Age

I’ve been waiting for this age for over four decades!

I never knew when it would come, or if I’d even appreciate it when it did, but it’s finally here, and I’m excited to say I’m smart enough to take advantage of it.

I’ve finally reached the age where my own opinions and my own happiness are in line with how I live my life.

Phew!

It’s been exhausting trying to achieve that elusive balance among all those expectations placed upon me – real or imagined – by me and by others, by people I know and love and by people I don’t know and have never met and who may pass me in the street and judge me…

In my own mother’s lifetime, it was illegal for Simon to marry me, but he didn’t even think about it. He just fell in love with me and promised me a life filled with adventures. But it was always there, in the back of my mind, that we were a mixed-race couple, that he was white and I was… not. And when I mention this to him, he laughs, because he remembers how I’d told him right from the start that I didn’t think I’d ever get married, and now here we are, over two decades later, still having our adventures and enjoying the journey one sunset at a time.

So now that’s it here – the time when I’ve reached the age where I’m comfortable in my own skin – actually it arrived slowly and I’ve been sort of slightly a little bit at a time testing it out – I’ve realized the whole point of merging how I’d like to live with how I actually live is to… just live.

So here I am. Living.

 

As always, thanks for being here. Thanks for finding me!

 

xox ~Risa

 

 

 

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Worth…less

Is there a cure for low self-esteem? More carrots? A smoothie? Sunlight? Chocolate cake?

For too many years, I pursued a career designed to make me feel worth… less. Not worthless, but worth less than others in the same job title doing similar job functions. But I continued down that same path year after year, determined to prove to someone – anyone – that I wasn’t as worthless as my salary indicated.

In so many careers, the higher the level of cerebral tasks, the higher the numbers on the left side of the decimal point on the paycheck. Proving a person’s competence and motivation through bonuses and raises allowed employees to build their confidence and compete for promotions within their chosen field of employment.

So why not my career? How did I get stuck in what many construe as a dead-end job, making barely enough?

Ah… The plight of the starving artist! The undiscovered author! The roaming musician!

Cultural and performing arts drains a person’s creativity daily. Artists are always processing the world around them. They use their brains nonstop, and one author friend I know even plots her novels in the shower!

It takes little effort to say you want to write a book, but it takes brass balls (yeah, I went there) to actually write the damn thing, revise, revise, revise, bleed your soul onto the page, and then ask a stranger to take time to read your words in the hopes that your story – what you have to say – will somehow connect with that stranger on some level enough so that the person reading your novel ends without thinking it was a complete waste of time.

So… This is my response to the inquiries I receive through my book coaching company and my literary agency: How much self-esteem do you have? How much are you worth? How much is your story worth? How many times can you get up after you’ve been knocked – bulldozed – down?

And are you ready to be rejected? Because, trust me, this book-writing thing can cause more anxiety than asking someone on a first date or cooking in front of a room full of hungry panthers.

So why have I pursued this career designed to make me feel worth less?

Enter the five-star review. The word-of-mouth recommendation. The actual buying of the book. The emails from fans – one and then ten and then hundreds – who say my female characters, with their strong drive and independence, show them different angles and unique perspectives to relationships, careers, and situations.

Here’s my lesson learned:

I might not ever land that $100 million three-book deal, but just because I don’t, doesn’t mean I’m worth less than those who do.

Quote I saw on Instagram:

“I go out of my way to make others feel special because I know what it’s like to feel worthless.”

So buy the book, pay for the song, and show the world that art is worth it.

xox ~ Risa

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Proud Daughter

Happy Mother’s Day!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it until I die… I’m so proud of my mom! This time it’s because she did something even she wasn’t sure she’d do.

She wrote a book!

All. By. Herself.

What started as an idea for a chapter book – she volunteers in the second grade at the same elementary school where she went and I went – morphed into so much more! It developed over two years and many, many revisions, and I love it!

Of course, there were times when she looked at me and wondered if it was worth it. She asked if it was any good. She cursed – really, my mom swears – at the commas and dialog and point of view.

But it all came together into one hundred, thirty pages of cuteness and goodness, and in most parts, it sounds just like my mom! I can hear her voice in the different characters reflecting her different moods, and I absolutely love that my mom stuck with it and finished a book.

We published it through my company, and it’s available as a paperback through Amazon for $6.99. The age levels she’s targeting are 8-12 year-olds, but I heard the husband of one of her friends is reading it too!

So I wanted to take the time on Mother’s Day to make a post from one proud daughter!

xox ~ Risa

 

 

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Minimalism and Some Glitter

Chapter 2017, page 1. Ready? img_7822

Five and a half years ago, when my dream of being a published author seemed slim, even after the lovely agent (Mary Sue Seymour, founder of The Seymour Agency) offered to represent me, I applied for and accepted a temp job with the local government. 

What started as a back-up plan has lasted over half a decade, and those years have schooled me in ways I’d never imagined.

