10 Things To Know About Me…Er…If You Want To…

Hi all!

waving hello
Mini-fact: There is always a hair-tie around my wrist. It rarely matches my clothing.

When I started this blog, it was titled Pieces of the Puzzle, and the first thing I did was give you a breakdown of my life and where it was at the time. It’s been years since then. In some ways, my life is completely different. In other ways, it has come full circle. So when I saw a prompt on Pinterest requesting 10 things to know about you, I decided to run with it. Some of these things, you may not know. Others, you’ve read enough blogs to guess at. Either way, I hope you get something out of reading this and getting to know me a little better.

  1. My first dream job was to be a performer. All my life, I have enjoyed singing and acting, and in high school, performing was my entire life. I very nearly launched a career in it. I still harbor a weird little hope that I will be discovered, but I could never pursue it full time. It’s such a drain on your well-being. So much is based on how you look physically, and I’m really not the glamour type. For more on my love of performing, you can check out these other posts:
    Performing on Demand
    Alma Mater Hail to Thee
  2. I got my writing start working on fanfiction. When I first started writing, I didn’t create my own characters. I started as a writer working with fanfiction, because I was always intrigued by the places a story didn’t choose to go. I got my experience working with other people’s characters in other people’s worlds, for fun. I wrote Stargate stories that shocked me by winning awards, and that’s when I started to feel like maybe I could do this. I also wrote fanfiction for several Kelley Armstrong stories. Then, once I felt like I’d learned all I could learn, I decided to start playing with building my own worlds and my own characters. While I love working on my own stuff, I still get an itch to play in other worlds sometimes. I won’t say if I do.😉 For more on my fanfic work, you can check out these other posts.
    Write Like a Fangirl
    4 Misconceptions About Fanfiction
    You can find all my fanfiction here.
  3. While my main series is a YA Fantasy, I also have adult fantasy novels, romantic comedies, and a literary novel in the works. A story really needs to have a strong hook, something that makes it different from anything else I’ve ever read, for me to latch onto it and chase it, but other than that, I’m comfortable writing anything. As long as it’s not inherently normal. Too much normal, and I get bored.
    I Write Weird Stuff.

  4. I love working with other authors, and would pretty much do that as a full-time job if I could. I absolutely love brainstorming ideas, talking through problem areas, and just generally helping people on their road to becoming a published author. I’m one of those people who doesn’t want to go anywhere unless I’m helping pull others up along with me.
  5. I do have a different, paying job as a legal assistant, and I love it. I work with some of the best and, simultaneously, most laid back people in the field, and while it doesn’t have the excitement of dagger fights and magic spells, it’s still a cool place to be. Plus, it actually pays me money and that’s a very hard thing to get as a writer. So….
  6. My husband, Ismael Manzano, is a writer, and I have worked with him through every step of all of his projects (and vice versa). We consider ourselves a team. You know that thing I said above about loving to help authors? I learned that from working with him. We read each other’s work, debate aspects of our work, and pretty much live in each other’s work worlds so we can help out whenever the other is stuck. It is a genuinely rewarding partnership on all of the many levels we work together on and I’m very grateful to have it. To learn a little about our work relationship, check out these posts.
    On Common Ground: My Marriage to a Fellow Writer
    You, Me, Doug and Leah

  7. I have a son named Logan, and together with my husband, we have plans to start a geek-related YouTube channel, because we are all very geeky. It’s only a matter of time before it is released. Right now, I’m just discovering that every time I think I’ve figured out something and it’s ready to go, I hit another roadblock. But it is coming soon, and it will be called Geektastic! And we are excited to share a glimpse into our geeky world. To read more about Logan and me as a Mommy check out these posts. Keep it Simple, Stupid: What My Son and Twitter Taught Me About Writing
    Mommy Guilt

