Thursday, April 17, 2014

Child Abuse Casts a Shadow the Length of a Lifetime: A special post for Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and in honor of it, I did a special two-part post on child abuse and bullying on Love Bytes Reviews. Of greatest import, take 3 minutes of your the time to watch this video.

I joined the two issues in one post because to bully is to commit an act of violence and it is the most prevalent form of abuse in society. 

My young, insightful friend Timmy, who has endured horrific bullying at school, recently took note of how adults treat each other. Check it out.



All of the memes in this post were created by Timmy.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

There are countless reasons for reading...

but when you're young and uncertain of your identity,
of who you may be,
one of the most compelling is the quest
to discover yourself in the pages of a book.
Michael Cart ~ How Beautiful the Ordinary

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Youth Author Lillian McKinnon and her character Cody Barnaby visit my Blog!

Join me in welcoming youth author, Lillian McKinnon, and her character, Cody Barnaby, from her Free Serial Read Kismet!
This is a special two part post for Kismet's Blog Tour. The first portion is a Character Interview of Cody Barnaby, the main character in Kismet. The second portion is an interview of Lillian. For those of you who don't know, she is a mere twelve years of age and has embarked on the daunting task of writing and self-publishing a free story. 

It takes a lot be an author. You must be imaginative, knowledgeable, creative, open-minded, disciplined, determined, and YOU.MUST.BE.BRAVE. You must have the courage to put yourself out there and be strong enough to take criticism, constructive or otherwise.  

Lillian hasn't only entered the arena or professional authorship by publishing Kismet. Kismet is a serial story. You read that right: a serial story. A serial story is one of the most intimidating commitments an author can make. I know, I have one. A serial requires that you publish incremental installments of your story. This requires that you write and edit consistently without supervision or the benefit of beta reading and, above all, produce a good story. It is not an endeavor for the faint of heart, I assure you. On that note, it is my great honor and privilege to have Lillian on my blog today.

A Character Interview with Cody Barnaby,
the star of Lillian Kinnon’s Kismet

Cody: Thank you for joining me today, Cody, and congratulations on having your own story.

Cody: Thank you and thank you for having me on your blog, Mr. Kennedy

Cody: Call me Cody. I think it’s great that we have the same first name, but it may make this interview a little confusing. Is it all right with you if I call you Mr. Barnaby?

Mr. Barnaby: *smiles* Whatever works.

Cody: Terrific. Through Kismet, you’ve become quite a popular character. Tell us how it feels to have a story written about you.

Mr. Barnaby: This whole thing has been a little weird for me. I’ve always thought of myself as an ordinary guy who just looked a bit weird, and then all this stuff happened to show how un-ordinary I was. I couldn’t believe it when Lillian decided to write about it. I find it even more astonishing to discover people want to read about me.

Cody: You are bullied at school and we know how deeply that affects people while they’re in school. Tell us how that affects your life outside of school.

Mr. Barnaby: Sometimes I feel like putting on a happy face and just forgetting all about the kids from school. Just enjoy being me, you know? But then other times, I think since it seems to be almost everyone either ignoring me or bullying me that they must know something about me that I don’t. That I’m ugly and worthless and it makes me want to hide. I was always a bit shy, but since junior high, I’ve become even more so. I keep thinking, what if this person will hate me too? It’s stopped me from trying to approach people in order to avoid possible rejection.

Cody: Jason seems like a nice enough guy. Does he strike you as someone you could fall for?

Mr. Barnaby: I really like him. He’s been really nice and seems to be into me for some reason. I also think he’s rather hot. I like the idea of becoming his boyfriend, but honestly? The whole deal that those Three Fates cooked up with tying us together forever freaks me out more than a little. I find myself wondering if I am falling for him because I'm really, really into him or if it is because they did some magic love spell to make the thread thing work so they could save the world. Same thing with him: is it real love or magic spell? If it’s magic, what happens when it wears off and he sees what a freak I am? 

Cody: You have a number of suspicions about Mr. Romney and rightfully so. He creeps me out just reading about him. Tell us what you really think he’s up to.

Mr. Barnaby: I think he’s trying to become rich and powerful in order to impress people. I think he’s a guy who only feels good by being bigger and better than everyone else and he thinks the way to do that is to trample everyone else into the ground. I think my dad got in his way and Romney just swept him aside as if Dad meant nothing. He’s a major creep all right, and it scares me to think that if Jason and I want to get out of this without him doing anything to us and for me to find my dad, I have to go up against him. He’s a bigger bully than the kids at school. If I get my ass kicked by them on a regular basis at school, how the hell am I supposed to face Mr. Romney?

