Saturday, April 20, 2013

Click to Read: Why Characters Matter

You may recall my February cover reveal blog post for L.M. Augustine's upcoming new release, Click to Subscribe (CTS) (out May 9, 2013). After having had a chance to read an Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) of the book, I can't even tell you how PERFECT of a job that Allie Brennan did with this cover. It so beautifully captures the fun, flirty side of West and his best friend Cat's personalities.

While I put my full review on Goodreads, I wanted to share a little more about why this book works with my awesome Albertinis!  

So, let's be honest. I write and edit YA and women's fiction. Sometimes, YA - especially in the paranormal and urban fantasy genre that I love so much - can go waaaaaay over the top in an effort to be ORIGINAL and to step up the "uniqueness" of their concepts. How do I top Hunger Games? Twilight? Harry Potter?

Sometimes it works, and other times you just want to sigh and say, "Please, please, stop TRYING so hard." Write authentically. FIND YOUR VOICE, not the voice you THINK will make you the next J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. The reason their books sold millions is because they used an easily relatable, authentic voice that didn't sound forced or pretentious. Just tell your story. Don't get so caught up in the "unusual" that readers can't fall in love with the characters.

wise writer once mused, "characters sell books, period." She's not saying plot isn't important. It is. No matter how good the characters are, you'll lose readers FAST if there's not a plot leg to stand on. But people remember remarkable characters FIRST: Romeo & Juliet, Harry Potter, Heathcliff, Meg/Jo/Beth/Amy March, Boo Radley, Scout Finch, Nick Carraway and Daisy, Bella/Edward/Jacob...you get the idea and can probably name all of these books.

The point is, Augustine does a marvelous job with his two main characters who hold the story: West and Cat. HOW this is done is through AUTHENTIC LANGUAGE, a fresh, young voice, and consistently capturing the adorable quirkiness and awkwardness of their personalities. CTS doesn't actually have a huge tension arc that most books have. The tension is created in the language and ANTICIPATION of love brewing (KISS HER ALREADY!). And it works.

I will say, it felt like a true YA read. Meaning, the people who will love and worship this book the most are the book's demographic: YOUNG ADULTS. As an adult who reads YA, I liked and appreciated the characters and language Augustine used enough to read it and appreciate it for what it is: a young, fun, adorable love story.

Not too heavy on crazy antics to try to outdo other YA novels. Rather, refreshingly simple, everyday, REALISTIC, teenage characters with REAL issues to worry about, authentic teenage language used, and an ability to capture teenage feelings beautifully.

So, if you know a teen who loves love stories, share CTS with them in May. I'm sure they'll have no trouble falling in love with West and Cat too!

{For the reader: I <3 Sam Green! *Muppet-flails!*}

Friday, April 19, 2013

Very Inspiring Blogger Award: Aww, Shucks!

  
I am so honored to be given the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by the amazing writer, K. Nycole Lee. And I'm even more grateful that she has not revoked it from me since I was awarded it on (eh-hem) March 18. {In my defense, I was busy editing another author's novel, and you know, there are deadlines and such!} I am very honored that she took the time to review my blog and share this award with me. 
 



Award Rules
1. Display logo in your blog to show you've been nominated!

2. Link back to your nominator.
3. Share 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.
5. Notify your nominees.
 



Nominator
For those of you new to author K.N. Lee, she is a creative and freelance writer, as well as an author in the fantasy genre and is releasing her first book, The Chronicles of Koa, this summer. {Can I squeal here? We happen to live in the same city and I get to meet her this summer at her book launch party!}
 