It may have taken me five and a half years to figure out, but I now realize that having a day job doesn’t mean I’m a failure as an author. Through social media, I’ve met many fabulous authors who also have day jobs, and all those setbacks I thought were stopping me from moving forward don’t have to be setbacks at all.

“Swallow goals like tic tacs and wash down disappointment with whiskey.”

img_7485With the support of my amazing hubby, I keep setting new goals for myself and reminding myself to enjoy the journey one sunset at a time.

When my one big goal jammed me up, I found another – more achievable – one to pursue. I always stuck with my first goal, but little successes are as important as the one big success. Whiskey helped to temporarily relieve the pain of a temporary disappointment, and everything in life is temporary, even life.

So rather than focus on things that bring me down, I’ve paid special attention to what lifts me up. 

While adding bits of minimalism to my daily life, I’ve managed to live within my means, travel with my hubby, and attend events close to my heart. 

img_5090Because I finally understand Oscar Wilde’s quote, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.”

I’ve started asking the right questions for me:

What am I passionate about?

What do I want to change?

How can I initiate that change?

For too long I thought I didn’t have the skill set or the knowledge to be part of the solution, so I closed my mouth instead of addressing the problem. For even longer than that, I questioned why anyone would want to even hear my opinion on certain issues. But that ends now. I have stories to tell, anecdotes to share, opinions to contribute… and I know someone will listen.

The author-me always jokes about having one fan (my hubby), but this year I received emails from readers asking if I was ever going to finish my South Beach series. I’d blogged about earning a three-book deal which turned into a three-book plus novella deal, and then I was fortunate enough to be chosen to be part of the Men of the Zodiac series, but… for many dumb reasons, I had a crisis in confidence and never finished revising the other books in my first contract. I’m working on revising those two books now…

img_6080So… Thank you to everyone who stuck with me since 2010, watching my journey and not pointing and laughing as I stumbled.
I miss the old me before I forgot who I am and how I’m built. I tried to be something I’m not, and I failed, and I’m okay with that, because it’s about the journey, right? 

And I’m not done traveling… 

But I’ve realized I don’t have to make this journey alone.

Since 2016 took so much from me (emotionally and physically), I declare 2017 as the year of giving.

And I’d love for you to be part of my giving year!!!!

the-lazy-gecko-erasethelineHere are three easy ways:
Message me with your snail mail address, and I’ll mail you an #ERASETHELINE sticker for free. Stick it somewhere awesome, snap a pic, and post on social media with the #ERASETHELINE hashtag.

…or…

Go to Key West. Find an #ERASETHELINE sticker. Snap a pic and post on social media with the #ERASETHELINE hashtag.

…or…

Comment, like, and share this post on social media.

All throughout 2017, I’ll randomly collect entrants, choose winners, and mail packages! I might even throw in some glitter… if you’re into that kind of thing.

Goodies will be progressive, so check back often to see when winners are chosen and new goodies are added!

  1. $10 Starbucks Gift Card – ecard emailed or gift card mailed
  2. $10 Barnes and Noble Gift Card – ecard emailed or gift card mailed
  3. Box of new print books, including one or more of mine
  4. Happy Hour with me! – at a time and location mutually agreed upon by you and me

As always, thanks for finding me. Thanks for being here.

xox ~Risa

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Saying Yes to Vicki Tracy

gxhj4170I read the email from Vicki Tracy four times before I understood the significance of it.

She was asking me if I wanted to be a judge for her latest benefit, Naples’ Dancing with the Stars, where a cast of local celebrities would put on their dancing shoes to raise money for the Naples Performing Arts Center (NPAC) in a competition-style event where the star to raise the most philanthropic funds and the star to receive the highest marks from the judges would leave the dance floor with bragging rights and a star trophy.

ceww5946“Do you want to be a judge?”

Did I want to:

Help raise funds for the local not-for-profit?
Support the performing arts?
Encourage children to get out there and learn how to express themselves on the dance floor or the theater stage?

Funds raised support scholarships. Scholarships allow all children to be welcomed into this performing arts center and exposed to these opportunities to grow creatively. Growing creatively teaches children how to think, how to communicate, and how to explore competition in a positive environment. Yes, there may be only one winner, but everyone who participates is a star.

Of course I said YES!ffec3218

Not that I can remember ever saying no to Vicki…

…and because I said yes, I was honored to blog about the stars, to glimpse sneak peeks of their rehearsals and their costumes, and to be one of six judges for the Naples’ Dancing with the Stars benefit held at the Naples Woman’s Center on Saturday, November 12, 2016.

img_4733Months in advance the ten stars rehearsed with Lori Oliver and their professional dance instructors, Johnny and Lisa PerMar. They had spotlights created about them in order to sway pre-event voters to contribute to their campaign. After all, one star would win the philanthropic trophy for earning raising the most votes money.