  8. My body is kind of a mess. I had spinal surgery when I was fifteen years old to correct scoliosis. I suffer from migraines, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and I’ve recently been told I might suffer from a mild form of Dyscalculia. This results in two things: 1) Writing is a great way to get out your frustrations about a few things and having all of these experiences gives me a lot of writing material; and 2) some days, I can pin the chores on the boys.😉 To read a little about how my health has affected my writing, read these posts.
    Too Close for Comfort
    Organized Chaos: Writing with Mild ADHD
    To read the blog post that made me realize I had Dyscalculia, read this.
  9. I am not a domestic goddess. I can’t cook. It’s bad. My house is not sparkling. I am not a perfect housekeeper, or wife, or mother. Most days I just feel like I’m scraping by. People tell me that makes me human, but I beat myself up for it all the time. Aren’t we supposed to have it all? Why can’t I balance that? These are questions that I constantly mull over.
  10. I’m a huge NY Mets fan. Since I was a child, rooting for the Mets was in my blood. It still is. I go to a few games a year, root them on from afar otherwise, and just generally love them even when they are awful. What does that mean? I always root for the underdog. I identify with the underdog because I often am one, trying to make my way through a writing world with my strange little stories. And also…my dad was a Mets fan and so was my sister and brother. So, without all the sentiment, there was probably no escaping it anyway.

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Okay, that’s all for this week. Join me next time, when we have some fun with iTunes shuffle.

Guest Post: An Intro to Wattpad

Hi all,

Today I have invited guest blogger, author Gaby Cabezut, to pop over and talk a little about Wattpad, a great place for writers and readers. Check out her experience with Wattpad below. Enjoy!


Snapchat-3647355642347251211-01First of all, thank you, Justine, for inviting me to talk a little bit about the place where it all began for me, Wattpad.

What is Wattpad, though?

It’s a community where creative minds join together with one love in common–books.

The key word in the whole equation is the word community. Wattpad is a great place for readers looking for free stories, writers who are only starting, or established writers looking for a fan base. The best part is how those readers interact with you throughout your story. They can vote and comment and, let me tell you, those comments are like gold.

I’d like to tell you a little about my own story, so you can understand how Wattpad works. I found the app as I randomly searched for free books in the App Store about five years ago. I was bored out of my mind and to be honest, a bit short on cash, so when I saw that it was free, I didn’t think twice.

I downloaded the app and started to read one of the recommended stories. It was about a girl who falls in love with her teacher (who happened to be in a gang). It was so good, that I didn’t sleep for that night until I finished the book. Then, I followed the author and read the rest of her stories. Turns out that it was written by a 16-year-old girl, something that blew my mind because it was really well written.

I read different stories for about a year and a half, and I found myself itching to write my own, but I was scared that no one would read it. Besides, I’m a stay-at-home Mom and my first language is not English. That little fact, the one about my language, made me feel brave about posting my story. Writing in English was a sure way to assure that no one that knew me would read it.

My hands were shaking so bad when I clicked that “Publish” button. I didn’t expect anyone to read my story, and I was sure it had more than a gazillion mistakes. I was wrong, sort of. It did have errors, but I learned that as I read other stories, and voted and commented on them, people actually went to my own book and started to read it and give me comments.

I even wrote to a few popular authors, not asking them to read my story, but to give me advice about how to start on this. Out of the six I sent questions to, only one girl who had written an amazingly popular story about a girl and a quarterback answered me. She read my one chapter and sent me a few links on how to start writing and such.

1436305542113One chapter turned into ten and those ten turned into thirty, and when I was about to finish that story, I started a new one, about this girl who meets a prince, because who hasn’t dreamt about meeting a real-life English prince?

I didn’t care if it was believable or not. I wrote it for me. I wrote it because I wanted to read a story like that.

And guess what? For some unknown reason, people started to read it like crazy. I didn’t realize how big or how fast everything was happening at the time, but my story started to rank on the what’s hot list, and every time I updated, I had over 30 comments. In one day.

It even ranked on the number one spot several times, and nobody in my real life knew I was doing this. I started a Facebook page and people started to show up there. As I was busy and I only wrote in my free time, it took me almost three years to finish the story, but every time I updated, people would be there for me. One day, when the book was almost finished, I got a message from a girl from the Philippines. She asked me if she could submit my story to her boss, and I didn’t know what to say, I mean, are you talking about getting it published? Me? A complete nobody? It seemed too good to be true, so I went along with it. Then, I got a message from someone on Wattpad. They wanted to talk to me.

Talk. To. Me.

Things sped up from there. I talked to Wattpad HQ a few times. Turns out that the Facebook girl I messaged with, was working with one of the biggest publishers in the Philippines. Wattpad knew about them, they even worked together.

It was time to come clean with my family.

I still remember my husband’s face when I told him that I’d found this app and I wrote a book and guess what? I’m getting an offer to publish it!

