Monthly Archives: August 2018

The 90s are Back! Making Nice with Generational Appropriation

Little black backpack purses.  Chokers.  Cute dresses with big black combat boots.  Ringer tees.  Welcome to my teenage years…and apparently those of my kids as well.

I was overwhelmed by the 90s elements I noticed when I went to the mall a few weeks ago with my girls.  As I looked at my own daughter with her short overalls with one strap undone, I realized just how much my own past had snuck up on me.  (There’s a nice little splash of the mid-to-late 80s in there as well.)

thumbs up

At first, I thought it was great!  I loved seeing my  daughter dress the way I always wanted to.  I remember how my mom loved it when I wore bell bottoms as a kid.

But then I had to wonder how my parents’ generation actually felt about us when we walked around in our flared jeans with our hippie sunglasses and wore happy faces and flowers on everything.  Sure, the clothes were somewhat similar to what they had worn back in the 60s, but they weren’t born of any actual culture or trends that related to those times.  We hadn’t lived back then, and we didn’t know the significance of it. Were we taking anything away from that era by mocking it, or were we honoring it through imitation?

I didn’t think about it at all back then, but I am now.  For me, life during that decade was incredibly heavy and real.  Sometimes it was a good thing and sometimes bad, but it was a very vivid experience for me.  If I heard a 90s song on the radio, I remember just how much it impacted me when it was brand new. That doesn’t mean someone else can’t enjoy it, but I just don’t see how it can mean the same thing to them.  And the cargo pants, Skecher boots, and baby tees were just as significant.

The really interesting thing is that I can’t tell you just what made it all so significant.  I remember Operation Desert Storm, Lorena Bobbitt, the O.J. Simpson trial, and Dolly the sheep, but I don’t know how much these things actually affected me.  I honestly think it was more about the trials and tribulations of just being a teen and figuring things out, which is a difficult thing for most people.  Still, it’s hard to really say.

When we were prancing around in our velvet shirts and platform shoes, did the older generation wonder how we could possibly know what it was like to go through the civil rights movement, the first moon landing, or the assassination of JFK?  Or were they just happy to reminisce over their childhood?  (I mean, they didn’t have Facebook constantly asking them to take the ultimate Friends quiz or count down a list of the top toys from their youth.)

friends

I don’t know the answers.  I just know that my daughter dresses like Daria, and I think it’s adorable.

daria

 

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Be sure to check out the monthly giveaway!  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and more!

 

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Book Review: A Class Apart by Susie Murphy

Romance, drama, suspense, and beautiful scenery reign supreme in A Class Apart by Susie Murphy.  I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

a class apart

From the Cover:  It’s 1828, and Ireland is in turmoil as Irish tenants protest against their upper-class English landlords.
Nineteen-year-old Bridget Muldowney is thrilled to return to the estate in Carlow she’ll inherit when she comes of age. But since she left for Dublin seven years earlier, the tomboy has become a refined young lady, engaged to be married to a dashing English gentleman.
Cormac McGovern, now a stable hand on the estate, has missed his childhood friend. He and Bridget had once been thick as thieves, running wild around the countryside together.
When Bridget and Cormac meet again their friendship begins to rekindle, but it’s different now that they are adults. Bridget’s overbearing mother, determined to enforce the employer-servant boundaries, conspires with Bridget’s fiancé to keep the pair apart.
With the odds stacked against them, can Bridget and Cormac’s childhood attachment blossom into something more?

What I Loved:  A Class Apart is a breathtaking piece of historical fiction that made me turn the pages so fast I thought my fingers might catch on fire.  The descriptions completely transported me.  The characters were clear, believable, and relatable.  There is genuinely something happening in every chapter, so this isn’t a tale of ladies sitting in the parlor and gossiping over tea.  The story encompasses the real truths that the people in Ireland had to face in their time, weaving a heartrending tale that’s impossible not to read.

