Saturday, December 12, 2015

Spoiling my kids

Younger Daughter attends a college about ten miles away. In theory, I can see her whenever she likes. I texted her a few days ago to meet for dinner and then go grocery-shopping (my treat, of course).

As we were walking around Krogers, picking up items to stock for her apartment, we had this conversation.

Her: You spoil your kids.
Me: Yes, I do.
Her: You're admitting it?
Me: Yes, I am. I spoil you, and I'm proud of it.
Her: Don't most people think spoiling kids is a bad thing?
Me: Probably. But if something ever happens to me, remember us just like this. Laughing. Talking. Being spoiled.

I was in an airport last week, preparing to fly home from a visit to see my parents. The lady behind me in line was flying home from a funeral--for her 24-year-old daughter.

Over the past week, I've been thinking a lot about that lady. I'm sure she would love the opportunity to go grocery-shopping with her daughter one more time. To text whenever they wanted. To talk and laugh. To indulge each other with love.

That grieving mom has my deepest sympathies, but she also has my gratitude. In this holiday season, she's reminded me what my priorities should truly be. May I never forget that gift.

Yes, I spoil my kids. No apologies.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

December 10 event in NC

If you're in the Raleigh, NC area on December 10, I'll be speaking at a book fair for one of our local magnet middle schools.

Where: B&N Cary
When: Thursday, December 10
Time: 7:00 pm

Please join us!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Giving Tuesday

Last week in America, we had Over-eating Thursday (also known as Thanksgiving) and Black Friday.

Yesterday, we had Cyber Monday.

Today is Giving Tuesday. It is still an opportunity to spend your money this season--only this day, your gift helps families, groups, or individuals with needs that might not get met unless we're all generous.

Is there some cause that resonates with you?
What calls to your heart?
You could:
  • feed the hungry,
  • nourish souls,
  • make it possible for children to learn, or 
  • fund research to heal the sick.

There are many who can use our help. All we have to do is give generously.

If you don't know where to start, check out the GivingTuesday site or watch twitter for the #givingTuesday hashtag.  Join millions of others in the global community by giving back.

As for my family, we are honored to help through the following organizations:

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving in the 21st century

In Whispers from the Past, there is a scene where (late in the book) Susanna is thinking about Thanksgiving. In the 19th century, it would've been just another day. In the 21st century, she knew that Mark would be celebrating a national day of thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November.

A holiday of thanksgiving has had an interesting history in North America.  Canada began to celebrate it first, as early as the late sixteenth century. Today, their official Thanksgiving occurs in October.

In the United States, we often commemorate Thanksgiving in recognition of a feast between Native Americans and Pilgrims from the early seventeenth century. But the first national celebration didn't come until George Washington proclaimed it in 1789. Even then, the holiday didn't really stick.  There were three more national proclamations in the 1790s, but no more until the 1810s.

After a great deal of lobbying by Sarah Josepha Hale (author of "Mary Had A Little Lamb"), Abraham Lincoln created a national holiday on the final Thursday of November. It wasn't until Franklin Roosevelt that the US started to celebrate Thanksgiving as we do today--on the fourth Thursday in November.
Waiting our turn

For many families, Thanksgiving means hours of cooking, lots of football games, and a week of leftovers. But not for mine. 

While I was pregnant with my first daughter, my husband and I decided to eat our Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant. We absolutely loved it. No angst about getting things ready in time. No over-eating. No dishes to wash. No refrigerator full of stuff to throw out soon.

We loved this simple meal so much that we've kept that tradition nearly every year since. 

Turkey, dressing, yams, and sweet tea!
For us, Thanksgiving dinner involves standing in line (with hundreds of other new friends) while waiting to eat at our favorite restaurant. And we've acquired an entourage. Now that both of our daughters are in their 20s, we include many of their friends in our feast. (And we always leave a big tip for the wait staff and cooks who have made our day!)

I hope your holiday has been as much fun as ours--and that you have many blessings in the coming year.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

camera shy

I love to travel, and I love to take photos of the beautiful places I've visited. For a while, I used a real, honest-to-goodness camera to take the shots. But having a real camera didn't make much difference in the quality. About 1% of the shots are decent-to-good, and the rest are shrug-worthy. So now I mostly use the camera on my phone, and the 1-in-100 ratio still seems to hold.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the past year.


James River, Virginia

Isle of Palms, South Carolina

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thank you for your service

To the military veterans--wherever you are and whenever you served--I say Thank you on this Veterans Day.

