Book Release: The Cat Really Did That?

Hey all!

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Really Did That? comes out today! My story “One Step at a Time” can be found on page 131. Read the book to find out how my miracle cat Sputnik beat the odds and survived a serious health crisis. Plus, there are 100 other GREAT cat stories in the book, too! And the royalties go to American Humane! Can’t beat that!

Stay tuned for more news, and have a purrrrfect International Cat Day!

~Gretchen

Me, reading Sputnik his story. He purred the whole time!

News, Reviews and More!

Hey, all – sorry I’ve been offline for so long! Lots of stuff going on right now – some good, some bad. I’ll try to catch you up! Okay, so the news first:

Publications

I read a werewolf novella by Joshua Werner and loved it so much I just had to write a review! My review of Rampant can be found in the May issue of Bloodbond, a werewolf-, shapeshifter- and vampire-themed magazine published by Alban Lake Publishing. The other content in the zine is all fiction, poetry and artwork pertaining to shapeshifters and vamps, so if you’re as crazy about creatures of the night as I am, be sure to check that out!

Up next: I have two stories coming out this August in Chicken Soup for the Soul books! Yay! The first story, “One Step at a Time,” is about my cat Sputnik’s miracle recovery from a severe health crisis. That can be found in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Really Did That?, which will be available on August 8. The second story, “Out of the Mouths of Strangers,” is a bit more humorous and includes MANY embarrassing moments from my junior high and high school years. That one will be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Kind of America, which comes out on August 29.

 

Movie Reviews

In other happy news, I was fortunate enough to see THREE superhero movies in the last several months. Here’s what I thought of them:

Logan

A good movie, no doubt. High-quality and well-written. I do question the need to make this an R movie. I’m not sure that was the right way to send off the character (at least Hugh Jackman’s version of him). Wolverine has many younger fans who wouldn’t be able to see this film, and therefore wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to their favorite character. My other main issue with Logan is that it isn’t a well-balanced film. This is one of the most depressing movies I’ve seen in recent years. Virtually every character dies. And before they do, the majority of them suffer from physical and mental illness, as well as torture at the hands of their enemies. There is very little humor, and very little hope. The tone is dark and stays that way throughout, rather unrelentingly. Also, the f-word is overused. When I hear it that many times in a row, at a certain point the writer in me starts thinking, Couldn’t you have come up with a better, more creative expletive?

Despite everything, this still was a really good movie. Definitely worth seeing, but I’m not sure I’d want to own it. My suggestion: rent it when you’re in a good mood. If you’re already feeling low, this movie will only bring you down further.

Wonder Woman

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to see this movie. Now, I can’t imagine NOT having seen it. Wonder Woman is pure magic. Unlike Logan, this movie is perfectly balanced, with just the right mix of hope, humor, action, romance and sorrow. This is the first female superhero movie to come along in…geez, I don’t even know how many years – and it delivers in a BIG way! Just seeing those powerful Amazon warriors training on their horses in the beginning of the film…I got chills. I didn’t even know how much I needed this movie until I saw it. No matter what your gender is, I promise you will leave the theatre grinning and hoping the next Wonder Woman movie is coming out sooner rather than later. Readers of this blog should be glad I don’t have a lot of time right now, otherwise you’d be getting a 5,000-word post raving about Wonder Woman.

My suggestion: See it!

Captain Underpants

I had the pleasure of seeing this movie with all three of my nephews, and I really enjoyed it. Though much of the humor is of the bathroom variety (as you can guess from the movie’s title), the core story of friendship between the two main characters is touching. As a writer (and a big superhero fan), I loved that the MCs are an author and an illustrator who created their own superhero and publish their own comic book. The fact that they get to see their creation come to life before their eyes – something any writer would give up their pinky toe to see happen – only adds to the joy of this film.

My suggestion: If you’ve got kids between 7-11 years old, take them to see it! They won’t be disappointed, and neither will you. 🙂

TV Reviews

No, no, I didn’t forget about the TV shows! That would never happen.

Last season, two shows tied for first place: Limitless, for being so friggin’ awesome in its first season, and Supernatural for being so friggin’ awesome in its ELEVENTH season! Both shows demonstrated amazing creativity and I had such a great time watching them that it was impossible to choose. I give them both a 9.5 score for the season. Runners-up included my old love, The X-Files, as well as the sparkly newcomer, Lucifer.