Seven things about myself
1. I'm an over sharer, so finding 7 original, unknown things about myself is difficult. 
2. I'm a type A person who is constantly trying to find balance between family time and all of the ways I want to conquer the world. Usually, I just end up running myself into the ground. Happy, but tired.
3. I married my best friend and soul mate and I wish this kind of love and romance for everyone.
4. I have the best job in the world (in addition to being a stay-at-home Mom). I get to edit fantastic novels for other authors! Squeal! This is my true passion and calling in life, almost bigger than writing (gasp!).
5. I can flare my nostrils. True story.
6. My favorite Winnie the Pooh character was Eeyore when I was growing up, and my favorite Sesame Street character was Snuffleupagus. I think because they were both the downtrodden castoffs of Pooh and Big Bird and they needed love and sympathy too. But I'm not a "woe-is-me" kinda girl. And, truth be told, {don't kick my ass, here} I don't really care for either Winnie the Pooh or Sesame Street. I think they're great learning tools, but they never really floated my boat. Meh. BUT, I have very fond memories of watching Winnie the Pooh with my younger brother, Max. I have an adorable black and white picture of him when he was two, standing in our drive way with an umbrella. He was saying, "Tut-tut. Looks like rain." So whenever it rains, I think of that memory and of him. Tut-tut. Looks like rain today!
7. My absolute favorite food in the world is a Red Delicious Apple. Not sure if that's because I was a teacher in a former life, or the evil Queen from Snow White. I do love me a good villain!   
 
Nominations
 
Hope you enjoyed learning a smidge more about me, and take time to check out these other fine bloggers' web sites and maybe even follow them on Twitter.
 
Many thanks again to K.N. Lee for the wonderful Very Inspiring Blogger Award!


How BRAVE am I?

I asked my readers--my dear, sweet Albertinis--to rise to our first ever BRAVE challenge and create a "Positive Things About Me" drawing with at LEAST 10 positive things written down. Click here for full contest details and original BRAVE GIRL example!

As part of my "challenge" to all women and girls, I promised I'd show you mine if you showed me yours!

For the record, I did also state that mine would not be a work of art, but it's the energy and enthusiasm that counts. Right? Right? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?

As you can see, I'm definitely not the artist in the family! But, I did have a hard time limiting the number of positive attributes I could fit into my drawing because of the limited size. I'd also like to note that I have a very healthy body image, despite actively trying to lose more weight to get healthier and stronger. It wasn't intentional, but I'm glad I drew my body the way I see myself and how I want to be. Fit and healthy. Also, I can't really do this jump anymore either, but it shows my enthusiasm for the project and my BRAVE GIRLS endeavor! What other things do you notice about my drawing? {Other than my freakishly large bicep and abnormally small foot? I can laugh at myself, have no fears!}

So, I've shown you mine. It took about 10 minutes to draw and upload. So no excuses ladies, girls, and women. 

You have until end of day TODAY to draw me your "Positive Things About Me" picture and submit it to me at thegrammarbabe (at) yahoo (dot) com. And by end of day, I mean, as long as they are in my inbox in the morning when I wake up, you're totally cool.  

And don't forget, there are prizes! A $25 gift certificate to the (unaffiliated) Brave Girls Club shoppe, a $10 gift card to Amazon.com, and an ebook of Melissa Foster's Have No Shame.

I cannot wait to see what you come up with! Happy creating!
~ Be Brave. Kick Ass.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Have No Shame: Epic Love Story Meets Civil Rights

I recently read a book that really touched me, so I wanted to share a little more about it here with my Albertinis! You've heard me mention it several times if you follow me on Twitter and Facebook. It's Have No Shame (HNS), by Melissa Foster.

If you want to check out the book trailer, to see if it's your cup of tea, she did a beautiful job with it. It's one of the things that hooked me right away and made me realize that I had to read this book and know Alison and Jackson's story.

Besides having an amazing trailer, check out this book cover! Seriously, I could weep at its simple beauty.

Here's the fun part. HNS was due to be released this May. But, shhhh!, a little birdie told me it was on sale early, even though the big, official push will still come in May. {You're welcome for the tip!}

HNS is a story set in the racially-charged south in the later 1960's when segregation should have been done with, but as we know, some places were not quick adapters when it came to this type of change. And many people in small, southern towns were not too keen on the ideal of racial equality. None of this is "new." Many stories have been written about this subject. But this one is worth the read for many, many reasons. I did a full review on Amazon and Goodreads, but I wanted to share a little more here because it's a story that affected me so deeply and I believe deserves the extra attention because of its beauty and message.