Photo by TSG C. Watson
I know many veterans... From my brief time in service. Through friendships new and old. Within my own family. Some fought with weapons. Others battled paperwork, politics, hardships, and attitudes. Like the Air Force pilot here (LTC Wilcox after a tour in Afghanistan), we were separated from our families, followed orders (good and bad), and tried our best to serve our country. Yet we were so happy to return to the people we loved--the reason we did it.

Today, I would like to send a special thanks to my sister Rebecca, father Charles, and brother James!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Giveaways for Wishing for You - 1 is ending soon!

The two-week release celebration of Wishing for You is nearly over.

There are 2 giveaways...

Wishing for You (I Wish #2) is available now, and I Wish (I Wish #1) is on sale for 99 cents (e-book).

The title of I Wish #3 is Wish You Were Here. It will be available in spring 2016.

 Wish You Were Here starts four months after Wishing for You ends--and focuses on Sara Tucker. If you've read the first 2 books, you know that Sara is friends with Lacey and Kimberley and the twin sister of Sean. Grant returns to help Sara through the hardest summer of her life.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

revising Wish You Were Here

The title of I Wish #3 is Wish You Were Here.

This story starts four months after Wishing for You ends--and focuses on Sara Tucker. If you've read the first 2 books, you know that Sara is friends with Lacey and Kimberley and the twin sister of Sean. Grant returns to help Sara through the hardest summer of her life.

The first draft is done, and I'm revising it now. The book will go through several rounds of edits--with several editors and a team of beta readers. I expect to have it published in May 2016.

More to come...

Monday, October 19, 2015

3 guys - 3 different kinds of love

In Wishing for You, the heroine Kimberley forms relationships with three guys, finding with each a unique kind of love.

For Sean, it's the intense affection of a close friend.

With Grant the "genie", she shares the warmth and caring of a part coach / part older brother.

She hopes to give Mason her heart.

Discover where each of these relationships go in Wishing for You.

There's a giveaway of a $50 Amazon card or Paypal cash. Drop by this week's blog tour to enter!

Purchase links for Wishing for You (I Wish #2)
 Amazon     B&N     iBooks     indieBound     Kobo

Purchase links for I Wish (I Wish #1) - the ebook is on sale for 99 cents!
  Amazon     B&N     iBooks     Kobo

3 winners for first giveaway

Congratulations to Kathie, De'Anne, and Natasha on winning in the first Wishing for You giveaway.

There are 2 more giveaways going on through October, so check them out!

Giveaway 1: $50 Amazon giftcard

Giveaway 2: $25 Amazon giftcard

Check on twitter ( ) ; both giveaways are being retweeted a lot!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Booksigning Saturday in NC

If you're in Raleigh, NC on Saturday, drop by Quail Ridge Books from 3-4pm.  I'll be there signing copies of Wishing for You

The NC State Fair is in full force, so be prepared for traffic if you're coming from the west.

Don't forget the two giveaways--one ends Nov 1 and the other ends this weekend.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wishing for You is here - check out giveaways, excerpt, and more!

October 13th is release day for Wishing for You, the second book in the I Wish series!

Here is an excerpt--the first chapter (pdf) of Wishing for You. (NOTE: if you haven't read book 1, this excerpt has a major spoiler.)

For the next two weeks, there will be giveaways and more!

Giveaway #1 - $50 Amazon gift card or Paypal cash; click here for details!  Entries close on November 1.

Giveaway #2 - Sign up below for the chance to choose one of the following:

  • Signed copy of Wishing for You (US only)
  • A copy of Wishing for You, shipped from (International only)
  • Amazon gift card for $10
a Rafflecopter giveaway  

There will be 3 winners! Entries close October 19th.

She's a girl who can't remember. He's the guy she can't forget.

It's her final semester of high school, and Kimberley Rey is curious about what will come next. She needs to pick a college, but her memory disability complicates the choice. Will her struggles to remember make it impossible to leave home?

Help arrives through an unexpected and supernatural gift. Grant is a "genie" with rules. He can give her thirty wishes (one per day for a month) as long as the tasks are humanly possible. Kimberley knows just what to ask for—lessons in how to live on her own.

But her wishes change when a friend receives a devastating diagnosis. As she joins forces with Grant to help her friend, Kimberley learns that the ability to live in the moment—to forget—may be more valuable than she ever knew.

Purchase links for Wishing for You (I Wish #2)
 Amazon     B&N     iBooks     indieBound     Kobo

Purchase links for I Wish (I Wish #1) - the ebook is on sale for 99 cents!
  Amazon     B&N     iBooks     Kobo

Monday, October 5, 2015

1 week until Wishing for You & sale on book 1

Wishing for You releases in one week.  October 13th is the big day!
Amazon    B&N

To celebrate, the price for I Wish (book 1) will be 99 cents for the month of October.

