Clockwork Conversations: Interview on Februarys Grace’s Blog

clockwork chats photoWriter February Grace was kind enough to feature an interview with me on her Clockwork Conversations blog today. February likes to interview writers about things that aren’t writing, so it was really fun chatting with her.

Here’s the link–please check it out!


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Weighty Issues and the Vital Role of Health Professionals


Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

If there’s one topic that all women can relate to in one way or another, it’s weight. And yet, even in these supposedly enlightened times, there’s still a lot of stress, confusion and conflict around the whole business of body mass. I’m neither a doctor nor an expert, but as a long-term eating disorders veteran (the word “survivor” evokes far too many memories of bad 80s music for my taste), I can say with confidence that every person is extremely unique, and we all need to figure out what works best for us as individuals if we wish to stay healthy and happy.

So why is it that so many of us are still looking for universal solutions? Why is it that in 2014, people are still preaching about diets—like the Paleo—which advocates say will work for everyone? Why can’t we—as intelligent, complex beings—accept that taking care of ourselves isn’t easy, and that there’s no cookie-cutter solution to good health?

Now before I go any further, let me say that certain choices—smoking cigarettes, abusing alcohol and drugs, etc.—are never good. If you want to live a long, happy life, please avoid those things. Another universally bad choice is shaming people for their appearance. If you know someone that you think may be too heavy or too thin, please don’t make them feel bad about themselves. Instead, if it seems appropriate, perhaps you can suggest that they talk to their doctor or see a therapist who may be able to help.

OK, so let’s get back to the other stuff. First of all, it’s a fact that obesity is an epidemic in America, as is diabetes. These diseases destroy countless lives every year and cost millions of dollars in healthcare spending. It’s also true that many of the bad eating habits associated with these illnesses begin in childhood, so I applaud Michelle Obama and the thousands of health professionals who’ve worked tirelessly on initiatives to combat youth obesity. Their work is seeing good results, and that’s a great thing.

Unfortunately, another serious health problem is also quite prevalent among American youth (especially girls): anorexia. One statistic I found on the website of ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) states that the mortality rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females between the ages of 15 and 24. And yet, as our school cafeterias eliminate foods high in fat and calories, kids at risk of becoming anorexic are receiving messages that are quite detrimental to them. Trust me: as a former anorexic who knows several young women currently suffering from this disease, not all kids need to limit fat intake, nor should they be instructed to do so. I know this is a complicated situation and that everyone’s doing their best to make the country healthier, but I urge parents and guardians concerned about their children’s weight—especially if they suspect eating disorders—to make an appointment with a physician, therapist, or certified nutritionist. These people can assess a child as an individual and give advice specific advice. And with any luck, the child will listen.

And speaking of listening, it’s hard not to listen to pop music and the various messages we receive from it every day. Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been written on that topic, but I’d like to focus on just a couple of the songs that are popular right now, and look at the messages they convey about body image.

The first is Meghan Trainor’s infectious hit “All About That Bass” celebrates those of us who “ain’t no size two.” Ms. Trainor strikes me as an intelligent, healthy woman, and a sharp, talented songwriter. I’m certain she’s helped a lot of larger women feel sexy and positive about their bodies with her song, and that’s a magnificent achievement. But every time I hear it, I can’t help cringing at the line, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” Come on, now! Let’s not worry about what the boys like. Women’s bodies aren’t here for boys and men to enjoy. Our bodies are the containers in which we carry around our hearts, minds, and souls, and they need to work for us, first and foremost. So just as we shouldn’t worry about a bit of extra weight, our goal shouldn’t be adding pounds so that men will have something extra to squeeze.

Similarly, Nicki Minaj’s song “Anaconda” pays tribute to curvaceous women, and I commend her for that. Ms. Minaj is an incredibly gifted songwriter and rapper, as well as a beautiful woman who appears healthy and extremely comfortable in her own skin. All of which make her a strong female role model for young girls. She has also spoken out about downplaying sex appeal and focusing on using intelligence to get ahead in life. So does she really need to include the line, “F*ck those skinny bitches?” in her song? How does that help girls who weren’t blessed with curvy bodies?

I guess what I’m saying is that although I’m glad we’ve got both government initiatives and pop culture working to engender healthier bodies and attitudes in America, we’ve still got a way to go. Certainly, there’s no one solution to our “weighty” problems. What works for one person probably won’t work for another, so I hope people will take the time to discuss their health, weight and related issues with qualified professionals.


