Beauty of a Woman BlogFest

I first read Sam Levinson’s “The Beauty of a Woman” during a dark time in my life and repeatedly as I journeyed out. In honor of the poem and its message, I’m thrilled to welcome you to the first ever Beauty of A Woman BlogFest!

Since the posts began rolling in yesterday, it’s felt like Christmas and Valentine’s Day combined; each love-filled post is a gift as unique and insightful as its author—to all of whom I’m in awe. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself lost in the words and stories, shed a few tears and laugh until your belly aches. I hope you find them as inspiring, hilarious and thought-provoking as I did.

To participate, simply click on the following links—all of them or whichever strike your fancy. Then pop back here, post a comment and share this page via Twitter, Facebook and/or your own blog. I’ll put your name in a drawing for each shout out (maximum of 4) and for commenting and announce the winners on Monday. Prizes include a Kindle Touch, gift cards, books, body image coaching by Karen R. Koenig, dog training, a 10-page writing critique by Kristen Lamb, healthy sweets, e-classes and BOAW mugs. For more details on the prizes, click here.

Without further ado, let the fun begin!

Emma Burcart: What Is Beauty?
Serena Dracis: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Cynthia Cheng Mintz: Beauty of a Woman or How I Came to Accept My Petiteness
Cynthia Cheng Mintz: Beauty of a Woman: Trying to Embrace My Cinderella Feet
Louise Behiel: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest 2012
Kara Flathouse: Dear Daughters, A Beautiful Heart is Yours
Shannon Esposito: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest! 

Ginger Calem: Dear Thighs…We need to talk.
Julie Hedlund: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Sharon Howard: What is Beauty?
Amber West: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Kristine Parker: The Beauty of My Mother
Susie Lindau: Reflected Addiction
Karen Koenig: Why Can’t Our Bodies Be Okay?
Tamara (FitNitChick): The Last Time I Felt Beautiful 


Nisha (NM): Discovering the Joy of Mascara and Other Fun Stuff
Write On, Jana!: What Makes a Woman Beautiful?
Kecia Adams: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest: The Beauty of Aggression
Coleen Patrick: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Marcy Kennedy: The Lie of Helen of Troy
Debra Kristi: Defining Beauty of a Woman
Lena Corazon: Discovering My Beauty Through Writing

Prudence MacLeod: Beauty of a Woman
Myndi Shafer: I Am Beautiful…Just The Way I Am
Liz: the beauty of a woman.
E.C. Stilson: What is True Beauty?
Alicia Street: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Sheila Seabrook: The Beauty Within
Ingrid Shaffenburg: Love Thy Temple 

Julie Jordan Scott: You Are Beautiful—From the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Debra Eve: Unearthing the Beauty of a Woman
Sharon K. Owen: The Beauty of a Woman
Shanjeniah: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest 2012
Patricia Sands: You’re Beautiful, Just the Way You Are
C. Nicole White: Secret Envy
Mollie Player: I Can’t Admit I Like Chubby Girls

Proud2BMe: Everyone is Beautiful!
Katie (Oracular Spectacular): Beauty of Being a Woman: BlogFest 2012
Kristen Lamb: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest—Making Peace with My Thunder Thighs
Stephanie D: New Dimensions – Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Samantha Warren: Just As You Are
Audrey Kalman: Tribute to a Different Kind of Beauty
Julia B. Whitmore: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest: Dye Baby, Dye

What did you think of the fest? How do you define beauty? Have a quip or tale to add? Share your thoughts as a comment below for a chance at the fab prizes!

Thanks for making the BOAW BlogFest an uplifting success!
You are all beautiful butterflies.

Special Announcement: Celebrate Beauty & Win Fab Prizes

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is beauty? What does it mean to you? When do you feel beautiful?

Though I’m a big fan of getting gussied up on occasion, even my most “glam” days in the fashion industry can’t compare to the beauty I feel now. (No makeup required for this kind of beauty. See??? ;))

The Em-meister, as I like to call him, was right. Beauty isn’t something we can buy, apply, chase after, whittle ourselves down for or attract. It’s within each of us and grows when we seek, accept and embrace it.