Beginning next week, there were be guest posts, books reviews, gift cards to give away, and more. Most of the festivities will be hosted on other websites, but I'll keep an updated list here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

3 weeks until Wishing for You

The second book in the I Wish series is almost here. Wishing for You launches on October 13!

Wishing for You tells the story of Kimberley Rey, the best friend of Lacey from book 1. Kimberley has a memory disability, and Grant is there to help her as she faces high school graduation and choosing a college.

Here's a sneak peek excerpt:

A puff of blue smoke curled from the center of the pocket watch, swirling lazily in the air before dissipating near the foot of my four-poster bed. In its place appeared one of the hottest guys I’d ever met—every bit as gorgeous now as he’d been the last time I’d seen him months ago. “Grant?”

“Hello.” He watched me calmly, his hands clasped behind his back.

He hadn’t walked through the door. He’d simply materialized out of the blue smoke, which ought to have been impossible but clearly wasn’t. There were plenty of things wrong with my brain, but hallucinations were not one of them. “Where did you come from?”

“I live in the watch. I entered from there.”

Although his answer was completely crazy, he’d said it in a mildly polite tone as if appearing out of smoke were an ordinary occurrence. I would remain mild, too. For now. “Really? Does that sort of thing happen by magic?”

“An adequate description of the process.” His green-glass eyes glittered in the light from the lamp. “You don’t seem shocked by my unorthodox arrival.”

“I should be, but you’re right. I’m not.”

Wishing for You is available for pre-order.
Amazon     B&N     iBooks     Kobo

(If you haven't had a chance to read book 1 yet, I Wish has a new everyday low price of $2.99 for e-books!
Amazon     B&N     iBooks     Kobo )

Friday, September 11, 2015

Goodreads giveaway of Wishing for You

Hello readers... I have a giveaway (US only) of Wishing for You on goodreads.  5 signed ARCs1, so sign up if you're interested.

Wishing for You releases in October, so be watching for other giveaways (gift cards, swag, etc)...

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Wishing for You by Elizabeth Langston

Wishing for You

by Elizabeth Langston

Giveaway ends September 20, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway
1The cover has changed. The signed ARCs will have the old cover.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Reasons to school at home - Lies your high school might not know they told you

In her sophomore year of high school, DD1 experienced health issues that interfered with her ability to learn. Health care appointments were frequent, and she missed a lot of school. Unfortunately, the teachers were not sympathetic and the school administration was unwilling to provide a home-bound teacher.

We were forced to find an alternative for her, one that allowed her the flexibility to (a) schedule appointments at her convenience and (b) sleep when she was exhausted (which was often.)
Online high schools were worth checking out. Most are accredited. Many are run by universities. Classes, assignments, and entire curriculums are customized to the student's situation.
photo by JJ Losier*

In other words, DD1 could take the classes she wanted, whenever it suited her. She would know 100% of her assignments from the first day of class. Since she didn't have the state government choosing the classes she took, she could create her own transcript primarily based on personal interests. (We did, of course, ensure that her transcript contained the minimum requirements needed to get into her target college. But you might be surprised how flexible that is.)

In the state of North Carolina, there are 3 options for primary and secondary education:
  1. public
  2. private
  3. homeschool
There is no "online high school" option; therefore, we formed a homeschool, so that she could attend Mizzou Online High School (through the University of Missouri at Columbia.) DD1 has a diploma from the State of Missouri.

We liked the quality and convenience of online high school so well that we decided to send DD2 through the program as well. Her reasons were different: she learns better when she can focus on one subject at a time, and not switch when a bell rings. Online high school permitted that. If she wanted to work on English and only English during the week, that was fine. If she wanted to spend nine months to complete math and one month to complete history, also fine.

We were a little concerned about the stigma associated with homeschooling. The stereotype for homeschoolers are poorly-socialized kids who are being pulled from "bricks-and-mortar" schools for extremist/religious reasons. And, while there may be some families who fit that stereotype, we do not--nor did we find that to be true for the homeschool families we met.  In our county, 10,000+ kids are schooled at home. In this state, 150,000+ are homeschooled, of which 40% are schooled for secular reasons, such as health or disdain for the quality of local schools.

Bottom line: We chose online high school because it provided the flexibility of daily schedule and course workload that our daughters needed.  Our girls could sleep-in, take the classes they were interested in exactly when they were ready for them, and still get a good education. Being "homeschooled" was not only better than okay; it was great! (which is why so many families choose this option for the very same reasons we did.)