Cody: You’re on a quest to get back to what you consider the “right” reality; one in which you have your father back. But you’re also on a quest to discover what’s at the end of red string. I get the impression that you're being pulled in two vastly different directions. Tell us about that.

Mr. Barnaby: I think Dad is out there somewhere. The no funeral thing tells me that he’s gotta be. I don’t know why the cops and everyone seem to think otherwise, but I’m sure Romney is behind whatever happened to my dad. Dad is part of my human life and the red thread is a thing of magic. If I chase after the string, will I be stuck in some magical place and be stuck as a fox? I have no idea how this whole thing works yet. Is the supernatural realm part of the every day world and mostly just goes unnoticed or is it parallel? And once the red thread sews it all up so it’s not ripped anymore or whatever is wrong with it, will my human life be over? I want Dad back, and it scares me to think dealing with the whole string thing means I could lose Dad. Or what if I find him, and the magic makes him forget all about me? Worse yet, what if he sees my fox form and hates me for being such a freak?

You certainly have some serious considerations on your plate, but you strike me as a very intelligent and resourceful young man. I wish you the best of luck in both your quests and can't wait to read more about you. Thank you for joining me today and I hope you'll visit my blog again soon. It was great having you on my blog.


The Three Fates, the last of a clan of nine tailed foxes and a Dryad are all that stands between a power hungry businessman and the power of a sacred tree. But when the fox believes he is a human boy, and the Dryad is himself captive to the businessman, how will they save the world? Will the red thread of fate that binds them together be enough, and can love really change the world enough to save it?

A Chat with Youth Wordslinger
Lillian McKinnon

Cody: Thanks for giving me this additional interview, Lillian. It was a thrill having Cody here.

Lillian: I am so excited to be here! Neither Cody nor I could believe it when we found out we were to be your guests.

Cody: Thank you, Lillian! It's an honor to have you here, to be sure. Can you tell us what inspired you to write a serial story about two boys falling in love?

Lillian: I like to think of it as a story where the two boys happen to be gay. I thought what if I had a story with a dryad and fox spirit? While I thought about that, Cody and Jason came along and shared their story with me.

Cody: I understand that you’ve written another story entitled A Life in Frames. Can you tell us a little about that?

Lillian: Ah, yes, Frames. Reaching high school age, there is this pressure on people to couple up. (in the U.K., we start high school around age 11). Everyone talks a lot about who’s cute, who’s cool, who’s hot, and what guy/girl they’d like to go to the discos with and all that kind of stuff. When hanging out with my friends, going to the pool, or out shopping and stuff, it isn't just about swimming and shopping. It’s also about getting noticed and maybe landing yourself someone to do the girlfriend/boyfriend thing with.

Frames looks at how a young man, his sister, and their friend all deal with finding that someone and how it affects the ways in which people see them and how they see themselves. The young man comes out as gay, the best friend tries to be someone she’s not in order to attract attention and be who she thinks guys her age want, and the young man’s sister is trying to help them both land a guy while reconciling her own thoughts of what she wants in a partner and the reality of what she actually craves.

Cody: During the penning of these works, did you find anything similar about them?

Lillian: I think both Kismet and Frames are about self-discovery and acceptance as much as they are about anything else.

Cody: We all know that writing is a wonderful adventure of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself during your authorship of these two stories?

Lillian: With Kismet I discovered that I identify a lot with Cody over being different. A lot of the girls I associate with hit puberty and became giggling, frilly, make up wearing people crazy about boy bands marketed directly to them. I went from loving dresses and pink to loving jeans, t-shirts, and leather jackets. While like my friends I usually have my headphones on listening to music, my tastes run towards exploring different genres and eras and finding songs that I like not because it’s marketed to me as a present-day youth, but because it’s just good.

With Frames, I worked out a lot of my identity as a person. Like the sister, I became comfortable in my choice of clothes and in my own skin. I also embraced the fact that while I drool over guys just like my straight female friends, I am just as likely to be romantically attracted to a strong, confident girl and would just as happily date a person of either gender as long as they were a good person to be with. That took some time for me to come to terms with for many of the same reasons it did the sister in Frames.

Cody: Have you considered becoming a full-time author as a profession and, if so, what genre would be your primary focus?

