Thursday, February 4, 2016

It's Not Okay

There'a a big hub bub in Hollywood right now about the apparent exclusion of black actors in Oscar nominated roles. There are boycotts and hashtags and dialogue about the subject.

Dialogue is good. Silence is bad.

My disclosure: I am totally able-bodied.

My issue: The complete and utter lack of roles for people with disabilities in film and television.

I became utterly aware of this while doing research for my new novel, Live For This. The hero of my novel is this great guy, Michael Salinger. In addition to being smart, funny, and good-looking, he also happens to be a paraplegic. The story is not about him being paralyzed. Sure, there's a lot of that in there, as it colors how he navigates through life. His character was inspired by my next door neighbor growing up. He too had a spinal cord injury. His journey through rehabilitation is what made me want to be a physical therapist. You can read more about him here.

I'm a pretty visual thinker, and I use Pinterest to give me pictures of my characters, their clothing, settings, etc. so that I can describe them. I make Pinterest boards for my research and refer to it throughout the writing process. So, when I started Live For This, I needed to know what Michael Salinger looked like. So I started researching actors/models/athletes who have had spinal cord injuries. Do you know how FEW there are? Yeah, in terms of actors, about three. And no offense to those lovely men, they didn't fit my demographic (two were too old and the other had a different level of injury for what I needed). I was able to find an Irish actor, Peter Mitchell, who fit the bill, and Michael is based upon him (physically speaking, at least).

Not that Live For This is ever going to be made into a movie, but I felt VERY strongly that if I'm writing a character who is paralyzed, then the actor who should play him should also be paralyzed.

I'm guessing that there are more than three men out there who are in wheelchairs who consider themselves actors.

So, this brings me to my current rant. The movie trailer for Me Before You, based on the novel by JoJo Moyes was released yesterday. While I've been in my writing cave for the past two years, while I've certainly heard of the book, I've never read it. It was only about 2 weeks ago, seeing something about the movie, that I even realized it also featured a man with a spinal cord injury.

I just watched the movie trailer. Please watch also.

The tears are already flowing, right?

Except I'm pissed. The actor who plays the main male character is able-bodied. There is nothing accurate about his posture or wheelchair. It's Hollywood, coping out again.

When bodies are disabled, they are no longer perfect. When you are paralyzed, you lose muscle tone. Even if you are a good weight, your belly will seem to sag and pooch out because the inherent muscle tone that keeps your intestines in is gone. Limbs are skinny and scrawny as muscle tissue wastes away. Spines no longer able to stay upright curve to the side. If he can't lift his arms to feed himself, his wheelchair would have a large head rest. If he can't lift his arms, chances are his wheelchair would be driven by a tube that he sips and puffs to steer.

I did a lot of research beyond what my clinical experience has taught me. If I'm discussing what it's like to live with a spinal cord injury, I want it to be accurate, to do justice for people living with SCI. I can't say if JoJo Moyes did that in her novel because I haven't read it. I would guess she did. I only know that Hollywood has not done their homework. Not at all.

Sure Sam Claflin is easy on the eyes, but this is not right. Hollywood doesn't see it that way. This is as right as painting a white man's face black.

In other words, IT'S NOT OKAY.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Hodgepodge

This post may be a bit all over the place. It's been a long week. Consider yourself warned.

I'd thought about trying to do a live Facebook Mentions video tonight to talk about all this stuff. Turns out you have to be verified to do that, and my author page isn't verified yet. Working on it though! I watched Rachel Hollis do her chat last night, and so wanted to get in on it. The only reason I didn't attempt last night? I'd already taken my bra off and nobody wants to see that pop up on their computer screen (shudder).

So for today... a birthday!

One year ago today, Jump, Jive, and Wail went live. Hard to believe that it's been a year! I've been a bit distracted and didn't realize the birthday was coming up, otherwise I would have put it on sale!

But, I do have exciting news for Jump, Jive, and Wail though ... coming soon: AUDIO BOOK. That's right, I've just approved the first 15 minutes (estimated length is about 9 hours), so look for Jump, Jive, and Wail to be available on Audible and iTunes Audio this spring.

While we're on the audio kick: Killing Me Softly is also in production for AUDIO. If you'd rather listen than read, sit tight, and you'll have two more audio books to choose from. I'm Still Here and Hold Her Down are already available on Audible and iTunes. If you can't wait that long, Killing Me Softly is on sale for $0.99 this week.