Other posts in this series:
Online school 

Work Experience 
Career or money 

* Image under commons license

Monday, August 31, 2015

I Wish question - are there diverse characters in the I WISH series?

Yes. Several of the main characters across this series are diverse in race, ethnicity, or ability.

Eli Harper: Eli's mother is a black English professor at fictional Piedmont University. His father is a white civil engineer. Although Eli is biracial, it's incidental to the story. He's been raised in an affluent family. He's always lived in college towns. While his race is not ignored, it's not a plot point either.

Kimberley Rey: Kimberley's father is a Colombian-American, so she is half-Latina. Like Eli, her ethnicity is mentioned but not a plot point. (I chose Colombia because I was visiting there while I was writing the book, and the people and country are beautiful and friendly.)

Kimberley has permanent brain damage from the chemotherapy she received to treat childhood leukemia. Her resulting short-term memory loss is a disability, and that is a major subplot in Wishing for You

Grant and Camarin: Because they are not human, our Benevolent Supernatural Beings do not have an earthly race. Their descriptions are deliberately vague; I only mention their dark hair and unnaturally green eyes. The humans they serve (as well as readers) are welcome to imagine the appearance and ethnicity of the Beings however they wish.

Secondary characters: In I Wish, you meet Lacey's mother, Crystal, who struggles with depression. The family's financial problems make it difficult for Crystal to afford the mental health care (and medications) she needs. Readers will see glimpses of her in books 2 and 3. The impact of Crystal's battle with mental illness continues to affect Lacey and her brother. Just like in real life, Crystal has good days and bad.

In Wishing for You, readers will meet Scott and Paul Fuentes. They are Latino. Paul, an immigrant from El Salvador, is dating Kimberley's mother. Readers will see much more of his son Scott in book 3. Kimberley's dad has a partner, too. Nour is Lebanese-American. I chose Latino and Lebanese in honor of two of my friends.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I Wish question - Does I WISH have a cliffhanger?

I don't like cliffhangers and will never write one. So, no, I Wish does not end in a cliffhanger.

At least, that was not my intent.

[The rest of this answer hints at the ending to I Wish. It might be a spoiler if you haven't read book 1, so read on with caution.]

Some readers have assumed this story has a cliffhanger. I think that must be because they don't want the book to end the way it does. Lacey makes a big decision with an unexpected twist near the end of the first book, and she does not take it back.

In I Wish's final chapter, readers discover something that might happen next for Lacey and something that will happen next for Grant. Both of those plot points are confirmed in the first two chapters of book 2, Wishing for You. Grant continues to be a main character in Wishing for You. You'll see plenty of Lacey in books 2 and 3, but after book 1, she becomes a secondary character.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The making of a makeover

The Raleigh News & Observer has had a Refresh Your Style column for the past 7 years. The column will end in August, and I am its final makeover.

I'd volunteered over a year ago, but a lot of other people had put their names on the list too. When the stylist/columnist, Sheon Wilson, contacted me in July, I was thrilled to hear that I'd been selected for a makeover. To be the last one? That was bittersweet. It's wonderful to be the final person for this experience, but I'm sorry for all the others who won't.
at booksigning

One of Sheon's first questions was: why do you need your style refreshed?

My answer is all about my second career. I've worked in the software industry since college (and still do, part-time). I wear yoga pants and T-shirts to the office. As an author, I love meeting with my readers at author events. Whether I'm at a school, library, or bookstore, I want to be approachable, look good, and feel comfortable (because some of those events can last awhile.)

So here we go. A few photos to document my makeover from Geek to YA Author in August 2015.

Makeover Day 1: The first day started out with a Before shoot by staff photographer Juli Leonard at the newspaper's office in downtown Raleigh. Later that afternoon, Sheon and I hit 2 stores to pick out new clothes-- Lane Bryant in Durham and Dina Porter in Chapel Hill.(And yay, the lovely ladies at Dina Porter's gave me 3 tops as a gift!)

hair before new style

Makeover Day 2: I am at the Samuel Cole Salon in North Raleigh for a new style. My hair stylist is Katie Manselle. She was amazing, listening to my ideas before suggesting some of her own. Within minutes, I was ready to trust her to do the right thing with my hair.
hair coated in gooey conditioners

My hair is silver on top, and I wanted it to stay that way. So Katie put on a glaze to brighten the silver and give it a shine.
hair, sideview, after new style

After the cut, my hairstyle has wispy bangs, a contoured back, and these gorgeous sides that can be fluffed out for a fun look or tucked behind the ears for something a little more serious.