Two years have gone by since then. I’ve got a published book with Pop Fiction Books, I’m part of the Wattpad Stars and Wattpad Ambassadors programs and I have a new series getting published with Limitless Publishing (Book one, Hopelessly Imperfect is already Limitless publishingout).

I’ve found the best friends a girl could ever ask for, and even though we don’t live in the same country, they’re really supportive and they understand me better than anyone. I’ve met absolutely talented people, best-selling authors willing to share their secrets with you, readers who have been touched by your stories, who thank you for letting them forget about their problems. We’re not competing against each other, we help each other.

It all happened because of Wattpad.

1471321587161-life-is-made-of-moments-but-its-up-to-us-to-choose-what-kind-of-moments-we-have-itNow Wattpad is growing at an extremely fast pace. They have over 45 million readers each month. They’ve opened up Wattpad Studios, a partnership with TV and film studios ,and they just launched Wattpad Futures, video ads in between the chapters so the author can get paid and the app can stay free for everyone else.

I’ve met authors who are wary about the platform, and I always tell them that even Colleen Hoover has a profile there and she posted a new story that hasn’t been published. That’s how big it is.

Can people copy your stories? Well, that can happen even if you’re not on Wattpad.

Wattpad is about writing with your heart, building a strong base, getting your name out there.

I love writing and even though I don’t know what the future will bring for me, I know one thing:

I’ll always be on Wattpad.

It changed my life, it made my dreams come true and I’ll always be grateful. Plus, I’ve found a place to be myself and to meet wonderful people.

If you’d like to grow your fan-base, then you should definitely give Wattpad a chance.


Gaby Cabezut is sappy and sweet like a box of chocolates. She believes that we could all do with a bit of romance and magic in our lives. She loves to write romantic, emotional stories that will make you laugh, and sometimes cry. She’s evil and loves cliffhangers, too. Ask her readers. But she’s not that bad, she can sweeten your life with a batch of Nutella cupcakes or brownies.

Prince with Benefits: http://amzn.to/2b58Nk0
Hopelessly Imperfect: http://amzn.to/2bDIVYi

You can find her here:

Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/gabycabezut
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/gabrielacabezut
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/gabrielacabezut

Gabs logo tiny

Those That Shout Loudest, Need A Lozenge

In my earliest memory, I’m standing in a walker or some other childhood accoutrement, and I am screaming. I remember little else about this. The lights seem bright, and I am unsure of whether or not I am in the living room or dining room of my childhood home. I get the feeling that work is being done around me, the kind of heavy lifting that always led to tension between my parents. Maybe a new rug was being put in, or new furniture. I can’t remember. But what I do know is that I’m not getting a lot of attention and that bothers me. So I scream. I scream a lot. And I keep doing it, because it turns out I enjoy hearing the sound of my own voice.

Apparently, this was a thing I did. There are pictures of me sitting on the stairs on the way out the door with my mother, screaming while I played with her keys. There are pictures of me all over the house screaming. It was like I believed I was born to be heard.

Maybe I was.

We all have that. I watch my son and his friends do the same thing. When we’re kids, we look at people, and we think they should want to hear what we have to say. After all, the world is so interesting, and we’re making discoveries about it, and we don’t know if you know that really cool thing yet, so we’re going to tell you all about it. Then, you’ll love it too, you’ll share that love, and we’ll have common ground.

Children don’t ask for permission to speak. They demand it, because it never occurred to them that they should shy away from the world that’s unfolding before their eyes.

At some point, we lose that. We start to wonder what people will think about what we have to say. We start to shy away from trusting ourselves, from wanting to send our own voice out into the world, from believing that we should be heard. We should be heard.

But the public doesn’t always feel that way. If you wish to be heard, if you believe what you have to say is important, you’re going to have to ignore a lot of nay-sayers, a lot of people who would like you to get back into your box, a lot of people who believe you should shut up.

You should never shut up.

People behave as though your voice should be kept quiet. Like we should only take the time to use it to entertain our small circle, like we should never pipe up, never shout louder, never draw too much attention to ourselves.

Draw attention to yourself. If people don’t find you interesting, they don’t need to listen. The message wasn’t for them. But so many people may need that message, may need you to be the one to deliver it.