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Busking Really Can Lead to Stardom!

Crawley BuskerIf you’ve read my new novel, Living by Ear, you know it’s about a former street musician–also known as a busker–named Christine Daley, who made a name for herself in Boston in the 1990s. In the present-day part of the story, Chris is a forty-something wife and mother in the middle of a divorce, desperately trying to revive her music career.

And not to give away any plot spoilers, but at one point in the story, Chris is encouraged to participate in a music competition similar to American Idol

So I was delighted to learn that a well-known British busker named Tom Stephenson (a.k.a. Busker Tom) has made it to the regional finals of an English national singing competition called Open Mic UK.

Mr. Stephenson has a unique busking style. Rather than just singing and playing songs on his guitar, he brings a collection of different percussion instruments with him wherever he goes, and encourages audience members to participate in his performances. In addition to being a busker, he’s a teaching assistant at a special needs school in Kent, and the frontman in a band called The Get Back Beats. You can read more about him here.

Best of luck, Tom Stephenson! I’ll be rooting for you here in the States!



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Author Ina Zajac on Creating Characters, Spirituality, Domestic Violence & More

ina.zajacToday, I’m so happy to feature one of my favorite new authors, Ina Zajac, on the blog. Ina’s novel, Please, Pretty Lights is a gritty story about a woman’s search for love and happiness in a world that has let her down in some horrific ways.

MR: So Ina, when did you realize that you wanted to write novels? Also, do you write full time, or do you have another job?

IZ: I remember wanting to be an author back in high school, but it just seemed I should be a journalist first. Back then I wasn’t confident that I had anything worthwhile to say to the world. It seemed I didn’t have enough life experience from which to draw. Yes, I do write full time or as close to full time as I can manage as a busy mother.

MR: Yes, I understand that. As a mom of two teens, I go through periods of time when I get a lot of writing done, but other times, family stuff is more important. Anyway, I loved Please, Pretty Lights for numerous reasons. One is your protagonist, Via, who’s a complicated person, to say the least. How did you come up with the concept of Via?

IZ: Via has evolved quite a bit since she first started to visit my daydreams. Initially, she was a young church girl who was desperate to broaden her horizons. After meeting Matt and Nick she begins to wonder why these two drug dealers seem to show much more honor and kindness than members of her own church community. At the same time, I began thinking about Via as a young girl; the witness to her father’s untreated mental health issues and her mother’s inability to free herself. This knowledge fueled my desire to make her so bent on receiving attention from men. Later her corny sense of humor and sweet heart became clear.

MR: One thing I found interesting in Please, Pretty Lights is the church that Via is involved with. I think you did a great job describing the nature of that church, which seemed to be based on good principles, but attracted both wonderful people and others who were, well, less wonderful. Why did you choose to write about this church? Were you expressing personal views about religion, or is the church simply an allegory for society in general?

IZ: Okay, brutal honesty alert: I am a spiritual person with an old-school church background. I am rebellious by nature, always questioning authority. I attended a Catholic high school as a non-Catholic. I never bought into the concept of confession because I thought having a priest – a middle man – was unnecessary. Why couldn’t I just go to a park and meditate? I wondered. Can’t god meet me in a park? Or anywhere? And, if god is omnipresent, then wouldn’t god already know my faults? To each their own, but for me god is not a judgmental outside force anyway. God is who we already are. I don’t believe we are separated. You are god. I am god, and so is absolutely every person, and thing. Every particle is “part” of god. Think Carl Sagan from the original Cosmos. We are all “star stuff.” This being said, I have been fortunate to meet countless “good” religious types. The character Beth serves to exemplify them. They are the quiet ones. You won’t see them on television criticizing anyone because they are too busy loving, serving, and shining their light.

MR: That’s so interesting. I went to Catholic elementary school and also taught in a Catholic school after graduating from college. (My mom’s cousin was a nun and she helped me get the job). But for various reasons I won’t get into in the interest of saving space, neither of these schools struck me as particularly “churchy,” and at both of them, I met so many people–many who weren’t Catholic, but were certainly spiritual–who were there to help other people learn and grow. I don’t practice any organized religion now and I’m really saddened by many of the political views embraced by modern Catholicism, but I also think it’s criminal how religious radicals and extremists have given a bad name to people like Beth, who is kind, nonjudgemental, and beautiful.

So let’s move on to another topic. Via is also the victim of some terrible violence. I found some parts of the book upsetting, as I find all violence–especially violence against women–sickening. What compelled you to add this to the story?