Foster's quiet, gently-rolling tone, and voice of her main character, Alison, is just so sweet, honest, and compelling. We watch Alison go from being a Daddy's girl, who was raised under an umbrella of prejudice her whole life, to finding out that she doesn't really believe those things deep down in her heart. It's not HER voice telling her these things. It's the hate and fear she's always lived in the shadow of in Forrest Town, Arkansas. And her fiance, Jimmy Lee, is one of the ring leaders who takes justice into his own hands from time to time.

After Alison witnesses something horrific at the story's opening, her feelings begin to shift. She can no longer sit by quietly, listening to slurs of hatred from those around her, based on nothing more than the color of some one's skin.  

Foster does an amazing job not just with tone and a brilliant cadence in her story telling that just pulls you right in, but her characters are genuine, rich, and compelling. In addition to Alison, three other women are so strong and deep: Her mother, her sister Maggie (who's an Original Brave Girl), and Patricia. Watching the relationship between Alison and her mother unfold is like watching a little slice of heaven. I love in one part of the story where she says, "I learned more about Mama in that five-minute stop at the furniture store than I had in my entire eighteen years of livin' in her house." How many times as women do we feel that way about our mothers? When we learn that they're people and not just our mamas. The relationship dynamics that Foster weaves are just beautiful to witness.

The biggest, of course, being the relationship between Alison and Jackson, the older brother of one of her father's farmhands. Who happens to be African American. Today, not so much of a big deal. But in the 1960's, when the KKK was still active and dangerous, it wasn't so safe or acceptable for either of them. The sweetness of watching this impossible relationship blossom and unfold is divine. You simply cannot look away or put the book down. Never in all of my years of reading can I find a comparable interracial couple who will go down as leading players in a LEGENDARY love story, never to be forgotten. Though not a typical, happily-ever-after, no-bumps-in-the-road kind of tale, theirs is one of great intensity, passion, and conviction. And Foster doesn't sugar coat it either. I seriously started to cry when Jackson had to walk away from Alison for the first time, because they knew their forbidden love was not one they could fight for and win. Jackson is just about the smartest, kindest, strongest, and most empowered swoon-worthy leading man you could ask for. A stark contradiction to Alison's fiance Jimmy Lee who doesn't really love Alison for Alison, but because she's the type of girl he "should" marry, and that's what you did back then. Got out of high school, got married, had kids. She was someone to cook for him, clean for him, and be there at his beck and call. Were as Jackson truly SAW Alison for the beautiful, kind, courageous woman she really was. (Swoon!)

I won't give away the ending, because there are some good twists, but I will say that Foster was realistic, yet hopeful, putting HNS in my top 10 favorite books ever.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and take time to read Alison and Jackson's lovely story. Overcoming stereotypes in the name of love is something we still fight today with same-sex marriages. And even though interracial marriages are no longer taboo, sadly, there are still places where it's not looked upon too favorably--even after more than half a century has passed! That's why stories like these are still so important to be told. In HNS, it's the characters who draw you in and have you rooting for them, and for the bravery they showed in such a historical fight for human freedoms. 

There's a reason why every one of Foster's books made bestseller lists today, and once you read one, you'll realize why too! If you like HNS, check out her other titles a well: Traces of Kara, Chasing Amanda, Megan's Way, and Come Back to Me.
Also, book number one of her Snow Sisters series, The Other Side of Me, comes out this summer! 

Find Melissa: Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | Website

She'll also skype with your book club upon request! Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blond vs. Blonde - who will take the title?


Even the best of us can't remember every grammar rule all of the time. During a recent editing job, I had a funny situation come up with the word blond. Or is it, blonde? It's both actually. But it depends on how you use the word.

Because I speak plain English, and not hoity-toity grammar jibber-jabber, I'll break it down simply so you'll never forget.