I'm in the almost final editing stage on Live For This, with an expected publication date of March 8, 2016. It's available for pre-order on Amazon, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords, so order yours today! Here's my video teaser for Live For This:

As I promised a reader on my FB author page, here's a little (unedited) excerpt:
CHAPTER ONE: SAMIRAH You would think waking up in a pool of your own vomit would mean you've hit rock bottom. For me, it's just Saturday. At least, I think it's Saturday. My brain is fuzzy. Definitely not firing on all pistons. Slowly sitting up and wiping my mouth on the back of my hand sucks my remaining energy. I'm tempted to lay right back down and hopefully wake up ... never.It's not that I want to die. I don't. I just don't want to live my life. To me, my life is just a show. A facade I don like a thick layer of make-up. I exist. And I don't know how to change it. On paper, my life is not so bad. That's what I tell people at least. Not everyone can be a hostess at one of the most exclusive restaurants in New York City. My roommate and I dominate the social scene. It's not a party until we arrive. We hob knob with the elite. We are the beautiful people. We are important. Again, that's what I tell myself.
"Sam, are you alive?""Barely," I sigh, "Give me a sec."Meadow is not great at waiting. She's a neat freak and the mess I've made in here will not be tolerated. The ever-present anti-bacterial wipes assist me in returning the toilet and surrounding floor to its status quo pristine condition. Too bad the rest of the apartment is a shit hole.She apparently can wait no longer as the bathroom door flies open. Lucky for me, my reflexes are intact enough to allow me to jump out of the way before the corner of the door slams into my head. The bathroom is tight quarters for one person, let alone two. Ahh, the joys of city living."Were you in here all night?" Meadow pushes past, not even waiting for me to leave before she pulls her g-string down and plops on the toilet. Meadow's wearing only a short t-shirt on top. With a body like hers, she can afford to walk around half-naked. I work hard to look like Meadow, but the results are never quite good enough. Meadow doesn't appear to have any modesty around me. Not like I haven't seen it before, but it still makes me uncomfortable. I guess when you're a model, it's nothing to strip down in front of people. I'm not a model. Meadow pushes me to be more open, more "free" as she likes to call it. Certainly more liberal than anything I'd grown up with or been exposed to before I moved here.  "Last night was so off the hook!" Meadow continues talking while wiping and flushing. It doesn't seem bother her that I'm in here, and she never even waits to hear if I'm okay."Was it?" No matter how vigorously I scrub my teeth, I can't seem to get the foul acid taste out of my mouth."Tell me you don't remember again?" Meadow nudges me out of the way to wash her hands, and is moving on to examining her flawless face in the mirror. The night of hard partying doesn't show on her face. It's not fair.
I spit one last time and look at our reflections in the mirror. Meadow is tall and lanky, with unnaturally blond hair and breasts provided by a former boyfriend. My 5'6" frame appears short and wide compared to my friend, but I've always liked my curves. Not so much when I'm next to her. Meadow has convinced me to lighten my naturally dark hair to an ash blond. I'm not sure it does anything for me. Her skin is golden brown where mine is more on the pale side, with just a hint of olive. On my own, back home, a lifetime ago, I was considered pretty. Beautiful. Exotic even. Standing next to Meadow, I feel wrong. All wrong. I don't need to be beside her to feel wrong, either.My mother was British-Persian, and my hair and features come from her. My father, the bastard, gave me my most striking feature—gray-blue eyes that have been passed down through generation after generation of strong Norse peoples. Every time I look at my eyes, I see him, and hate myself.
I wish I could figure out how to be comfortable in my own skin like Meadow is in hers. I pretend I am, but it's simply an act. And although I would never consider myself a good actress, no one seems to notice. People see what they want to see. Even Meadow. 

I hope that's enough to get you interested!

And in other news, my next project is going to be a bit of a departure. I'm co-writing a book with Becky Monson. All I can say is that it's romantic comedy, and we expect to release in May or June. Well, I expect to release then. You all can start putting pressure on Becky to pick up the pace. :-)

The other excitement in the Biel household is that my daughter "adopted" two crayfish from school today. Woo hoo. I'd said no. My husband (middle name "Sucker") signed the permission slip. Those suckers are a lot bigger than I'd expected and rather ugly. Words like etouffee and jambalaya keep floating through my mind.

The last bit of randomness for tonight is that I've been seeing a lot of bald eagles lately. As a kid, they were an endangered species, and not even that common in a zoo. I see one pretty regularly, but I can never stop to get his picture. When I saw this one on Tuesday, I was able to pull over. He saw me, let me get a few pics, and then took off. So cool!

