a crack about being the "fat girl."

Enter one order of Alopecia. Thanks, God.

And now I lead with that.

"Oh, I love your haircut!"

Normal person: "Thank you."

Me: "Ohmigosh, thank you so much! Did you know it's a wig!? Yeah, you could have hair like this, too. I've got hair loss, so I look like Elmer Fudd underneath this fur cap. Hahahah. Yup. I wear wigs. So don't freak out if I'm a blonde by next week! No, I'm not sick. I'm healthy as a horse! Just have crappy hair follicles! Hahahahaha."




(You can see the difference.)

But recently, I've had an epiphany.

I decided to stop apologizing for my hair loss and wig wearing. I've decided to stop offering explanations that 1.) nobody is asking for; and 2.) nobody deserves. Because, if my hair loss causes someone else discomfort, it's a reflection of them, not me. This was not an easy concept for me to grasp. In fact, it's downright agonizing. In a world where women work their butts off every single day to HIDE the fact that they have Alopecia, I have been offering up the information like a Hostess at Denny's telling people the soup of the freaking day!

This is what I am doing in my head, though....


(sigh.)

The thing is...I'm not blind.

I see their strange looks when my hair grows a foot between Monday and Tuesday.

I see their glances at my hairline to see if it looks "wiggy" or natural.

I see their unsolicited comments bubbling in the back of their mouths.

I see them pointedly not looking at my head.

And more so than anything else, I can feel their curiosity.

But after 40 years of being so d*mned transparent, I have decided to stop the overshare. Granted, I haven't transformed my life in all aspects. I spent much of my 40th birthday the other day, elbow deep in a container of creamy goat cheese, mourning the loss of half my life and all the things I haven't yet achieved. So....bear in mind, I'm a work in progress. This first step, the transparency thing (in reference to wigs and hair loss) is a big one for me. GO ME.



I decided a while ago that I no longer owe anybody an explanation. I don't have to tell someone I have Alopecia. I don't have to "legitimize" my wig wearing. I don't have to share with people why I do what I do. My medical issue is not other people's business. My "fake" hair, hair color choice, hair style, and hair length is not anybody's business. If I go from an icy blonde pixie cut, to long, black Russian assassin hair within the space of 24 hours, I owe not one explanation.

This is how I feel about the topic now:



But seriously. I'm over it.

My husband loves me. My children love me. They love me with a wig. They love me without a wig. They love me with a cap or a scarf on. They love me with my shaved head covered in scabby bald patches exposed. They love me in a box. They love me with a fox. They love me.

And even better yet...



I'm starting to love me.

(*squeee!*)

Loving myself, however little for now, feels fantastic. When I look into the mirror and feel beautiful, I like myself. Sure, sure, sure...all the feminists of the world are cringing, and I'm here to say suck it. I want to feel beautiful when I look at myself. I want to like my reflection. I want to feel confident, secure, and attractive to my husband, to my kids, to the world, and most of all, to myself! I've blogged about it before, I'll say it again:

There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel beautiful. 

It does not make you an anti-feminist. It does not mean you're not for self acceptance. Beauty is subjective. You have to find what it means for you, and own it. That's what I do when I wipe my tears away, cover up my scabby, patchy, gross head, and pull on a long, glamorous wig. I own my beauty. And that's okay.

So back to what happened today...

I volunteered at a triathlon at my children's school, and was put in charge of writing people's numbers on their arms and calves. While writing on one woman's arm, I commented that she was my son's science teacher, to which she responded, "Yes, I am. I wasn't sure if that was you, because you've dyed your hair since last time I saw you."

I stopped. Looked around to see if anybody else was listening. (They were. I could tell.) And then said, "Yes. Thanks. Keep an eye out, it'll probably change again."

And literally that's it.

After that, I just shut my mouth, and moved on.



This may seem like a very small and insignificant victory to some. But to me, the over-sharer, it was a colossal victory. On any other day, I would've told her, almost apologetically, that my hair had changed because I have hair loss, wear wigs, yadda yadda yadda.....but I didn't do that today. I thought to myself, "I owe this woman nothing." And I said thanks, made a small joke, and moved on.

It. Felt. AMAZING.

It was as if a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I know, I know, that sounds dramatic. But it's true. It was liberating to just keep my private information private for once. After a year of oversharing in this peculiar, pretentious little city we're living in, where I've felt so inclined to explain and apologize for myself a few thousand times over the last year...I was able to just let it go, and not feel the slightest bit of guilt for "not explaining myself."

I think in the future I'd like to just shave my response down to a quick "thank you," and omit the joke part. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love to make people laugh. It's kind of my thing. (I write romantic comedy, remember?) But occasionally it feels good to keep some of myself hidden. It's almost like I'm moving in reverse. So many Alopecians start their journey off hiding and trying to keep their hair loss a secret from the world...and I came out of the gates screaming. I told anyone who spoke to me. Wrote social media posts about it. Explained my hair issues to anyone whose eyes lingered on my hair for more than a second.......and I've been slowly working my a** off to get the giant snake back into the peanut brittle jar.



And I think I've finally succeeded. Or started too.

This summer while I am in the USA, I will be buying wigs for the year. (Since I prefer synthetics, and they don't have the shelf life--nor the price tag--of human hair wigs, AND I live abroad where getting my hands on great wigs is tricky, I gather them while in the states and divvy them out over the course of the 10.5 months we spend in South Korea every year.) I am getting several different wigs, in several different colors, and several different lengths/styles. And I fully intend to wear them whenever I want, without a second thought.