Lillian: I see writing as an extension of my art (I also draw in several mediums, paint, and take photos), and my goal is to make a living doing my art. My educational focus is on pursuing the arts and humanities track, gaining my diploma qualifications in that area while learning to illustrate children’s books, create book covers, improving my painting, drawing, and photography skills so that I can make a living from my diverse skill set. I intend to keep writing and to add that to my professional repertoire.

Cody: Sounds as if you are an incredibly talented young lady, Lillian. Tell us how writing has affected your life.

Lillian: Writing has made me reach deeper into myself, and open myself more fully to the viewpoints of others in order to create my characters. It not only has put me more in touch with others around me, but to know myself more fully. It’s improved how I interact with others and enriched my visual art. I have gained a much more enhanced and worldly perspective. It’s made my life so much richer.

About Lillian McKinnon:

Lillian McKinnon is the pen name for a rather sassy not-quite-13 year old home-educated girl who lives and plays in the Northwest region of England. She doesn’t like being told she can’t do things because she’s a kid, and woe betide you if it’s because she’s a girl. She’s active in Scouts and is avid in karate. She also enjoys long bike rides, photography, kayaking, abseiling, canoeing, swimming, and is an artist. She probably reads far too much and has bookcases full of novels and manga, a Kindle with an ever-growing library and online serials she avidly follows. She also has a fondness for vintage American sitcoms and modern sci-fi and fantasy TV shows. When not reading, doing her educational assignments, writing, or indulging in her other hobbies, she spends time gaming with her younger brother--as long as he hasn't annoyed her too much that day. The skill she would most like to learn next: surfing.

Find Lillian McKinnon: Blog & Facebook & Goodreads 

Lillian's Writing Play List for today














THE TOUR HAS BEEN EXTENDED!!!




24th March Gale Stanley


25th March Jana Denardo


26th March A FUN TIME with
Mia Kerick



A special note from Lillian:

Kismet is a free read, so rather than have the usual buy links up, below you’ll find two fund raiser links. I ask that those of you following the blog tour please consider contributing an amount to at least one of these causes, no matter how small or insignificant you feel that donation would be. Pennies all add up into dollars, after all.

One is for a homeless youth charity called Lost-N-Found Youth. Not every kid is lucky enough enough to have the support of a loving family, and LGBT youth are much more likely to face abuse and being kicked out on the streets. Lost-N- Found not only help youth out by providing shelter for as many as they can, but help youth get back into education and into society as contributing members. They also provide legal assistance where necessary, food, clothes, and so much more.

The other link is for the Kids' Right to Read Project. KRRP is an NCAC signature aspect of the Youth Free Expression Project. KRRP offers support, education, and direct advocacy to people facing book challenges or bans in schools and libraries and engages local activists in promoting the freedom to read. It was co-founded with the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and is supported in part by the Association of American Publishers and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. KRRP has helped defend hundreds of titles, on cases in almost every state in the nation. Their work on book censorship incidents is responsive and strategically tailored to each situation. They contact teachers, booksellers, librarians, local reporters and free speech advocates involved in the challenge. Energizing and backing community involvement is essential to the work of KRRP. They work to engage local communities as much as possible to provide resources and support for their advocacy for the freedom to read.

Thank you,
Lillian McKinnon

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mia Kerick on Bullying and her newest novel, The Red Sheet!


It's my pleasure to have Mia Kerick on my blog talking about her personal experiences with bullying and her newest novel, The Red Sheet!

Hi, Cody. Thank you for inviting me over to be guest on your blog today and for writing the foreword in my book. 

Bullying. It has been around for as long as people have; even cavemen dragged each other around by the hair. I went through it. Chances are fairly good that you went through it, too. And bullying changes you.

I was bullied by other girls since I first set foot in my neighborhood park as a very young child. Back then I thought of bullying as getting “bossed around.” Getting “bossed around” included being pushed, tripped, or pinched, having your forearm twisted painfully, and even being slapped or scratched factored in—all of which were committed when my mother wasn’t looking. I was always an easy victim; one who never pushed back. Never. Why did the other little girls do this to me? I think it was just a pecking order thing. If I was on the bottom, then they weren’t.

In my grade school years, bullying came in more subtle forms. And these are the bullying experiences from which I never fully recovered. Out on the playground during recess, the other girls would shape themselves into what I called “the inner circle”; they would form a tight O-shape with their bodies and present their backs to me, refusing to let me in. So I stood outside the circle and stared at the backs of the more “worthy” girls, and wished I was one of them.

