Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Long Road to Sunday Night


I did something on Sunday that was six years in the making. I finally saw Lifehouse in concert, and it was freaking amazing.

I know going to a concert isn't a big deal to most people. But when you love a band as much as I love Lifehouse, and when you've been trying to see said band in concert for six years, have TWICE had tickets to shows that were ultimately cancelled, and have been a fan for more than 15 years... well, it *is* a big deal.

I remember hearing Hanging by a Moment for the first time in college, and loving it. I loved Jason Wade's gravelly voice. I loved the unique sound of their music. But I think what really made me fall into no-turning-back love with Lifehouse, to the surprise of absolutely no one who knows anything about me, is my association of their music with some of my favorite heart-melting moments on Smallville.

Like this one, which started a years-long obsession with the song Everything:




Or this one, where Lifehouse actually appeared ON THE SHOW and I still cry watching Lana put her head on Clark's chest and the look of complete happiness on Clark's face because he is just so in love with her and SHUT UP I DON'T KNOW WHY IT AFFECTS ME LIKE THIS BUT IT DOES OKAY?



So, back in 2011, when I was living in Connecticut, Lifehouse was scheduled to play an outdoor concert at Old Mine Park, and I was ECSTATIC to score tickets.

But then That Bitch Irene came alone, damaged the venue, and the concert was canceled.



Fast forward through another couple of missed opportunities to 2015. I'm now living in Georgia, and my husband buys tickets to Lifehouse and Nickelback at the Verizon Amphitheater for my birthday. Except two months later, the show is cancelled on account of Chad Kroeger needing vocal surgery.




I was seriously starting to think the universe had it out for me, and it was never going to happen.

But then, 2 years later, on April 21st, 2017, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, and saw this:

My immediate reaction was HOLY SHIT LIFEHOUSE IS COMING TO ATLANTA AGAIN AND I LIVE NEAR ATLANTA AND IT'S A SIGN AND OMG THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN OR I WILL DIE.

Or, you know, something along those lines. At any rate, I texted a screenshot of the tweet to my husband and I'm pretty sure I included a not-so-subtle reminder that my birthday was less than a month away, and an even less subtle hint that these tickets were the ONLY gift I wanted.

He got the hint, guys. My husband surprised me with the tickets for my birthday, and even took care of securing a babysitter for the night. I was beyond psyched.

I was also a nervous wreck. After all, I had a history of getting thisclose to seeing Lifehouse concerts, only to have the universe pull one of these:


I was terrified that my son would get sick, that the show would be cancelled again, that *I* would get sick... I angstily turned over hundreds of imaginary scenarios in my mind.

But then the day came. The weather was beautiful. My son, my husband, and I were all healthy. The babysitter showed up. I left the house with a huge smile on my face.

I was also wearing the Smallville shirt I'd bought specifically for the occasion.



And even though the smile didn't leave my face the entire night, there were two moments in particular when I thought I might just implode and drift off into the air as a euphoric wisp of Gina-shaped smoke.

The first was when Switchfoot's (who took the stage first) front man, Jon Foreman (which, BTW, you freaking rocked, Jon, and you have a brand-new die-hard fan in me) started to play Dare You to Move. I was already psyched, because I love this song. But then.

But then.

This happened:



JASON WADE JUST UP AND PERFORMED THE SHIT OUT OF THAT SONG.

That voice! Just listen to that voice! How I didn't melt faster than a Popsicle in the sun is nothing short of a miracle. Maybe it's because I was too busy screaming my head off, which you can hear in the video.

I've watched it about a hundred times since.

So, you get the point that I was happy. But my husband started to get restless. Lifehouse didn't take the stage until 9:45, and he had told the babysitter we'd be home by 10:30. She, and he, both had to be at work the next morning. Not only that, we had a 30-minute drive back to our house, and the babysitter had a 30-minute drive home from our house. After only a few songs, he told me we needed to leave.

"I'm not leaving," I said. "Not until I hear Everything."

Of course, I had no idea if they'd actually play it. But I'd waited way too long to be at that concert, and I was not about to go out like that. So I stayed right where I was, and watched Lifehouse perform Halfway Gone.



When the song was over, my husband looked at me and said, "Babe, we REALLY need to go." So I begrudgingly gathered our stuff and started to weave through the crowd.

And just as we reached the sidewalk surrounding the lawn where we'd been seated, Jason Wade asked, "So do you guys want to hear some older Lifehouse?"