I usually make notes as I read a book when I know I’m going to review it, but I didn’t want to put this book down long enough to do so.  There’s so much more I wish I could say about it, because A Class Apart deserves heaps of praise.  It’s a true testament to the fact that indie authors can and do take pride in creating literary art.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Nothing!  That it ended, maybe?  I want more!  Since this is noted as the first book in a series, I can’t wait for the next volume!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love to see a place and time in history come to life, if you love romance, glorious prose, and a read that will keep you on your couch well past the time you should have gotten up to make dinner, then A Class Apart is for you.  I wish I could award more, but I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Be sure to check out the monthly giveaway!

Interested in having your book reviewed?  Contact me.  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and more!

Once A Wanderer Cover - ebook

 

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Beating Writer Burnout

It’s Monday morning. You’ve had your coffee, your avocado toast, and your obligatory half hour in front of the TV before it’s time to shuffle across the house to your desk. But for some reason, you just can’t do it.

Or maybe it’s after dinner, when you normally take a break from the real world to work on your novel. But as soon as you grab your laptop, you know your eyes will cross if you have to read your own story yet again. It isn’t bad writing, you just can’t do it.

Dog Sleeping after Studying

You may have writer burnout. This isn’t quite the same as writer’s block, because in that situation you want to write but can’t.  When you’re burned out, you don’t even want to pick up a pen.  It happens to all of us, whether we’re getting paid or not. For me, I freelance for a living and write my own stories when I find the time. I’m always writing. Most of the time I’m thrilled to be doing so, but there are days when I just want to sit around in my fuzzy pink bathrobe and watch Star Trek.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help stave off burnout:

Give Yourself Goals: It’s too easy to just not write, even if it’s your livelihood. Give yourself a goal every month. If you’re writing for yourself, make it a word count or a certain number of stories. If you’re freelancing, make it a dollar amount. When you reach your goal, treat yourself to that video game that you’ve been wanting or a new shirt. People working “regular” jobs get bonuses, so why shouldn’t you?

Buy a How-to Book: There are tons of books out there on writing, and they can be just the inspiration you need to get back on track. Find one that deals specifically with the type of writing you’re trying to do, whether it’s crafting the perfect murder mystery or learning how to boost your freelancing business. This also gives you an excuse to go out to the bookstore and get some coffee!

Take a Break: When you just can’t do it anymore, don’t! There are lots of techniques for working through writer’s block, but if you’re burned out its a good idea to walk away for a little while. It gives your brain a chance to focus on something else, and maybe come up with some great ideas in the meantime!  Just make sure you go back and hit the keyboard after an hour or so.

Balance Your Checkbook: If your freelance work seems like the last thing you want to do, balance your checkbook and look at upcoming bills and expenses. For me, that’s usually enough to get my head back in the game!

Work on Something Different: There’s no written rule that you can’t have more than one story going. Tired of trying to figure out what your main character is going to do in chapter 5? Go find a new character to stalk!

While these methods aren’t going to be perfect for everyone, it’s important to give yourself scheduled breaks and avoid working too hard on one project.  Find what works for you, and keep it going even when you don’t feel burned out.  It’ll prevent future episodes and make sure those words keep coming.  Good luck!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Be sure to check out the monthly giveaway!  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and more!

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Book Review – The Troubled Youth by Anthony Miner

When two people are forced to confront their past and their future all at once, how can they possibly handle it?  That’s what you’ll discover in The Troubled Youth by Anthony Miner.

From the Cover:  Jackson and Samantha live modestly in a small apartment in Upstate New York when tragedy strikes Jackson’s family back in his hometown of Lake Joy, Massachusetts. Now the couple, along with their two cats, pack up their lives to take care of the family he left behind years ago.
The Troubled Youth is a novel about the two of the most drastic parts of life; heartache and love. For Jackson, it follows his journey back to a place he long forgot with the added pressure of grieving over the loss of a loved one. And for Samantha, the story shows growth and pain of adjusting to a new life. As a couple, they will struggle and mature. But the more they seem to learn from each other, the more their past mistakes will come back to push them away.
Regular everyday life rarely offers a clear cut good and evil. There is just opinions mixed with choices. Read the story of this fiction and follow a realistic story of a young couple that make plenty of mistakes along their path to understanding the losses of loved ones and finding a life they never expected.