When you're using the word as a NOUN (meaning, as a person), use blond for a dude and blonde for a dudette. 

For example: "The blonde walked into the library, eyeing the hunky blond shelving books with precision."

You know by reading this, that the first blonde is a woman, and the second blond is a male.

{For those who want to know why, it's because the English language borrowed the word blond/e from the French who use masculine and feminine noun forms.} 

But what happens when it's not a noun? Here's the simple rule: typically, when used as an ADJECTIVE, it is blond, regardless of the gender you're describing.

For example: "The girl with the luxurious, blond curls, sauntered over and laid a big, juicy kiss on my cheek."

- OR -

"The guy with the blond faux-hawk looked like a total putz."

Even though the first example describes a girl's hair and the second describes a boy's hair, the word blond in this case is still an adjective, describing the HAIR and not the PERSON. 

Quite frankly, I wish the rule were a little different and we simply used blonde for everything girl and blond for everything boy, or just lost the "e" all together and forever made it blond, so it was less confusing. But alas, no one's asked me.

So just remember, it all depends on whether you are using the word as a NOUN or an ADJECTIVE.

Noun = boy/girl versions
Adjective = blond

Hopefully, this helps shed some light on the whole blond vs. blonde battle.

{Photo credit: rhiannonceriserose & VS}

Saturday, April 13, 2013

How BRAVE are you? (Part 3)

Now that you've had a little dose of inspiration (in blog post part 1), and you've seen my fun Facebook page, Brave Girl's Kick Ass (in blog post part 2), we can move onto part three: the challenge

Are you BRAVE enough?!

While I was researching other inspirational groups that support women, girls, and their fierceness, I came across this amazing picture on Girls on the Run International's facebook page (GOTR). It was posted by their St. Louis Chapter. 

Look at how beautiful this girl is, and what an amazing sense of self she has! That's what GOTR does for girls.
For those of you who've never heard of GOTR, it's a non-profit organization {the brain-child of Molly Barker} that's dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. GOTR does this through a coach-based running program that combines running, self-confidence, and inspiration.


Genius! As one participant of GOTR said {of her GOTR experience}, "I learned that I am the boss of my brain." If only all of us could realize this at such a young age! 
 
So, it got me thinking. I know grown women who are not even able to do what this young girl has done: ACKNOWLEDGE their strengths, abilities, and things that make them special. It is excruciatingly difficult for some women to brag on themselves and come up with even ONE positive trait, let alone an entire body's worth! But we're ALL filled with things that make us special, unique, and beautiful. You have to DIG DEEP, not worry about what others will think, and STOP the negative inner self-chatter that says, "There's nothing you're good at; you're not beautiful; you're not good enough."

Because, YOU ARE. This is a lesson in finding your voice and owning your worth! So kick that negative self-chatter's ass to the curb. When it starts popping up, say, "No, thanks. I don't need you any more. I know my worth. Adios!" Then, immediately repeat one positive thing about yourself. Even if it's as simple as, "I have beautiful toes."  

So, here's your mission, should you choose to accept it!

The "Positive Things About Me" BGKA Contest

1) Draw an outline of a body, like in the little girl's picture above. It doesn't have to be exactly like this, but it needs to be on a big piece of paper, like hers. Use an 8x10 (ish) standard piece of writing or construction paper.

2) Decorate it inside with AT LEAST 10 positive things that make you the special, unique, beautiful YOU that you are!

3) Take a picture of it and email it to me at thegrammarbabe (@) yahoo (dot) com by no later than midnight (EST) on Sunday, April 28, 2013 (New Date!). Or, you can share it on the Brave Girls Kick Ass Facebook page. However, you need to supply your full name, email address, and physical street address, so if you post on Facebook, please supply only your name + write "official submission" in the comments section; then privately message me your personal information so it's not displayed publicly. {Please note: this information is ONLY for use with this ONE contest. I will NOT retain your information, send any e-mails, or give away or sell your e-mail address. Pinky promise!} 

4) Pat yourself on the back for being BRAVE, and consider taping your creation to your bathroom mirror where you'll see it every day.