author with makeup artist

Makeover Day 3: I returned to the Samuel Cole Salon on the day of the After photo shoot. Here's a selfie with the makeup artist, Jenny.

author with hair stylist

Katie restyled my hair so that it would be fun-and-flirty for the photo shoot.
outside salon after makeover

The image you see here (to the right)? This almost never happens! I do not like to have my photo taken (which made the 2 photo shoots way outside my comfort zone.) To take a photo of myself, especially of me alone? Virtually unheard of. But I really needed to capture how I looked after walking out of the salon. I loved what the salon team did for me!

author with Sheon
And here is she--Sheon Wilson, my miracle worker. She helped me select several outfits that I wouldn't have tried on my own. She found the perfect jewelry and shoes to complement those outfits. And she helped me grow to understand that a person can be beautiful at any age or size!

after photo shoot, husband takes full body shot

Once the After shoot was over, I drove back to my day job office and found Hubs (who works there too). He took a couple of not-so-candid shots of me--because I was completely rocking that denim jacket and skinny (ahem) jeans.
after photo shoot, husband takes head shot

Check out the before and after!

Friday, August 14, 2015

GR giveaway ends today for I WISH

The second book in the I Wish series releases in 2 months.

I'll be giving away ARCs of Wishing For You soon, posting excerpts, and looking for other ways to celebrate.

The first opportunity to get a free book ends today, August 14!
There are 2 signed copies of I Wish up for grabs on on Goodreads. (US only this time, but keep watching, international readers! I'll include you next time.)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

I Wish by Elizabeth Langston

I Wish

by Elizabeth Langston

Giveaway ends August 14, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Advanced courses - Lies your high school may not know they told you

If you've created a short list of universities that you'd like to attend, then you may already know how rigorous the courses must be on your transcript to make you competitive.

There are several levels of rigor for high school courses: regular/standard, honors, advanced/college-prep, and dual enrollment. This post will primarily discuss advanced/college-prep high school courses and compare them to dual enrollment**.

Before you select the intensity of the courses you take, ensure that you know the admission rate for freshmen applicants at your target institutions. For instance, in North Carolina, freshmen admission rates are:
Duke - 14%
UNC Chapel Hill - 27%
NCSU - 47%
Meredith College - 61%
UNC Asheville - 70%

image of protractors
The tougher it is to get into a college, the more rigor you will need to show on your transcript.

My older daughter took three advanced courses (Calculus, Statistics, World History) in her sophomore year of high school.  My younger daughter never took an advanced course. Both daughters were admitted to their first-choice colleges (UNC Asheville and Meredith, respectively.)

Here are some things I learned as the parent of a student taking advanced courses.

Volume of work: Although it probably varies by teacher, the volume of work for advanced courses is crazy. They are fast-paced and intense. They require more effort than actual college courses. If you can handle most advanced high school classes, you can handle most 100- and 200-level classes in college.

Frankly, I thought advanced courses were too hard. As an example, in her HS senior year, Older Daughter took a dual enrollment class in economics. A friend of hers took economics as an advanced HS class. This table compares their workload.

Course typeDual enrollmentAdvanced course
Taken from community college high school
Length of course
14 weeks

30 weeks
Time spent 5 hours per week 7 hours per week
Projects 2 10+
Quizzes 1230
Exams 2 4
standardized exam
0 1

They both walked away with 3 hours of college credit.

Stress: The stress of advanced courses was horrible for my daughter. In her sophomore year, she started out with 4 of them, and I made her drop one, just because the stress was worsening her health. She wasn't allowed to take any her junior or senior years.

Transferring into college: To transfer the advanced class into college, the student must take a national standardized exam. Colleges are allowed to set which score they accept. A student can get a decent score--and the college they attend can still reject it. My daughter's college accepted 2 of her scores and rejected the third.

Even if the college accepts the score, they can also decide whether to call it an elective or a replacement for the same subject. For example, my daughter's dual enrollment English class transferred into college as an English class. Her friend's advanced HS English class transferred in as an elective. Just something to think about.

Starting college as a sophomore: If a student takes a lot of advanced courses and gets good scores on the standardized exams, they can potentially start their first semester of college as a sophomore. This is a hugely-valuable reason for taking them. First, it's (potentially) a way to complete college faster. Also, freshmen are the last students to signup for classes; starting as a sophomore can get a student earlier access to the classes/sessions they want.

Older Daughter started college with 18 hours of dual enrollment and 6 hours of advanced HS courses. She was a sophomore by her second semester.