What I Loved:  There is a very real love between the two main characters that’s palpable throughout the book.  Despite all the problems they’re facing, it’s obvious just how much they care about each other and that their love is the central core of their entire being.

The Troubled Youth deals with the very real problems of adulthood.  While Jackson’s family tragedy is (hopefully) much more than most of us would ever have to deal with, it asks the questions:  What would we do if we had to make the toughest decisions in life?  Where do we draw the line when it comes to our loved ones?  Is there a line?

This book has a very distinct feel and tone to it that makes it incredibly real.  While the characters could have been sitting in any old kitchen, I immediately envisioned them as being in the house I grew up in.  That might not have been what the author intended, but it worked very well at keeping this a relatable story.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  While the flashbacks do a great job of revealing the character’s backgrounds, they tend to jump out and take the forefront of the story.  For example:

At the very beginning, when Jackson is getting some horrible news, we take a big side step into the other times the main character has cried in front of his fiancé.  It feels like such an awkward thing to do at that moment, especially when the author begins talking about the montage at the Hall of Presidents at Disney World.  He mentions a speech by President George W. Bush right after 9/11, and I immediately opened a new tab to look it up.  I had completely forgotten about this particular moment, and it was quite moving just as the main character had promised.  I’m not sure, though, that this was the right place to bring it up.  It makes this whole section very jumbled.

Also, this book could have been better edited.  There were quite a few awkward sentences, as well as some incomplete sentences, missing words, or misplaced commas.  Sometimes the wrong tense is used.  Some of this is more acceptable than it might be in a different piece due to the casual tone of the book, but I still found it distracting.

Rating and Recommendation:  While there were some editing issues, I think overall this is a really great story.  I don’t typically go for real-life dramas, but I’m happy that I read it.  There’s something different about it, and it truly made me feel as though I was going back home and having to deal with all the consequences that come along with that.  I give The Troubled Youth 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a cathartic and emotional read.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Interested in having your book reviewed?  Contact me.  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and giveaways!

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Pen Review: Parker Vector Fountain

I received this pen as part of the May iPenBox from the iPenstore.  While it took me a minute to get around to it, I’m pretty pleased!

The first thing I noticed is that there are very few skips, even on paper not meant for fountain pens.  It writes very smoothly, and I only noticed I was getting more skips when I was about to run out of ink.  Then all of a sudden, the ink was gone!  To add to this, the Vector picked right back up even after having left it for three days, and I didn’t have to scribble or coax it into restarting.  The nib is a nice shape and feels very solid.

The Vector is incredibly lightweight.  That’s not something I usually like in a pen, and the weight made me think I wouldn’t like this pen at all.  But since it writes so well, it kind of works.

I used this pen with the blue ink cartridge that came with it.  The cartridge held quite a bit of ink, but it wasn’t anything particularly special.  It was actually a bit watery.  It didn’t run or drip, but it didn’t make a nice bold mark on the page.  When I get around to trying this pen with a converter (which it doesn’t come with), then I think I’ll really enjoy it.

This pen is very slim.  That can be a great thing if you’re slipping it into a pocket or purse, but the willowy build and the straight grip can be a little tiring after a while.  I actually grabbed my Shaeffer POP ballpoint when I ran out of ink and needed to finish a thought.  I’m not the biggest fan of the POP just because it’s so fat, but it was a relief after an hour with the Vector.

Overall, I recommend the Vector if you want something that writes smoothly and without giving you trouble, but you don’t mind a skinny pen.  It’s an inexpensive pen in the $12-$15 range, and it’s available on the iPenStore.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and giveaways!

 

 

 

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Getting Past Writer’s Block

There’s nothing worse than sitting down to write, only to find that your brain doesn’t want to cooperate.  Your pen is hovering above the paper or your fingers above the keys, poised and ready to create, but nothing seems to be working.