If you’re so inclined, visit my blog this Friday, February 10th to participate in the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. Tour the links to over thirty fantastic blog pieces, composed by some of the most talented writers in the blogosphere. Then post a comment on my page for a chance to win a Kindle Touch, gift cards, books and more.

For additional chances at prizes, promote the fest via Twitter, Facebook and/or your blog. For each promotional shout out (between now and Friday) and comment (on Friday), your name will be entered into the prize drawing, for a maximum of 4 chances. For 2 more chances, enter the fest as a blogger. (Today is the last day for signups.)

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  —Maya Angelou

Hope you’ll spread your wings and party with us! Any questions, drop me a note. 🙂

Fa La Ha Ha Blog Bash

So I, er, I mean a random blonde went to the post office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards. Here’s what went down:

Blonde: May I have 50 Christmas stamps?

Clerk: What denomination?

Blonde: Oh my God! Has it come to this? Fine. Give me 6 Catholic, 12 Presbyterian and 32 Baptist.

Laughing yet? I hope so, because laughter is good for your heart—literally. A study conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center showed that people with heart disease are 40 percent less likely to laugh with ease. Research has also linked laughter with an improved capability to manage stress and fewer instances of stress and anxiety. (Geesh… Sign me up!)

I’ve always admired people who guffaw at just about anything or find hilarity in popular comedies I find treacherous to sit through. But just when I suspect I lack some funny bones, something comes along and strikes me as FUUUUU—NNY. I start laughing and can’t stop until tears pool in my eyes, my belly aches and my bladder control grows questionable. Y’all kept me laughing through my Naughty & Nice fun. I figured it was time to reciprocate.

Recently, this was my HAHA inspiration:

HAAAAAA!!!!!!! See what I MEAN??? This hat isn’t only hilarious, but so darn useful. A few potential uses, off the top of my HEAD. LOL! (*slinking down* Okay, not as funny.)

With a turkey hat, you can:

1. …bring light to a serious situation. Imagine, you’re sitting at a table full of relatives who have as much in common as lightbulbs and kumquats. The silence is so thick, you fear breathing. You bust out this bad boy and every straight lip curves upward, or opens wide to LOL.

2. …make a statement for animal rights. (For added power, carry a sign: “You think eating animals looks goofy?”)

3. …start a fashion trend. (Hey, if Zubaz could do it…)

4. …keep your as head as warm stuffing.

5. …make others fear they’ve gone crazy. (“What do you mean, what’s on my head?”)

6 …eat herb-seasoned bread bits to your heart’s desire.

7. …play the “put this on your head game.”

8. …top off your turkey dinner Halloween costume.

9. …give the gift of laughter to everyone on your list. Think about it: Christians, Jews and atheists may disagree on certain points, but they ALL have heads. They also either eat or avoid chicken. You simply can’t go wrong. (Since the hat isn’t edible, no worries on whether it’s kosher.)

10. …create holiday memories to last a lifetime. (Yep, planning on this myself.)

***** All this for only $10.99 $6.49 at Amazon! ;)*****

Whether you have no trouble seeing the light in grim situations and laugh out loud at everyday scenarios, say, turkey hat wearing, or can’t recall the last time you chuckled, I hope you get a kick out of these fabulous links. I know I did.

Lucy Writes a Novel, by M.G. Miller: A hilarious walk down the slush-pile memory lane.

Funny Christmas Cookies, featured by In Erika’s Kitchen: Darth Vador, Bacon & Eggs and Kim Kardashian’s behind. (Need I say more?)

Urban Word Wednesday: Manolescent, by Natalie Hartford: Natalie’s weekly word series never fails in making me laugh.

For the Golfer in Your Life: The Potty Putter (Yes, You Read That Correctly), by Natalie Hartford: The photo alone is giggle-worthy.

When Words Fail, Eat More Friggin’ Pudding, by Coleen Patrick: When lyrics go wrong, laughter goes right.

Fifty-Six of the Best (or Worst) Similies Ever Written, featured by The Journal Pulp: Also the funniest similies!

