Happy Birthday To My Favorite Mug!

An Aunt gave me this mug when I was young, because she really didn’t like me.

 
 

The joke is on her, because I still love this mug.

 

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Not because I’m evil. Nope. Not even.  I love this mug, because it taught me a really important lesson about people, even the ones who are supposed to love and support you.

 

 

Some people will do their best to try to make you feel small, so they can feel superior. Sometimes it works, and when it does, they win. Your hurt feeds their desire to bring others down. They bury you with their own unhappiness and pettiness, because giving a 13-year-old a witch mug that implies she is evil is beyond childish and petty. (Unless, of course, the 13-year-old actually wanted that mug, admires that character, or identifies with being the kind of evil that makes the mug a fun, loving joke.)

 

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It wasn’t a joke. I didn’t take an interest in this character or story (this was 21 years before the introduction of Maleficent as a fascinating, layered, and misunderstood villain), nor did I believe I was evil.

 

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I did, however, stand up to people who were unkind to me and who tried to belittle me.

 

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I also stood up for others who were unable to stand up for themselves, and this did not go over well with her, for an easy victim is a joy to those who treat people poorly. But a difficult victim, someone who refuses to be made to feel stupid or small, that’s a threat (and if you’re a threat, you might even have your own mug to show for it).

 

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Anyway, here’s the thing about this mug. I’m clumsy. 

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Not just a little bit.  I’m clumsy in the almost-bleeds-out-and-dies-before-the-ambulance-can-arrive-to-scrape-me-off-the-ground sort of clumsy.  I shatter about 6-8 mugs per year in the most unbelievable sorts of ways. It’s a special talent.  And this mug, it’s the only one that I still have left from my childhood.  I didn’t even realize that, until I started writing this paragraph.

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So as you’ve already guessed, this story has a moral…

 

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Not because I’m choosing to write it that way, but because I chose to live it that way. At the time, I didn’t even begin to understand the impact of such a choice. 

 

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I could have taken this mug, cried my eyes out, smashed it to pieces, or sold it in a garage sale, but I didn’t.

 

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Having taught middle school for six years, I think all of those would have been reasonable and valid choices for expressing my emotions, given the circumstances and my neurological development. I wouldn’t fault anyone for having done something similar, and at the time, I considered all of those options.

 

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I could have taken the message 

 

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to heart and let it beat me down 

 

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and make me feel small,

 

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but I didn’t. 

 

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I could have forgotten where this mug came from and who gave it to me, but I also didn’t.

 

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Perhaps that would have been the ultimate victory? I don’t fixate on the mug. I rarely think about how it came to me at this point in my life, but it still stands as a quiet symbol of who I can be when I believe in myself and surround myself with the right kind of people.

 

 

When those I loved and trusted heaped unkindness on me, I found new people to love and trust and believe in. 


 
That was not always easy. 

 

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There were times in life when I thought it actually might be easier to dislike and mistrust people. To keep them at an arms length, so they wouldn’t get close enough to hurt me.

 

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I’m definitely not cuddly with newbies until I know where they stand and who they really are, and I have cut myself free from some unhealthy relationships, especially in friendships. 

 

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But I’m not alone, and the people in my corner love me, understand me, and accept me, even all of my faults and annoying habits.  

 

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I could have let a mug define me, but instead, I defined the mug.

 

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 I wake up every day, smile at a mug that was intended to make me feel small,

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pour in my favorite drink,

 

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(JUST KIDDING!)

 

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and go about the business of being me, regardless of what other people think. 

 

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I surrounded myself with people who would never tear down my confidence in order to feel powerful.

 

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Cause the truth is, that’s not power. 

 

That’s weakness.  

 

Even Maleficent had to learn that lesson.

 

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The thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that I used to love that Aunt, back before I understood people and relationships well enough to grasp that she was toxic to others.

 

 

We spent a good amount of time with her when we were small, so many of my memories of childhood include her.   Now, I haven’t seen her since I was a teenager, and I don’t miss her. 

 

 

I’ll still hang on to those fun and funny memories of her, because they’re reminders to me of who she could have been if she had made different choices in her relationships with others. But I don’t feel sad that  she’s not a part of my life, because I like my life.

 

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I love my family, and I adore my friends, the true ones that don’t tear me down for being a neurotic, overthinking dreamer.

 

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The ones that get that neurotic, overthinking dreamers can create wonderful things, be beautiful people, and enjoy happy, satisfying lives.

 

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Maybe it just looks like a souvenir mug that was probably in a million households, but to me, it’s a souvenir of who I was 23 years ago (plus or minus a year, as I vividly remember receiving the gift but not the precise year in which I received it). It’s a souvenir of who I could have become, and a reminder of who I decided to be.