…and then the night of the event finally arrived…

It was fabulous! As always, my hubby blew me away in his suit and his smile!

img_4731Ten stars stepped out onto the dance floor: Ike Alma-Francis, Amanda Beights, Guy Blanchette, Kathy Curatolo, Dr. Debi Lux, Sean Lux, Andres Paz, Scott Sherman, Ann Marie Shimer, and Vicki Tracy.

The judges were: Melissa Blazier, Joanne Blanchette, Marisa Cleveland (me!), Marcia Entner, Robin Lankton, and Rick LoCastro.

I watched the choreography, evaluated the technique in my head, enjoyed the musicality… but most of all, I saw the whole story. Ten community leaders hoping to shed light on the need for supporting the performing arts.

Two of the ten stars went home with star trophies: Scott Sherman and Vicki Tracy. Both tied for Judges Choice, with straight tens from all the judges.

Scott Sherman had some very serious footwork in his choreography, and he danced it just beautifully. More than that, his dance told a poignant story with a surprise guest appearance with his daughter Shea, and the two of them just caught my heart.

From Vicki Tracy’s long-flowing gown to that gravity-defying dip, she had me mesmerized. Her energy and joy on the dance floor had me swaying with the music, and for a few short minutes, I lived vicariously through her, as she spun around on strappy heels.img_7524

Super thanks to Lori Oliver for envisioning this not-for-profit performing arts center and sharing her talents with the community. To quote Vicki, “Lori’s a terrible businesswoman, because she gives away more than she has.”

That’s what makes events like Naples’ Dancing with the Stars so significant. Because it allows Lori to expand on her vision through community-involved families looking to make a difference in the lives of our area’s children. I had the opportunity to meet so many amazingly positive and generous people!

Check out some fun pics from the evening!

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Events like this is why, if Vicki Tracy ever asks you to do something, my advice is to just say yes…

xox ~Risa

 

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Best. Gift. Ever.

Last year my hubby declared that instead of gifts for my birthday, he was giving me twelve months of memories. Each month for the past year we disappeared for a getaway, and I loved every second of time spent with him.

July 2015 – Islamorada and Key West, Guy Harvey Islander
August 2015 – Crystal River, Plantation
September 2015 – Key West, Duval House
October 2015 – Everglades National Park
November 2015 – Nashville, Gaylord Opryland
December 2015 – Key West, La Concha
January 2016 – Fort Lauderdale, Nassau, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Royal Caribbean Allure
February 2016 – South Beach
March 2016 – St. Augustine, Renaissance World Golf Village Resort
April 2016 – Tortuga Music Festival, Fort Lauderdale, Marriott Harbour Beach Resort
May 2016 – Key West Songwriters Festival, Key West, La Concha
June 2016 – Key West, Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa

This year, when he asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said more time with him, so we planned a week-long road trip.

Friday, July 16th – Marco Island, Florida
Quinn’s on the Beach

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Saturday, July 17th – Tampa, Florida
The Westin Tampa Harbour Island
Dierks Bentley #SomewhereonaBeach concert

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Sunday, July 18th – New Orleans, Louisiana
Hyatt French Quarter New Orleans

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Wednesday, July 20th – Nashville, Tennessee
Renaissance Nashville Hotel

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Sunday, July 24th – Home

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Best. Gift. Ever.

As always, thanks for stopping by. Thanks for finding me.

Note: I travel light (license, lip balm, and a couple of dollars). Since I rarely carry my phone on our adventures, most of the photos are thanks to my hubby!

If you’re interested in any of the following hashtags, you can follow my hubby on Instagram (@simoncphd) and view more pics from our adventures: #architecture #archilovers #buildings #cloudporn #nature

Where are your favorite places to visit in America? Got any road trip recommendations for us?

xox ~ Risa

 

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We Wrote a Book

My mom and I wrote a book! It’s a middle grade fantasy novel, and it’s for all readers ages 10 and up.

I’m so super excited about this project, because it’s something we did together. This book was something we worked on during the weeks when my mom would visit me in Florida (she lives in New Hampshire), and the real reason for why we wrote a book together will die with me, BUT here’s a fun reason for when people ask me why I decided to write a book with my mom… I wanted her to share the publishing experience with me.

She’s always been so supportive of my literary dreams. She buys and reads all my books – even the adult contemporary romance novels with sexy times!

But I wanted to write something for her – a middle grade book with Christian themes – and it turned out I needed help. Her help.

She’s spent over twenty years in Catholic elementary schools, and she willingly agreed to co-write a novel with me, maybe without realizing the dedication and effort it would take to actually produce a polished novel.

We made this book our project from start to finish. We laughed, we argued, and we edited and revised and revised some more. We researched words and images and rules and mythology. Then, we hit publish.

“My mom loved me when no one else wanted me. She was my first female role mode, and she showed me how to be kind, how to be strong, and how to be fair. But the best trick she taught me was how to type. Thank you, Mom, for taking the time.” – Marisa’s 2015 FACE Awards Speech

INHERITANCE* is available on Amazon!!!

Click here to buy the Kindle version!