We’re all familiar with writer’s block.  There is a lot of advice out there about how to get past it, but this is what has worked for me:

Writer’s Block

-Change how you put words on paper.  I know this sounds overly simplistic, but I find that it really helps.  I can type pretty darn fast, but that doesn’t do me any good when there’s nothing to write! That’s when I turn to writing by hand.  You could also get a new pen (always inspiring, I think), draw out the story, record your thoughts on a voice recorder, or even switch computers.

-Freewriting.  Oftentimes, we get stopped in our creative writing process by the worry of whether or not the outcome will be good enough.  We pick at ourselves about the arrangement of our words and what sort of emotions they’ll exude in the readers.  But freewriting is just as freeing as it sounds.  Write without the intent of ever showing anyone.  You can burn or erase your work later if you want to.  Just write whatever comes to mind, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with your story or article.  Sometimes, I even write questions and answers about the story as I go.

-Shower.  We all know the muse lives in the showerhead.  Besides, writers have a rep for being disheveled and a little dirty, so let’s use this tool to find our inspiration and dispel the rumor simultaneously.

-Quit trying.  What?  Just stop writing?  Well, yeah!  Obviously, you can only stop for so long or else you’ll never write again.  But a really bad case of writer’s block is sometimes best served by taking a step back.  Take a walk, go read a book, or wash the dishes.  After a little while, your characters just might start talking to you again!

-Schedule your writing time.  I read this little nugget of advice about five years ago. The idea is that your brain gets used to the time frame you start using the creative parts of it, and having a routine makes things a little easier.  In my own experience, this turned out to be true!  I always get my best work done in the morning.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Don’t forget to sign up for the monthly newsletter!

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Book Review: Bloodline Origins by Iuliana Foos

Vampires and aliens.  What more do you need?  How about some great romance, likable characters, and wonderful descriptions?  You get all that in Bloodline Origins by Iuliana Foos.  I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review, and I’m more than happy to give it.

Bloodline Origins by Iuliana Foos

From the Cover:  Determined to turn her fantasy into reality, Ana starts her journey to become a vampire. Along the way, she learns the truth about their secret society, discovers her prestigious bloodline, and falls in love.
Not all vampires are accepting of humans and war looms in the shadows. An ancient tome reveals the vampires’ alien descent and sparks war.
An army bent on eradicating her coven’s existence threatens her new world. Survival or annihilation will be in Ana’s hands.

What I Loved:  The book starts quickly, and we learn right away that Ana wants to be a vampire.  I was a little thrown by this at first because it felt too far-fetched, but the reasoning behind it is explained later on in the story.

Foos is very thorough in how the world works and what the “rules” are, such as how vampires behave, what their society is like, etc.  While some of this is reminiscent of other vampire books (and how could it not be?), it still seems to be its own unique alternate world:  “The human world has changed and not necessarily for good.  We have preserved our traditions, our beliefs, and yes, we do have rules–rules that kept us safe from humans.”

There’s a lot of great description that really makes the setting for this book.  As I read, I never forgot where the characters were at or what they were supposed to be doing.

Ana, the main female character, is a very realistic and relatable character.  The reader easily comes to know her past and her uncertainties, and she changes as the story progresses.

Andree, the main male character is strong and very appealing.  He’s a bit of a bad boy simply because he’s a vampire and he’s royalty, but he’s not a jerk.  He’s a very romantic character.

I love the romance between the two main characters.  It’s swift, but since the story give a “fated mate” vibe, it really works.

There are some really great twists, but I won’t tell you what they are!  It would spoil things too much.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Unfortunately, the book really needs some more editing.  There are a lot of misplaced commas and a few missing words.  The chapter breaks feel random, and even though there are scene breaks for changes of perspective, I think it could have been done better.  For instance, sometimes the story advances by two months, and it would be nice to see that as the start of a new chapter, perhaps even with the time frame noted.

Rating and Recommendation:  Since I pretty much couldn’t put this book down, I have to give it five stars!  What little fixes that are needed don’t detract from the story, and I can’t wait to read the next one.  If you love romance and fantasy, and you don’t mind a little bit of blood, then this is the book for you.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective.  Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Interested in having your book reviewed?  Contact me.  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for news and giveaways!

 

 

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