I froze in place. He started to play Broken. It's part of my "soundtrack" for Last Year's Mistake, and it's one of my favorites.



My husband dutifully waited for the song to finish. But just as it did, the notes melted into the familiar sounds of another song. THE song.

Everything.



And then my phone ran out of storage.

I almost died. So I switched to taking a live Instagram video, thinking I'd figure out a way to save it later. (Which I did, via a bootleg recording with my husband's cell phone.) Here is the link:

https://www.facebook.com/domenick.ciocca/videos/1478876965540722/

And with that, my entire life was made, and I skipped out of the concert while singing along to Whatever It Takes. I happy-cried myself to sleep that night.

I can't even explain what it is about Lifehouse's music that makes me so happy, but that's just it - it makes me happy. When you struggle with anxiety and depression, feeling happy can be a challenge. Even in moments when you know you *should* be happy, sometimes you're just not. But on Sunday night?

I felt happier than I have in a very long time.

It might sound dramatic, but hearing those songs that I've loved for so long, it was like a little piece of my soul had found its way home.

 It was a beautiful night that's become a beautiful memory, and I will cherish it forever.

Have you ever felt this way about something? Feel free to share!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why Authors Don't "Just Want to be Published"

As I was lying awake at 3:30 a.m. this morning, as I often do, I started thinking about a phrase that my husband sometimes utters to me when I get stressed out or disappointed about the goings-on in my writing career:

I thought you just wanted to be published.

I cringe whenever he says this, but I also can't really fault him for his ignorance. He has a career in which the expectations of him and his work are fairly cut-and-dried. He gets a reliable, bi-weekly paycheck that hinges on his work being done, not on how well he was able to sell it.

And if there's one thing I've learned, it's that people who've never walked in a writer's shoes have no concept of just how much hard work and uncertainty are involved in the quest to make a living as a published author.

After all, we:
- write with no guarantee of publication
- wait anywhere from months to years for contracts, and therefore advance money
- get royalty statements only twice a year
- are responsible for a good chunk of our own marketing
- are provided no health insurance
- have no guarantee that current publications will lead to future publications
- I could go on and on, but you get the point, so I'll stop there


I suppose it makes sense that there are a lot of misconceptions about what happens when a person gets published, because a) it's not the most common job in the world and b) when it comes to books, many people are only familiar with whichever titles are in-your-face popular. Therefore, they assume that everyone who gets a book deal is automatically the next JK Rowling.

Or, you know, they watched Sex and the City, and are under the impression that writing a weekly newspaper column affords you a Manhattan apartment and a never-ending supply of Manolo Blahniks. (Spoiler alert: NOPE.)


I don't think most people realize that just "getting published" is not the end goal. Sure, when you're writing with no guarantee that anyone except your mom will ever read your work, and when you're facing rejection left and right, or when others get book deals on their first try after you've just shelved your third manuscript, there probably came a point where you ground your teeth and pulled at your hair and let out a primal,

"I just want to be published!"

But the struggle doesn't end with publication. For those not in the know, let me clarify. You hear, I just want to be published.

What we mean is, I want other people to love my stories as much as I do.

No author has ever used I want to be published as code for I want my novel to be an indistinguishable drop in a vast ocean of books.


Because honestly? Unless you are JK Rowling, that's how it can feel sometimes.

You don't want to annoy people by talking constantly about your books, but you also need to make people aware of them. Unfortunately, self-promo usually feels a lot like this:



Sometimes it seems like no matter what you do, you just can not make people care. You worked your ass off writing, deleting, editing, rewriting, polishing, editing, copy editing, proofreading, promoting, promoting, and promoting some more, and yet, you still feel stagnant.

You know that comparing yourself to other authors is the WORST thing you can possibly do, and yet you can't help but feel defective when they single-handedly tackle goals that feel so out of reach for you. Or when they're talking about how behind they are on their Twitter mentions, or apologizing for not being able to answer the fan mail that comes at them in droves while you check your inbox/mentions like



So yes, even when you've ultimately succeeded *at* your goal, it can still be difficult to feel like you're succeeding *within* your goal. Especially when you're always wondering if your smaller successes will lead to bigger ones, or if every hurrah will be your last.

For the non-writer types, let me break it down further.

Let's say you've been pining for a vacation for a really long time. You try for quite a while to make it happen, but for whatever multitude of reasons, it doesn't. Then, at last, you book your dream vacation to **insert beautiful, exotic spot of your choice here** And you are thrilled.