Some friends of mine were disgruntled about TXF, as it seemed the network might just be drawing us in with Mulder and Scully, only to reboot a new version of the show starring the recently introduced characters of Miller and Einstein. Personally, I’m withholding judgement until this actually happens. The last time I checked, Season Eleven was listed as a “sure thing” – with the original cast – so we’ll see. I do like the new characters, but Mulder and Scully need to be the stars. Always.

This season I had to make some sacrifices and only watched a few shows religiously. Among those were Lucifer and Supernatural (duh). I loved the mom-drama on both shows, but in the end, Lucifer won out for just being incredible from start to finish. Last year was a little hit-and-miss for me, but this year was DYNAMITE. There was much more focus on the supernatural elements of the show, and the emotions were running a lot higher this year, too.

I’m glad they at least established the beginning of a romance between Chloe and Lucifer. When shows wait too long to introduce romantic interest between the leads, the characters can get stuck in the friend zone. Then, if the writers do decide to put them together down the line, it’s very awkward. (Castle was one show that got this right, while The Mentalist waited too long). The characters don’t have to be together all the time – we just have to know there’s some attraction between them.

Oh, and the Lucifer finale? I just have one word: WINGZZZZZ!!!!! Also, Lucifer gets mega-points for not killing off any beloved characters in the finale. Unlike Supernatural :(. Um, some of those people can come back…right? Please???

Elsewhere on TV: Chicago Fire: We needed more time to get to know Anna before they killed her off. Grimm: Why the heck did they cancel this amazing show??? Emerald City: Too caught up in the glitz of its concept to deliver on an emotional level. This is Us: If you’re not watching it yet, start now! Great show, with many alums from other shows we love, including Smallville and Supernatural. Plus, it’s not getting cancelled anytime soon, so you can watch without fear.

Novel Update

Some of you may recall that I was in the process of editing one of my novels. Last time I posted about it, the book was at 150K words. Now, thanks to an awesome writing partner (and her equally awesome son), the manuscript is at about 106K and still shrinking. That’s down from 300K, people! Cutting your book IS doable.

For more help on cutting words from your manuscript, check out this post:

http://www.rachellegardner.com/how-to-cut-thousands-of-words/ 

Loads of great advice in the comments, too, along with a wonderful quote that sums up the cutting process:

“Every word you cut gives its power to the words that remain.” ~ Cathy’s brother

Wish me luck in getting my book down under 100K, and I hope to be back soon with more news, reviews and other goodies!

~Gretchen

 

Chicken Soup Celebrates American Kindness

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One of my favorite publishers, Chicken Soup for the Soul, is collecting stories for a new book focusing on kindness in America. They want to hear about the time you helped someone whose car was broken down on the side of the road, or the time a stranger paid for your groceries when you forgot your wallet. They want to know what American kindness means to you, how you’ve embraced it in your life, or seen others do so. They want stories about immigrants, stories about soldiers, stories about everyday people learning to overcome prejudice and fear in order to extend a helping hand.

There’s never been a better time to show the world – and remind ourselves – what truly makes this country great: our kindness.

If you’re interested in submitting, don’t dawdle – this is a last-minute addition to their publication schedule, and the deadline is March 31. Click on the link below for more information about what they’re looking for and how to submit.

http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topics

Best of luck!

-Gretchen

 

National Adoption Weekend

Me snuggling Madeline, a Furget Us Not Rescue cat, at our December 2014 event.

Me snuggling Madeline, a Furget Us Not Rescue cat, at our December 2014 event.

By some miracle, you remembered the date. You bought the sparkly necklace, you got the overpriced card, and you think you’re all set…but you’re still forgetting something:

This weekend is not only a time to buy candy and flowers for your significant other, but also a time to open up your heart and see if you can make a real difference in a special cat or dog’s life. This weekend is National Adoption Weekend.

If you think about it, you and your family could make this the BEST Valentine’s Day ever, not by shelling out cash for roses that will shrivel up or cards that will be thrown out after a few weeks, but by having an honest discussion about whether you have room in your home and your life for an animal that truly needs you.

Many animals fitting that description will be at PetSmarts all over the USA this weekend. At the PetSmart in Chesterfield, MI (51347 Gratiot Ave.), the cats and dogs batting their gorgeous eyes at you will be from Furget Us Not Rescue, a non-profit, foster-based group devoted to finding them “furever” homes. They will be there, waiting to meet you, from 12pm-3pm on Saturday, February 13th, and Sunday February 14th. Please don’t disappoint them!