 

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I like me. I like my mug. I’ve even grown to love and understand Maleficent, and at the end of my life, if this mug can hold up for that long, I hope it’s a symbol of a life well-lived.

 

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Not an evil one.

 

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Perhaps a misunderstood one.

 

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Definitely a satisfying one. 

 

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So happy birthday, to my favorite mug, as we turn 24 and 37. May we both live to enjoy another 24 years of adventures.

 

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PS: I confess that after writing this post, I stayed up until 2:00 AM rewatching Maleficent, which I do love. It just came 21 years after the mug. In the writing world, we call that accidental foreshadowing. 

 

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PS 2: Also, I was supposed to be drafting chapter four of my WIP when I started typing up my thoughts about this mug, and it’s all because I poured a cup of tea. Sometimes, you sit down prepared to do honest work, and instead, you get caught up by an honest emotion. Please don’t blame the tea. It’s an innocent bystander in this monologue. 

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Guest Post by Jaye Robin Brown

Why Will’s Story?

Jaye Robin Brown

When you write a novel, your characters become a part of your extended family. They’re a little bit you, a little bit the people you know, a little bit of your imagination. So when I finished NO PLACE TO FALL, it was sad to say goodbye to Amber and Devon and Will and all of the others and let them travel out to the readers. Because that’s how it happens. When your book is published it’s no longer yours, it’s the readers, and sometimes what they react to is surprising.

In the case of NO PLACE TO FALL (spoiler alert) a number of readers had strong reactions to Will cheating on his girlfriend. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I mean, I knew Will. I knew his heart. I knew the history between he and Amber Rose. But you know what? It wasn’t on the page so the reader didn’t know.

This is how WILL’S STORY began to percolate. I wanted to give him his day in court, so to speak. I knew his heart was true. I knew he was a good guy underneath that mistake-making teenage boy.

The story follows some of the same time line as the novel so we can see things through Will’s eyes, but it would have been derivative if that’s all it had to offer. I wasn’t sure how I would add in new scenes while also staying true to the original book. But as the writing happened, the stories came forward. Will’s relationship with his own music, his sometimes fractious relationship with his father and how that came to be, and also more of his relationship with his brother Devon. And of course, the all important “what was he thinking!” when it came to the two Ambers.

I hope I redeemed him. Because to me, Will McKinney will always be a nice guy. I hope you think so, too.


 

JRoAbout Author and Guest Post Writer Jaye Robin Brown:  

Jaye Robin Brown, or Jro to her friends, lives and writes in the mountains north of Asheville, North Carolina. She’s in awe of magic and beauty, and is a stalwart champion for the underdog, both human and other. When she’s not writing, you can find her in the art room of the high school where she teaches, or on her small farm hanging out with her dogs, cats, and horses.


No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown 

NPTF coverPublished December 9th 2014 by HarperTeen

Summary: Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.

When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.

Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Will’s Story: A No Place to Fall Novella by Jaye Robin Brown
Published April 5th 2016 by Epic Reads Impulse

Will's Story coverSummary: Will McKinney is a bad boy. At least, he used to be. After nearly getting arrested for some poor decisions involving prescription drugs, Will has been trying to turn over a new leaf. Well, it’s that or suffer the wrath of his father, the judge. Will’s starting to get his life in Sevenmile, North Carolina, in order. He’s applying to colleges. He’s dating the most popular girl at school. And he recently discovered a love of playing the banjo and performing in front of a crowd. But it’s that same love of music that draws him to Amber Vaughn, his younger teenage brother’s best friend. Now Will finds himself wondering if he just might really be a bad guy because even though he’s got a girlfriend, he can’t stop thinking about Amber.

Will’s Story is a companion novella to Jaye Robin Brown’s young adult debut, No Place to Fall, and perfect for fans of her novel and newcomers alike.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Giveaways

(please note that one is specifically US ONLY and the other INTL ONLY)

– US ONLY-
a Rafflecopter giveaway
-INTL ONLY-
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Giveaways run from Monday April 11 – Monday April 25.*

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Author Interview: Jaye Robin Brown & Giveaway!

JRoMeet Jaye Robin Brown!

Jaye Robin Brown, or Jro to her friends, lives and writes in the mountains north of Asheville, North Carolina. She’s in awe of magic and beauty, and is a stalwart champion for the underdog, both human and other. When she’s not writing, you can find her in the art room of the high school where she teaches, or on her small farm hanging out with her dogs, cats, and horses.

Tell me as much as you can about yourself in only one sentence.
Laughter-loving introvert with a crazy level love for my two dogs, a need for daily creativity and hot baths, and a constant craving for salad and sweets almost simultaneously.