And you could even win a prize!

The biggest prize of all, of course, is the self-confidence and pride you'll feel after finishing. But, because I want to REALLY celebrate your BRAVERY and the launch of BGKA, I'm also giving out prizes! Woot-woot!

IF I have AT LEAST 25 women/girls who participate in this contest, I will review all of the entries and select three "winners" who really go above and beyond and stretch themselves deeply. {Note: this will not be based on artistic ability, but rather the effort, love, and reflection placed into the assignment.}  

The winning three entries will be posted publicly and recognized as winners on the BGKA Facebook page, this website blog, and via Twitter on Monday, April 29, 2013. Any submission means you consent to these terms and conditions. And, now, onto the awesome prizes...

1st Place ~ the BIG, BAD, BRAVEST award
ONE first place winner will receive a $25 gift certificate to the Brave Girl's Club online shoppe. {Note: I am not affiliated with the Brave Girls Club, I just think they are really cool, and I love their fun BRAVE GIRL items in their online shoppe, and think you will too!}


 2nd Place ~ the KICK ASS award
ONE second place winner will receive a $10 gift certificate to Amazon.com
to use on whatever your BRAVE heart desires!


 
3rd Place ~ the Taste of Courage award
ONE third place winner will receive the ebook version of Melissa Foster's new book Have No Shame {which is being published in May, but I just heard from a BRAVE, little birdie that the ebook version just *might* be available online now!} If you do not have an ereader, you can choose the paperback version as your prize and I can pre-order it for you, for the May release.  


As an added bonus, I'll also create a positive body drawing and post it here and on my Facebook page, to show you that it doesn't need to be fancy or pretty or artistically created...it just needs to be done with love! So, I'll be BRAVE first and open myself up for the world to see, so that it opens the door for you to as well. And we'll be BRAVE together, my kick ass sisters!

So grab those pens, markers, paints, pencils, or crayons, a piece of paper, and tap into your truest, most authentic self. Then, be BRAVE and share what's positive about YOU! You can do it, and I can't wait to see what y'all come up with.

"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"
Dr. Suess


~Be Brave. Kick Ass.

How BRAVE are you? (Part 2)

So, yesterday I posted a story about four amazing and inspiring women in How BRAVE are you? (Part1). Hopefully, you've now had a chance to check out Melissa Foster, Dylan Lin Calista, Ksenia Anske, and Kasey Leavitt and find a little inspiration yourselves. If so, please be BRAVE and loop back to share your amazing stories with me and my other readers! {Thankya!}

So what does a girl do with all of this inspiration just piling up? Other than rush right off to work on my manuscript in process (which I'm doing as well), I wanted to do something more. I wanted to create something universal and supportive. Create something that helps girls of all ages and empowers them to:


OWN their beauty
RESPECT their bodies
LEARN from other women
LISTEN to each other
HEAR, really hear, each others' stories and...

HAVE COMPASSION in return
SHARE their own stories of BRAVERY
CHEER each other on
EMBRACE activities and challenges 
FACE their fears and...
GROW despite what they think they can't overcome
STOP being a victim and TAKE BACK their power
DISCOVER their own inner diamond
PROVIDE a forum, a SAFE community of girls to chat with and...
LAUGH with each other
SAY, YES! EXACTLY when they are inspired by posts
SEE that they can make a difference, in someone else's life and...

PAY IT FORWARD in kind
and, of course, to: 

Be Brave and Kick Ass.

Yes, I said: Be Brave. Kick Ass. 

I want girls to have CONFIDENCE in and LOVE themselves. KNOW their value. RESPECT other girls and not be MEAN or HATEFUL. UNDERSTAND that picking someone else up, and celebrating their success, does not make them weak or take away anything from themselves. Instead, it lifts the COLLECTIVE energy of girls everywhere to start being more supportive of each other. Let's CELEBRATE other women and girls who do AMAZING things every. single. day.