Someone once told me that those who shout loudest, often lose their voice. My response? Tell them to pop a lozenge and move forward.

Don’t let yourself be silenced by fear. Don’t let your dream be squelched because someone doesn’t think you’re cut out for it. Don’t change who you are to fit into a bubble some gatekeeper said was yours.

Be you. Unabashedly. Scream like baby Justine. Be heard. Because you deserve it.

 

A Sad But Hopeful Announcement

Hello friends! 
Many of you may have noticed that The Order of the Key…well, it isn’t out yet. There are many reasons for that, some of which I take the blame for and some of which involved circumstances beyond my control. All of which lead me to today’s announcement. 
As of yesterday, I have ended my contract and my working relationship with Fantasy Works Publishing. It’s a very long story, as all of the really good ones are. But at the end of the day, FWP and I disagreed about the direction of my series and in the end, I had to stick by my vision for the art. 

That is not to say I don’t owe FWP and its staff and authors a huge debt, or that we end on bad terms. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the owner, the staff and the authors, and I will always be here helping to promote them. The books they produce are great books and my book is much better for knowing them. 

However, as Vince Lombardi said, “The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.” So, I’m rising. In the coming month, I will be tidying up the latest version of Order and putting it out there again. I’m excited about the road ahead. 

I hope to have good news for you all soon. Thanks as always for standing by me in this journey. Onto the next open door.

Justine

Surviving Social Media Part 3: Oversharing and Spiritual Blackmail

IMG_5301 2Welcome to Part 3 of my Surviving Social Media Series. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Today, for breakfast, I ate apples and peanut butter. For lunch, I had a salad. For dinner, I had chicken and mashed potatoes. Scintillating information, isn’t it? As a matter of fact, I would bet that you don’t care even one tiny little bit. And yet so many people share things like this on social media.

I tend to live by the rules of ‘my page, my posts’. This is also known as ‘I don’t care what you think’, but things have changed a bit. I’ve got a publishing deal now, and with that comes the need for a little discretion on my posts so as not to alienate half of my potential fan base (that’s a little explanation for those of you who may have noticed I never talk politics anymore). I hate every minute of it, if I’m honest. I like speaking my mind, but I am careful about what I say.

Now, it’s true that it doesn’t matter what you post on your page, because it’s your page. But that doesn’t mean that people have to hang around and read it. So, much like freedom of speech, you have it, but nobody has to listen to you talking.

Personally, I don’t care what you say as long as it’s something I want to know. Things I don’t want to know?

  • Every single thing you eat: There are exceptions to this rule. If you go to an amazing restaurant? Sure. If it’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten? If you’re a terrible cook, but finally managed to accomplish something? SURE (I put that one in just for me). But that sandwich you made? Really? A sandwich? I’m good.
  • Your bodily functions. I don’t want to know about them. I don’t want to read a celebration post about the fact that your child is no longer constipated. That’s great news that I’d rather not know. Congrats though…
  • Your sex life. Unlike other people, I have no problem seeing pictures of happy couples being lovey dovey with each other. It’s sweet! I’m a hopeless romantic and I love it. However, I don’t want to know anything at all about how you get down. NOTHING AT ALL. Please don’t share. I don’t have nearly enough brain bleach to correct that.
  • Things that you don’t want to tell people. I used to be occasionally guilty of this. If you’re going to talk about a thing, talk about it. If you have no intention of talking about it, don’t post about it. But definitely don’t vaguebook. It’s annoying. If you don’t intend to tell the story, don’t bother posting. It’s just annoying to try to guess.


So, that’s one problem–oversharing YOUR life. But there’s another kind of post that grinds my gears when it appears on social media. And that is a little thing I like to call Spiritual Blackmail Posts. It goes a little something like this:

The poster finds something they feel passionate about. That’s cool. You should be passionate about things and when you are passionate about things, you should post about them. But the problem lies in the moment the poster comes across a post like this (Disclaimer: I am not making fun of animal abuse. I am making a point. Please don’t think I support anything like that, because in truth, if I saw you kick your dog or something, I’d probably punch you in the face without thinking): “Like/Share if you hate animal abuse! Scroll if you don’t care!” with a picture of a sad dog face looking up at you.