But when you finally get there, you're sick as a dog, the weather sucks, and the airline has lost your luggage. You have no idea when or if you'll ever make it back to this place again for a do-over.

When you tell this to other people, they respond: But I thought you just wanted to take a vacation?


See what I did there?

And I'm not saying that the WHOLE vacation sucked, that there were zero redeeming moments.Or that being able to call yourself a published author sucks in any way, shape, or form. I'm saying that you can achieve your big-picture goal, and still have moments of disappointment or disenchantment.

Authors don't "just want to be published." They want to succeed at being published.

And while those moments of disenchantment can be brutal, they don't take away from the fact that you've done something kickass by just putting forth the effort. They don't change the fact that complete strangers fell in love with something you wrote, with a world you created entirely in your mind. Those moments, no matter what your brain tells you, are not a harbinger of feeling like crap forever. And they sure as hell don't mean that you've blown your chance to do better.

Because every day is a new chance.

Because, really, you have already succeeded. Even if it doesn't always feel that way.

Think about it. If people who aren't in the publishing "know" automatically equate you to JK Rowling just for getting a book deal, it's because they are IMPRESSED. You did something they could never do. And for that, they think you are the shit.



And I think, honestly, that this - "you've already succeeded" - is what my husband actually means when he says, "I thought you just wanted to be published."

So the next time you're frustrated and someone says this to you, be the published author in their life who helped them find a better way to say it. (Or let me do it for you.)

Then, let them know exactly how they can help by directing them here, here, and here, and tell them to let everyone else and their mother know too. 

And how is your publishing journey going today?

Monday, July 24, 2017

#MyYALife Giveaway!


Who wants to win some awesome 2018 ARCs/preorders?

Well, Rachael Allen, Lauren Gibaldi, Jessica Pennington, Rachel Lynn Solomon, and myself have the perfect giveaway for you!

Today (July 24th) through July 27th, you can enter our giveaway for the chance to win ARCs of A TAXONOMY OF LOVE, BUSTED, LOVE SONGS AND OTHER LIES, and THIS TINY PERFECT WORLD, plus a preorder of YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE.

Here's how:



You can enter on Twitter or Instagram, or both. And since you'll need to follow us to qualify, here are the handles for everyone's Twitter/Instagram:

Rachael Allen: rachael_allen / rachael.stewartallen
Gina Ciocca: gmc511 / gmciocca
Lauren Gibaldi: laurengibaldi / lgibaldi
Jessica Pennington: jessnpennington / jessicapennington 
Rachel Lynn Solomon: rlynn_solomon / rlynn_solomon

To enter on Twitter, quote-RT the image from one of our accounts. Use the hashtag #MyYALife, and tell us a little bit about your life as a young adult, whether you're a young adult now, or uh... haven't been one in a while. It can be a few words, or a few sentences.

For example, Lauren Gibaldi's #MyYALife entry might look something like this:


If you want to go into more detail, feel free! Here's how my #MyYALife might read: 


To enter on  Instagram, just repost the image with your snippet and #MyYALife. (Be sure to use the hashtag so we can find your entry!)

Winner will be announced on Friday, July 28th, and YES, it's international! Good luck, and can't wait to see your entries!

(PSA - In case you don't win, you can still guarantee that these books will land in your hot little hands by pre-ordering them. Here are some super-convenient links, in case you'd like to do just that:

A TAXONOMY OF LOVE by Rachael Allen (January 9, 2018): Amazon / Barnes and Noble
BUSTED by Gina Ciocca (January 2, 2018): Amazon / Barnes and Noble
THIS TINY PERFECT WORLD by Lauren Gibaldi (February 27, 2018): Amazon / Barnes and Noble
LOVE SONGS AND OTHER LIES by Jessica Pennington (April 24, 2018): Amazon / Barnes and Noble 
YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE by Rachel Lynn Solomon (January 2, 2018): Amazon / Barnes and Noble

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bookish Things Are Happening!


Wow, you guys. It has been a LOOOONG time since I blogged about bookish happenings. I'm here to fix that with some good news.

Since it's been a while, here's a quick recap of what's happened/happening with my newest YA novels:

In November 2015, I announced that I had sold a YA contemporary called BUSTED to Annette Pollert-Morgan at Sourcebooks.



Since the pub date (now confirmed as 1-2-18) was pretty far out, not much happened for quite some time. But now?