Are You Sexy and You Know It? LMAFO You Are!, by Tameri Etherton: If you’ve ever wondered when togs become underwear…

The Grinch is Pregnant, by Myndi Shafer: Myndi makes such a great case, she could be a lawyer by day, standup comic by night.

Great Expectations, by Kristen Lamb: Why a little boy dug through horse poo with glee (and you should, too).

Author Marc Shuster referred me to clip and it’s been popping into my head routinely since. Even if you’ve seen the entire film, this scene is precious as a stand-alone:

Now, if we could just get Buddy to don a turkey hat…

Speaking of which, I have a Naughty & Nice challenge for y’all. Order your own turkey hat and take photos or video of you wearing it. (No Photoshop allowed, you non-GGs!) If five of you do so and blog about it, I’ll sport mine in public and share the embarrassment  goofy awesomeness in a post.

In the meantime, I love hearing from you. Are you an easy laugher? What’s your personal “turkey hat?” How many of the real deal are you purchasing today? 😉

Naughty & Nice: Confessions of a Relative Goody-Goody

n. good·y-good·y: One who is affectedly sweet, good, or virtuous.

In most circles, I’m considered a goody-goody. Then again, it’s all relative. My family used to play a board game in which we paired family members with particular situations and traits. A card might read, “Who’s the wildest child?” for example… Or, “Who’s most likely to sing karoake naked?” We’d all jot down which one of us fit the bill. All-things-wild, misbehaving or adventurous landed on me. Goody-goody cards would definitely have landed on one of my sweet, more virtuous sisters.

Shortly after high school graduation, I moved to New York City where I lived with seven model roommates. Not model as in exemplary (trust me…). As in they—okay, we— were all fashion/runway/editorial models. I’d daydreamed about my arrival to the Big Apple…the glamour, lights, throngs of pedestrians and lanky, sophisticated roommates who’d deem me oh-so-exotic because I was from Minnesota. (Can we say naive? LOL) I was right on all counts, except about my roomies.

Domvika (must say with exotic accent) was from Abakan, Russia. Ivaki was Chechoslovakian. They all smoked, drank, watched Jerry Springer religiously and partied nightly until dawn. (Even the night before photo shoots! *gasp*) Suddenly this Minnesotan girl who’d never seen a drug up close, smoked a cigarette or drank a beer, went from “wild child” to “goody goody supreme.”

Having since lived in Paris, Miami and now Los Angeles, where my GG roots shine bright, I’ve come to embrace them. I no longer feel like a nerd for reading and writing constantly (now both are my job…whew!), waking early, turning into a pumpkin by 9pm or getting tipsy from sips of alcohol. I suppose such acceptance comes with maturity. Besides, GG-dom has some serious advantages.

For one, the best of us serve dual-purpose as naughty-supremes. (Huh? Isn’t that contradictory?) Nope! It’s just plain cool. When we let our naughtiness out, it’s HOT… Why? Because it’s unexpected. Mysterious. Sometimes mind blowing. (Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I mean… I’ve got some of you pegged. ;))

Two, we not only seem trustworthy, we are. (While we do let our ‘naughty’ out, we never let it get in the way of the higher good.) This makes for a peaceful existence and attracts other trustworthy friends into our circles.

And three, our cuss words hold POWER! If you rarely if ever swear, calling out profanities stops others’ madness like volcanic ash in Pompeii. It can also inspire laughter and much-needed cheering up.

In preparation for an upcoming post, I’ve decided to let you in on a few secrets. In order to learn more (isn’t mysteriousness FUN?), you must guess how many of the following are true about me. Could be 0, could be 10, could be any number in between. Feeling particularly confidant? Tell me which ones you believe are true in a comment. If no one gets right, I’ll use my right to remain silent. 😉 If someone does get it right, I’ll share juicy details…

I’m so naughty, I:

1. Got picked up by the cops.
2. Punched a well known artist in the nose…and broke it.
3. Had a lengthy fling with one of “world’s sexiest” celebs.
4. Walked naked through Times Square on a dare.
5. Walked naked through Times Square because I felt like it.
6. Had air-sex with an invisible man on TV.
7. Spat in a teacher’s face before knocking him into a pool.
8. Peed on the Audobon.
9. Touched a monk. And liked it.
10. Stole Jesus.
11. Said the F, S, B and D-words out loud. 😉
12. Broke into a house.