Click here to buy the Print version!

*If you are a reviewer, and you are interested in receiving a gifted copy of Inheritance in exchange for an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads, please email me at marisa@marisacleveland.com.

~~ SOCIAL SHARING ~~

Check out the book @marisacleveland and her mom co-wrote! http://wp.me/p1tKBT-sf #Inheritance #middlegrade

As always,  thanks for stopping by!

xox ~Marisa

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Dear 2015

Dear 2015,

Thank you for the lessons learned, even the ones I didn’t know I needed. For 2015 I said I wouldn’t spend money on designer items, and I didn’t. Instead, I used that money to make memories with my husband – to take random road trips at midnight to the middle of anywhere. In 2015, my hubby’s health and happiness inspired me to be healthy and happy.

This 2016 year I plan to slow down, take my time, delete multitasking from my daily routine, and give in to my food cravings once a week.

I’m abandoning my 2014 40-hanger project, and I’m going to figure out how to leave reviews that Amazon won’t delete on books I absolutely love.

Hear that, Amazon? Please stop deleting my book reviews! I write a book a year, but last year I read over fifty books, which makes me more of a reader than a writer and also makes me quite qualified to leave a review, in my opinion.

…and speaking of reviews… Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my books and leave reviews!!! You are amazing!

Cheers and hugs and cupcakes to everyone who took part in my 2015!

This 2016 year I will show up and not give up. I will be grateful for the opportunity to live the life I have crafted for myself, and I will learn to live in the moment, even if sometimes that moment means sprinting toward my dreams like I’m flammable and time is the match.

Yeah. That sounds right.

So… Dear 2015, thanks for having me!

Dear 2016, let’s do this!

xox ~Risa

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Erase the Line

do not cross the line sc“We didn’t cross the line. We erased it.” ~ Simon Cleveland, Ph.D.

All the best moments in my life happen because of my husband. He’s my anchor in my storm. When we were in college, people said we were crossing the line, because he’s white and I’m Asian, and he said, “Don’t worry about crossing the line. Let’s just erase it.”

That phrase – ERASE THE LINE – has come to mean so much to me in so many different ways. I hate compartments and boxes and limits and being told what I don’t get to have.

So I keep reaching for new ways to follow my heart, to experience life, to engage in a high octane, full throttle, 8-cylinder lifestyle. It’s exhausting, but for me, for this time I have on earth with him, it’s worth it.

IMG_1709I fail at life every day in so many brilliant ways, but at least I’m still here. Still being played most of the time, but at least I didn’t succeed at giving up.

“Play or be played, but stay in the game.” ~Marisa Cleveland

So, to answer the texts, emails, and messages asking me about it, that’s the story — that’s the reason, muse, and rationale behind my ERASE THE LINE wristbands.

What does ERASE THE LINE mean to you?

…and…

I’m so super excited to debut the wristbands with my newest book, BLURRING THE LINES, a Men of the Zodiac series novel.

Zodiac Sign of Blake Whitman: Aquarius

He broke all his rules… for her.

A quick peek inside:

BlurringTheLines_1600He hadn’t lost his breath over a woman in a decade. Perhaps longer. And yet, here he was, staring at the animal-rescue-volunteer-dog-walker who’d reprimanded him for needing a triple shot of espresso. His whole brain lit with quips and comebacks and ways to lure her into his… life.

The last thing he’d expected was facing Kira in his office with her monologue about saving a building. But in the face of his brother’s morning lecture, an idea formed.

“So how committed are you?”

“Very,” she said, her brows drawing together. She was pretty, even when she frowned. This idea forming in his head had disaster written all over it, but he couldn’t help himself.

 

~ ~ ADVANCED REVIEWS ~ ~

“I read it in one sitting, because I couldn’t put it down.” — Maya @ Goodreads

“This was my first time reading a book by this author, and I can say with complete certainty it won’t be my last!” — Misty @ Goodreads

“Seriously hot! A definite must read.” — Julianna @ NetGalley

“Marisa Cleveland manages to write a beautiful love story complete with depth and complexity.” — Janhvi @ The Readdicts

 

~ ~ SOCIAL SHARING ~ ~

Happy release day for @marisacleveland‘s Blurring the Lines! https://marisacleveland.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/erase-the-line/

Awesome review! “Seriously hot! A definite must read.” @marisacleveland‘s Blurring the Lines! https://marisacleveland.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/erase-the-line/

 

As always, thanks for stopping by! Thanks for finding me!

xox ~Marisa

 

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The Art of Being Human

Just because I left, doesn’t mean I was ready to go…

My Halloween costume this year reminded me why I first decided to leave the field of education. Because way back when, a parent told me I was a bad role model, and I believed her.

I had no barometer to gauge whether or not my actions were appropriate for her child, and as someone eagerly trying to break into the publishing industry by writing romance novels, I wasn’t setting the right example to the teens I taught by writing about *gasp* sex. Also, someone commented on the amount of empty alcohol bottles in my recycle bin. Okay. Point taken. Premarital sex and lots of liquor.

