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The Day I Learned There are “Dirty” Words in Sign Language.

profanityI had such a great response to my post on “My Fascination with Sign Language,” I thought I’d share some other stories from my Professor Larry Forrestal, who was my teacher when I took ASL in college. Larry was deaf and conducted the entire class in sign language so the students would be immediately immersed in the language.

One of the great things about ASL is that within about four chapters of vocabulary words, you can actually start speaking to each other. The language is amazing. There are a lot of technical things, like grammar, and there’s a perception that ASL is “English.” While the words are in English, the grammar is different and just like any other language, there are proper ways to say things in order to communicate more effectively. Only problem is, I’m terrible at grammar – both in English AND ASL.

But, to get back to the topic of this post, like any other language, there are also dirty words! To a bunch of college-aged kids, learning them became a source of secret pride. I remember one day in class Professor Forrestal was doing something at the front of the room and a bunch of us started openly speaking about the fact that there are dirty words in ASL. (Larry had told us previously there were not). We began to show each other all the words we had learned. (some of them from the Marlee Matlin movie Children of a Lesser God). “BS” was a big one and a few other choice words of content that I just can’t post here. BUT, the embarrassing thing was Larry had slinked up behind us and was watching us do the words and when we realized he was there, we were so embarrassed. But, true to his wonderful character, he just rolled his eyes, brought us all into a circle and proceeded to teach us the proper way to say these words. He signed “if you’re determined to do them, at least do them right!” Really loved this guy. All I’ll say is that one of the words looks like “pizza” with a double pump to the chin and another looks like “shoes.” There’s a few more, but suffice it to say that like in any language there is indeed, slang.

flying montage I’m thinking of adding some slang in my next ASL book. My main character is getting older and I’m curious if teens use it. I may have to inquire at Mill Neck Manor if I can come in and speak to the kids again to see if they can help me. They were invaluable when I was writing book #2 in the series. FLYING TO THE LIGHT is about a young deaf boy who knows about the afterlife and now people are after him for the answer. FLYING TO THE FIRE continues the tale seven years later and my main character’s life is suddenly turned upside down yet again. Book #3 is going to be called FLYING HOME… I already know what the main story is about, but now I have to figure out how to get there.

So I ask folks this: I always thought I’d end the series in a trilogy, but could this tale continue further and should I set it up to keep going? It was not something I thought about until a few weeks ago. Love to hear your thoughts.

Embrace Your Fears…

fearI was talking to someone recently who always wanted to travel the world, but they were too uncomfortable, or too scared, to do it. Maybe it was the strange foods, the different languages, the media fear that perpetrates the news that they’re going to die if they leave their safe little haven. It’s probably all of the above, but to let fear rule your life will get you no where.

I write books. I’ve written them for years, but only in the past three years have I started to publish them. Why? Fear. Fear that people would laugh at me, fear that it’s not the “Great American Novel” and I’ll be ridiculed, fear of no sales, you name it. But one day something in me clicked. Maybe I got more mature, but I finally said “so what if it’s not the great american tale? I’m not Hemingway and I’m not trying to be him.” I recently read John Locke’s book on how he sold a million e-books and one thing really stuck with me. I need to stop worry about creating a book that is going to become a classic and write something fun, entertaining, engaging and will take everyone out of their everyday lives for just a little bit of time. If I’ve been able to accomplish that, it’s a success. That was a relief to read and I’m embracing it. (Not that I don’t want my books to get wide acclaim, and not that I won’t put out the best novel I can, but let’s take it one step at a time).

Me talking to the kids at Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf.

Me talking to the kids at Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf.

Other things that scare people? Strange foods, daring situations, presenting in front of people… my feeling is, that if any single part of you wants to try something, you should try it. If fear is the motivating factor getting in your way, and nothing else, then you need to fight it. I tend to put myself in uncomfortable situations all the time. I go to events by myself because I want to try new things and sometimes other people won’t go with me. I spoke to children at two Deaf Schools, Mill Neck Manor and St. Joseph’s, about my YA thrillers and my Sign Language was not the best, but I tried. I feel like putting yourself out there is the only way to grow. Even a book signing is slightly terrifying. Strangers coming up to you to discuss something that you’ve put your heart and soul into.

