An ode to AIM.

This bit of news almost slipped through the cracks of my newsfeed, but I thought I owed a few words to the platform, before it is cancelled forever in December.  In college, AIM was the first platform I communicated with to my then boyfriend, now husband.  It’s how we stayed in touch (for free) when I moved to Australia for a few months after we started dating.  It’s how I virtually met a group of amazing fan fiction authors that I’m still in touch with today (although we use Discord).  We would spend hours in a private chat rooms, hatching out plots and developing stories — getting me through a particularly terrible employment situation on more than one occasion.  It’s the only platform I have to remember a friend who took his life a few years previously, and one of the last ways we ever were in contact.  In fact, after I heard of his suicide, I thought ‘What if I had logged in more?  What if I could’ve been there for him?’  As an expat, MSN Messenger and AIM were critical ways to keep in touch with friends back home in our early years of living overseas.

I only have a few conversations from AIM saved (mostly about story ideas or funny in the moment chats), but from my first experiences online to roughly 2010 or so, it was the program I always made sure was downloaded onto whatever computer I happened to be on.  I imagine I started logging in less once Facebook messenger was introduced to the point that as of yesterday I couldn’t remember the last conversation I had on AIM.  And yet, part of me longs for the silly icons, noises, and away messages — a simpler time in my life and the world.

I logged in for the first time in many years yesterday, surprised the same password worked for my handle ‘cbrandtwright’ (one of my later names… I believe the first was CSailorV17 in 1995 or so).  There were actually a few people logged in, but I didn’t hit them up for a chat (mostly because they live on the other side of the world, and secondly, because I didn’t believe they were actually logged on to receive my message).  Instead, I went through my list of buddies… Names from versions of myself that no longer exist — former bosses and co-workers, early supporters of me as an author, and, the oldest one, from a high school friend with a name involving an inside joke that I helped come up with.  Literally, a name from my life in 1995.  One that we made up while sitting in her basement, typing away at an old desktop.  Courtney at 37 looks back at Courtney at 15 and shakes her head.

As I looked at this list, I thought of the hours of conversations.  Sometimes important.  Sometimes just checking in.  Sharing links or pictures.  Learning how to flirt.  Logging in to see a name that would make you smile.  Checking an away message to see if there was any hidden meaning.

The technology made it into my first four books.  Before text messages, before all the ways we can talk to each other now, AIM was the largest platform.  Part of me wants to ‘modernize’ my novels, and part of me wants them to live on as a testament to outdated technology.

So, here’s to AIM.  While for the most part, I think technology moves forward and modernizes and we all move on without marking time, for this moment, here’s to my formative years and the countless conversations that made me, me.

On using one’s voice in social media.

This is a subject that has actually been on my mind for a few months, made more relevant by recent tragic events around the world, but especially in conjunction with my home country.  So, I’m American.  It is not a particularly lovely or good time to be American.  As an expat, I’ve already explored this topic a bit.  I feel helpless, frustrated, stressed, and anxious and pretty much every day it gets worse and not better.  For better or worse, I check Twitter twice a day.  In today’s world, 140 characters is about all I can take.

Obviously, as a social media platform, anyone can write whatever they see fit.  Celebrities, authors, your best friend, your best friend’s mom, etc.  Like any form of social media, it’s a place to quickly disseminate an opinion.  For those who have more people following them, an idea is expressed to a larger group.

Where am I going with this?  There are a few authors I follow, many of whom have a much (much!) larger platform than I do.  And in recent events (and past events) they’ve remained utterly quiet.  And I don’t know why, but this completely disappoints me.  For the most part, the authors I follow are quite vocal and unrelenting in their support of social causes.  They use their network to speak about important issues (just as I do).  The same goes for many celebrities I follow, many whom I have gained respect for.  While there is no law or best practice, I’d like to think that if I had a larger platform I would use my voice to champion others who don’t have a voice.  To issues that mattered to me.  But for those who choose to remain silent and acknowledge nothing?  I have a hard time understanding why.

The worst part?  I’m a huge hypocrite.  If you look at my A to Za’atar accounts, you won’t fine much, if anything political.  I justify this by telling myself it’s because people follow me for food/culinary opinions and do not particularly want to be reminded that the current American leadership makes me sick, frustrated, and angry on a daily basis.  I rarely, if ever, post my feelings on Facebook, mostly because as part of my self care, I don’t want to be reminded of all the terrible things that are taking place.  It’s as if I can easily compartmentalize where I want my thoughts to go.  Of course, there are certain things I can’t be quiet about and choose to share my opinions across literally any platform I have access to.

What am I getting at?  I wish there was a way to be more honest to myself and  my beliefs while maintaining a healthier mental state.

Doge gif makes us all feel better.

How involved are you on social media?  How often do you want to see the opinions of others?  In your opinion, what is the best way to express opinions in these difficult times?

