Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Don't Drive Like My Brother

Ok, in defense of both of my brothers, they probably drive just fine. I know one is a back seat driver, so I prefer to let him drive so he doesn't criticize me, but that's besides the point. This isn't about my literal brother but my figurative ones. Sisters too.

I live in New York. Even though I'm upstate, we're sort of known for our aggression and the speed with which we do things. I lived for a time in Massachusetts, and it's even worse there. It's fine with me. I'm a Northeastern girl. I like to go-go-go.

When I moved to Ohio, I was immediately and intensely frustrated by the slowness with which mid-Westerners move. They are never in a hurry for anything. Drove me crazy. Of course, I married a mid-Westerner. I don't know what I thought would happen. After 14 years together, he's still as slow and I'm still chomping at the bit. But for all the slowness in Ohio, I noticed something that we in NY tend to lack--friendliness. The first time I was in Kroger in Cincinnati and someone started talking to me, I had a death grip on my purse, sure someone was going to steal my wallet. Turns out, people are just warm and friendly. Moving more slowly through life allows that opportunity.

Same thing with driving. In Ohio, if you're trying to merge, people let you right in. In NY, cutting people off is an art form. But with the holiday season approaching, you just know traffic is going to be bad. It's the day before Thanksgiving and we're getting snow. I have to go out in a little while, and I am hoping that, at least in the spirit of the season, people take it slow. They let that car merge in front of them (guess what? Doing that actually helps the flow of traffic). They don't race for that parking spot, cutting people off the the process. They let that harried mom with the three kids in tow cross the street in front of them.

Unless you're travelling a long distance, speeding up doesn't actually save you any appreciable time. Slow it down and let someone turn in front of you. You'd be surprised at how good it can make you feel.

Happy Bird-day to those in the US!

*************

This post is dedicated to Tom Magiolzzi, who passed away recently. I listened to Car Talk on NPR more Saturdays (and Mondays when they played the re-runs) than I  can even count. The Tappet brothers were great for car advice, puzzlers, and many laughs. And they closed every show with the line, "Don't drive like my brother!"

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Holiday Promo!!!!!

I had a brilliant idea. Or a really stupid one. Only time will tell.



It's November all ready. Whether we like it or not, the holiday season is descending rapidly. I like to keep Christmas out of my house until the turkey's been consumed, but that doesn't mean one can't start planning.


Okay, so here's the deal (and I'm sorry but this is restricted to continental US only. I will send to APO/FPO addresses 'cause those ladies deserve this).

Give your wife, mother, sister, bestie, kid's teacher or even YOURSELF a customized gift this holiday season. A personalized, autographed set of paperback books. My books, of course. Three paperback books, signed and shipped to you. Or directly to the recipient (but sorry, I don't wrap).

One low price: $35.

That's three paperback books (retail price $12.99 each), signed and shipped to you. One low price.

What are the books and what are people saying?

Good Intentions: Plain and ordinary Maggie Miller has had more than her fair share of bad men, bad luck, a tragic past, and would really like to buckle down start her new life in Boston as a pediatric physical therapist. But Ryan Milan, also starting his new life in Boston, is in the way of the low-key life that she has planned for herself.
Ryan shows Maggie that, despite her misgivings, he loves her for her. Ryan and Maggie could have the perfect relationship—could—but tragedy pulls them apart after a fateful night, and a long-term separation leaves them at a cross-roads.
When Ryan finds Maggie seven years later, he is shocked to find the life she is living. Now that Ryan's back, will her life take her in a direction she’s not willing to go? Can Maggie stay true to herself while finding true love?
What readers are saying:  "If you are looking for an intelligent, well written family story, I can recommend this book."
"This is a story that grabbed me from the very beginning. I actually read it in one day, not being able to put it down."