Honestly, it’s easier to sit in our homes, hide in our beds, exist in our safe little worlds – but that is not life. Life is meant to be lived and I implore you to live it. Share your artwork or writing, go to karaoke, jump out of that plane, try sushi, octopus, escargot. Pick one thing you’ve always wanted to do and then do it. Or, make a bucket list and see if you can click things off of it – even if it takes years. I did one below:

My first Tae Kwon Do Tournament - waiting to do forms. I look tough, but I was SO NERVOUS.

My first Tae Kwon Do Tournament – waiting to do forms. I look tough, but was SO NERVOUS.

My bucket list that I made seven years ago:
Get my black belt and participate in a tournament (five years later – GOT IT)
Get a book published (seven years later – SIX are out!)
Try new foods (joined a Gastronaut crazy eating club)
Travel the world (went to Alaska this summer and have plans for Italy in less than three years!)
Jump out of a plane (I still have not done this – I admit it, I’m terrified)

Now I realize I need to make another one and I’ve been thinking hard on what I want to put on it.

So, what’s on your bucket list that you’d love to do, but are scared to do? Let us know – maybe we can convince you to try!

My Fascination with Sign Language

When I was a little kid, I was fascinated with sign language. I remember finding a pamphlet with all the letters in ASL (American Sign Language) on it and practicing until I learned the alphabet. I would have loved to have practiced with someone, but I never interacted with a deaf person before. Except for seeing it in the movie with Marlee Matlin aslin “Children of a Lesser God,” I had so little experience with the culture and it wasn’t until I was in college in a sign language class, that I actually met my first deaf person. He was my professor, Larry Forrestal, and he was just awesome.

Professor Forrestal was deaf and didn’t speak. The entire class was conducted in sign language and whatever he felt like writing on the black board. I remember only hearing him speak once. It was later in the year and he called out someone’s name when they were walking away from him and he couldn’t get their attention. Dumbfounded, we all stared at him and signed, “You Can Speak?” He shook his head no, but gave a sly grin. I bet he could speak, but he chose not too.

Another funny story: One day, we met in the evening for a study group and we were walking with our professor through the Student Union to our meeting area. There was a huge party going on and the music was so loud, “I couldn’t hear myself think.” I saw Professor Forrestal “dancing and moving” along to the music and I signed to him “How are you dancing? You hear it?” He rolled his eyes, grabbed my hand and another girl’s hand and pushed us both to the floor. Here were the three of us, our professor and two of his students, sitting on the floor in the middle of this very active building and he’d pressed our hands to the floor so we could feel the pulsations from the bass from the music “loud and clear.” He also pointed to his chest and told us to just “feel it” and of course we could. We sat there for a while, just “listening” with him along to the music. It was a very big wake up call for me.

flying montageSign Language and the deaf culture has fascinated me ever since and when I was writing a YA series, I decided to make my main character deaf. FLYING TO THE LIGHT is about a young deaf boy who knows about the afterlife and now people are after him for the answer. FLYING TO THE FIRE continues the tale seven years later and my main character’s life is suddenly turned upside down yet again. What I think has really appealed to people is that my character’s family primarily uses sign language to communicate with him and at no time is his deafness a disability. It is simply a part of who he is.

I just love that my interest as a little girl morphed into something so amazing and brought me to this spot. Have you had experiences with the culture? I’d love to hear. Please drop me a note on my website and join my e-newsletter. Just click for newsletter updates here and then click “Contact Me.”

Why You Should Do A Goodreads Giveaway

goodreadsgiveWhen I talk to authors about what sort of promotion they are doing for their novels, I hear mostly “I’m posting on Twitter and my Facebook page.” Occasionally I’ll hear they do a post on Google+ or something on LinkedIn. I’ll also hear about doing ads on BookBub, ENT and sites like that. What I’m surprised is I don’t hear more activity happening on Goodreads.