(Or did I??? ;))

Guess away! If you prefer, tell me where you fall on the naughty/nice spectrum… *ALL EARS* 

Contest: If you dig this, play the Naughty and Nice Game on your blog and link it back to mine for a chance to win a platter of my healthy baked goods. (See? Naughty AND Nice… They provide wild indulgence AND ample nutritional benefits. ;))

Feel free to change it up. If you’re more naughty than nice, for example, you might try a Nice List. Your friends may be shocked to learn that your first kiss came at age 20…or that you volunteer for Crochet Addicts Anonymous. Or post a naughty/nice list about a particular celebrity and have us guess who it is. Anything related goes!

Samantha Warren’s Birthday Scavenger Hunt: Win a Kindle!

My friend, Samanta Warren, is a talented writer and best-selling author of Blood of the Dragon (Book #1), a full-length epic fantasy novel, and the urban fantasy novella series, Jane. She’s also playing Santa this month, in honor of her 30th birthday! (The fact that she’s GIVING away gifts for her birthday tells you what a gem she is…)

Here’s how it works: Every day this week, Samantha will post a list of five questions that must be answered via email by 11:59EST that day. All answers can be found within these blogs. Each day, whoever answers the most questions will win a prize.

The contest runs from December 4th (TODAY!) to the 10th. And while it’s not quite as exciting as the Kindle Mini grand prize, the first runner up with win a custom package of my healthy, homemade baked goods! (Fear not; they’re tasty. ;))

Please visit SamanthaWarren.com for ongoing details. If you like what you read, as I suspect you will, subscribe to her blog and check her books out—both are “prizes” themselves.

Have fun and good luck! Stay tuned for my next post, an interview with Roni Loren…romance novelist and blogger extraordinaire.

Will you join the fun? What’s the most creative thing you’ve done to celebrate your birthday?

Author Mike Sirota on Writing and His Latest Work

It’s been said that thriller and horror authors are the nicest people on the planet because they get all of their angst out in their fiction. Doubtful? A conversation with renowned horror author Mike Sirota might convince you otherwise.

Not only does Sirota have twenty published novels (including the recently released Fire Dance) and fourteen years as an award-winning magazine feature writer and editor under his belt, he is a kick-butt writing coach, book editor and friend who cares as much about his writers’ success as he does his own. And he took time out of his busy schedule to answer questions on our behalf. (Thanks, Mike! :))



First, here is what others are saying about Sirota and his work:

“Mike Sirota is an absolute pro of a writer and, even for non-aficionados of ghost stories, these pages sing.” John Lescroart, New York Times bestselling author of Treasure Hunt and Damage

“Dear Mike: What can I say? Because of your expert guidance and fine touch I’m now a published author. When we first hooked up and started working together, I worried that the job of writing my novel would be an arduous task, filled with hours of agony and tedious rewrites, but I was wrong. Your lively comments and sense of humor have made the effort truly enjoyable. You keep editing and I’ll keep writing. It’s a pleasure working with you.” Jeff Sherratt, author of Detour to Murder

About Fire Dance:
LEGENDARY AUTHOR MIKE SIROTA RETURNS! The searing wind whistles through the ruins of Concordia Sanitarium in Southern California’s bleak Anza-Borrego Desert. Now, something else stirs: the tormented spirits of the staff and inmates who perished in an all-consuming fire over a century earlier. As one gruesome murder after another plagues the nearby quiet retirement community of Smoke Tree, Tracy Russell and Mark Alderson try desperately to stop the one inmate that should never have been released—either in life or in death.” ZOVA Books

“Sirota returns…with this atmospheric tale of horror in the American Southwest. Horror fans will enjoy this updated take on the western ghost town.” Publishers Weekly

“So great to have a new book from legendary writing coach Mike Sirota. When he writes, you should listen!” Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of Live to Tell

Here we are at his book signing at Mysterious Galaxy. Good times!