I removed myself from the classroom.

Even after two decades as a coach – gymnastics, cheerleading, and dance – and a decade in education – higher education, high school, and middle school.

IMG_1690But this year, after having left the public school system five years ago, when I posted a pic of my
Halloween costume on Facebook, I had no intentions of creating a bad role model example yet again. Still, someone messaged me that I was sending the wrong message with my outfit. Well, I’m older now, and more secure in my own decisions, and I found nothing wrong with my outfit. For those who missed it, I was dressed in my former Palmetto Ridge High School cheerleading warm-ups with a tag that read, “You’re the player? I’m the coach.” Just trying to add some humor to a comfy outfit.

One of the most difficult decisions I’ve made since moving to Florida was leaving the classroom, because that meant also leaving the football field, the basketball court, the band room, and the media center. It meant leaving behind amazing, funny, witty teenagers who reminded me every day what it meant to be human and who kept me in tune with the trends and technology of today’s society.

My job as a teacher was to teach children. To facilitate the best possible experience for them for that time in their lives. They will never pass through that time again, and to assist them to learn, to experience, and to grow during those years was my primary focus.

If they leave knowing they matter, they can make a difference, their thoughts and opinions are relevant, then they will continue to think, and teaching someone how to think is the greatest tool and talent I felt I could impart when I was a teacher.

IMG_1627So yes, I taught language arts, but I taught so much more than one subject.

I taught human beings the art of being human.

It’s been half a decade since I stopped teaching and coaching at Palmetto Ridge High School, and though so many changes have occurred in that time, my reasons for leaving are the same.

I’m still a bad role model.

In today’s hook-up society, I write about contemporary relationships where friends find their forever. I write about that moment when two people realize they are friends, and then they know it’s something more than anything else they’ve ever experienced with another partner. It’s more than attraction or lust. It’s that moment when they need someone most – that shoulder to lean on or cry on or bounce an idea off of – and that other person is there for them in the most complete way possible. Yeah. That moment.

And I still drink.

But I guess that’s just me practicing the art of being human.

How about you? What makes you a good or bad role model?

As always, thanks for stopping by, and if you’re curious as to what I was watching at the gym when someone asked me if it was really appropriate to be watching in public “those girls dancing,” well, please click here for my YouTube channel to view the videos of the PRHS Dance Team.

xox ~ Marisa

 

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Get Wicked

EntADS-halloweenbloghop-2015476x286Hi All!

Welcome to the Get Wicked with Entangled blog hop!

We love goodies and giveaways, and in celebration of the release of BLURRING THE LINES next month, I’m giving away a prize pack.

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!

Don’t miss the other blogs and see everyone’s trick or treating prize. Click HERE to visit the other blogs.

BlurringTheLines_1600Take the BLURRING THE LINES book cover. Share the love on social media! Tag me! One lucky “tagger” will receive a wickedly sexy box of books with other goodies mailed anywhere in the United States.

Social Media tags:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/marisacleveland
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marisacleveland00
Instagram: https://instagram.com/thereisnobox
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+MarisaCleveland
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/marisacleveland

Here’s my little bit of “wicked” for this Get Wicked with Entangled blog hop:

YouTube link for “For Good” from the musical Wicked

“Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I have been changed for good…”

xox ~Marisa

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Blurring the Lines

“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” ~Red Smith variation

After one blood transfusion, I’m so super excited to present Blurring the Lines: a Men of the Zodiac series novel releasing on November 16th!

Here’s the cover!

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Feeling supportive? Pre-order now!

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   iTunes   |   Kobo

…and to celebrate, there’s a giveaway happening between now and release day!

Visit the Hot WIPs & Sassy Chicks Goodie’s page for a chance to win a Blurring the Lines prize pack!

So… I hope you’re as excited as I am!

Here are the books in The Men of the Zodiac series:

Aries: Impulse Control
Taurus: The Millionaire’s Deception
Gemini: The Millionaire’s Forever
Cancer: Ten Days in Tuscany
Leo: The Millionaire Daddy Project
Virgo: Revenge Best Served Hot
Libra: The Prince’s Runaway Lover
Scorpio: The Colonel’s Daughter
Sagittarius: One Night with the Billionaire
Capricorn: The Greek Tycoon’s Tarnished Bride
Aquarius: Blurring the Lines
Pisces: Her Sworn Enemy
As always, thanks for stopping by!

xox ~Marisa

 

 

 

 

 

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Diversity

“What does diversity mean to you?”

This question has bothered me since the beginning of the year when Hernan Fratto asked me this during an interview. I didn’t have an answer then, and I’m not sure I have a complete one now, but my hubby recently snapped a pic of me and said, “It doesn’t get any more inclusive than that.”

…and that’s when I realized that diversity should mean the inclusion of everyone without fear from ridicule… and I’ve known this answer all along. It was posted in my classroom when I taught high school students, and it’s been my pain point whenever I go somewhere unfamiliar.