We did not permit Younger Daughter to take advanced classes; their stress level trumped everything. The lack of advanced classes didn't hurt her admission to college. It hasn't hurt her progress in college either.

Bottom line: There are good reasons to take advanced classes. They (over)prepare you for college. They can make it possible for you to begin college as a sophomore. And top-tier colleges expect to see them on your transcript.

There are good reasons to skip advanced classes (and, perhaps, take dual enrollment instead.) They are often harder than normal college courses and are, consequently, incredibly stressful. You must take a high-stakes standardized exam and, if you don't do well, have all of your effort make no difference on your college transcript. And even when you do well, they could take up your precious elective slots.

Other posts in this series:
Online school 

Work Experience 
Career or money

** Dual enrollment: a program where a high school student can take a freshman college course and have it count on both her/his high school and college transcripts

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Amazon giveaway of I WISH - 4 winners

{UPDATE: Amazon giveaway has ended but the Goodreads giveaway will continue until August 14.}

Amazon has started a new giveaway program and I thought I would give it a try.

So, every 19th eligible entry will win a book--until I give away 4. Amazon will ship the book to you; I'm not even sure that they will tell me your name.

You must have an amazon account. (No purchase necessary). You have to follow me on twitter, too.  It's that easy!

So click here and see if you win!

Giving away I WISH on goodreads in august

Wishing For You is the second book in the I Wish series--and it releases October 13th (only 10 weeks away!)

So be watching for giveaways, excerpts, and other ways to look forward to what happens next for Grant the genie and the people he serves.

From now through August 14, I'm giving away 2 signed copies of I Wish on Goodreads. (US only this time, but there will be other opportunities for my international readers!)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

I Wish by Elizabeth Langston

I Wish

by Elizabeth Langston

Giveaway ends August 14, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Monday, July 27, 2015

Career or money - Lies your high school may not know they told you

My plan was to write my next post about taking honors or advanced classes in high school (and I will get to that soon.) Then  it hit me that choosing a college-prep courseload depends on where you're going to college. And your targeted college(s) probably depends on what you want out of a career.

So I'm writing about that topic first. What do you want out of a career?

Some of you may already know. You might want to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, actor, musician, teacher, scientist, or athlete. You're picking up skills now. You understand how many years it will take to get the credentials you need. This post is not for you.

I'm talking to those of you who have no idea what you want to do after college. Like me when I was your age. Which means you probably don't know what you want to major in. I didn't.

It's okay. Most college freshmen are just like you. It's estimated that half of first-year students have an undecided major. And once you've made up your mind, it probably won't stick. 75% of college students change their major at least once and as many as half will change it 3 times.
image of currency symbols

I didn't know what I wanted to do. My favorite subjects were math and history. There weren't a lot of jobs that combined those two. When the US Air Force offered to pay my way through college if I majored in Computer Science, I was fine with that. So, yeah, the military picked my career. Fortunately, I've liked it.

Here are a few questions to consider when thinking about your future and the education you'll need to get there.

  1. What are your interests, hobbies, and talents? Would you want to do any of them as a job, or are you okay with doing them after hours?
  2. Do you want to love your career? Is liking a job enough? 
  3. Is the salary important to you? Is money more important than the work?
When I was in high school, these were my answers.

  1. I liked to read, and I didn't see how that interest could turn into a job. But I was okay with reading for pleasure at night.
  2. I didn't have a particular need to love my job. Liking it was fine.
  3. Salary was very important to me. I wanted to afford the kind of life style where I could buy lots of book to read at night and eat out all of the time. Finding a job that paid well was definitely a higher priority than being passionate about my daily work.
There are four people in my family. We are evenly split on the "Career or Money" question. My husband and Daughter #2 love their majors and whatever money comes along is fine. Daughter #1 and I were more about the paycheck. As long as we're making enough money to pay for our hobbies, we could put up with a lot at work.

Bottom line: Don't worry if you're not sure what you want to do or where you want to go. You can postpone these decisions for a little while longer and still recover.

If you're already sure about your career or vocation, great. You might know exactly what kind of high school courses will get you into the college that will launch your career.

If you don't know, that's fine too. You have time to figure it out. But start thinking about what's important to you and what you enjoy. It will help you plan for the college(s) you want to attend and the high school courses you should take to be admitted.

By the way, my story has a happy ending. I got both a career that I enjoy (in software development) and a job that pays well. I've found a second career (writing) that I love even more. And it all started by being honest about what would make me happiest.

Other posts in this series:
Online school 

Work Experience 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I WISH giveaway through July 26

If you live in the US, here's a quick way to earn a chance at one signed copy of I Wish.