You know what? F**k that! I don’t jump through hoops. I don’t participate in spiritual blackmail. You don’t post things to make me feel guilty if I don’t share them. Never mind the fact that posts like those are probably like-farms designed to gain information about you. This is just like the posts that say “like and copy this into your status if you love me”. While I’m sure some of the people on social media are, in fact, twelve, we aren’t all twelve. Why does me liking and copying your status prove that I love you? Wouldn’t you already know that without this? If not, your relationships are a little sad.

It all plays in with posting abuse pictures on your wall. It’s all the same thing. Every step from part 1, 2, and 3 are part of the same clusterf**k that we can’t avoid when it comes to social media.

LOOK AT ME. And in some cases, it’s wonderful. It’s self-esteem building and business building. And in some ways, it’s just a sad attempt at gaining attention. Talking to people, sharing things you find interesting, telling stories about your life, even the much maligned selfie, are all acceptable ways to say “look at me” in a public sphere. It’s like saying hello in a room full of friends and telling them a story. The other stuff? It’s like jumping up and down in a room full of strangers, screaming “HELLO! MY NAME IS JUSTINE MANZANO AND TODAY I ATE HAM.”

Nobody wants to pay attention to that person.

 

Surviving Social Media Series Part 2: Stereotypes and Fact-Checking

Welcome to Part 2 of my Surviving Social Media Series. You can read Part 1 here.

Also, before I dive into Part 2, I wanted to announce that I was interviewed by Libby Heily last week, and it’s up on her blog, so please check it out! It will give you a little insight into my book and about working with Fantasy Works Publishing. Please pop on by!

And now, without further ado…


Did you know that people think they know a lot about you from your favorite social media account? There are actually plenty of people out there who firmly believe they know you based just on that. I must give them a hell of a time predicting with my collection of social media.

If you use Facebook, you’re a sheep, one of the crowd. I mean, come on. Great-Grandmothers use Facebook.

If you use Twitter, you’re a rabid fan, looking for contact with celebrities. You probably only got on there to talk to your favorite actor and you probably have never received a reply to any of the thousand tweets you’ve tweeted @him.

If you use Instagram, you are either self-involved and proving it with a countless number of selfies, or you are lying about your life and are proving it with well-lit photos of your surroundings looking perfect. Just out of frame of your perfect healthy meal is the tremendous bag of Oreos.

If you are on Pinterest you are a stay at home Mom or a perfectionist. After all, who else makes pretty DIY crafts like that?

If you are on Tumblr, you are probably a social justice warrior! And a hipster! You silly person, you. You couldn’t possibly have a decent opinion on real things, you delusional equality-believing artsy dummy! (written as an avid Tumblr poster since 2010).

So, how do you feel about that? Does any of that fit you?

Probably not. And there’s a reason for that.

Stereotypes of anything are bullshit.

The truth is that many different people post many different things on social media. The things we complain about are everywhere. But for every annoying post we run into, there is the ability to get news spread faster, the self-esteem boosting posts, people sharing love for their friends, the ability to find homes for animals, and just an increased awareness due to the spread of social media.

So we have an increased awareness of important news topics. And we also have an increased awareness of every. Single. Thing. That one poster ate in a given day. It comes with the territory and we’ll discuss that part further in a later edition of this series.

But for now, let’s talk about that glorious spread of information. When it is good, it is very very good, but when it is bad, it is HORRID.

6beThough this meme is obviously a joke, it is a satire about the way people post incorrect memes all the time. Nobody in social media fact-checks. When some new bit of dubious information arises, it spreads like a damn plague before anybody realizes it could potentially be false.

This is one of the major problems about the spread of information in the age of social media. We repost, we share, we retweet and reblog and pin, and we often don’t know the truth of the news we are sharing. We often don’t know what agenda the initial disseminator of the information has. We don’t pay attention. As Captain Smek from Home said of the internet, “The Internet does not lie.”

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Sure, it doesn’t. The internet is a connected web of computers. It doesn’t lie. But the people who are putting information out to be shared through the web of computers? They lie. They lie plenty.

So remember, folks, if it’s on a website that is solely about your ideological bend, whatever that may be, you might want to double check those facts. And if you think you know something about a person based on what kind of social media they use, you might not want to base your stock portfolio on that great predictive mind of yours.

I’m sure you’ve all run into people like the ones I mentioned above. Feel free to share your tales of woe in the comments. And stay tuned for next week, when we discuss a need for approval and social blackmail.