Here’s the pic of a middle-aged Asian woman wearing a Girl Crush hat supporting country music group Little Big Town while drinking an American beer with her Eastern European Ph.D. husband in a Mexican restaurant located on an island in Florida.

Marisa Cleveland diversity

My hubby’s right. It doesn’t get any more inclusive than that.

As always, thanks for finding me. Thanks for stopping by.

I’d love to hear what diversity means to you!

xox ~Risa

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Time and other thoughts before I turn forty

2010

Half a decade ago, when I was halfway to seventy, I “retired” from teaching to pursue a dream… I took one year to start this blog and to write full-time.

2011

But after the year, when I didn’t have a single novel sold, after writing four, instead of returning to teaching, I took what I thought would be a mundane day job to save my creativity so I could continue to write at night. As a side gig, I accepted the position of media specialist/promotions manager at The Seymour Agency, made amazing contacts, and saw the raw behind-the-scenes activities of publishing – so much more than writing a damn good novel.

2012

I wrote, but my mind was a chaotic whirlwind of ideas with no real direction. My teen novels could be classified as realistic fiction and paranormal romance. My adult novels fit in the contemporary romance and general fiction genres. I was all over the place, forming my voice, spending time with characters from middle school to middle aged. Then, my agent announced she’d sold me in a three-book deal to Entangled Publishing. I thought I finally understood what it took to survive in the publishing industry. I wanted to mentor others along, the way I’d been mentored. I wanted to help other authors find their dreams. I researched other agents who were also authors, created a solid business plan for literary success, and agreed to become the agency’s third agent.

2013

“No agent is better than a bad agent.” We’ve all heard the line, read the warnings, and still hoped to find the perfect agent-client fit. But I knew, after too many tears and too much alcohol, that I wasn’t a good agent. My clients were trusting me with their careers, and after editor after editor after editor after editor told me that their manuscripts were lacking in one way or another, after my self-esteem took a beating, after every morning when I would look in the mirror and feel like a failure, I knew I didn’t have what it took to be a good agent. I let the opinions of others shape how I viewed myself. I knew those manuscripts I submitted to editors were brilliant. In the deepest part of my being, I fell in love with every word on the page of my clients’ novels. But after too many times of editors rejecting what I’d so eagerly submitted on my clients’ behalf, I froze. The breakdown was swift, and on most days I still feel like a failure for letting them down, but in that same year, I received so much support from the writing community, from other agents who had left the field, and most importantly from the authors in my circle, that I somehow made it from “I’m a terrible person and let everyone down” to “I’m going to be okay one day, and they are better off without me.”

2014

After that year, and posting that Year End blog post, I received a lot of messages from people saying that I shouldn’t take everything so personally, that it will eat me up inside if I do. But here’s what I don’t understand when people say it’s not personal… For someone like me, everything is personal. Because if it’s not, then why do I care? Why mention it? Why waste my time? I will find a way to make more money. But I can’t make more time. So please don’t say it’s not personal to me. Because if it’s not personal, it’s not worth my time.

2015

I’m in my thirties. It’s fundamentally misleading but technically correct. Five years ago I quit my fun, amazing, energizing teaching job to pursue a lonely, self-esteem abusing dream, and too much has happened between then and now.

It stuns me that it’s taken me almost four decades to develop opinions and learn to trust my own thoughts. On most days, I’m still not sure I do. But I am finding out what I’m good at doing well, and for now that’s handling this moment. It may have taken me four decades to figure out what it meant to live in the moment, but I’m still here. I’m still living.

Five years ago I quit my job in the hopes of becoming a published author. This weekend I’m taking time to make new goals for the next five years.

Where were you five years ago? Did you have a five-year plan? What goals do you have for the next half a decade?

As always, thanks for stopping by!

xox,
~Marisa

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This. Happened.

NYT USA 19 61 DBOSThe act of writing is such a solitary journey, but publishing an anthology with 16 other authors was a remarkable adventure.

On June 2, 2015, my debut young adult novel, Accidental Butterfly, released as part of a boxed set called Dirty Boys of Summer. This anthology included 16 full-length sweet and sexy young adult and new adult novels.

On June 10, 2015, sometime in the late afternoon and early evening, my phone and email blew up with the exciting – and heart-stopping – news that our anthology had hit both the New York Times and the USA Today best sellers lists!

I couldn’t breathe. I might have cried. I kept typing THANK YOU!!! to everyone. So many people encouraged me along the way, and as Ernest Hemingway said, “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.” He was right.

So was Robert De Niro during the 2014 Oscars when he said, “The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing: isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”

I am that writer. The crazy one who can live inside her head for days at a time and not come out for a decent conversation with anyone no matter if her world is set on fire…

… and to my hubby I repeatedly promise not to forget how he’s captivated me and wrapped chains around my chaos, held me tight through my storm, and secured my madness with an anchor so strong I felt safe, even as I spiraled out of control…

… and so… in the middle of celebrating with sushi and champagne and wondering how I’d ended up connecting with such amazing authors and supportive readers, my hubby lifted his flute and said, “Congratulations, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marisa Cleveland,” and I realized that this actually happened.