Now things are happening!!! Like what, you ask?

Like the COVER REVEAL (eeeep!) that will take place on 5/25 (one week from today!), at YABooksCentral.com.


But you don't have to wait for reveal day if you'd like to reserve your copy. BUSTED is already available for pre-order on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Busted-Gina-Ciocca/dp/1492654299/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1495119460&sr=8-1&keywords=busted+by+gina+ciocca and you can also add it to your Goodreads shelves.

You might also remember that when I announced my book deal for LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE, (LYM, BTW, just got picked up as an audio book that will be available in July. You can pre-order it here.) I noted that it was a 2-book contract. The second book was slated to come out in 2016, but holy crap, did the sophomore curse hit me with a vengeance.



I spent way too much time rewriting a manuscript that just wasn't working. Then my editor left. I was assigned a new one, and we got on the phone to have a chat. She told me the manuscript I'd been toiling over would either have to be rewritten (again), or scrapped. I knew I didn't have it in me to keep forcing a square peg into a round hole. So I came up with a brand-new concept, one that I, and everyone at Pulse, felt good about. Pub date got moved out to 2017 because, well, I had a whole new novel to draft.



Dreaming up the concept proved to be the easy part. Getting the damn thing written was another story. I hired a babysitter so I'd at least have the *time* to write, but the finished product turned out to be 81,000-words of HOT MESS. Luckily, my editor saw hope in that steaming pile of poo, but the pub date was moved out again, this time to 2018.



I didn't talk much about this book, because I was starting to think it would never really happen. But after two rounds of intense editing and re-writing, I handed in a draft that I was proud of. I had a feeling I'd finally gotten it right. After forty-one torturous days of waiting, I found out that my editor agreed.


And that's when I promptly added this to my online profiles:


Not only is A KISS IN THE DARK going to be a real book that will go on sale 3/06/18, but on 5/29, YABooksCentral will be revealing its absolutely freaking gorgeous cover.

Hope to see you there!

That about sums it up for bookish updates. What good news do you have to share?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

On The "Why" of the 2017 Women's Marches


January 21st, 2017: The day women on every continent gathered in record numbers to march in protest of Donald Trump's election.

Photo credit: PoliticUSA
Photo Credit: M.B. Paul

I never thought so many people would question the validity and necessity of these marches. But if my Twitter and Facebook feeds are any indication, people are still woefully unaware that a) Women are still being discriminated against, assaulted, raped, defined by their looks, screwed out of their rightful pay, and generally demeaned on a daily basis and that b) Just because you know plenty of women who live decent lives does not mean you get to bury your head in the sand and pretend everything is fine.

I want to talk about this post shared by my cousin on FB: 



It should go without saying that if someone hasn't granted you permission to touch her, you keep your f***ing hands to yourself. And judging by the responses to her post, it's a concept that most people claim to understand.

Because, you see, the responses were ones of shock and outrage and disgust. Which is appropriate. But also kind of puzzling to me, considering that many of the people who responded this way had also voted for Donald Trump. Who, as most of us will never forget, famously said this:


So my cousin confesses to being groped, and the people who know her respond with anger and indignation. They didn't witness the incident, but no one (as of yet) assumed that she wasn't being truthful. No one accused her of having a score to settle with this person. No one asked what she'd been wearing, or if she'd been drinking, or other idiotic questions that presume she somehow brought the unwanted attention on herself, since a man can't be expected to know right from wrong.

And those are the appropriate reactions.

But when Donald Trump, a known misogynist who was once quoted as saying, "Women, you gotta treat 'em like shit," is accused of rape, sexual harassment, and assault of multiple women, these same people, and many, MANY others were quick to dismiss these women as:
- liars
- scam artists
- gold diggers
- attention seekers
- whores
- figments of "leftist trash" imaginations

It's that last one that bothers me most. That people are more comfortable dismissing an accusation of rape by a 13-year-old girl as propaganda, because by erasing her, they are erasing any guilt they might have in voting for him.

And that's when memes like this start appearing on Facebook:


Why do so few people seem to know that in 1990, well before the election, Trump's first wife, Ivana, also accused of him raping her, but then modified the statement as part of the divorce settlement? Or that Trump's lawyer's response was, "You can't rape your spouse?" Or that in 13 states, this is actually a true statement?

More important, why are so few people willing to rally around victims of sexual assault? Why does it have to happen to YOUR mother, sister, daughter, niece, friend, etc., before it's an outrage... or even before it's the truth?