Hold Her DownElizabeth Zurlo is lost. She's a wife, a mother, a teacher, a PTA volunteer—but somewhere along the way, she's lost herself. Depression and despair can lead to desperate measures and when she is pulled back from the brink of suicide, Elizabeth slowly tries to rebuild her marriage and reclaim her life. Just as she has finally started to put herself back together, a scandalous novel rocks her small town ... and costs Elizabeth her social standing, friendships and ultimately, her marriage. However, the man who seemingly destroyed Elizabeth's life, helps her realize who she is and what she needs to do to become the woman she's not only capable of being, but the woman she used to be. 
What readers are saying: "I hope that women read this and love it as much as I have. I will happily recommend." -Charlotte Lynn, A Novel Review

"Hold Her Down is filled with curve balls and the ending left a smile on my face." -My Book Inspired Ramblings 
"I couldn't put the book down once I got into it and thought about Elizabeth for days after. The plot is outstanding, the characterization perfect. " -Authors to Watch 
"Hold Her Down is a refreshing story of one woman's journey of self-discovery that every woman should read. It is a realistic story that any woman can relate to and sympathize with, ponder, find inspiration, and celebrate their true inner-selves and the women that they can be." -Jersey Girl Book Reviews

I'm Still Here:  It started out as an ordinary day for Esther Comely-Cox, if you consider simultaneously totaling your car, smashing a Ho Ho in your face and meeting a handsome doctor ordinary. Estranged from her family over her sister's mental illness and death, Esther can't help but feel alone. And when Esther hears the voice of her twin sister who committed suicide seven years ago, she begins to question her own sanity, leading her to wonder if anything is what it seems. Searching for answers, Esther must confront her past while looking towards a new future—one in which she is finally accepted. Through humor and heartbreak, Esther learns that blood does not mean family, that absence does not make the heart grow fonder and that silence can speak volumes.
What readers are saying: "Let me start with a warning: Author Kathryn Biel pushes you into the abyss of mental illness and gives you Ho-Hos and Fritos to break your fall. It’s dark. It’s disturbing. It’s depressing. But it’s also hysterical and uproariously funny. If that doesn't mess with your mind, I don’t know what will." 
"The mystery of this book, and indeed of Esther's life, unfurls through Biel's insightful, witty, and often hilarious prose. This book is a TOTAL HOME RUN."

So, here's how:

E-mail me at: kathrynbiel@outlook.com to place your order. Payment instructions will be provided after e-mail has been received and processed. Shipment will not occur until payment is received. If you live near me and want to arrange a pick-up, we can do that too.

Orders MUST BE received by 12/11/2014. Sorry, no exceptions. I will personalize, sign and ship your books to whatever address you have requested. CONTINENTAL US ONLY!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pin It to Win It

For a very long time, I avoided Pinterest. Oh, sure, I was invited and even opened an account. But I never went on the site. The reason is two-fold: self-esteem and time management.

The self-esteem thing is this: all these people posting pictures of the wonderful things they've made. The beautiful cakes, the intricately decorated cake pops, the pumpkins made out of old books. All that stuff looks great. Except my stuff comes out looking more like something from a Pinterest Fail page than anything Pinterest-worthy.

Finally, I realized this:


So, then I avoided Pinterest because of time management issues. Namely, once I type in www.Pinterest.com, suddenly four hours have elapsed and I have nothing to show for it. I don't have that kind of time to waste. I need to keep up on Candy Crush.

So, for me, Pinterest was not a productive thing. But then, my good friend, the super talented Jayne Denker, sent me her super secret Pinterest board. I was beta reading for her novel, Picture This, and she had a Pinterest board all set up for the characters and setting and everything. It was the best idea ever.

When I write, I would find myself cruising the internet for ideas of settings, clothing and hairstyles. I would bookmark all these websites and refer back to them over and over. OMG, that's what Pinterest can do. I made Pinterest productive. I would put all my bookmarked sites there. I could cruise around and find what my characters looked like. So I did that when I was working on I'm Still Here. Back then, the working title was Incommunicado, but that got changed as soon as the novel was finished (and people were like, what does that mean?).