You see, Goodreads is where readers go to find books that their friends are reading. Yes, there are a lot of authors there, but there are even more readers. I believe it’s important to branch out into different social media networks because you never know where you’ll find that next loyal customer.

Which leads me to why you should do a Giveaway on Goodreads. For the price of your book, mine average about $4.50 on Create Space, and shipping to the winner, I essentially have an “ad” for under $10 that runs on Goodreads for about two months. It sits there, it pops up occasionally, I can promote my giveaway and then people have the ability to enter AND THEN also have the ability to put it on their shelf to read if they like. If they do this, then it sits, for free, as a sort of ad, on their shelf that their friends can also see they are interested in reading.

I’ve done quite a few giveaways on Goodreads. I offer out my ARC Copies that might have some errors (which I make very clear to the winner) and it allows me to get exposure without having to run an actual ad. (and it allows me to get rid of the copies I won’t actually sell)

Here are some results of some Goodreads Giveaways I’ve done for three of my books:
I finished one yesterday for my thriller THE HUNT FOR XANADU and 616 people entered.
In November 2013 I did one for my dark fantasy novel THE WORLD OF KAROV and 510 people entered.
I did another one for my YA thriller, FLYING TO THE LIGHT and 623 people entered.

These are people who may never have come across my books before and if you’re lucky, the winners will leave a review for you as well.

So think about going on Goodreads today and creating a giveaway. Just remember, it needs to be a hard copy. You can give out as many books as you wish. I do just one so I can spread it around, but I see more people seem to enter when there are multiple copies to win. Totally your call. And while you’re at it, go enter a few giveaways, too. I’ve won some myself and it’s a great way to read a new author.

Now, for anyone interested, on 8/30 I’m doing an online book launch event for FLYING TO THE FIRE, which is Book #2 in my YA Deaf Thriller series. It’s all online and I’ll be giving out prizes for interaction. Please click and join here – you don’t need to purchase the novel – just come for fun! https://www.facebook.com/events/669594469785008/

Writing a #Deaf Thriller

Me and my wonderful interpreter at St Joseph's School for the Deaf

Me and my wonderful interpreter at St Joseph’s School for the Deaf

I’ve been asked by many people “why did you write a book with a deaf main lead character?” At first I found it tough to answer this question because “I didn’t” write a novel with the intention to write about a deaf main character. This young boy formed in my mind and he just happened to be deaf. The only real intention I had was to make sure this boy’s deafness was never a disability and his family all learned sign language so that they could communicate with him.

Now, before we go further I need to do a shameless plug. I’m launching Book #2 in this series and it’s called FLYING TO THE FIRE and I’m hosting a Facebook online event on August 30th. What is an event on Facebook? It’s when, for a day, I do my own event “tour” – you don’t have to live close to me, or go anywhere – it’s all online. People join up, by simply clicking on the link and during that day I simply update the site with questions to win prizes and tell you interesting things about the series. I’m hoping it’s REALLY FUN and I have a lot of prizes and swag planned and a fantastic UK deaf retailer, Talk With Sign Books has offered up a £10 voucher to their store for one of the prizes! So come on over, there will be signed books & goodies just by commenting and interacting, so please, please, please join here: https://www.facebook.com/events/669594469785008/ (ok, shameless plug over)

Now, back to comments. Another more provocative one I received more than once was “Who are YOU to write about a deaf character if you’re not deaf?” Well, to answer that I explained that I was always interested in Deaf culture. I first studied ASL when I was in college. I took a class with a wonderful teacher who was the first deaf person I ever interacted with (save for side glances at people who were rapidly speaking ASL with each other that I’d see in restaurants or other places.) After the first year I learned enough to be a teacher’s assistant for him the next year. But then, having no one to practice with I didn’t get to use it for nearly 20 years. What many people might not know about me, (but will now say, “OH that’s why she can’t hear me sometimes”) I also am hard of hearing in my left ear to the tune of between 40%-60% hearing loss (I need a checkup). As a kid, I had three surgeries in that ear and it left a lot of scar tissue. I can obviously still hear, but it is very difficult at times when there is background noise and I’m trying to concentrate on someone either calling me from upstairs, or speaking to me when they’re not facing me.