Now through Sunday the 26th, you can retweet this message and be entered to win.

Friday, July 17, 2015

New stage for this mom

I have a lot of roles to play in my life. Writer, facilitator, trainer, daughter, sister, friend, wife. One of my favorite roles is being a mother. I have two of the most amazing daughters ever born (and I say that with absolutely NO bias :)

baby in christening gown

Today marks a shift in my responsibilities as a mom, because my younger daughter turns 20. She has left her teenage years behind, which means I am parenting teens no more.

Both girls are twenty-something now. Will they need me less? Of course. They're adults, making their own way, discovering what life has to offer them.

Yet I can't help but take this chance to say how proud I am of my birthday girl. She has way more friends (of every size, shape, color, age, and creed) than I ever had. There is a higher purpose for her life, toward which she strides with grace and intelligence. She reaches out to the world around her with tolerance and curiosity. She belongs.

girl in St Marks Square, Venice

It is difficult in the modern era to raise kids. There are so many choices, temptations, obstacles, and dangers. Hubs and I were committed to being the best parents we could be. Each of our little girls arrived with a unique set of qualities. It was our job to celebrate their strengths, minimize their weaknesses--and otherwise, get out of the way.

I cannot begin to describe how thrilling it has been to see Baby Girl launch from the nest and soar. She is nothing like we imagined, and everything we could have hoped for. Happy birthday, sweetheart!

daughter at 10

I'll close with a quote from Anita Diamante in The Red Tent. I couldn't have said it better.

“Just as there is no warning for childbirth, there is no preparation for the [first] sight of a ... child.

There should be a song for women to sing at this moment, or a prayer to recite. But perhaps there is none because there are no words strong enough to name the moment.”

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Possibility of Somewhere - my next YA

My next book will be a YA contemporary romance. The Possibility of Somewhere will release in Fall 2016, from St Martin's Press.

The book is set in a small, fictional town in North Carolina, near the Atlantic coast. (This photo is from Emerald Isle, favorite beach. It shows up in many of my books.)

To borrow from the announcement that my agent put in a trade journal, The Possibility of Somewhere tells the story of a "trailer trash" girl and a boy from a wealthy immigrant family who are competing for a coveted academic scholarship. Along the way, they find themselves falling for each other. In the face of family and friends' disapproval, they're forced to choose how hard to fight to stay together.

I love this story and can't wait for it to release!

For the next few months, I'll have my hands on the keyboard all day long.  Wishing For You (I Wish #2) releases on 13 October. I'm nearly finished with the first draft of I Wish #3. And, naturally, I'll begin revisions soon on TPOS. (Plus, I have this YA supernatural/ historical about Nathan Hale that I'm co-authoring with a friend. Like I'm not busy enough :)

My supernatural/ magical realism books will be published under Elizabeth Langston. The YA romances will release under a pen name, Julia Day. But they're both me, and you'll be able to find out about both types of books on my one website.


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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Canada trip

I have just returned from a 10-day vacation in Canada. Here are a few photos of the beautiful places we visited.

Night Landing

We spent our first 2 days in Montreal.
Lunch on Rue St Denis
Basilica Notre Dame

Quebec City was next. Here is a view of the Chateau Frontenac. (That is a funicular that you see, and I rode it, eyes closed the whole way.)

Prince Edward Island was our destination on the fourth day. Here is St Dunstan Basilica in Charlottetown. And below is the front lawn of the house that helped to inspire Anne of Green Gables.

Cape Breton boasts the world's largest fiddle.

And lastly, here is my beautiful daughter contemplating the waves on a foggy day in Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

What the Hale? in Connecticut

I'm still in the process of co-authoring a novel that will feature Nathan Hale. It's going slowly. Historicals take a lot of research and writing time to get correct.

So I'm back in Connecticut again--for 2 of my favorite things. Conversation and research.

I'll be talking at the Richmond Memorial Library in Marlborough, CT on Tuesday, 7 July, at 6:30PM. Join me if you're nearby.

And if you happen to be at the Nathan Hale homestead or East Haddam schoolhouse over the Independence Day weekend, you might see me there, taking photos and asking lots of questions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Work experience - Lies your high school may not know they told you

Experience is the new black.

College graduates generally earn more than people with only a high school diploma. A 2014 study puts the gap at an average $17,500 per year. High school dropouts have it even worse, making 60% less than college grads. There are a lot of good reasons to get a college degree, and its effect on your earning potential is one of the most important.