IZ: Violence against women and children happens. It’s difficult to talk about, but I wanted to try. Via models her own mother’s journey. The cycle of abuse is persistent. Via spent her early years hearing her mother say things like, “Please be a good girl today. Let’s not make Daddy mad.” The message there is one of misplaced responsibility. It’s a sick, but prevalent belief. “Daddy is mad because I did something to make him mad.” I believe we can never make anyone else do or feel anything. Making someone else happy or sad is a myth. It’s an easy excuse, but false. If a man is going to beat his wife, it has little to do with her at all, but with his own issues: fear, addiction, anger, lack of control, abusive childhood. Personally, my father was very kind. Rarely even raised his voice. Still, as an adult I was involved in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. I recently wrote a blog about it. I have been overwhelmed with the positive comments I’ve received since.

MR: Yes, that was an incredible blog post, and I’m sure it took a lot of courage to write. On a lighter note, the characters of Matt and Nick are delightful, well-rounded people. I fell in love with both of them, not only because they’re kind to Via, but also because of their flaws. They seem extremely real. Are either or both of these characters based on real people?

IZ: I love Matt. I love Nick. They represent the flip side of Via’s father and Carlos. I love men and believe most men out there are Nicks and Matts. I feel most men are well intentioned, but confused about what women really want and need. Men get their hearts broken all the time. They make tough choices. They make mistakes. Though it all, they are less likely to ever receive emotional support or forgiveness. Nick, for example, has serious childhood abandonment issues. Yet, he feels he is supposed to buck up and focus on the needs of his friends. Nick is a protector (not a complainer) because he figures that’s what it means to be a man.

MR: Yes, all people are complicated, and life is a confusing thing. I consider myself a feminist and am so glad society is really starting to focus on women and women’s issues, because there’s so much there, and so many abuses have happened both recently and historically. And yet, men can’t be neglected either, because, as you point out, it’s not easy for them either, and most men mean well. So here’s one final question: what’s next on your writing agenda, Ina?

IZ: I am currently working on the sequel: Play, Pretty Lights, which picks up the story six months after Please, Pretty Lights. Matt and Via are still featured, but in this book Nick has a bigger role, as does Whitney. It’s a stand-alone novel, but those who’ve read the first book will enjoy an extra layer.

MR: Thank you so much for being a guest today, Ina! I can’t wait until Play, Pretty Lights is available. And in the meantime, if people want to check out Please, Pretty Lights, it’s available here on Amazon.

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Leaving the Beach $.99 Sale–October 2, 3 & 4

high res coverHi All,

If you haven’t had a chance to read Leaving the Beach, this is a good time to check it out. It’s on a three-day sale starting today (October 2, 3 & 4). Just $.99 for Kindle and Nook.

Get it here on Amazon or here at Barnes and Noble

Here’s a quick plot synopsis:

Erin Reardon gets her first kiss from Jim Morrison. She loses her virginity to David Bowie. When she flunks out of college, Bruce Springsteen is there to comfort her, and Elvis Costello breaks her heart in Europe. So what happens when she actually meets a rock star? Leaving the Beach is a gritty story about illusion, reality, and the odd ways that music can blur the lines between the two.

Written with heart and keen observation about the day-to-day struggles of a “functioning bulimic,” Leaving the Beach explores the power of fantasy, then shoves it up against harsh reality until something has to give in this women’s novel set on the sandy beaches of Winthrop, Massachusetts.

I hope you try it! I’d also love to hear your honest feedback, and feel free to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes & if you’re up for that sort of thing. Thank you!!


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Goodreads Giveaway: Win a Paperback Copy of Living by Ear

Hi Readers,

Just a quick post today to let you know that there’s a giveaway on Goodreads for a paperback copy of Living by Ear. The giveaway runs until  November 3rd, but if you’re interested, you might want to sign up now so you don’t forget. Click below for more details, and best of luck!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Living by Ear by Mary Rowen

Living by Ear

by Mary Rowen

Giveaway ends November 03, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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Interview with Author February Grace

Kitty and me 2013

February & Kitty, 2013

MR: Today, I’m very excited to have the lovely and talented February Grace as a guest on my blog. February, would you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

FG: Hi! I’m February Grace, a writer, artist, poet, stargazer, and certified eccentric who lives in Southeast Michigan, where it is much too cold for my liking most of the year. I’ve been lucky enough to publish three novels with Booktrope to date: GODSPEED (Steampunk/Romance) OF STARDUST (Fantasy/Romance) and IN STARLIGHT (the sequel to OF STARDUST.) Both books are now available together as an eBook set called ONE WISH: The OF STARDUST COLLECTION. I feel very wish of stardust collection cover for promo

MR: So Would you say that IN STARLIGHT and OF STARDUST are a series?