I really think people will like this series. It was originally with a publishing company, who unfortunately folded right before FLYING TO THE FIRE was going to come out. So then I got a great agent who tried to hustle them for nearly a year. When he couldn’t, he suggested I change the covers and self publish them. So, now I’m the one hustling!

I did a lot of press on the first book and was written up on many wonderful sites in the Deaf community. Sharon Pajka, a professor at Gallaudet, wrote the novel up on her blog “Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature.” You can read the interview here: http://pajka.blogspot.com/2012/03/interview-with-flying-to-light-author.html The second book is on its way to her momentarily.

Book #1 was even showed at The Deaf Unity Event in London, so I was asked to make a video. I got an interpreter to help me and I put in captions. I had only days to do it, but this is what I was able to come up with. I am speaking REALLY slowly because I’m looking into a mirror and I can tell when the interpreter is catching up with me! 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWIpJrOfwlA

I am planning on a 99 cent sale of FLYING TO THE LIGHT on August 13th and August 14th. (my blog followers here are getting this information first!), so grab your copy then. If you just can’t wait and want to nab it earlier, FLYING TO THE LIGHT is available on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/1u6xwpV Book #2 in the series, FLYING TO THE FIRE will be available August 30th.

Book #1 & #2 in my Deaf Thriller Series

Book #1 & #2 in my Deaf Thriller Series

For those who have already read the book – if you could leave a review on Amazon it would be so appreciated! And… there is a Book #3 in the works. It is tentatively titled, FLYING HOME, and it will tie up the trilogy. Love to hear your thoughts and come join the event! 🙂 And also, don’t forget to check out Talk With Sign Book’s website in the UK for some amazing products for the community. http://talkwithsign.com/

Does Your Book Have a Hook? Find it!

Millneck Manor Talk

Millneck Manor Talk

You’ve written this great book, told all your friends, family, promoted on FB, Twitter, Google+. Maybe you’ve done a little ad here and there, a goodreads event. Is it selling? Could you sell more?

Here is where the hook comes in. Think about your novel and think about where else you could sell this book and who would be interested. I wrote a buddhist based thriller called THE HUNT FOR XANADU. I’ve actually gone onto different buddhist sites and promoted the book there, did a signing at a tea shop and contacted buddhist bookstores to see if they’d like to carry it. The book is really just a thriller but the over-riding element is a buddhism theme.

I’ve also done a YA novel with a young deaf boy called FLYING TO THE LIGHT. This has been a much easier book to find a hook for. I’ve contacted every single deaf school in the country – with an email to their librarian and principal, discussing the novel. I’ve locally done two “talks” at deaf schools and while I know some ASL, they had an interpreter for me. I’ve gone onto a lot of different deaf sites on FB and promoted the book, and the book trailers there. I’ve also gone online to various deaf websites to see if they would like to give the novel a write-up as well. Nothing is a bad idea. What’s the worst thing that can happen? They say no? We’re authors, I think we’ve heard the word “no” enough times to be able to handle it.

My newest angle is specialized book fairs. On May 18th, I’ve been selected to join a Book Fair at Mill Neck Manor’s School for the Deaf in Millneck, New York. The program is from 12-4, is free to everyone and is to help support their Literacy Program. If you live on Long Island and want to come, please check out the information included. There will be raffles and activities for children. millneck

The trick is to find the hook in your novel and run with it. Maybe your character loves cookies – try to do a signing in a bakery, maybe they are a fantastic runner – contact the local running groups and make some friends there, maybe they like to fish, are a veteran, etc… you get the idea. Find out some distinguishing factors about your characters and how you can find that little “in” to promote it someplace else versus the standard fare.

Any cool ideas you’ve done? Can’t wait to hear them!