I think I've got all the randomness covered. Happy weekend!

Friday, January 1, 2016

If I Had A List...

I don't like the term bucket list. That's not what this is. This isn't because I just turned 40 and I'm having a midlife crisis. Ok, maybe I feel it coming on, but that's not what this is. This is a list of the things I wish I could do in my lifetime. The sooner the better, but if I had all the money, all the wish granting ability, this is what I'd do:

  1. Dance with the Rockettes. Even just a practice routine. I just want to try. Just once.
  2. Go on an African safari
  3. See penguins in the wild
  4. See whales in the wild
  5. Hit the USA Today Bestseller list
  6. Be on Dancing with the Stars
  7. Sing back up for Jimmy Buffet (it would be ok--probably better--if they didn't turn my mike on)
  8. Re-do the basement and have an actual office
  9. Sell enough books to have a retirement fund
  10. Have a beach house in Cape May, NJ

I know some (most) of these seem far-fetched, but I never thought I'd have written six books either. So, if anyone can pull any strings and wants to help me out, have at it. You know where to find me.

Thursday, December 31, 2015


I'm sending out 2015 with a cover reveal for my 6th full length novel, Live for This.

Here's the blurb:

Samirah Lundgren is living the party girl life. While she's trying to forget about her past and put off having a meaningful future, her lifestyle catches up with her, leaving her in a wake of personal destruction. Alone and homeless, she encounters Michael Salinger, a man carrying his own baggage in the form of a spinal cord injury, not to mention his former fiancé is marrying his former best friend.

Can a man with a broken body and a woman with a broken soul help each other find the redemption they need to become whole again? 

So, are you ready to see the cover, designed by the lovely and talented Karan Eleni?

Without further ado...

Releasing March 2016. Stay tuned for pre-order links.

And happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dear Hasbro

Dear Hasbro,

It's with mixed emotion that I write this. Your games and toys have been the staple of not only my childhood but now my children's as well. Today, enjoying a rare day home together, we decided to play a game, one my son got for Christmas, Star Wars Monopoly. As a family, we've seen the new movie (not to mention the previous 6). Both my son and my daughter are anxiously awaiting the 8th installment. So, today, as we cut through the cellophane to reveal the game pieces, my daughter looked at the choices and said, "No thanks. I don't want to play."


Because the game pieces gave her the choice of: Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Finn, and Kylo Ren. She wanted to be Rey or Princess Leia. Considering that the MAIN CHARACTER and HERO of The Force Awakens is female (REY), you really dropped the ball on this one.

I never used to consider myself a super feminist or anything. But I want my daughter to know that there is more to life than makeup and pretty dresses. She, too, can dominate the universe. She can SAVE the universe.

Perhaps, as the Star Wars merchandising opportunities continue, you may want to consider including at least one female character. Afterall, we do make up over 50% of the world's population.

Sincerely, A Concerned Mother of an Excluded Daughter

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Cup More Than Half Full

Two blog posts in less than a week--you are lucky!

Today is one of those days when I reflect, for many reasons.

Twenty-six years ago today, my brother-in-law died. I never got to meet him. I wish every day that I had.

Fifteen years ago today, my husband asked me to marry him. I wonder how many days over the past fifteen years he regrets asking, but I know how tremendously grateful I am that he asked.

This day always seems to be a mixed bag.

Lots of people I know are struggling right now. 2015 has been a difficult year for many people I know. There's been death, strokes, cancer, surgeries, heart attacks ... and that's just the tip of the iceberg. I know so many people who are struggling right now. Depression and anxiety are at an all time high. Marriages are being pushed to the breaking point. Some beyond that. The stress of the season is certainly bearing down.

There's simply too much to do and not enough hours in which to do it.

That's how I've been feeling, especially this last week as I ran from one activity to another. Trying to finish up shopping, start wrapping, address Christmas cards (which took almost 2 weeks to arrive from when I ordered them), finish decorating.

Both the kids and myself are in school through Wednesday, which leaves little time for those last minute things. I tossed and turned much of last night worrying about how to get everything in.

Work today was not the best. There were times when I wanted to pull my hair out. But I made it through the day, hit the grocery store, and then was able to come home for the evening. Yes, my pajamas were on by 4:30 pm. Don't judge me.

This evening, I received a gift. The gift of time. Time to relax. Time to put on Christmas music and set up my village (the last thing to do to decorate). My cards are in the mail. My packages are on their way out of town. My kids were able to get their homework done without rushing, and even have time to play with their toys and with each other (sounds simple, but it's a true luxury on a school night).