If women have to wait until they're part of your inner circle before you're willing to show support and solidarity, then there's no hope for justice.

But we wonder why the accusers don't come forward right away.

Wake up, people. Women are not carrying mace or taking self-defense classes for protection against one another. We're not constantly looking over our shoulders or guarding our drinks because we're afraid of what another woman might do to us.

And so, to the people who acted horrified and incensed over my cousin's harassment, and to those who would be outraged and incensed if it happened to one of your own, BUT AWARDED YOUR VOTE TO A MAN WHO ADMITTED DOING TO OTHER WOMEN WHAT HAD BEEN DONE TO HER, these women marched against your hypocrisy.

Your Facebook comments say, He had no right.
Your support of Donald Trump says, He had every right.

This. This is why women (and children and men) marched.

Photo credit: N. Natalino

Because, as this article so eloquently points out, women are still not equal to men.

Photo credit: K. Broderick
Because every right we take for granted was given to us by women who fought their asses off for it, including the right to vote. And even so, we still live in a country that worships rich white men. Where they are not only excused, but rewarded for behaving like scum bags. Where they can mock the disabled, monger fear against entire races and religions, publicly call women fat, ugly, pigs, dogs, bimbos, pieces of ass, etc., and it's not even close to a deal breaker. Where people find it easier to blame victims than stand behind them.

Because people who claim to care about the women in their lives see the things that Donald Trump has said and done and still refuse to say HE HAD NO RIGHT, HE HAS NO RIGHT, HE WILL NEVER HAVE THE RIGHT.

These women marched in order to say it for you. You're welcome.


Photo Credit: P. Osborn
Photo credit: P. Osborn
"BUT!" some will say. "Donald Trump is a Christian man, fighting for the rights of unborn babies!"



How anyone believes that a man who referred to breastfeeding as "disgusting," and children as "an inconvenience to employers" really gives a shit about the "rights" of unborn babies is beyond me.

Let's pretend for a minute that he does. Let's also stop pretending that all unplanned pregnancies are results of willful, irresponsible, consensual acts of debauchery.

Let's instead say that one of these men, who, like Trump, believes women are theirs for the taking, rapes your (insert daughter, niece, sister, wife, friend, here). And it results in her becoming pregnant.

How do you tell a female you claim to love, a female who's probably grown up hearing that she needs to respect her body, that it's her obligation to carry and bear a constant physical reminder of the day someone else disrespected it? That allowing her body to heal from the attack she never asked for (no matter what anyone else says), is secondary to the "rights" of the cluster of cells growing inside it? That she's supposed to see this as a gift? A "miracle?" What if she's a minor? What if he infected her with a sexually transmitted disease, that can potentially be passed down to the fetus? What if she's already married, with other children? How does she explain to them that they need to live with a daily memento of why women like their mom need to be scared ALL. THE. TIME?

These women marched because the only person with the right to make that call is the person in that situation. And it's sure as hell never going to be Donald Trump, or any other man in Congress, who will never walk one step in a woman's shoes.

Photo Credit: NYMag

So for those of you fist-pumping over Trump's determination to de-fund "baby killing" establishments like Planned Parenthood, here's a newsflash: Some PP facilities don't even perform abortions.

But they *will* perform cancer screenings, pap smears, and other life-saving procedures for women who might otherwise not be able to afford it. Like my best friend, who was sent to Planned Parenthood when the emergency room brushed off her abdominal pain as menstrual upon finding out she did not have health insurance. It was PP that performed an ultrasound and sent her back to the ER. Her "menstrual problems?" Turned out to be a blood clot the size of a quarter in her abdomen.

And so, these women are marching because they understand that Planned Parenthood is in the business of saving lives, not ending them.



Photo Credit: Twitter
There are so many other reasons that these women gathered to march. And despite popular belief, not one of those reasons is because women want Donald Trump to fail as president.

I haven't seen a single picture of a woman holding a sign that says, "FAIL, MOTHERF***ER!" And that's because women want the exact opposite. We want him to prove that he cares about us. We want him to prove that we've been heard. We want him to acknowledge that we're people, not objects - no matter what our race, or religion, or sexual orientation. Regardless of disability or how we look, what color our skin is, or how we govern our bodies.

These women marched because they *don't* want Donald Trump to fail us. They want him to make up for all the ways in which he already has.


Photo credit: I.M. Calovine