So, to start, I created a Facebook page called Brave Girls Kick Ass. Because, let's face it. We do. But this isn't just a little Facebook project. I want this to CATCH WILD FIRE and burn, baby, burn.

I want girls from all over the world to come here and be inspired. And I WANT more to grow from this. Correction: I will GROW more from this in the coming months and years.

In the spirit of celebrating other amazing women who have the SAME agenda and DESIRE of heart, I want to recognize a group I recently found called the Brave Girls Club.

It was created by two very creative, talented, and driven women: Melody Ross and Kathy Wilkins {photo to left is their image}. They have a similar objective as I do, but I am not affiliated with them in any way. But I SUPPORT their mission, because our hearts have the same goal in mind: to be the small change we want to see in this world, one BRAVE GIRL at a time. To be the small spark that starts a HUGE fire and changes the way girls see themselves and what they are capable of. For that, I applaud them. They are two women who created a company driven from their mission. They have a really cool website, they offer online classes and a Brave Girls' Camp, they have an online shoppe, and they sell a Little Birdie Told Me book. 

I don't aspire to offer camps or classes or have online inventory to sell in a shop. But I will certainly direct my BRAVE GIRLS to them when they need those resources. Because that's what BRAVE GIRLS do! I support their mission, because it's so similar to my own. {Coincidentally, I did not even know they existed until I was searching for some inspiring resources on Facebook, and the universe led me to them!}

All this said, I hope you will join me in my mission. Share in my enthusiasm and passion to be a BRAVE girl. Accept little challenges I set forth and share your results. But most of all, I just want to live in my own BRAVENESS. I am weary from always having to be "the good girl" and tamping down my own inner truths because I'm worried of what others will think.  

I am READY to be completely BRAVE with my life, so YOU can be BRAVE with yours. Let's go be brave and kick some ass together and see what we can accomplish. Who's with me?

Stay tuned later today when I offer your FUN first assignment, should you choose to accept it. IF I have at least 25 girls or women who accept this assignment, submit their creations to me, and are willing to have it shared online, then I'm going to choose one lucky winner to FEATURE here and on our Facebook page, and that winner will also win a $25 gift certificate to the Brave Girls Club online store where they have some pretty cool swag. And, afterall, who doesn't want to flaunt their BRAVE GIRL status? Check back for official rules and join in on the BRAVE GIRL fun!

~ Be Brave. Kick Ass.   

Friday, April 12, 2013

How BRAVE are you? (Part 1)

I have been so inspired lately by so many strong, courageous women. So this is a three-part blog post, that I'll publish over the course of the weekend, to:

1) Introduce these women to you!
2) Tell you about a new community of mine.
3) Give you a homework assignment, if you are BRAVE enough.

See, I purposefully surround myself with strong, amazingly talented, smart, BRAVE women every day. I love working with them, learning from them, and being inspired by them. They push me to examine the life I'm living and ask myself: AM I DOING ENOUGH? AM I MAKING A DIFFERENCE? Because, let's face it, we can often step up our games. And that's what I try to do every day of my life. Learn. Examine. Be brave. Inspire.

Melissa Foster

The first amazing woman is author Melissa Foster. I was first drawn into her writing style while reading Traces of Kara (TOK), which inspired me to do a book review blog post and learn more about her. I now have all of her books on my Kindle waiting to be read. *rubs hands joyously with glee* 

Her newest book, Have No Shame (HNS), will be out this May. While TOK is a heart-racing, psychological thriller with the creepiest villan you could hope for {I'm self-appointed president of the "I heart Roland" fanclub!}, HNS tackles a hard subject that is still sometimes "taboo" to talk about, but is still very relevant: discrimination. HNS explores the dark reality of segregation, racism, and equality in a time when they were still very prevalent in the south. This weekend, I'm doing an entire book review and blog post about this, so check back! 