Two months have gone by since I'm Still Here was released, so now I think it's time to share that Pinterest board with you all. Do you want to know how I picture Esther or O.K.? Find them on the board. Is that how you saw them? Let me know what you think.

Here's the link to Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/tats1824/im-still-here/

I promise, this board won't make you feel badly about your ability to re-create the perfect arts and craft project.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sometimes

Dear Son,

Sometimes I forget where we started.

Sometimes I forget how far you've come.

Sometimes I forget what a long road it has been.

Sometimes I forget how hard it is for you to express your thoughts.

Sometimes I forget how hard things must be for you.

Sometimes I forget that things are hard because you are still smiling.

Sometimes I forget that you are aware of some of your differences.

Sometimes I forget that you are oblivious to some of your differences.

Sometimes I forget that you are autistic.

Sometimes I forget that you are only ten years old.

Sometimes I forget that you need time to play and be yourself.

Sometimes I forget that you are not doing things on purpose to annoy me.

Sometimes I forget that you need time to yourself.

Sometimes I forget that you don't understand how to ask for help.

Sometimes I forget how frustrating it must be for you to be a square peg.

Sometimes I forget that the world doesn't always make sense to you.

Sometimes I forget that you have difficulty tuning out things that are distracting.

Sometimes I forget that I never thought you would speak.

Sometimes I forget that I thought I would never hear you say, "I love you, Mom."



But I will never, ever forget what a blessing and a joy you are and how much I love you.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Guest Blog Take Over: Jayne Denker on Marsden, Continuity and Swearing. (Or something like that)

Today, Biel Blather is being taken over by fellow writer and all-around funny gal, Jayne Denker. She's here to talk about her book, Down on Love, which is on sale this month.


(Blog) Tour of Marsden, Day 5
In Which Your Tour Guide Swears a Lot; Or, Continuity’s a Bitch

Hey campers. Are you still on the bus? We’re headed for Marsden, NY, the fictional small town in the heart of the Catskills that features in my rom com, Down on Love. If I sound a little subdued today, it’s because I have a raging headache, so if we could all play quietly as we roll along, that’d be great, mkay?



What’s bugging me, you ask? I mean, sure, I was mighty perky on the first four days of the tour (see the full list of stops at my blog, http://jaynedenker.com), but today I have one heck of a hangover. No, not that kind. A continuity hangover. I’ll try to explain; I just need a little pick-me-up first. Are you going to finish that coffee?

Okay, see, continuity is like air—you only notice it when it’s missing. When we’re watching a movie, we happily buy into it until we notice that Pretty Woman’s breakfast changes from a croissant to a bagel to a croissant in a single scene. That’s a continuity problem, and when we see one, our brains go “gack!” Well, try creating an entire town—and a population for that entire town—without any foreknowledge that you’re going to have to go back to it and write more...and try to make it all consistent!

When I was writing Down on Love, I wasn’t planning on making the first in a small-town romcom series. But my editor asked if I wanted to keep going with more books set in Marsden, and who was I to say no? I wrote the second book, Picture This, which came out in July, and now I’m working on the third, Lucky for You, which should publish in late spring or early summer next year. Although all the books take place in Marsden, they’re only loosely connected and can be read as standalones if that’s more your thing.

Now, Marsden is a great place to be. I’m having a blast “living” there as I write my books. Heck, I wish my real village was as interesting and fun as this place! But there’s no denying there are challenges when you write a series—the continuity kind.

I’m talking keeping the characters consistent, recalling all their quirks and idiosyncrasies, keeping all their interrelations intact (always fun, especially when you have connections, friendships, and feuds going back generations). Checking ages and making sure they mesh is a big issue.

And then there’s geography: Marsden has a vibrant, busy Main Street, filled with shops, art galleries, restaurants, and other businesses.