By the time middle school hit, the female bullies had achieved a degree of finesse in their tactics. The result: I lived in fear. And not fear of physical pain, but emotional destruction. They used note-writing, name-calling, and even somehow managed to rally the boys’ help, to throw their “superior” weight around. It always seemed strange to me that the teachers could not see through these girls’ falsely smiling faces, or past their cruel barbs, which were often referred to laughingly, of course, as “teasing.” The teachers seemed to accept and even encourage the “popular” girls catty behavior, as if they too wanted to belong to the “inner circle” of these teens who were so snarky and shiny and confident.

And so until sophomore year of high school, I tried my hardest to fit in. But my very nature—insecure, sweet, and so very open—allowed my status as an easy target to prevail. But I was growing older, and I soon tracked down the resources to go outside my school for acceptance. I found this acceptance it at a roller skating rink several towns away, where no one knew I was such an easy victim. I found some other things at that rink, too. Not good things at all. But I felt that I fit in somewhere for the first time in my life so I stuck around. I guess, in hindsight, it is easy to see that I was successfully driven out of my hometown high school.

I graduated high school alone with my parents in the principal’s office, as I was unwilling to face those teenaged girls, who still figuratively formed the “inner circle” and wouldn’t let me in, for even one more day. And unsurprisingly, friendships with other women have always been extremely difficult for me to achieve. I never learned to trust, to grow with, to become comfortably familiar with other females, and this pattern extends into adulthood.

Bullying changes you. The ways in which you protect yourself from the pain, the coping mechanisms you develop, are pattern-setters in your life, and in this manner they mold your very nature, as well as your life experiences.

Scott Beckett is bullied in my new release, The Red Sheet. Find out how he reacts to his emotional pain.

About The Red Sheet

One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.

Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.

Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.

Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession. 

The Red Sheet is available at Harmony Ink/Dreamspinner Press 
You can also read about The Red Sheet on Goodreads

Excerpt:

I plunked my tray down at the Superjock Table and was just about to start forking it in when I heard Brandon’s voice, loud and offensive. 

“Hey, Beckett, why aren’t you wearin’ green today?” 

There was no response from the corner lunch table where Scott always sat. 

“And where’re your wings?” 

The entire room became silent. The pin-drop kind. 

“You’re a fairy, right? So, I expected you’d be all decked out for Halloween like Tinker Bell!” 

I heard a scattered round of uncomfortable laughter emanating from all corners of the lunchroom. Then I looked over at Scott. His face was beet red, but he hadn’t lifted his eyes from his tray. And I’m pretty sure I’d turned a matching shade of red, as well, because I was pissed. 

“What the fuck’s your problem, Wilson? Lay off the kid,” I said and then looked around at the five other faces of the guys at the Superjock 

Table, wondering if I’d get any support from them. Jackson, Broughton, and O’Reilly were staring into their casseroles, and Delgado was scowling in my general direction. Only Javitt was looking directly at me, but he was blank-faced. And not that I really cared, one way or the other, but it was clear that none of my so-called friends were gonna go out on this particular limb with me. I stood up anyways. 

Brandon got right in my face. “You wanna make somethin’ of it?” His breath smelled of fish. “You know I can take you.” 

“I don’t feel like fighting. I just want you to find a different hobby, and stop harassing Scott Beckett.” We were both speaking in our “outside voices,” or so teachers liked to say. And we had gathered an enthralled audience. 

“He’s nothin’ but a faggot, so what do you care?” 

Well, that was an easy one. “He’s a person, just like you and me… and everybody else here.” I scanned all the staring faces, and then I picked up my tray, marched straight over to the table where Scott sat alone, and that’s when I really hung my ass out there in the wind. “Mind if I join you?” 

He looked up at me, clearly unsure of my motivation, probably waiting for me to spring some kind of a cruel practical joke on him. “It’s a free country. You can sit wherever you want,” he replied blandly. 

So I dropped my tray, and then my ass, down and started forking in the food. 

Scott gawked at me for a moment (along with everybody else in the cafeteria, so he was in good company) and then started shoveling down his own lunch. We didn’t talk to each other at all, but I hoped I’d made my point, to Scott and everyone else: I didn’t give a single shit what anybody else thought about me. 

Over at the Superjock Table, Brandon was far more vocal than we were. “What the fuck’re you thinkin’, man?” 

I kept on chewing, looking at my tray, contemplating my next forkful. 

“Get your ass back over here, douche bag… and I’ll lay off the little pussy, if it means that much to you.” 

Sorry, dude. Too little, too late. 

“Come on, Dennison, you made your fucking point. Now get back over here!” 

