Saturday, September 19, 2009

Author Samira Hodges guest blogs!

Dreams vs. Reality

Expect the unexpected. That’s been my motto in life. Well, at least in my adult life. When I was younger, I used to dream of what I would be when I would grow up. I had many ambitions, some were big and others were small, day-to-day type goals. My first ambition came to me at four years of age; I wanted to become a Pediatrician. As a consequence, I dedicated my life to the pursuit of this goal, specifically to the pursuit of getting into a Canadian medical school.

I didn’t. Get in, I mean. In fact, I tried for two consecutive years and was never even offered an interview. Ouch. So what’s a girl with a college degree in Biology to do? Well, I did what every other person in my situation would do: I did some soul searching. I had no choice but to explore other possibilities. I began working in the corporate world and climbing my way up the infamous ladder. I played in tennis tournaments (more on that later). I began writing more seriously and exploring the possibility of writing for others (instead of only for myself). And just when I had let my guard down and forgotten entirely about medicine, an opportunity presented itself. I could still be a doctor! It wasn’t over. It could still be done. Who’d a thunk it? There were actually schools in the Caribbean that would consider a dreamer like me. So I gave it a go. Four years later, I’m a doctor, specializing in Pediatrics. And oh, by the way, I met my husband in medical school. Fate’s a funny thing, ain’t it?

Next big ambition: become a professional tennis player. This was a big dream for me because I absolutely love tennis. Always have, always will. In my opinion, it’s the best. The bomb. The shizzle (am I dating myself?). So naturally, I wanted badly to play tennis in college. As the theme of my life goes, I didn’t get on the team after try-outs. Disheartened, I trained harder and tried again the following year. Guess what? I still didn’t make the cut. Thankfully, that didn’t stop me from playing. When you love something, the lack of opportunities can never take away the passion. They just stifle it for a while. Later, when I was playing a friendly game of tennis with a friend, the University tennis coach saw me playing. Again, just when I’d let my guard down, just when I wasn’t expecting it, I got what I’d wanted. That’s right, I made the team. I didn’t get to play the full season but I still made it. Later, after University, I played in provincial tennis tournaments and though I never went “pro”, I would gladly say that I accomplished my goal of making something of myself in the tennis world.

Likewise, publishing a book seemed like an impossible and daunting task. I’ll be honest: I never seriously considered making a career out of writing. I always wrote for myself but later, I discovered the satisfaction that comes with writing for others. I won a few insignificant little contests, got a few compliments and suddenly, the wind was blowing strongly in my sails. Then I came up with a story: the story for the Milestones trilogy. This story, I knew, was one I just had to share with the world. So I wrote it. And then I was stumped. How does one even get a book published? So ironically, or comically, or appropriately, I bought a book. It may as well have been called “publishing for dummies”, I’ll just put it that way. First recommendation in the book: Find an agent. Okay! I can do that! So once again, I put all my hopes and dreams into this endeavour and sent envelope after envelope after envelope. As you can guess (this is my life after all!), all I received was rejection after rejection after rejection. So I gave up. Several times actually. Luckily, my husband kept pushing me to keep going. So I did. But the expectations just weren’t there. They were totally gone. And just when I’d given up on publishing altogether, I landed an agent. As a consequence, my pesky expectations rose right back up! Yay! An agent! Next stop: a publisher! Right? Wrong. Not so. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now. Seven rejections later, I was once again deflated. This wasn’t going to happen for me. I was literally putting away my manuscript (and my expectations, once again), when I got a call, one day cold Christmas day. A small publishing house was interested. They wanted to sign a contract. With me. I was so shocked that I didn’t dare celebrate. I didn’t want to jinx it. But it happened. It was real. And now I’m here.

And that’s why my motto in life is to expect the unexpected. I’ve never gotten what I wanted WHEN I wanted it or even HOW I wanted it. Life always happened on its own terms with me. And the more I resisted it, the longer things took. But whenever I just let things happen and let the universe take the course it wanted to take, things always seemed to work out…and usually better than I had ever envisioned. Case in point: I love my medical school. I got to snorkel on school days and travel the beautiful Caribbean, rescue a Caribbean dog, meet and marry my husband (yes, in the Caribbean) and even travel to South America (something I don’t think I would have ever done otherwise). And I still got the residency I wanted. Who else can say that? I love the path I took in life. Although unconventional and always deviating from the “formula” I had in mind, it was always so much better. Similarly, I love my publishing company. I only wish everyone could have the positive experience I’ve had with my house. I talk to my publisher every day. She knows my schedule and life better than I do. She accommodates her schedule to mine and then, not only smiles about it but encourages me to go on and keep trucking. She’s always there when I need her and doesn’t expect the same courtesy in return (though I try, I really do). I wouldn’t trade my experience with my publishing company for the world. There is no substitute for personal attention, dedication, continuous encouragement and support and building lifelong relationships. None.

So can you pick up on the formula that my life has followed? Here’s how I see it:

Plan A: Go to medical school in Canada .
Plan B: It didn’t work out. Give up on medical school altogether.
Plan C: Go to medical school….but not in Canada !

Plan A: Get on the college tennis team.
Plan B: Oh snap. They don’t want me. Give up and just play tennis for fun.
Plan C: Get on the team, just not the way I wanted to!

Plan A: Get published. The end.
Plan B: Publishing is tough! Forget it. Count me out. I’ll just keep my words to myself.
Plan C: Get published by a small house….and love every minute of it!