But for many industries, the economic value tapers off once you have a bachelor's degree. A recent article in Business Insider listed the 10 most "useless" graduate degrees, where "useless" means that a master's really doesn't improve salaries or unemployment rates. Computer Science and IT graduate degrees made this top 10 list.

I can easily believe those findings. I'm a software professional who has hired (or helped to hire) dozens of software developers and testers in my career. All candidates had undergraduate degrees, and some had graduate. However, not all had work experience. For many hire decisions, relevant work experience can be the main differentiator.

The company that employs me is well-known for being a great place to work. When we open a technical position in Research & Development, hundreds of applications pour in. I do look at a candidate's education, but what I'm truly interested in is their employment history. If the applicant doesn't have one, I'm likely to move that resume to the "Maybe" stack.

Why do I do this? It's because I want new colleagues who know how to tackle business projects, meet deadlines, collaborate with other people, and follow directions. You do not get those skills in college. Unless you have "blow-me-away" education, I'll choose an experienced candidate. Every time.

There are a lot of ways to get experience. Work-study, internships, and volunteer jobs look amazing on resumes. If you can't find any of those opportunities, being self-employed can look good, too.

Start the research now, while you're making the transition from high school to college to career. If you know what you want to major in1, find out if post-graduate education is required. If it's not, discover how much (or little) your education impacts your career and salary goals. And then organize your 5-year plan around that information.

Bottom line: In a competitive job market, work experience might be as critical to your job search as education. So do your research. Know what is expected for your field, and then make a plan that is right for you and your goals.

1 - If you don't know what you want to major in yet, that's fine. You don't have to be in a hurry. Postpone research and plans until you've figured out what you want to do in your first career. 

Other posts in this series:
Online school 


Friday, June 19, 2015

Opinions from readers - what jacket copy should reveal

Readers, I'd love to know your opinions about how much you want revealed in jacket copy (the blurb on the back cover that hopes to interest you in the book).

If something happens in the book that could be a trigger for you (for instance, abuse), would you want the jacket copy to hint at that? Or do most readers check out reviews to see if there are any trigger warnings?
I'll assume that you wouldn't want spoilers for the book. But if it's in a series--and it's not the first book--should the jacket copy stay away from spoilers from previous books? Or do readers expect that spoilers from earlier books might pop up and, therefore, only read the copy if they don't care about spoilers?

Monday, June 15, 2015

GPA - Lies your high school may not know they told you

We didn't have weighted Grade Point Averages (GPAs) when I was in high school. If we had advanced or honor classes, I don't remember them. The percentage of students from my town who planned to go on to college wasn't particularly high. Perhaps my high school didn't think it was economically defensible to fully support the College Prep track.

It was, therefore, a surprise when Daughter #1 went to a magnet high school offering lots of advanced/honors classes--and her weighted GPA became a thing we had to pay attention to.

The school pushed her to take their "harder" courses. You would think that meant a 4.0+ GPA is important for college admission, right? But it really isn't. Most colleges do not consider weighted GPAs in their admission decisions.

Daughter #1 was stunned when she found this out. She was visiting UNC Chapel Hill for a HS junior weekend. And the admissions counselor clearly stated that UNC did not consider weighted GPAs.

She took 3 advanced classes in her sophomore year, and never took another one. Instead, she completed several dual enrollment classes from the local community college. I had the opportunity to question the admissions counselor at a university she was applying to. When I asked about GPAs, the counselor basically said: Your daughter has great SAT scores and 9 college credits. We don't need to look at anything else.

I am not advocating that students take the easy path. They should always strive to challenge themselves, work hard, and think broadly. But we all need to be realistic about the benefits and trade-offs. Educate yourself about the expectations of the universities you are targeting. If they want an excellent weighted GPA, then pursue one. If they like to see advanced/honors courses on your transcript, take them.

However, your dream college might have an equal interest in seeing that you are well-rounded or that you have a passion that engages you. Maybe it's okay to take 3-D art instead of that advanced biology course. It doesn't make sense to stress yourself out over a GPA that the college you want to attend doesn't care about.

Both of my daughters graduated from our homeschool. I was allowed to give them whatever GPA I wanted. I reported an honest, unweighted GPA on their transcripts. They had good GPAs, but not stellar. And they were admitted to every college they applied to. (Granted, not top tier, but then we didn't want them to go to top tier.)

Bottom line: Know what your targeted colleges expect for GPA, so that your efforts are focused on what's important. If advanced classes or 4.0+ GPAs are essential to admission for those colleges, then that is what you should pursue. If not, consider a more balanced, well-rounded, less-stressful course load in high school.

Other posts in this series:
Online school