Brandon went on that way for a few more minutes—until his frustration told him it would be a good idea to flip over the Superjock Table—which led to the vice-principal finding it necessary to restrain him before he did any further damage, and finally him being escorted forcefully from the lunchroom. 

Truthfully, my goal hadn’t been to piss Brandon off, and I felt kind of bad that he was now up shit creek. But on a positive note, nobody was staring at Scott and me anymore.


The Red Sheet is available at Harmony Ink/Dreamspinner Press 
You can also read about The Red Sheet on Goodreads

Follow the blog tour and enter the 
for FIVE chances to win one of FIVE prizes!!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It's out! Mia Kerick's THE RED SHEET! and today I talk about writing the foreword...

Mia Kerick is one of my all time favorite authors. She has an innate ability to tell a story about tough issues in a way that we can all relate to. When she asked me to write the foreword for The Red Sheet, I was rendered speechless. To write a foreword for another author is a privilege. To be asked to write one for an author I admire is not only a privilege, but a honor of the highest degree. Thank you, Mia. I will forever be indebted to you.

Writing a foreword is a tough challenge. You must not only know the story to the nth degree, but you must be able to encapsulate it and bear out in few words the essence and value of the story. With Mia's works, that's a tall order and I welcomed the challenge. The Red Sheet isn't only a story. It's a lesson in life.

Without further ado, I give you the foreword that I wrote for The Red Sheet. A book that everyone should read for myriad reasons. Above all, it and teaches us that forgiveness is essential to and for all of us.

Thank you, Mia, for the honor and privilege of writing the foreword for your wonderful book.

FOREWORD

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds
on the heel that has crushed it.” ~Mark Twain

To bully is to commit an act of violence, even if only in subtle ways. From the nasty homecoming queen who accuses you of transmitting a virulent disease when you accidentally brush her backpack in the hall; to the creep who knocks your book off your desk, then kicks it down the aisle in class–then kicks you where it counts when you bend to retrieve it; to the cool guy in school who is certain you’re diseased and says “get the hell away from me” when you try to sit next to him–in the last open seat on the bus; to the loser who punches, kicks, and shoves you repeatedly simply because you’re there; make no mistake, bullying is the most prevalent form of violent abuse in society.

Until you have endured the violation of abuse, whether by a single, violent act of cruelty or a chronic condition of suffering, you cannot know the meaning of self-loss. It isn’t only the obliteration of your belief systems; it is the annihilation of your human worth. Painful beyond description, debilitating, and tragic, bullying leaves everlasting, invisible scars. To say that you will recover from bullying is a myth. You can only survive and compensate for it when and if you are able.

Hi, I’m Cody Kennedy, and it’s no secret that I like stories that give readers hope. As the author of several stories about reclaiming yourself after abuse, I try to find new ways to look at what makes each story unique and, at the same time, universal.

Courageous, heartrending, and almost mystical, The Red Sheet tells the engaging tale of a privileged, self-centered jock named Bryan who loves a beautiful boy named Scott in secret. When Bryan wakes one morning after a party and has no recollection of his past, he finds himself with a profound sense of responsibility for others and is nothing like the jerk he was before. With his newfound heroism comes an extraordinary need for... red sheets. Through Bryan’s anguished narration and witty cynicism, this story unfolds as his memories return to haunt him. What first appears to be an almost magical change in him turns into a critical and deeply painful self-examination.

For his part, Scott suffers unspeakable cruelty. Helpless to prevent it, he endures repeated abuse from the girls who falsely befriend him and the jocks who bully and assault him in inconceivable ways. But that isn’t the worst of it. Shattered and suffering the crippling effects of abuse, it is all Scott can do to hold himself together during school. After Bryan unexpectedly rescues him from yet another brutal assault, Scott begins the excruciating task of rebuilding himself from the tattered remains of who he once was.

A masterful wordsmith with an exceptional talent for bringing to life the contradictory truths that exist within all of us, Mia Kerick doesn’t shy away from the cruelty and ugliness, yet kindness and brilliant resiliency inimitable to the human spirit. She builds love into a story against all odds and in spite of them. Through The Red Sheet, she shows us that seeing ourselves for precisely who and what we are allows us to overcome even the worst of our mistakes and that forgiveness, whether of ourselves or of others, is vital to all of us.

Cody Kennedy
Los Angeles, California
February, 2014

Now available at Dreamspinner Press

One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape. 

Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it. 

Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations. 

Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “super-jock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s new-found virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.

Find Mia on Goodreads or stop by and chat on Facebook!