Result: major continuity hangover. And lots of swearing. LOTS.

But it’s okay. I have skillz. I’m a little OCD. I could figure this out and make sure that all the details in my second and third books matched what I wrote off the cuff in my first. I took a page from television and created a “bible” with all the facts I had about Marsden. I made character lists, with names, occupations, ages, and relationships.

I even went full-on Tolkien and drew a map of the town and its surrounding areas, mainly because there are so many shops and restaurants and offices on Main Street, I wanted to make sure I knew what was abutting what and who was across the street from whom. I had to make sure I didn’t inadvertently move the shops around, or have a character cross the street to a store or the bank that I’d actually mentioned was several blocks away in a previous book.

Questions I had to address beyond Main Street: How long does it take to walk from George’s sister’s house to, say, the hardware store? And what places would she pass along the way? What sidestreet is the gym on? How about the music store? Also, how far away is Whalen, the dicey neighboring town? What’s between Marsden and Whalen? What’s in the strip malls outside of town? Where’s the park? And where the heck is this elusive Chicken Shack fast food restaurant, anyway?

Phew, right? But I have to say, it’s pretty fun creating a whole town from the ground up, complete with history dating back to the 1800s to the present, a million characters, etc. And somehow I get the feeling that this imaginary town carries on even when I’m not looking. So if you hear me swearing and/or groaning in pain, don’t worry—I’ll recover.

If you want to check out the village of Marsden, stay on the bus—this blog tour continues next week (Monday, October 20), stopping at my buddy and fellow author Glynis Astie’s blog (www.GlynisAstie.com), where we’ll learn more about the Catskills, Marsden’s general location. Plus an excerpt!

You can also dive into Marsden right now, if you like—pick up Down on Love, on sale for only 99 cents (!) for the entire month of October, all e-formats.



Thanks for stopping by, and hope to see you next week!


Sounds good, right? That's because it is! I've read both Marsden books, Down on Love and Picture This. And I know the third one's in the works because (tee hee) I have insider knowledge of it.

Here's where you can find Down on Love. Seriously--don't miss it!





GOOGLE PLAY: http://bit.ly/1x7If17

Wanna know a little more about Jayne?

Jayne Denker divides her time between working hard to bring the funny in her romantic comedies and raising a young son who's way too clever for his own good. She lives in a small village in western New York that is in no way, shape, or form related to the small village in her Marsden novels Down on Love and Picture This. When she's not hard at work on another novel, the social media addict can usually be found frittering away startling amounts of time on Facebook (Jayne Denker Author) and Twitter (@JDenkerAuthor). She’d like to say she updates her Web site, http://jaynedenker.com, quite often, but most of the time when it crosses her mind, she shouts “Can’t you see I’m writing?!” and puts it off till another day.





Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Immortal Words

I should be writing. I guess I am, this blog. That is not what I should be writing. I should be writing my next novel. I'm in the home stretch, the last 25%. I need to buckle down and finish it.

But, for the second time this week, I find myself watching movies on TV rather than writing. (Seriously, when people ask me how I find the time to write and I tell them I stopped watching TV, I'm not kidding. I really should turn the TV off right now.)

Two days ago, I watched Gone With The Wind. Well, part one anyway. I fell asleep during the intermission. It was 11:30 p.m. and need to get up at 6, so that was probably a good thing. Tonight, I'm watching The Silence of the Lambs. And I've discovered a common theme.

And now you're all scratching your heads trying to figure out what that theme can possibly be. I'll give you a hint. It's why I should be writing right now. Books.

Gone With The Wind is my favorite book. I remember how disappointed I was when I saw the movie after reading the book. However, it's been a while since I've read it or seen the movie. Watching it the other night, the dialogue gripped me. I remembered why I loved the story and am desperate to find the time to read it again.