What inspired you to write Fire Dance?
MS: I go hiking in the Anza-Borrego desert, the setting for Fire Dance, at least once a year. On one trip, the old “what if” kicked in. What if, during the 1870s, they put a sanitarium in the desert where no one could run away, given the heat, the terrain, etc.? What if one inmate—Bruno—was a violent mass murderer? What if they all burned to death during a dance? And what if, over a century later, they all came back…

What aspect of Fire Dance are you most pleased with?
MS: While it is a ghost story—some even call it a horror novel—it has a strong romantic element. Tracy and Mark, the main protagonists, are two emotionally wounded people who come together in a small desert town—a retirement community, no less—under some remarkably challenging conditions. As they learn to love and trust again, their future is in doubt as they face the nightmare that is Bruno.

You have a gift for luring readers in from the get-go. How do you do it? Any tips for other writers?
MS: We call the opening of a novel the HOOK. Engage the reader on page one and don’t let go. Just recently I presented a hook workshop at a writers’ conference and I read the first page of Fire Dance to the attendees. It gratified me that they were so taken with the visualization of the desert, and the inmates wandering around the grounds in their white, ghostly shrouds. Scene builds on scene, each one designed to make the reader want to know more. Don’t bore the reader with expository narration, weather reports, the main character describing herself while looking in the mirror, the history of the world, part I, etc.

Of your many accomplishments, what makes you the most proud?
MS: All writers hope to be reviewed in Publishers Weekly, our major trade publication. Even a bad review can be a good thing. Of my first nineteen novels, not one was reviewed in PW. But Fire Dance was, and positively. It made my day.

What do you love most about writing?
MS: Just about everything. I love it when a scene comes out of my head so fast that I can’t input it quickly enough. I love doing research. The book/Internet research is cool enough, but for my final draft I do what I call “living research,” where I travel to the scene of my story to actually experience the setting. Last month I traveled to the Sierra Nevada foothills, the setting for my next novel, THE BURNING GROUND. Fantastic trip that, after I got home, enabled me to bring my pages to life. I do this for every story.

Do you make mistakes?? 😉 Let me rephrase: What aspects of writing do you find most challenging?
MS: I’m a perfectionist, so I probably go overboard in being anal. As an editor, I want no typos or other errors. As a writer I want every detail to be correct. If the woman is wearing a red dress on page 23, she’d better not be wearing a blue dress in the same scene on page 36. I’ve seen it happen—in published novels.

What common mistake(s) do you see new or up-and-coming writers make?
MS: Oh, how much time and space do you have! Weak opening hooks, inability to handle a POV (point of view), poor dialogue—I could go on and on. If you want to write a book you need to READ READ READ, which sounds basic, but you wouldn’t believe how many writers hardly read. Some writers even try to write in a genre of which they have never read a single book—because the genre is selling, they think.

Take writing classes. Go to writers’ conferences. Join a read-critique group. Read books about all aspects of writing. Subscribe to THE WRITER and WRITER’S DIGEST. Learn your craft!

Anything you wish you’d done differently throughout your career?
MS: I always tell writers to keep their day jobs. Had I followed that advice for myself years ago, I might have kept writing and improving my craft, instead of taking a hiatus of about seventeen years.

If you could give one bit of advice to writers, what would you suggest? Write for the love of writing. If you write to become a bestselling author and make a gazillion dollars, you will likely fail.

What’s next in the pipeline? I mentioned THE BURNING GROUND. It’s another ghost story, and also a romance, this time with three emotionally wounded people: a man, a woman, and a ten-year-old boy. It also became a statement book, as it involves a small Sierra foothill Native American tribe, the Maidu (they’re for real), and one particular village where everyone is exterminated by miners during the Gold Rush (true). Their spirits remain trapped here, and in the contemporary story their graves are desecrated by “thieves of time” (also a real problem) for artifacts. Now the spirits are really pissed, and guess what…

CONTEST!!! Order Fire Dance or Demon Shadows (Kindle edition). Send a copy of your purchase confirmation to august@augustmclaughlin.com and I’ll place your name in a drawing for a $20 iTunes gift card. And as always, I welcome your thoughts!