In HNS, Melissa addresses these emotional issues head on, with beauty, courage, raw honesty, and compassion. It is a book you will never forget, and I applaud her for putting it out there. Seriously, it's pretty BRAVE, and that's what I'm celebrating. Oh, and above all, HNS also happens to be a love story that will leave you breathless. {I'm also self-appointed president of the "I heart Alison & Jackson" fanclub!} 

As if that's not enough, when she's not writing, she also puts herself and her learning experiences out there every day through the creation of her businesses. The first is World Literary Cafe, a "pay-it-forward" community FOR writers that offers opportunities to connect with readers and cross promote with other authors. She also publishes numerous articles to help writers better hone their craft, learn the business, and ponder their options between traditional publishing and Indie. Around the online writing circle, she's basically known as the go-to Indie-Author Guru, as I've deemed her.

She's also the founder of Fostering Success, which is kinda like an Author Boot Camp! It's her way of sharing her experience with authors and help them navigate the big, scary world of publishing, platforms, social media, oh my! {Coincidentally, her courses are now on sale using promo code SUPERSAVER50, which she did not tell me about or ask me to promote in any way, but I stumbled across the sale and just considered it divine timing!}

There is way more I could share, but this isn't a promo piece, seriously, it's just an appreciation post because of how much she gives back to others daily. Did I mention she also holds an annual Aspiring Authors Contest for children and paints murals for hospitals in her spare time? {I'm not kidding, she's just that cool.} 

I've had the pleasure of working with Melissa one-on-one and getting to know her as a person, as well as the inspiring author and leader she is. So, how could I not learn from her? How could I not be inspired to grow? How could I not be stretched to give back in some small way? 

Find Melissa: Twitter | Facebook | Website | Goodreads

Dylan Lin Calista

Dylan is my new soul-sister, whom I met on Twitter and now consider my lil' sister, a bestie, and my cosmic platonic-soul mate. {I posted about her earlier, in The Gift.} She's kinda shy, though you wouldn't know it from the humor and raw, gritty posts she publishes on her website, Lifegasmic.

Her most recent post, Pour Your Heart Out: My Silent Disease, was what made me start thinking about the bravery we show when times are difficult. See, Dylan lives with a silent disease, Endometriosis. It's "silent" because by looking at her, you would never know she's sick. But when you read her blog post, you will better understand the pain and frustration she feels every day. But she's BRAVE because she doesn't let this stop her from living life and having a career, and she also shares her stories to help others. I have several people in my life who live with silent diseases, and I can assure you, this blog post hit home.

It made me start thinking about how BRAVE some girls are, and how we should *celebrate* and *encourage* that EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Because, see, we Brave Girls, Kick Ass. 

What you won't find anywhere on her site, is her bragging about the kick-ass angel-like voice she also has {and that she'll totally kill me for spilling the beans about ~ whoopsie!} that WILL inspire millions some day when I can convince her to release her music to the general public. See, I'm special and have my very own Dylan Lin Calista Playlist, that I wish every person could have!

Find Dylan: Twitter | Website 

Ksenia Anske

Where do I start with the lovely Ksenia Anske. This could be a blog post unto itself, and if you know Ksenia, you know immediately what I mean, with sincere appreciation for the woman.

I also met Ksenia through Twitter. What immediately drew me in is her open accessibility to her followers, as well as her raw, humorous, heart-breaking, and AUTHENTIC tweets and blog posts. This girl holds nothing back and is not afraid to put it out there for her readers and Twitter followers {which are over 40,000 strong and she 's not technically a published novel author yet...though she will be in JUNE...squeal!}.