I read and reread The Silence of the Lambs while in high school. I did my senior paper on it. I think I thought I was being cool and edgy. Watching the movie, I remember how consumed I was with both Red Dragon (the first Hannibal Lecter book) and The Silence of the Lambs.

Both Oscar winning movies with Oscar winning performances. Both based on books that changed me in some way and have stayed with me all this time (my definition of a 5-star book). Both paperbacks still sit in my bookcase and will never leave. My copy of GWTW is actually my mother's from when she was in high school and has fallen apart.

I just wish I could write a piece of literature that stays with someone for twenty years. Seventy-five years even.

It won't get done if I'm blogging here, so I'll just leave you with this.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hocus, Pocus, You Must FOCUS

There is an ongoing battle in my house right now between my children and myself. I'm trying my damndest to make my little people into responsible adults someday. I see that as the end goal. Things are not going so well these days.

School is in full swing, which means we're running a lot of the time. I actually keep the kids' extracurricular activities low in comparison, so it is not as bad as other families have. However, each one of my kids is having difficulty getting done what needs to be done. I am forever telling the kids what the plans are for the next day, what the plans are for the day, what time we're leaving, etc, etc, etc. The kids are preset for what we have to do and when we have to do it.

But then everything falls apart somehow. It is the givens, the constants that my kids can't keep up with. Like changing underwear, brushing teeth, eating breakfast. These are things that happen EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. and somehow my kids can't seem to do them without me asking, telling and then screaming at them. We're in a vicious cycle and I don't know how to get out of it.

It's only going to get worse when I start my new job this week and I'll no longer be here in the morning to put them on the bus. They are going to have to figure out what to wear, remember to change underwear and socks, brush teeth, brush hair, go to the bathroom (seriously, why do they not just do that?!?!?), pack snacks and lunches, eat, make sure their bags are packed, and dress appropriately for the weather. Writing it down, it sounds like a lot for a ten and seven year old, but these are the rote things we do every day. And these are the things that the kids don't do without excessive prompting.

My son has ADD. I get that. He's medicated on school days (another thing to remember!) but not on weekends. I can tell the difference. However, sometimes I think that we've provided him with a crutch to use and now he doesn't even have to try to remember things. He can remember something I said when he was four (we would go on a cruise), but can't remember that I told him to wear shorts because the temperature will be in the high 70's today. I will tell him specifically to do something and then he forgets and it becomes a big crisis. One in which I'm left scrambling to pick up the pieces (like when he leaves his current project in my car and he was planning on working on it when he was at his grandparents'.) Mistakes happen, I know. But sometimes I feel like he doesn't even try to be responsible for himself.

And my daughter is really giving me (us) a hard time right now. Her attention is so bad at home. I've sent an email to the teacher to ask how she is at school because I'm so concerned. But with her, it is hard to tell if she cannot stay focused long enough to follow directions or if she just doesn't give a shit. I think it is the latter. She's very strong willed and thinks she knows it all. As such, she feels she doesn't need to listen most of the time. We're having epic battles. She's seven. I don't know what I'm going to do with her.

I know my stress levels are through the roof because of a lot of reasons, but the new job is high on that list. I'll be working five days a week for the first time since I had kids. I don't know how that balance is going to work out. I need the kids to step up a little and it seems they're regressing. My son was almost hit by a car this morning as he ran recklessly through the parking lot at church. Every week, I tell him not to run and to pay attention and he just doesn't listen. He's generally not a super-impulsive kid, so I know he can control it. He's ten. I've been warning him not to run through parking lots for over eight years now. Why doesn't he get it? Will this experience be enough for him to remember the next time?

I know I need to let the kids' inattention and unwillingness to focus have consequences so they learn from their mistakes. I know that in the long run, this is how they will learn. On the other hand, I'm the one who has to deal with the fallout of their mistakes. Writing it down, I can see I need to let them fail. I am deluding myself into thinking that all of my harping will help them change their behavior. Obviously it hasn't worked so far.