YA 2017 Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to the 2017 YA Scavenger Hunt!  This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes!  At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt.  Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt.  There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all!  I am a part of the PINK TEAM — but there is also a red team, a gold team, an orange team, a red team, and a blue team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the pink team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 8th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
Today, I am hosting Jennifer Eaton on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!

Jennifer M. Eaton hails from the eastern shore of the North American Continent on planet Earth. Yes, regrettably, she is human, but please don’t hold that against her.

While not traipsing through the galaxy looking for specimens for her space moth collection, she lives with her wonderfully supportive husband and three energetic offspring. (And a poodle who runs the spaceport when she’s not around.)

Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s book here!


Seventeen-year-old Jess’s dream is to graduate High School and get away from her dull military-brat existence. But racing for her life across New Jersey with a boy she hardly knows is not quite what she had in mind.

David is alone, injured, and lost in the woods. When a young girl stumbles across him, he places his trust, and his life, in her hands. Will she lead him to safety, or right into the hands of the men he is hiding from?

Fire in the Woods Cover

Fire in the Woods is one of those books where all the attention falls on one character, even though the story is told from another’s point of view.

I’ve been asked a few times, “What was David thinking?” So I thought it would be fun to feature a scene rewritten from David’s point of view.

So here we go!

This is the scene where Jess and David meet for the first time.

Swish thin

Forest Summer small

The leaves crunched as I slipped to the forest floor.

A strange sensation I would have liked to ponder, if I hadn’t just crash-landed on a hostile, alien world.

planes onlyAn airship howled overhead, but they didn’t see me. I’d won a few more minutes to rest.

Leaning back, I ran my fingers along my sore arm. The blue markings on my lavender skin caught the light from the planet’s sun. I couldn’t see anything wrong, but I wasn’t a doctor. I wasn’t much of anything except lost, injured, and alone.

What was I thinking, flying a mission so close to the surface? Of course the natives would detect me. I was a scientist, not a soldier, yet here I was, stranded and at the mercy of a primitive culture. Maybe I was every bit the disappointment my father believed me to be.

David CropSomething shifted the leaves in the distance.

Footsteps, coming closer. A native. I jumped to my feet and ran two steps, but a searing pain in my shoulder slapped me back to the forest floor.

The footsteps—closer.

I had no choice. I had to protect myself. I closed my eyes and reached out to the approaching being. A girl. Young.

Apparently my luck wasn’t changing. I’d never done well with girls on my own planet, let alone a strange, aggressive race. Still, I touched the recesses of her mind.

Her language: simple, easy to reconstruct. I pulled the information from her thoughts.

Arghhh! PictureThe footsteps stopped only inches from me and a scream echoed through the trees. The girl dropped to her knees behind the bushes, holding her head.

Had I done that to her? No matter. I needed to hide.

I reached further into her psyche, sorting her cognizance until an image formed—one that would comfort her … someone she could trust. She howled as I stole the image from her mind, and bit down into the implant in my jaw to trigger my transformation.

I clenched my teeth as I’d been trained to do, awaiting the pain of the exteriation process, hoping it wasn’t as bad as we’d been …

My body seized as agony shot through every cell in my body: a burning, piercing assault beyond my worst nightmares. I grabbed my head, holding myself together as my mind threatened to explode.

I screamed, and the girl leaned over the branches.

Syllables formed on her lips, but I couldn’t decipher them yet. I repeated the words she used as she screamed, hoping they would be enough to hold her back before…

David HandsThe pain ceased, as if I’d washed it away with cool running water. My hands, no longer lavender, but a strange, pinkish tan. I was no longer Erescopian. At least on the outside.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

The words, so odd sounding, and still completely un-discernible.

Another aircraft flew overhead. But they wouldn’t see me. They weren’t looking for a native.

The girl reached for me. “Are you hurt?”

Jess Crop 1I backed away. Her form, so strange—with long, flowing strands cascading down the sides of her face. I reached for my ear and found similar, shorter strands. How odd I must have looked.

“What’s your name?” Her words scrawled through my mind as I translated.

“Your name?” I repeated, stalling as I tried to find an answer.

“Yeah, you know. Your name.” She pointed to her chest. “I’m Jess. And you are?”

David Crop 1I sorted through her thoughts, and grasped a name appropriate for her world. “David?”

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

I smiled, relishing in the genuine, friendly nature of this creature. Odd, since this race had been deemed incapable of socialization or growth.

There must have been a mistake. But if there had been, it was a terrible one.


Jess & David Double base BASE ONLY coverFIRE IN THE WOODS is a YA scifi romance, available wherever books are sold.

I hope you enjoyed this little look into David’s mind.

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound | Google Play


About the Author:

Jennifer M. Eaton hails from the eastern shore of the North American Continent on planet Earth. Yes, regrettably, she is human, but please don’t hold that against her.

While not traipsing through the galaxy looking for specimens for her space moth collection, she lives with her wonderfully supportive husband and three energetic offspring. (And a poodle who runs the spaceport when she’s not around.)