The book she is wrapping up is called Siren Suicides (SS). On her blog, she tells how she got the idea for SS, which has now grown from one book, to three. And, which I am thrilled to announce, I will have the pleasure of editing for her this May. I'm not usually this kind of girl, but in the legendary words of a new writer friend of mine, L.M. Augustine: "Muppetflails!" Seriously, the excitement simply called for it! {Best new word, um, like, ever!}

So, what makes Ksenia so BRAVE? Spend 5 minutes on her Twitter feed, website and blog, or Facebook page and you'll instantly see why. She's had a very difficult past that many of us are lucky enough to not be able to relate to at all. She grew up in Russia at the hands of an abusive father, ran away and became a parent at a young age, moved to America and learned a new language, and has now written an epic trilogy in perfect English.

But the most amazing thing about her, is her willingness to SHARE her painful stories, and incorporate them into her writing to HELP OTHERS. As many of you have heard, she's been basically giving away SS to anyone who asks because of her need to address the topic of suicide, which is something she's learned from. And, she was even more BRAVE when she opened up about her next novel, Rosehead, on a guest blog post for me in March. {Warning: in it she shares some difficult revelations about her upbringing and the abuse in her family which she drew on as dark inspiration for Rosehead.} 

Ksenia challenges me, every day, to live authentically, to express my TRUE self as a woman and author, to not be afraid to SHARE my feelings and experiences publicly, and to THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX when it comes to writing and publishing {or eff-it, just throw the whole damn box out and think in terms of glittery, sparkly, unicorn bubbles filled with magical cookies, mystical animals, and farts or poo of some sort}.

Find Ksenia: Twitter | Facebook | Facebook Fan Page | Website

Kasey Leavitt

And last, but certainly not least, is new Twitter friend and author, Kasey Leavitt. In addition to her great blog over at the dharma diva, she's also a smarty-pants lawyer...and she likes Bourbon. So, you know this is a BRAVE woman who breaks stereotypes and OWNS it!

While I 'm still getting to know Kasey through her tweets and blog, I recently stumbled across two CRITICAL blog posts I believe EVERY PARENT should read and share with their kids someday.

I told Kasey I'm basically going to print them out, hand write "ditto" on the bottom, sign my name, and share them with my kids when they're older! 

So, here's my warning: you may find them controversial. But the are NECESSARY and she is a BRAVE woman to share her thoughts and private feelings, that she hopes to impart on her children someday, with the entire world! {Side note: Melissa Foster, you will LOVE these posts!}

The first came as an open letter to her daughter, about the tough subject of her body, and her RIGHTS to it. Simply because, IT NEEDS TO BE SAID. I wish they'd Xerox this bad boy and hand it out in sex-ed classes across the nation. Seriously.   

And if that's not BRAVE enough, at the encouragement of a friend, she then wrote and open letter to her son, about what society does that objectifies a woman's body, and how she hopes her son will conduct himself in regards to respecting women as women, and not as body parts.

Seriously: amazing, open, raw, and honest writing at its best. I can't imagine how hard it was to sit and pen these (the one to her son took two months start to finish to get it just right), and then post them for the world to see. But she OWNED them, and ROCKED them.

And she inspired me further to think about how I can make a difference in the lives of girls of every age. Because there are just some truths out there we all need to hear about, embrace, share, learn from, grow from, accept, break-the-F-apart, and change.

Find Kasey: Twitter | Blog


Wrap it up...

So, I took a small step this week and I will share that with you in another blog post this weekend, so I can give it its just due. But I'll give you this as a sneaky, little hint about its focus: 
being brave & kicking ass!
  
{Note: Photo credit (to left) goes to Lupytha Hermin. Visit her on Pinterest to see more of her amazing posters. Seriously, gorgeous. And she's only nineteen!} 

In the meantime, please check out these four amazing women who have inspired me recently. Visit their pages, send them notes, retweet them, and show your love for them. I hope they inspire you in some small, or BIG, HONKING, HUGE way too.

If you too are inspired by them, and you decide to do something in return, please share your stories here so others can be further inspired by you. The best thing we can do in life is to GIVE of ourselves, to love AUTHENTICALLY, to EMBRACE our god-given beauty and talents {no matter which God you pray to, we ALL have beauty and talent}, and to INSPIRE others and inspire CHANGE.

How were you BRAVE today?