 

 

 

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Country Asian

IMG_9753“I didn’t know Asians liked country music.”

Some of you reading this know my story. Others do not. I’m pretty mellow, low key, and unassuming. I’m grateful to wake up every morning, have a passion for products Made in the U.S.A., and appreciate being able to support our local economy.

LoveandTheft 2014 KWSWFBlake Shelton inspired me to write my first novel that my literary agent sold to a publishing house in a three-book deal that’s now a four-book and one novella opportunity for me, and one of my favorite radio stations is Gator Country 101.9 FM.

So it came as a sucker-punch in the gut when someone asked me how I could like country music as an Asian, and I didn’t have an answer.

IMG_4887Seems like I never have the exact answer in the right moment when I need it. I stew silently and compose possible responses in my head, but the words rarely leave my mouth.

So here it is. My rambling response that I didn’t say.

“I didn’t know Asians liked country music.”

IMG_0086How could I not like country music? Every mood I’m ever in is inside a country song. I’m feeling nostalgic… I listen to Miranda Lambert’s Automatic. I want to dance barefoot on the back of a boat? Luke Bryan’s She Get Me High. Then there’s the Night That You’ll Never Forget I first heard Love and Theft sing at the 2014 Key West Songwriters Festival,  and all the songs Chris Young performed at the 2015 Key West Songwriters Festival.

IMG_0015 …and every Blake Shelton song reminds me of the fabulous time I had with my hubby in Orlando at his Ten Times Crazier tour.

But the Florida Georgia Line concert finally caught up with me.

“I didn’t know Asians liked country music.”

Well, I don’t know about all Asians in general, but this one does.

 

xox ~Marisa

Marisa Cleveland Country Asian 2015

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My Debut Young Adult Novel

Alphas, Billionaires, Bikers, Bad Boys, Stepbrothers, and JocksDirtyBoys_BoxSet

I’m so super excited to announce that Accidental Butterfly, my debut young adult novel, is part of this summer’s hottest
new adult/young adult boxed set, including a total of 16 full-length novels!
The official release date is June 2nd, and it’s only available until July 5th, 2015.

 

PRE-ORDER NOW

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

DON’T MISS THE RELEASE DAY PARTY!

Facebook Party: June 2nd, 3 – 11 p.m. EDT

Click HERE to RSVP for the Facebook Party on June 2nd. It’s going to be epic.
These authors are gifting books, Starbucks gift cards, and more during the party, so it’s an event you don’t want to miss!

There’s even an entry on the giveaway just for you if you RSVP for the party!

THE GIVEAWAY

These authors are doing an amazing Rafflecopter giveaway! The more entries they get, the more prizes the authors add to the winner!

To enter the giveaway, click here.

AUTHORS/BOOKS

Teaching Roman by Gennifer Albin

The Academy by Evangeline Anderson

Love, Lex by Avery Aster

Lost to Me by Jamie Blair

Taken by Storm by Opal Carew

Accidental Butterfly by Marisa Cleveland

The Halo Chronicles: The Guardian by Carey Corp

Letters to Nowhere by Julie Cross

Unspoken by Jen Frederick

Bet on Us by Rachel Higginson

The Sowing by Tamara Mataya

Crushed by Dawn Rae Miller

Before Someday-Part One: The Wait by Julie Prestsater

Kiss the Sky by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Frostbite by Lynn Rush

Liar: The Scarab Beetle Series #2 by C.L. Stone

Want to help spread the word? Here are some sample teaser tweets for Twitter or posts for Facebook:

Dead at sixteen. She was just another statistic. Until she became a guiding angel. http://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Boys-Summer-Alphas-Billionaires-ebook/dp/B00W8Q8S4O/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Return to Earth. Save Jake Barton. Prove her worth. http://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Boys-Summer-Alphas-Billionaires-ebook/dp/B00W8Q8S4O/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

For everyone who ever needed a second chance… http://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Boys-Summer-Alphas-Billionaires-ebook/dp/B00W8Q8S4O/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

… it wasn’t like I meant to kill myself. http://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Boys-Summer-Alphas-Billionaires-ebook/dp/B00W8Q8S4O/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

But there’s this guy who needs your help… http://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Boys-Summer-Alphas-Billionaires-ebook/dp/B00W8Q8S4O/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Suddenly the whole I-died-and-didn’t-go-to-heaven thing felt way too real. http://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Boys-Summer-Alphas-Billionaires-ebook/dp/B00W8Q8S4O/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Thanks so much!!!

xox ~Marisa

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Promoted! So… Contest!

Friends!lane copy

If we’re friends on Facebook, then you probably already know I’ve been abandoned – yet again! But it’s all good. In fact, it’s all GREAT!

