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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Marion County Reading Council officers Twyla Rote, Lisa McCombs, Pat Myers, and Sherry Dickerson pose with WV author Wiley Cash.

WV authors Mary Rocini and Lisa McCombs at WVRA.

 Mary Rocini and Lisa McCombs with the Mad Sad Glad Guys!
 Lisa McCombs and Daleen Berry at The Greenbrier!
Lisa and Kerri, owner of Kerri's Korner Bookstore.

Friday, January 25, 2013

God doesn't throw us more than we can catch.

I am always saddened when reading a book that I cannot wait to finish. All books are valuable...all stories worth telling; but Lucy in the Sky is just so unrealistic to the majority of youth out there, that I cannot (with a clear conscious) put it on my classroom shelf. I understand that culture varies from coast to coast, hood to hood, but why must authors continue to characterize today's youth in such a manner that sets the standard SO LOW?

I think of my own students over the years and I know that they are troubled, swimming against the stream, living in a self-involved world that doesn't openly tolerate discipline; but I also know without a doubt that every young person desperately WANTS to be good. We all yearn discipline and structure, whether we admit it or not.

After reading books like this or even the divinely successful works of Ellen Hopkins, I close my eyes and am grateful for  the likes of Judy Blume and Sarah Dessen. These ladies tell stories. They meet the needs of young readers. They do not need to rely upon a hard core journey through drug use and prostitution to weave a convincing tale.

As a veteran educator and lover of books I am totally against censorship and totally believe in freedom of choice concerning reading material; but I also delight in stories founded on morality and good deeds. No, that is not fantasy-land. It's what readers WANT.

My novel Abby may not be highly recognized or killing the best seller lists, but at least it gives hope to those readers who are traveling through adolescence. It recognizes the existence of bullies and crippling disease. It gives claim to dysfunctional families and intolerance in society. But it is also founded on the belief that "God doesn't throw us more than we can catch."

So...my rant is over for this day. I am just happy to look at my reading pile and hope that my next choice is fun.

I'm glad that's over...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I'm inspired

Recently I have had the pleasure of reading the thoughts of a fellow MS warrior; thus revisiting my own relationship with something that has just become another appendage. I've written my story before and admittedly (momentarily) been impressed with my own fortitude and will to move on. Then I look at it again and think, "C'mon, Lisa, it's no big deal."
Learning to walk again (and again) is nothing compared to the terminal cancer patient and his anxious family.
Re-evaluating that mountain of stairs in front of me cannot compare to the three brain surgeries my own brother has survived in two years.
Dragging around a dropped foot while willing spectactors to consider that my uneven gait is not a product of a liquid lunch should be a testimony to the actual wino under the bridge who some how can afford to consume insane amounts of alcohol, while I live from pay check to pay check buying groceries for my family rather than visiting my favorite spirit of choice.
Geoffrey, I hope you don't mind me jumping on your band wagon and sharing a little of my own story. There is no way I could convey my experience in a manner equal to what you have shown me, but the therapy of writing is a good thing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Brrrr...

Hey, Baby, it's cold, cold, cold outside! Two hour delay this morning and I anticipate a repeat tomorrow. And then...a warm up...and SNOW!
I love winter. My fantasy vacation is to be snowed in with a pile of books and a put of hot tea. It's been a long time since I enjoyed nature's screen play from my living room window. I get giddy just thinking about the possibility.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Let's Remember Dear Abby

The news of Dear Abby's passing has taken its toll on me, but has also caste a new purpose to my writing. Tomorrow I will be signing copies of Abby and Raspberry Beret at Barnes and Noble in Morgantown, WV, 1-4 PM. I hope you will join me in paying homage to the great lady who hugely inspired my YA novels and the diary format in which they are written.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Dear Abby"...my hero and my muse...God Speed