These are only a few examples of the consistent theme that has gone on in my life…and actually, the life of many other people. Of this, I’m certain. So I challenge you: Take a hard look at YOUR life. Is Plan C just around the corner? Have you considered the possibility of doing something you’ve always wanted, but perhaps not in the manner you’ve always dreamed of? Is it something you could possible try out?

My advice: give it a go.

You’ll be surprised at the results….and at how happy you may end up. Because in the end, you have nothing to lose. Just remember to always expect the unexpected.

Thanks for visiting, Ms. Hodges! :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia


Have you ever been to an art museum and seen aspiring artists trying to copy their favorite paintings? That’s exactly what best friends Kari and Lucas (she’s a girl, yes) witness on their trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts except this guy is really good at it. He’s suspicious too, shooing people away from his secluded spot in the corner where he paints. A year later when the girls visit an art museum in London, the same mysterious man is working on the same painting … but while wearing a disguise. What is he trying to hide? Though Kari and Lucas are both ready to start the adventure, they aren‘t completely sure of what to do. When things become life-threatening, neither of them know if it’s worth the trouble.

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia was realistic while still being unbelievable. I felt my excitement rise with the characters’ as everything was starting to come together. There were times when I could just picture the girls and them saying “Omigosh, omigosh” as the mystery began to unfold. Though I didn’t realize it when reading, I learned a lot about art history and traveling. And it was amusing! In the beginning, the timeline was somewhat confusing so I can’t place all the Before events in order in my mind. That’s why I think this book would be great as a movie, so I can see all the scenes sorted out. The emotions the characters experience throughout the book is completely convincing and I applaud the author for her character-making skills. I look forward to the next books in this series!

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt
278 pages, published by Sleuth Puffin division of Penguin in 2008
Contains: mention of murders (not graphic), feminism, and made-up profanity

RECOMMENDED (for ages 12+)

STARS: 5 out of 5

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Poll Winner

This week's poll was ...

I would describe myself as:

a mature young adult.
a sarcastic overachiever.
one along for the ride.
um ... maybe self-conscience?

And the winner is ... the mature young adults!

(I'm glad I have all of these mature young people reading this blog! But remember, I appreciate you too, sarcastic overachievers!)

Thank you to all who voted and make sure to do the same on the next poll. :)

Across the Pond


Going to Australia for vacation is more than just a dream. If you get to go for free, it's just plain lucky! Unfortunately, the prize was only two tickets so while Fred Squire's parents are living it up, he is stuck to visit old friends in the States. While a British accent and using the word ‘love’ in normal conversation isn’t unusual where he lives, the girls in the United States can’t get enough of it! Falling in love with the American sport of baseball and the daughter of his dad’s friend at the same time can be tiring, but Fred doesn’t want to leave. How could two fourteen-year-olds stay in love if one of them has to go back across the pond?

This book was very predictable: boy falls for girl, boy must save girl from bully, and all put into a drama that just didn’t fit. The author sped through the scenes and left a bunch of space empty. The romance grew too quickly for me to imagine them actually being in love. In fact, it seemed like it was still in it’s first revision. I understand there would be a confusion over the slang words (being from different countries) but having Fred realize that on every page was too much. Fred was one-dimensional and couldn’t see past what was right in front of him. It was all inside-the-box. I wanted a more complete ending and wished I could enjoy at least one of the characters. But I wasn’t able to. They didn’t have any depth and the dialogue was the only part I truly liked about this book.

Across the Pond by Storyheart
pages: 114, release date: 2008, publisher: (self published)
Contains: profanity, inappropriate comments, and sensuality

STARS: 2 out of 5

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Belated Poll Winner

Everyone probably knows the winner of the poll since it's been sitting there for a few weeks. But I might as well post it anyway! :)

The poll was ...

I vote for:

Dumbledore. He's so honest!
ballerinas. They have to work so hard.
Barbies. They do a great job of keeping up with the lastest trends.

And the winner is ... me! (Well, technically, you. But you get it. And you won! :D)

Thanks to all who voted and make sure to vote again for the new one.

The Amanda Project: Invisible I


Amanda Valentino is a freak. Everyone in the ninth grade knows it and her clothes, wigs, temporary tattoos, and even her school grades prove it. Amanda is the new girl at Endeavor High, who just happened to arrive on Halloween. No one wants to be seen with her, especially Callie, one of the popular I-girls. She doesn’t want to admit that she has a friendship with Amanda but when Amanda disappears and leaves clues behind for her, that’s a hard thing to keep secret. When Callie finds out two other students are (or was) friends with Amanda, they have to put their differences aside and help save her … But who exactly is Amanda Valentino?

Each page of The Amanda Project: Invisible I was mysterious, yet in a way I was satisfied with the knowledge I had acquired by the end of the book. Though never having a complete ending (being the first installment of a six-book series) and none of the big secrets revealed, I was still enthralled when yet another secret of unknown origins was added to the mix. I never really felt close to any of the characters but instead I thought I was invading their privacy. The main character, Amanda, doesn’t seem like she would be a friend of mine. The storyline was, not considering the unfortunate circumstance of disappearance, fun. It was filled with back-and-forth emotions but while still keeping the essence of the story. This was just a great book. Bravo!

The Amanda Project (bk 1): Invisible I by Melissa Kantor
pages: 338, release date: September 22nd ‘09, publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: based on the book’s exciting premise, great writing, and fun story altogether
Contains: a hit-and-run accident that gave me shivers

STARS: 5 out of 5

There’s more to the story …. Check out