I will also be visiting the store from 1pm-3pm on both days, signing all three of my Chicken Soup for the Soul books to benefit Furget Us Not Rescue.

We will have free candy and gift-wrapping available for the book signing, as well as a video of a cat doing something VERY silly. And I am always eager to meet fellow writers, readers, and fans. (Knowing me, we’ll probably wind up chatting endlessly about Forever with cute dogs curled up on our laps.)

Sound cool? Of course it does! But it won’t be the same if you don’t join us. Please come out to the event this weekend, support a great cause, and maybe, just maybe, meet a loving friend who will be with you for years to come.

 

Book Signing to Benefit Furget Us Not Rescue

I am very excited to announce that I’ll be doing a book signing to benefit Furget Us Not Rescue, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit animal rescue here in Michigan. I will be signing copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What? from 12pm to 4pm on Sunday, December 21st at the Petsmart in Chesterfield, MI (Address: 51347 Gratiot Ave). All proceeds from the book sale will benefit the rescue group.

This is also a pet adoption event, so Furget Us Not Rescue will have their beautiful cats and dogs there for people to meet and fall in love with. Furget Us Not Rescue is always in need of both foster families and adoptive families for their many deserving animals (visit their Facebook page for lots of cute pictures!).

This will be a fun event for animal lovers of all ages, with candy, bookmarks, free gift-wrapping services, and lots of cute and cuddly pets to adore. We’ll also have photos of the pets featured in my two stories, plus an exclusive video of my cat Panic, who was the world’s one and only stick-hunting cat. This video has never been posted anywhere online, so this is the only chance you’ll have to see him doing his amazing and hilarious trick!

So, if you happen to live in Michigan, or even if you’re just in town for the holidays, stop by the Chesterfield Petsmart on Sunday, December 21st from 12-4pm. I would love to chat with you in person about writer stuff, fan stuff, and everything in between! While you’re there, you can support a great cause and maybe, just maybe, find the greatest holiday gift of all – a new, furry family member to love!

Hope to see you there!

-Gretchen

 

 

A Dream Come True…Times Three

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It all started with a simple dream: to complete my first novel. It took about three years – plus another two to type up the handwritten manuscript – but I did it. By the time I was finished transcribing, my heart was crowded with more dreams: write some short stories, get published digitally, get published in print, learn to write a screenplay, pen a piece of fanfiction (and have the guts to actually post it). One by one, all of these dreams came true…save #3.

I love getting published in e-zines for many reasons: your story is free for anyone to read, you can link to it on your website, and it’s just a great thing to have a sample of your work in such an easily accessible format – not to mention the awesomeness of instant reader feedback! But I must admit there’s something magical about being published in print. Just seeing your story in the pages of a book, being able to hold it in your hands and run your fingertips over the words…I wanted that. I think a lot of writers do.

And, for one reason or another, the dream just kept drifting out of reach. My very first acceptance was for a print newspaper in the city where I attended college. I was thrilled. Then it didn’t happen. No explanation, never heard from the editor again. I spent long months feeling baffled and hurt, then eventually moved on.

My next acceptance – or, as I like to call it, my first real acceptance – came from Every Day Fiction. One of the many things that drew me to them was that they were a digital market, but they also put out an annual print anthology of their best stories. Sadly, they stopped doing this shortly after I started submitting to them. As far as I know, they’ve never restarted. I think it was just too expensive. Completely understandable, but once again, I had to put the dream on hold.

Then, just last year, I got the acceptance I’d been waiting for: one of my stories had been selected for a print children’s collection. Cloud Nine, here I come…right? Wrong. In December, I received an email from the publisher that they were no longer doing multi-author children’s collections and there was no guarantee they would ever publish my story.

I started to think I might be cursed. I started to think this particular dream would have to stay just that: a dream. I started to think maybe it was time to let it go.

Thankfully, I didn’t listen to those little whispering cockroaches of doubt. I kept submitting to print markets, and finally, it paid off. A few months ago, as I shared right here on ATHF, I received notification that my story “The Greatest Gift” would be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

But the awesomeness didn’t stop there. A few weeks after that, I got another email from Chicken Soup for the Soul: my dog story, “Legacy,” had been selected to appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

A few weeks after that, the unimaginable happened: my werewolf story, “Burn,” was accepted to appear in the August 2014 issue of Trysts of Fate, a dark paranormal romance magazine presented by Alban Lake Publishing. A print magazine.