'Dear Abby' advice columnist dies at age 94
Thursday - 1/17/2013, 4:28pm  ET
FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2001 file photo, Pauline Friedman Phillips, right, the nationally-syndicated advice columnist best known as "Dear Abby," and her daughter Jeanne Phillips, pose after the dedication of a Dear Abby star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. Phillips, who had Alzheimer’s disease, died Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, she was 94. Phillips' column competed for decades with the advice column of Ann Landers, written by her twin sister, Esther Friedman Lederer. Their relationship was stormy in their early adult years, but later they regained the close relationship they had growing up in Sioux City, Iowa. The two columns differed in style. Ann Landers responded to questioners with homey, detailed advice. Abby's replies were often flippant one-liners. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
By STEVE KARNOWSKI
Associated Press Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Pauline Friedman Phillips, who as Dear Abby dispensed snappy, sometimes saucy advice on love, marriage and meddling mothers-in-law to millions of newspaper readers around the world and opened the way for the likes of Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil and Oprah, has died. She was 94.
Phillips died Wednesday in Minneapolis after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, said Gene Willis, a publicist for the Universal Uclick syndicate.
"My mother leaves very big high heels to fill with a legacy of compassion, commitment and positive social change," her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, who now writes the column, said in a statement.
Private funeral services were held Thursday, Willis said.
The long-running "Dear Abby" column first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1956. Mother and daughter started sharing the byline in 2000, and Jeanne Phillips took over in 2002, when the family announced Pauline Phillips had Alzheimer's disease.
Pauline Phillips wrote under the name Abigail Van Buren. Her column competed for decades with the advice of Ann Landers, written by her twin sister, Esther Friedman Lederer, who died in 2002. Their relationship was stormy in their early adult years, but they later regained the closeness they had growing up in Sioux City, Iowa.
The two columns differed in style. Ann Landers responded to questioners with homey, detailed advice. Abby's replies were often flippant and occasionally risqué one-liners, like some of those collected for her 1981 book "The Best of Dear Abby."
Dear Abby: My boyfriend is going to be 20 years old next month. I'd like to give him something nice for his birthday. What do you think he'd like? _ Carol
Dear Carol: Nevermind what he'd like, give him a tie.
Dear Abby: What inspires you most to write? _ Ted
Dear Ted: The Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Dear Abby: I've been going with this girl for a year. How can I get her to say yes? _ Don
Dear Don: What's the question?
Phillips admitted that her advice changed over the years. When she started writing the column, she was reluctant to advocate divorce:
"I always thought that marriage should be forever," she explained. "I found out through my readers that sometimes the best thing they can do is part. If a man or woman is a constant cheater, the situation can be intolerable. Especially if they have children. When kids see parents fighting, or even sniping at each other, I think it is terribly damaging."
She willingly expressed views that she realized would bring protests. In a 1998 interview she remarked: "Whenever I say a kind word about gays, I hear from people, and some of them are damn mad. People throw Leviticus, Deuteronomy and other parts of the Bible to me. It doesn't bother me. I've always been compassionate toward gay people."
If the letters sounded suicidal, she took a personal approach: "I'll call them. I say, `This is Abby. How are you feeling? You sounded awfully low.' And they say, `You're calling me?' After they start talking, you can suggest that they get professional help."
In a time before confessional talk shows and the nothing-is-too-private culture of the Internet, the sisters' columns offered a rare window into Americans' private lives and a forum for discussing marriage, sex and the swiftly changing mores of the 1950s, `60s and `70s.
Asked about Viagra, Phillips replied: "It's wonderful. Men who can't perform feel less than manly, and Viagra takes them right off the spot."
About working mothers: "I think it's good to have a woman work if she wants to and doesn't leave her children unattended _ if she has a reliable person to care for them. Kids still need someone to watch them until they are mature enough to make responsible decisions."
One trend Phillips adamantly opposed: children having sex as early as 12 years old.
"Kids grow up awfully fast these days," she said. "You should try to have a good relationship with your kids, no matter what they do."
Pauline Esther Friedman, known as Popo, was born on Independence Day 1918 in Sioux City, Iowa, 17 minutes after her identical twin, Esther Pauline (Eppie). Their father was a well-off owner of a movie theater chain. Their mother took care of the home. Both were immigrants from Russia who had fled their native land in 1905 because of the persecution of Jews.
"My parents came with nothing. They all came with nothing," Phillips said in a 1986 Associated Press interview. She recalled that her parents always remembered seeing the Statue of Liberty: "It's amazing the impact the lady of the harbor had on them. They always held her dear, all their lives."
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This is where I want to live....Oh, but I do, I do!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Looks like a 5 Star to me!


20th Annual Writer’s Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards

  
Entry Title: Abby
Author: Lisa A. McCombs
Judge Number: 75


Books were evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

In some cases, you may see special or out of place characters/symbols in your commentary. For example, you may see that a character/symbol replaces an apostrophe, copyright, and other "symbols".
These substitutions occur for various reasons – and are unavoidable. They are often [programming] misinterpretations due to encoding, installed fonts, web based content/sources etc.
Since the “content”[data] of the commentary is comprised of data sent from several different computers (programs, fonts etc.,) and from the internet (online entry system),
you may at times see an interpretation of what had been an apostrophe, quotation mark etc.


Structure and Organization: 5
 Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5        

Plot (if applicable): 5

Character Development (if applicable): 5


What did you like best about this book?

I loved this book.  Lisa A. McCombs has written a wonderful novel that covers a year in the life of a seventh grader, Abigail Van Buren Masterson.  It is written in journal form as letters to Dear Abby.  The writing is easy and flows well.  The journal entries are short and make for fast, easy reading. They feel like they could be written by a seventh grade girl.  Middle school girls will really like this novel as they go through this year with Abigail....a new school (again), learning that she has family she never knew about, dealing with a bully, falling in love for the first time, and finding out that her mom has MS. 
Readers also learn about MS as Abigail researches this disease that has struck her family. 
All of the characters are well written and come to life for the reader.
A great addition to my library!