As I put on the radio to provide a soundtrack while I put out my Dicken's Village, for the first time this year, I heard my favorite Christmas song. It's Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses. I love it so much that it was the inspiration for my holiday novella, Completions and Connections.

That alone was enough to put me in a good mood. Then I logged onto my computer. I had an email from a complete stranger telling me how much they enjoyed one of my books, as well as a message from a grade school classmate looking to buy some books to give as Christmas gifts. I received Christmas cards from my best friend and my best internet friend, who is really one of my best friends period.

I know that in the midst of all the bad, in the midst of death and illness and people behaving poorly, my cup is not half full. My cup runneth over. There may be some drops spilled here and there, but certainly nothing I can't handle. If someone wants to complain that my cards are late, let them. I may not bake a thousand cookies this year. It's fine. We're not going to starve. I can sit back, look at what I have around me, especially my wonderful family and friends, and toast to a wonderful life.

I hope that for those of you struggling, you find some solace and peace, and that soon, your cup runneth over as well.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

This Is My Last Post

This is my last post ... while I'm in my 30s. Tonight, while I sleep, before the cats and my bladder wake me up, I'll turn forty.

I'm not thrilled.

I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that age is a number. However, as I battle wrinkles, acne, and gravity, not to mention stiff joints and terrible eyesight, sometimes I feel like age is a real thing. On the other hand, about five or six years ago, I was sick and the doctors didn't know what was wrong. I was tested for tons of things, including myeloma and lymphoma. One doctor thought I may have a form of vasculitis that only had an 80% 5 year survival rate. I remember thinking that there was a 20% chance I wouldn't see forty. Luckily for me, that's not what it was, and I'm alive and kicking.

So, rather than focus on the negative, I'm going to think about the great things that have happened over this last decade. I do have to give my mom props for starting off my 30th year with a surprise party on New Year's Day, 2006. She totally got me, and I had NO IDEA!

The past decade has had highs and lows. I've had to say good-bye to too many people, including my grandmother and two of my uncles. We've had other health scares too. But as long as I'm here, I'm going to appreciate the good things in my life.

Here are some of the best moments of the past decade:

2005: I miss this adorable little face.
2005: My dad loved watching Noggin. Maybe more than Jake.

2006: The day I became Dr. Biel. I couldn't have done it without tons of help from my parents.

2006: Remember that time we decided to put a second story on our house? Yeah, that was a scary day.

2007: For the most part, it worked out.

2007: Jake turns 3. And little did he know, he was getting a little sister for a present.

2007: Celebrating my parents' 40th wedding anniversary

2007: Our family was complete with the addition of Sophia Dorothy

2008: Four generations of (stubborn) females

2009: Whether we were ready or not, Jake was done with preschool and off to Kindergarten

2010: The best thing in my life. Always.

2010: At the age of 35 (literally on my 35th birthday), I got to dance the role of the Sugarplum Fairy.

2010: My technique was not the best, but it was a crowning moment of dance, 25 years in the making for me.

2010: Not to mention it was the first time I got to wear a tutu.

2012: Whether Kindergarten was ready or not, Sophia was on her way.

2011: The kids fell in love with Cape May, just like I did as a kid.
2012: Reconnecting with a high school acquaintance turned out to give me my best friend in life. 

2012: We're going to Disney World!
2012: Sophia celebrates her 5th birthday in Disney.
2012: We clean up pretty respectfully, don't ya think?
2013: I'm a published author!
2013: My first official head shot

2014: Another trip to Disney, this time for Jake's birthday. My dad and I tried (and failed) to drink our way around the world.
2014: New hair, new head shot. This is the book signing for my third book.

2015: Book signing for my fourth book, with my Kindergarten teacher.

2015: Sophia made her First Communion and the church didn't fall down. Also, I made her dress and veil, and it didn't fall apart!

2015: In Cape May, playing Skee Ball with the kids. Teaching them the important things in life.

2015: Taking time to enjoy sunrise walks with my dad. Time well spent.
So, as I get ready to go to bed (yes, it's early, but at my age, it's always wise to retire early), I can say I've accomplished a lot in this decade. A child, a doctorate, a massive home renovation, 3 jobs (this last one is my forever job--forever until retirement that is), and published five novels and a novella. All while being the best wife, mother, and daughter I could.

You know, all in all, the last ten years have been pretty good to me. Here's to the next ten!