After all those times the dream had slipped away, it seemed just too good to be true. When the hyper excitement wore off, I began to worry that maybe it was too good to be true. Both of these publishers were very reputable, but still, I’d been burned in the past – multiple times. I couldn’t truly let myself believe – not until I could hold the books in my hands. Like, for real.

In mid-July, I got my wish: the first batch of contributor’s copies arrived, and I ran my fingers over the glossy cover of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? for the very first time. I touched my name on the page, saw my words in print at long last. Less than a week later, I was holding a contributor’s copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?, caressing the pages, smelling the crispness of fresh ink on paper. Then, about a month after that, my third baby arrived. Trysts of Fate was just as glossy as the other two, the striking cover art looking even better in person than it had on the publisher’s website. There was even something special about just knowing that they were advance copies – something most people weren’t able to read or touch just yet.

Nowadays, of course, anyone can hold my babies. Anyone can read them. The Chicken Soup books officially came out on August 19th, and can be purchased in bookstores and online. The August 2014 issue of Trysts of Fate is available in Alban Lake Publishing’s online store.

The dream has finally, officially come true. And in the process, two other dreams got fulfilled, as well: 1.) I got a non-fiction story published for the first time, and 2.) I got published in a book with one of my absolute favorite authors: Beth Cato. (Her wonderful stories “Welcome to the Navy” and “All About the Balloon” also appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?)

So, now that I’ve had a month or so to bask in the glory, what’s next?

More dreams, of course! I have so many waiting in the wings: do a non-profit book signing, run a workshop with my writing group, finish my nano novel (yeah, still working on that…I think it’s become a trilogy at this point), have one of my stories illustrated, write a TV pilot, write a spec script for Castle, write a movie script, attend the Austin Film Festival, and of course the biggie – become a published novelist!

But that’s just me – what about you? What are your writing dreams, and how are you pursuing them? Maybe the only difference between a dream and a goal is doing something to make it happen…or simply not giving up the hope that it actually could.

Whatever your dream is, don’t give up on it. Even when Fate seems to be telling you, in a firm and convincing voice, that things are simply not going to work out for you. Sometimes there’s a nice surprise – or three – waiting just around the corner. 🙂

Keep writing!

-Gretchen

New Story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

So, it finally happened. That thing I’ve been dreaming about, striving for, and working my behind off to accomplish for the last several years. A few days ago, my story, “The Greatest Gift,” was officially selected for publication in the upcoming book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

Thus, on August 19th, 2014 (that’s THIS year!), my writing will appear in print for the very first time.

Believe it or not, it’s actually hard for me to write those words. As a shy person with Asperger’s Syndrome, self-promotion is probably the most difficult aspect of writing I’ve faced so far. The way I was raised, you don’t brag about yourself and your accomplishments – you just plain don’t.

And yet, when you’re a writer, you almost kinda have to.

It’s just the way of the business. I know this. I accept it. But still I’ve continued to cling to my shyness like it’s my old, faded-blue security binky. Hardly any of my friends know that I am serious about writing. I think only two of them are aware that I’ve been published before. If you’re wondering how many of them know about this website, that number drops to one. For some reason, telling strangers about my writing life is actually easier than telling the people closest to me.

It’s not that I don’t WANT to tell my friends. I do! I fantasize about it, imagine their reactions, and feel my pulse-rate go up a few notches. But when I finally see them face-to-face, my courage always seems to scurry away like a spider trying not to get stepped on. I keep my head down, and when my friends ask what’s new in my life, I just smile and say, “Same old, same old. Nothing interesting here.”

But now, this book is coming out, and it’s a BIG deal. It’s my chance to show this really awesome publisher – and potential future ones – that I can successfully promote a book and generate some sales. With dreams of getting my novels published some day, I can’t afford to stay in my shell. I plan on attacking this challenge with the aggression of a hungry Grizzly Bear – seeking out opportunities for book signings and media coverage, using every connection I have, and yes, telling my friends and family about my story’s publication.

(Even if it means blushing furiously and ducking my head while I do it.)

Whatever results I get – positive or otherwise – you guys will be the first to know. 🙂