How can the author improve this book?

I really did not find any place that Ms. McCombs needs to improve.  This is a delightful and informative novel.


Thank you, Robert Lee Brewer

This morning marks day 5 of my flu and day 2 of my son's own case; thus, while he is recovering, I am diving head first into stir-craziness (as one can obviously attain from my vocabulary).

No worries.  5:00 AM found me on the prowl for new and refreshing reading material and when I spied my 2013 copy of Writer's Market, I just knew that was the fuel I needed.

How many of you have actually read a copy of Writer's Market? I mean, really read the content; not raced frantically to the publisher/agent listings with an indignant attitude of not yet being discovered? There is some really informative stuff located in the pages prior to those discouraging lists.

Robert Lee Brewer, editor of said gospel, offers some much needed advice and very reader friendly tips on pages 161-174 for the social media flunky (like me) and I even enjoyed his From the Editor piece. You're a cutie, Robert Lee Brewer; and, no, I'm not flirting, but my sleep deprived, fever raged brain is feeling a little weird these last few hours. I am hoping that my first shower in several days (I know, TMI) will help clear up a few things for me.

I have read/re-read Blogging Basics:Get the Most Out of Your Blog enough that I could possibly pass the pop quiz, but hope it doesn't come to that. My plan is to implement as many tips given here as I can. So, add  that to my little ol' New Year's Resolution list and we'll see where it takes me.

Here's a run down of what I need to be doing, though:
*start small, but blog regularly (Working on that!)
*identify my blogging goals (Hmmm....)
*post relevant, useful content (It's ll relevant to me!)
*write well, but be concise (       )
*respond to comments made to my posts (I will when they come!)
*experiment (I think I've got that one nailed.)
*Find like-minded bloggers (while parenting, teaching, writing, blogging, reading, cleaning, cooking, wifing, etc.) and link to them (huh?)

Okay, Robert Lee Brewer, I am going to take a well-needed hygiene break, and I'll be back to earn my keep as a head-of-the-class blogger real soon!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's just not fair...

I am and never have been attracted to the use of narcotics for amusement, but I could very easily become a Prednisone junkie. Steroids are the golden moment for MS victims; and on Sunday I was given a high dosage of said drug to jump-start my flu recovery. An hour later the heavens opened up and life was good again. My feet fell in perfect step; my hands actually grasped items they reached for; my annoying head flutter ceased. For two days I remembered what it was like to be near normal again.
...and then I woke up this morning with an uneven walking gait, a numb left hand, and a bobble head reflected in the mirror.

I actually felt like an addict as I reached for my bottle of steroids for round two. How long would it take to regain that euphoria of Sunday afternoon? How long will that settled state of mind and body last this time? I get to consume these lovely little tablets, twice a day for five days; supposedly to help combat the flu. But I know, and everyone out there with a neurological condition as well, that I  could contend with a little ol' bout of the flu if that's what it takes to be able to walk again.

Steroids rule....why can't the medical profession find a safe way to utilize this drug to help MS folks feel normal? This is the 21st century....surely, there must be a way to make steroid use safe.

I love the way I feel with this drug pumping away in my system; but I also know in five days my happiness will crash when I I can't life my right leg high enough off the floor to not trip on that infintessimal speck of dust that tripped my progress. OH, well....At least I have today, stuffy nose and all.

...but I can walk...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Irrelevant blog commens

     It's exciting when I see that there on comments on my blog postings; but rather curious when those comments have absolutely nothing to do with my post. Is this some kind of piracy to gain recognition for one's self or are there really idiots out there who have no idea what they are reading....oops...there's the problem. They can't read!
      Which gets me to my most recent project. West Virginia, my beautiful home state, will celebrate its' 150th birthday in June and to celebrate the entire state is challenging schools, libraries, reading groups, communities, families, neighborhoods, EVERYONE, to read 150 books between January 1 and December 31. I cannot wait to approach my own faculty with this event. Teaching eighth graders makes this inconceivable for my classroom, since they leave me in June to move on to the high school; but that doesn't mean that I won't be talking it up as an extra something for them to think about.
 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

...and I did it again! Slow down, Lisa, you are on a Fog Delay...