Share a favorite quote or small excerpt from your latest work.  
This is Will, from WILL’S STORY, talking about playing the banjo. “My fingers fly across the strings and the sweet metallic sound weaves in and out of the dulcet sound of Jack’s guitar. I’m speed and motion. I’m pure unadulterated energy. When we wind up and up until the moment we drop all sound, I think this has got to be the next best thing to sex.”

Do you have any irrational fears that you can completely justify?
I have an irrational fear of driving on even the slightest bit of snow or ice. A single flake can set me off. And even though I have 2 4WD vehicles, I will still stay home on any and every snow day. I completely justify this by the fact I grew up in South Alabama where it only snowed twice in my ENTIRE childhood.

Tell me something interesting or unexpected about your current writing project:
I was surprised that Will’s dad, the judge, is not only a musician like his sons, but he’s a baker as well! I didn’t realize either of those things when I wrote No PLACE TO FALL. It only came out when I wrote the novella.

Do you have a “day” job or career outside of writing?  
I’m a high school art teacher. It’s incredibly awesome and I feel so fortunate to do two things that I love, although sometimes it’s hard to keep a good balance between my two jobs and still be able to have any sort of social life. But then again, since I’m an introvert, it works out okay.

SPEED ROUND!

  • Coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, or I’m so undercaffeinated it’s frightening!
    • Coffee or Lady Grey tea!
  • Light side, dark side, or tragically caught on the edge of both worlds?
    •  Tragically caught in both worlds!
  • E-reader, print book, audiobook, or a combination?
    • Print book all the way!
  • Cat person, dog person, or I forgot to feed my fish, and it died?
    • Woof! Woof!

Oh, I wanna dance with somebody! Would you dance with me? If so, pick a style of dance you like and the best song to go with it:
Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend (the one with Lil Mama) is the absolute best dance song when you need to up your energy! My style? Jumping around like crazy with absolutely no training and completely and fully the white girl that I am. I have no shame about my semi-rhythmic abilities and absolutely love a good dance party.

What do you do when you aren’t writing?
I’m in the middle of getting ready to sell my farm and move to a location closer to Asheville, so if I’m not painting, cleaning, sorting, I’m obsessing on Pinterest about what I want the new place to be like. I also love going to hear live music with friends, hiking these beautiful mountains, and spending time with my horses on the trails.

Do you stick to one genre or switch it up? Which genre scares you the most and why?
So far only my YA contemporary has been published. But I’ve tinkered with some Middle Grade, written a picture book or two, and have a YA sci-fi in the half written files. The genre that scares me the most? Probably historical because of the accurate research involved.

Predict the future: Yours or mine, I’m flexible. Just make it interesting.
After a dream trip to the Easter Islands where you fall in love with an itinerant biologist, the two of you will set up a home in a treehouse in Bora Bora. There you will write the ecological thriller that will land you a seven-figure deal with a big publishing house here in the States. You will use the money to start a charity for wayward monkeys and live happily ever after.

B.A. Wilson:  You have no idea how much I hope this will come true, except replace monkeys with Great Danes!  🙂 

What’s your biggest writing fear, and how do you manage it?  
That I’ll run out of ideas. Haven’t really found a way to manage that fear, but I try to read the news, watch documentaries, listen to my students, all with an ear toward latching on to a big idea when it comes my way. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this idea pool that floats around us in her book Big Magic and how if we’re not ready for the idea when it comes that it may float on to someone who is. So I try to trust in that process as well. You also have to keep going out and living life because if you stay in a cloistered bubble, what do you have to bring to your stories?

Aliens have conquered Earth and are forcing you to give up either reading or writing. What’s it going to be? (And no cheating. If you choose writing, you can’t read your own work after writing it.)
I’d have to give up writing and keep reading. I wouldn’t be a writer without it.

What has been your best moment as a writer, so far, and how did it make you feel?
Probably when I got my box of ARCs for No Place To Fall and held my story in my hands in book form. It was incredibly surreal and exciting. Second best? Having my students read it and tell me their opinions.

Here’s your chance to ask me any one question about myself, and whatever you decide to ask, I promise to answer honestly, with full disclosure:
How do you read so much??? And what are your favorite 2015 contemporaries (mine is not in the 2015 pool) you’ve read?

B.A. Wilson: You opened a can of worms, and with my promise of full disclosure, the answer to your first question could be lengthy, so I’ll start by listing some of my favorite 2015 contemporaries, in case you give up before getting to the end. 

Favorite 2015 Contemporaries:  (Linked to my reviews, in case you want/need explanation)

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23149128 23009402 Red, vintage, neon motel sign on blue sky; Shutterstock ID 95002717 22896551

(In looking these up, I realized how many 2015 novels I still haven’t read, which gave me serious TBR guilt, for which I blame Jaye Robin Brown) 

Now, I’ll answer: How do you read so much?