Literary assistant Lane Heymont has been promoted to junior agent with The Seymour Agency! You can read his new profile here: http://www.theseymouragency.com/About-Us.html.

In celebration of his promotion – and my abandonment – I’m offering another contest for writers, and this time entrants get to help me and get Lane’s professional opinion on their first page.

The rules are simple.
– Polish your first page
– Enter the Rafflecopter contest

It’s that easy! But it’s also completely random.

Here are the details:
– At the end of the contest, Rafflecopter will randomly generate five winners
– Marisa will email the five winners with congratulations and specific instructions on how to submit their first page to Lane
– Lane will provide a detailed critique on that first page, including what caught his interest, if he’d like to read more, or why he would pass on offering representation

Why am I offering the contest like this? Because this business is subjective, and it’s a chance for anyone to see why he would or wouldn’t request more pages. Also, he’s open to queries, so if your completed manuscript is fabulous, you could always query him directly.

I’m really excited to be offering this contest on my blog, because of this and THIS!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

xox
~Risa

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Yes, let’s do this

“Yes, let’s do this.”IMG_5524

That’s how it started. Three people reuniting for dinner after a summer spent apart, and in the midst of sharing experiences, an idea germinated into action.

Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala Joins
New Global Heart Imprint Venture

Naples, Florida (December 2014) – The Seymour Agency, in collaboration with Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala and Simeris Alliance, has announced the publication of a series of books under a Global Heart imprint. These books are the first in a sincere movement to provide residual income to non-governmental organizations, B-corps, and L3C entities designed to combat hunger and homelessness.

The first book, The People’s Commissioner: one woman’s quest toward change, will be a collection of vignettes documenting Commissioner Fiala’s effect on East Naples and is expected to be published in September 2015. This first book will be dedicated to Youth Haven, Southwest Florida’s residential emergency shelter for boys and girls ages 6-17 who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

“Have you ever been excited yet humbled at the same time? That’s what I feel now,” said Commissioner Fiala, during discussions regarding the book’s content.

Youth Haven’s Executive Director Jinx Liggett expressed her excitement for the project and offered a tour of the facility in early 2015.

The second book, Nowhere to Fall, will be another collection of vignettes with a different angle. This second book will be a collaboration among the leaders of the community and other authors and will be dedicated to another local organization.

The Seymour Agency’s senior literary agent, Nicole Resciniti, spearheaded the Southwest Florida office. “We’re proud to work with local community leaders, to help share their stories and create opportunities to inspire and educate.”

The Seymour Agency is a leading literary agency based in New York representing over one hundred authors, many of whom are New York Times bestsellers and USA Today bestsellers.

Simeris Alliance is a boutique consulting company designed to coach today’s independent authors.

# # #

I know as one person not much can be done to stop the wrongs of the world, but in the words of Jack Canfield, “Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”

So what do you say? Would you like to try to change the world with us? One book at a time…

*Proceeds from the sales of the books will benefit the dedicated organization.

 

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Sometimes

marisa cleveland pinkSometimes I miss the person I thought I wanted to become before I became the person I am.

I gave up panty hose and designer suits, credit card debit, and ten hour days with two to three hour commutes. I gave up dry cleaning and manicures. I had an office with a window overlooking a park in the city, and less than two blocks from the building where I worked, there was a café that served the best espresso and the most delicious spinach and feta croissants I’ve ever tasted.

45650036I thought I wanted to be that person. The girl with the master’s degree and the two hundred dollar trips to the salon. The girl with the Beamer-driving, consultant, power suit-wearing husband with weekend Versace jeans, Rodeo Drive shopping excursions, and that almost 4,000 square-feet of materialist house that never quite felt like a home but was perfect for entertaining.

IMG_6821Priorities so convoluted, like that previous sentence…

But then one day we woke up and decided to change our lives.

Okay, I admit I was reluctant at first. My hubby caught on quicker than I did that life was not a race to the finish line, and he, in his infinite wisdom, saw the things that brought me joy were not of the material sort.

My best days involved writing, reading, rock climbing, and boating…

IMG_6822… days in the gym, Fox Trotting me around the kitchen, and sweating outside in the summer.

Did I mention he’s super observant and absolutely brilliant? I don’t know how I managed to find a man so consumed with keeping me happy, but I did, and I know I’m super lucky!

So he moved me to the place where he knew I could find joy every day.

And it was a cultural shock.

IMG_6824I struggled every day for a seemingly endless amount of days – I’m still struggling – to become a better person. A person who is calm and caring, relaxed and healthy. A person who doesn’t need material items to find self-worth. A person who wakes up each morning glad to be alive. A person who appreciates every moment.

But sometimes something happens, and I’m reminded of what I was, and I miss that person who had different goals and other kinds of opportunities.

So sometimes I drag out the old suit and panty hose…

… but after a day or so, I slip back into my sundress and snuggle with my man, watching the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico, and I love the life I’m living.

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