Sure, I'll get weird looks. And if history serves, I'll be gossiped about. But do I really care?

Not anymore.



I don't care what unsolicited advice people offer me. I don't care what other people would do if it were them that were suffering through hair loss. I don't care that they're complimenting hair that's "not mine" (hint: if I pay for it, it's mine.) I don't care that so-and-so prefers red hair on me, but so-and-so thinks shorter is better. I don't care about the unintentionally embarrassing comments people make about growing their hair out to make a wig for me, or how they just want to rip it off of my head some day (spoiler alert: it won't come off that easily, and if you try it, I'll kick some serious butt,) or, even better, how nice it is that my husband can sleep with a different woman every night (Scientific fact: he sleeps with me every night. Wigs don't change my DNA. Science....who knew?)  I will ignore the comments about how often I change my look, or how confusing it is to keep up with my wig changes. I'll ignore it when people with full heads of hair remind me that true beauty comes from within. I'll ignore it when the wealthy Korean moms (who are so gorgeous and stylish and thin) stare at me like I'm a circus side show act. I'll ignore it when kids ask my sons and daughter, "Why does your mom look different again?" I'll ignore it when it is insinuated that vanity is what makes me change my look all the time, or that I need to focus on what's important in life (hint: they're usually saying it's not hair.)

And I'll just do whatever I've got to do to feel like THIS when I look in the mirror:



*snaps*

Because finally feeling good about myself feels good. And I make NO MORE apologies for that.

Today was a milestone. I'm glad I'm evolving. Evolving feels good.

xxoo
Brooke

Thursday, May 12, 2016

So this is what 40 feels like...

I turned (gasp!) 40 on Wednesday.

Selfie with the dog. She helped celebrate my 40th by wearing a party hat for a while, and chasing empty water bottles all over the house.


And I have to admit...I took it hard. I shouldn't have. I have friends who remind me that I'm only as old as I feel; and that since they turned 40, they've never felt sexier; and that life really begins at 40....

But the reality is, 40 has been a tough pill to swallow, for a multitude of reasons. First, my life is half over! Ince I've lived another 40 years, I'll likely either be dead, or pretty darn close to death. Second, I live somewhere I don't like, where I feel like a square peg in a round hole, and I have more in common with the hired help than my fellow expats. Third, I've got some personal stresses that are bogging me down right now, and when I'm bogged down, I can't compartmentalize. If I feel it, it's right there on my sleeve for all to see. I hate that. And four, I'm not terribly pleased with my physical state right now. After losing a hundred pounds, I'm about ten pounds heavier than I want to be. Granted, ten pounds is not that big of a deal. But...when you used to be morbidly obese, ten pounds can feel like the slippery slope towards some serious backsliding, and so help me, I don't think I can stomach going backwards in that department--PLUS, I have alopecia. So I rang in the big 4-0 with a bald head. Talk about a blow to the ego.

I found myself spending my birthday here in South Korea waiting for a phone call, an email, a social media post....that never came. I know that waiting for stuff like that is foolish, and sitting around tangled up in stress only exasperates my hair loss. I know that my happiness shouldn't be hinged to how other people make me feel, or how they choose to act, but it's almost impossible not to be hurt. I'm not made of stone. In fact, I think I'm made of tissue paper, easily ripped and torn.

My cousin sent me some goat cheese (very hard to find here in South Korea)...and we all know there is no better gift than cheese.


I'm hoping that 40 gets better. I'm praying that I can get through this year and find some sort of acceptance for the things I cannot change. Family problems, hair loss, living abroad...all these things that make me want to curl up and hide, need to become non-issues to me. I need to accept my 40 year old self, flaws and all. And I intend to get there.......eventually.

My friends and family here in South Korea did everything they could do to make my day awesome, and I could literally never thank them enough for that. My children woke up early (which is difficult, as my 17 year old is NOT a morning person!) to decorate the house. They had banners and balloons everywhere, and woke me up with cheesecake and candles. Then I had lunch with some friends, who introduced me to "shabu-shabu", which I originally thought I hated, but this place was phenomenal! They gifted me a certificate to get a pedicure at a local salon--which was a real treat because mani's and pedi's here are hella expensive! Then, after lunch, my husband and daughter made me dinner. We were going to go out, but since you can't get a decent steak here in South Korea (no lie--these places cannot figure out how to properly cook a steak!) I requested ribeye and sea scallops. It took them a very long time...and so help me, made a colossal mess, but they did an excellent job. All in all, they did a great job, and I felt very loved.

Some really incredible ladies came to celebrate with me. (Left to right) Neeti, Carisa, Dalit, Minu, Noel, me, Lourdes, April, and Sarah. I'm very blessed.

Shabu-shabu lunch! So good...taking my family back this weekend. 


I've got confidence that 40 will grow on me. I'm only a few weeks away from visiting the USA for the summer, and I think that will help my morale. Life abroad itself isn't bad, but life here in South Korea has been challenging, and I think some time on American soil will do me some good. My prayer is that my batteries will recharge, and I will be excited to come back to Songdo for another year! 40 can suck it! 40 can eat my dust! Maybe my life isn't perfect, but maybe 40 will look good on me. Who knows?

Talk to me in 1 year, and I'll let you know....maybe by the time I turn 41, I'll be a tough, sexy broad who couldn't give two rips whether or not anybody likes me. Maybe I'll be a blonde for my next birthday. :)

xxoo
Brooke