During infrequent excursions to her home planet of Earth, Jennifer enjoys long hikes in the woods, bicycling, swimming, snorkeling, and snuggling up by the fire with a great book; but great adventures are always a short shuttle ride away.

Who knows where we’ll end up next?

And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Courtney Brandt and more!  To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 17. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the pink team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author, McKelle George!

And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Courtney Brandt and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 17. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the pink team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author, McKelle George!











How, Why and Where I Write.

Borrowed from the Man Repeller article over here. With some bonus and much related quotes from the original post below.

Where do you do most of your writing?

At my desk — specifically at my desktop.  When we moved to our villa in 2016, I had envisioned a different set up, but now, I love my little nook at the top of the stairs.  My desk has plenty of cute debris, including, but not limited to: a framed photo of a tattoo design I wrote into one of my books (and also have), a Baymax desk lamp, a USB powered fan, a tiny pot of Rosy Lips Vaseline, my quarter edited manuscript, no less than three notebooks, among other things.

What do you love to wear most when writing?

This is a super weird question (that seems weirdly specific to female authors), but fine — anything that’s comfortable.  In the Middle East, it’s always warm, so I’m probably wearing shots and a t-shirt most of the time (no socks).

What are you most specific about when doing creative work?

This is the original answer, but it so resonated with me, I thought I would publish it in its entirety.

The most important thing is that I feel alone, undisturbed. I used to say yes to lunches because they seem so quick and easy — an hour lunch and then back to work!  But I can’t do them anymore. No matter how early I wake, I wake with the knowledge than in three hours, four hours, five hours I’ll have to get ready and leave the house. Then the day is bisected.  I’m very indulgent and protective of my headspace; sometimes even a late dinner has to be canceled because I need the ability to leave my writing headspace exactly when I want to.  Sometimes that happens at 8:16 p.m. but an 8 o’ clock dinner means getting ready at 7:00 p.m.  It must sound so neurotic, but that’s how I am. I need a lot of time to be alone with my thoughts, as it often takes a long time for them to become interesting.

Regarding above, this situation plays into my absolutely requiring one day a week where I will not leave the house (even for groceries).  These are the days of the week where I get the most accomplished.  Something about the lack of interruption allows my brain to go through projects without pressure or anxiety.  Of course, in the past, I’ve been able to write almost anywhere, but now, to truly focus, I need my SPACE.  For example, this week, I am hyper guarding Tuesday, because the rest of the week will be busy (and mess with my work flow).  It’s not that I won’t get work done in these days, but my best work will definitely be Monday or Tuesday, which I am fiercely protective of.

What’s something that used to challenge you, but doesn’t anymore? What challenges you now?

Ironically, I think I’ve gone in reverse order.  I used to not have any trouble with motivation to finish projects and now I seem to struggle.  My motivation is never with the actual practice of writing (I have ideas for days…some that I might not get to for some years yet), but more with the finalization of a project. *coughs politely*  I have five novels and a novella that are waiting to be published.  Yes, two of them will get published (The Queen 2 & 3), but the other three?  I genuinely feel bad for them.  Will I ever find the inclination to dust these projects off and release them?  I have no idea.  What will it take for me to simply move on and get to a final draft?  I wish I knew.  Is it something I’m going to have to figure out for myself?  You bet.

Are you of the write-every-day or write-when-it-strikes ilk?

Write every day, as I have done almost every day for at least the past ten years.  Or, to be more honest, do something with writing every day.  Whether a blog post, a rough draft, or editing a manuscript, I’m pretty much involved with writing six days a week.

Best piece of writing advice you ever heard?

Put it away for awhile.  I love On Writing by Stephen King.  Although I had never formally thought of the process, when I read the book and the advice to ‘stick it in a drawer’ I thought ‘yes, exactly.’  As an author, I need space — room for the book to grow and for me to find distance.  It’s only then I can write myself notes like, ‘Is this where we want to start?’ and ‘Why does this not come as a shock to everyone?’ or ‘Not enough dialogue or action. Start over.’

Week by numbers.

Hello — I’ve been slacking a bit this week on the book promotion front, which I should probably feel worse about.  I’m having one of those weeks where I’m just writing for me and trying to improve my work, no matter who reads my novels.

  • 37, of 189 pages edited on the (very) rough draft of Queen 3 — plenty of work to do to get the first draft into something readable. This draft involves me, a red pen, and the manuscript before I tackle actually incorporating the notes.
  • A lot, of hustle I did yesterday on LinkedIn.  If one avenue doesn’t work, try another, right?
  • 1, photography course attended.
  • 1, article published with the Travelettes.
  • 1, event at the Dubai Opera I’ll be attending this weekend.
  • Many, shots of Jaegermeister consumed during the ‘after party’ section of Hubs’ birthday celebrations.

Hope you had a wonderful September!  I cannot fathom where it went.