FG: No, they were never intended to be a series, and won’t be. I wouldn’t have likely gone through with publishing a sequel if so many readers (especially on Wattpad!) hadn’t asked me for one. I had written and wanted to tell the story, they wanted to read it, and the rest is history! So the two books tell the entire story of Gus and Till: Fairy Godparents for the 21st Century.

MR: Wow, that’s very cool about readers on Wattpad asking you to write a sequel. And even cooler of you to comply! So what genres do you most enjoy writing in? And although I know you write novels and prose, do you ever write poetry?

FG: I prefer writing romance: love is the central theme running through everything I write. The setting of those romances can vary wildly, though. From simple modern love stories to literary romance with Steampunk embellishments to magical modern fairy tales. I love to genre-hop.

I actually wrote poetry before I wrote almost anything else (even as a child) and it is still my great love. I’d love to do a book of short stories and poetry one day.

I have been lucky enough to have several poems published in literary magazines; in fact the first time I was ever published, The Rusty Nail literary magazine picked up two of my prose pieces and three poems. So I will always have a very soft spot in my heart for them! Anyone who is interested can read some of my poetry over on my blog: just click on the Poetry tab at the top.

MR: Well, congratulations on the publications! And this is probably a good time to give readers the link to your blog, which is at

You’ve obviously been writing for quite a while. When did you first realize that this is what you wanted to do?

FG: I was telling stories before I could write and was a very early reader (age 2– thanks, Grandma!) In fourth grade, I was given an extra-credit assignment to watch film clips of fairy tales and rewrite the endings. (Thank you, Miss Eiselman, wherever you are!) From then on, I was always writing something, somewhere, in some shape or form and I’ve rarely stopped since.

MR: Sounds like you were born writing!

Here’s another question. Many authors I know (including myself) fantasize about our books being made into movies. Which of your books (if any) would you most like to see on the big screen? Any thoughts on actors you’d like to play the main roles?

FG: Oh yes, I’ve dreamed that dream LOL. I would love to see GODSPEED as a film, and always imagined Ewan McGregor as the doctor himself (if only, right?!) Seriously, though, he was the face I pictured on Quinn while writing the book, so that would be the absolute ultimate. I imagine a fresh unknown as Abigail, yet to be discovered… and I think that Dan Stevens would make an amazing Schuyler Algernon.

I can also see OF STARDUST and IN STARLIGHT being combined into one screenplay for a movie, and I have an idea who I’d love to cast as Gus but I don’t want to spoil my readers’ idea of him by saying who that is!

MR: I understand that sentiment. Several times, I’ve seen movies based on books and have been shocked at the filmmaker’s interpretation of a character’s appearance. Although in the end, I usually reach the conclusion that the filmmaker made a good choice.

So let’s switch this up again. Do you have any pets? Or have a favorite type of animal?

FG: I love cats and dogs, if I were healthier I’d have a little dog of one kind or another (a rescue, definitely).

I have a ten year old kitty who was a rescue, we’ve had him since he was eight months old and he is my constant companion. Through all the surgeries I’ve had he’s never left my side during recovery; including during a time when I had to sleep in a chair sitting up for months on end. He slept in my lap every night. He is my baby.

MR: He sounds pretty special and is adorable too. I know some people think cats can be aloof, but I’ve never had an aloof cat. On the contrary, I think many of them have a way of knowing when we’re down or not feeling well and do their best to comfort us.

OK, here’s my final question. Do you collect anything? And if so, why?

FG: I collect too many things to name, really, but mostly lately what I like to collect the most are memories. Because stuff is just… stuff and the more you get the more weighed down you get. Memories can be safely stored away without taking up any physical space, and called upon again and again when you’re having a rough time. Yes, memories are definitely my favorite collectable these days :~)

Thank you so much for having me!

MR: Thank you, February, for being my guest today. It’s been great chatting and getting to know you better. Readers, if you’d like to check out February’s books, they’re all available on Amazon and at select bookstores. Here’a a link to her Amazon page, where you can learn more about her various works.



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