(For reference, I’ve read 123 books in 2016, so far: List on Goodreads)

  1. I love stories to an extreme. 
  2. Addictive personality
  3. A deep desire to experience life in all the ways I never can or never will
  4. I believe reading helps my writing far more than just writing helps it.
  5. I’m single, live in a very small town where almost nothing ever happens, and I don’t fit in all that well.
  6. I can’t seem to help preferring books to people, in most instances. 
  7. I feel like I owe it to myself, and my writing, to be well-read in the category I most want to write in (which is YA, though I can’t conform to one genre). 
  8. I am a previous middle school librarian, turned public library director, turned public library services consultant.  To be good at my job(s), especially as a middle school librarian, it was important to read and stay current, so I could talk books with my students. And love books with them. And despair over books with them.  
    1. Due to my career, I’ve been really active in professional library organizations, which lead to committee work on state book awards committees, which require an extreme amount of reading. 
  9. When I almost sold my house (just under 2 years ago), I turned off my cable and internet.  When the sale fell through at the last moment, I opted not to turn back on my services (hoping the house would sell again fast, which it did not). I read so much more now that I wonder if I should leave cable off forever, though I also love the stories told on TV. 
  10. Lately, I listen to a ton of audiobooks (thank you, Audible), but I’m not patient and like information to be delivered fast.  Audiobook readers speak so painfully slow I zone out at a normal speed.  However, I crank them up to double speed, and I pay far better attention (sounds frantic for 30 seconds, then my brain adjusts). A side perk, is that I finish books in half the time. YA novels are often in that 8-12 hour range, which is only 4-6 hours at double speed. 
    1. 2.5 hours of commute plus 1.5 hours of lunch and breaks = 4 hours of reading time during “work” day. 
    2. I often continue listening to my book after I arrive home at night, as I work on things around the house, so I can basically consume a book in a work day. 
  11. I like to see if I can do things that seem impossible, which was how the reading 50 books in a month came about in January.  That created a serious reading habit, and I use my time differently now and find more ways to squeeze in reading.  However, I read a lot less when brainstorming and drafting, as I need more head space for that. 

Thanks, Jaye Robin Brown for the chat! I enjoyed learning more about you.

Read on for more information about No Place to Fall and Will’s Story, and don’t miss the giveaways at the end of the post!


No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown 

NPTF coverPublished December 9th 2014 by HarperTeen

Summary: Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.

When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.

Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Will’s Story: A No Place to Fall Novella by Jaye Robin Brown
Published April 5th 2016 by Epic Reads Impulse

Will's Story coverSummary: Will McKinney is a bad boy. At least, he used to be. After nearly getting arrested for some poor decisions involving prescription drugs, Will has been trying to turn over a new leaf. Well, it’s that or suffer the wrath of his father, the judge. Will’s starting to get his life in Sevenmile, North Carolina, in order. He’s applying to colleges. He’s dating the most popular girl at school. And he recently discovered a love of playing the banjo and performing in front of a crowd. But it’s that same love of music that draws him to Amber Vaughn, his younger teenage brother’s best friend. Now Will finds himself wondering if he just might really be a bad guy because even though he’s got a girlfriend, he can’t stop thinking about Amber.

Will’s Story is a companion novella to Jaye Robin Brown’s young adult debut, No Place to Fall, and perfect for fans of her novel and newcomers alike.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Giveaways

(please note that one is specifically US ONLY and the other INTL ONLY)

– US ONLY-
a Rafflecopter giveaway
-INTL ONLY-
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Giveaways run from Monday April 11 – Monday April 25.*

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My “So Awkward” 60 Second Video Bio

Someone told me not to post this video online, because I’m “so awkward.”

I don’t agree with her. There is nothing wrong with being awkward. This is me. People don’t have to like it, but I don’t have to hide it, like I’m ashamed. (I’m not)

So what if I’m a little bit awkward? No big deal. I’d rather be awkward than fake. I’d rather be myself than be perfectly charming. Maybe I make weird faces when I think too hard, but those faces have helped me write some interesting scenes. I’m keeping all of them, because I’ll do with my face as I please.  Weird facial expressions happen. Having emotions is not a bad thing.

I’ve had most of my writing social media for a year and a half and never posted selfies, pics, or video clips.  That’s just not my style overall, but everyone needs a change every now and then. So here’s me in all my “so awkward” glory.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure I planned to use the video before her comment, because it’s basically just me randomly talking too much. But I’m posting it now, on behalf of everyone who has been called awkward and let it impact their self-image or choices.

Awkward rocks! I dig it. Come and awkwardly join me.

 

 

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