I hate it when I tap that "publish" button and then see as blaring spelling mistake. I meant to say "folks":)

Fog Delay

That's right folk...Marion County Schools is on a two hour delay due to intense FOG. In my thirty years of teaching, I do not recall school closing because of fog. No, I am not complaining (other than the fact that I was totally dressed and "made up" by 6:30); I just find it rather comical that it is January 10 and the temperature is more like spring than winter (Where's the snow?!) and while my child hood anticipation of a Snow Day (C'mon, Snowbird!) is still active, I never would have dreamed of a Fog Day.
Hey, I'll take it any way I can get it. I just hate to begin a new semester on such an event. I like new beginnings and am a firm believer that their outcome is a result of their foundation. I hope this shaky foundation isn't representative of second semester's outcome.
So...on the Today Show this early morn, reports of a dangerous flu outbreak is spreading across our country. Guess I'd better get that flu shot...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Exciting stuff....exciting year

     I am once again blown away by my current eighth graders and their voracious appetite for writing (and reading!). We started working on WV Promising Young WritersWVDE yesterday and they are SO excited, which makes me equally pumped. After talking about effective "grabbers" and doing a writing sprint on one of seven fictional narrative writing prompts, I know as a certainty that only good things are going to happen in room 208 today. The most memorable "grabber" from yesterday is "It's not safe here anymore". I mean, how does that NOT grab your attention. Good job, G. Baker! I cannot wait to see what is in store for us today.
     On a more personal note: I will be at Barnes and Noble in Morgantown on Saturday, January 19, at 1:00, signing copies of Abby and Raspberry Beret. Since that week is Educator's Week I hope to see many fellow educators/YA readers. I cannot wait to release the third and final installment in my trilogy, but I have set a goal for myself to share my first two novels with as many folks as possible before embarking on a thrid publication process. (Yes, folks, I need to replenish the Lisa Dream Fund before spending more nonexistent money:). So, help me reach my sales goal so I can let you know "happens next".
     Have a good one!

Friday, January 4, 2013

If you liked Abby, you'll love Raspberry Beret!

I opened my FB page today and found that my dear niece had taken the time to download this image of Raspberry Beret. It is so cool so see one's own published work being advertised in such a manner. Thanks, Rachel!:)
If you don't have your copy of Raspberry Beret yet, check it out on Amazon!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reminding myself that this IS the 21st century...

     I read my latest copy of Writers Digest today and am once again totally overwhelmed with publishing information. My first novel is self-published but is basically in the hands of a self-publishing house in BC and my second novel is a product of Create Space. Not a business-minded individual, I am clueless as to how to promote my books in the fashion that is suggested by these interesting articles that leave me burdened with my techie ignorance. I love to write. I just do not have an interest in the promoting of my work. Terrible, huh? It all sounds so simple until I sit down to tackle the situation head on.
    So, here's my to do list:
1. Write a convincing query.
2. Write an interesting summary of Abby an equally wonderful piece to promote Raspberry Beret.
3. Focus on understanding the workings of e-book publication.
4. Remember to actually do WORK on the computer instead of playing Bubble Witch Saga (I am addicted).
5. At least pretend to be what I always wanted to be: an author of YA fiction.
6. Oh, and try to figure out how to post   pictures from my phone on the internet:)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 and misunderstood

So...I decided yesterday that I cannot handle my life successfully if I have to be responsible for how MY life affects other people...what is happening to me is not a personal attack on others...
     Let me explain....
On December 14, 2000, at the age of 40, I gave birth to a miracle...my son. Six months later I collapsed and  after a week of hospitalization I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. For the first summer of my son's life I had to depend upon other people to care for my  little darling because I could not walk, had limited feeling in my arms, and suffered impaired speech. Four weeks after my diagnosis, I began a life long commitment to self injections to help ward off future diseased related symptoms. Every other day I had to "shoot up" so that soon my body was covered with thumbnail bruises and my energy level was cut practically in two. I continued to self-inject until I "accidentally" made the decision to discontinue my use of this still experimental drug. It's been two years and I am no better or worse than I was in 2001.
     MS is a tricky little condition, though. I have developed a drop foot that makes walking a challenge and running a skill of my early years. That's okay. My quality of living is far more impressive without the drug. I have more energy and can cognitively focus much better. Depression is a problem, though, especially coupled with the fun of pre-menopause. Yep, that's a delicious cocktail.
     So, here's my vent: On a daily basis I must worry about whether or not today I will wet myself because my MS bladder no longer registers appropriate turn on/turn off. I hate fire drills at school because I can't get up and down stairs quickly enough, but must provide a positive example for my students.(I plan to go down with the ship if the time comes.) My balance is atrocious and I fall often...and it often hurts...but I have to get back up and laugh it off so as to not scare my now 12 year old or show weakness to my husband or any other witness. My eye sight is really getting weird and I do not trust myself to drive at night because I can't discern between headlights and my halo and tracer companions. Sometimes it all becomes more than too much for me and I cannot control the tears. It's frightening to me and more than upsetting to my family...butg they need to understand that it is not personal.
     Sometimes I just need to feel sorry for myself...
     So, in 2013, I give myself permission to wallow in self-pity on occasion.
Thanks for listening.