I was invite to be a guest on the Faith & Tech podcast to talk about my experience publishing with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace. Here are the links:
I was invite to be a guest on the Faith & Tech podcast to talk about my experience publishing with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace. Here are the links:
March has brought some creative opportunities.
Last year I was contacted about the local writers guild providing a series of writing workshops. After a looonnnngggg planning and preparation period, we presented the first workshop this week. Everything went really well. It is so satisfying watching a group delve into prompts, transforming experiences into written passages. I am looking forward to the next class!
Also next week, the local library is hosting an authors fair. I am excited to be one of the 13 authors participating! This event has pushed me to create that long overdue bookmark to promote myself. Promotion is the hardest part of being a writer. The authors fair is a great combination of promotion and inspiration.
Here’s hoping for a year full of creative opportunities!
The great South Carolina snow of March 2017!
I was happy to welcome 2017 but the truth is that the things that complicated 2016 didn’t just disappear at the strike of midnight on 12/31/16.
Family stress, work stress and various obligations have continued throughout January. Sometimes, it is easier to just withdraw, shrink into yourself and stay isolated.
My local writers group hosted a writing workshop today and yours truly was the planning coordinator. I have to admit, I really wanted to bury my head in my covers and just sleep-in this morning. But the coordinator has to show up. So I did.
There is something about being in a group of artists, whether literary or visual. There is an energy that grows and spreads. As we delved into words, writing exercises and sharing experiences, I found my mood lifting. I tackled the writing exercises with gusto and enjoyed hearing everyone’s work. I even started a new poem this evening, something I haven’t done in weeks.
Creativity breeds creativity. Whether an art/writers guild or an inspirational friend, it is important to make connections that motivate your inner muse.
I’ve been in a funk for the past few months.
It seems like at the end of December/beginning of January, I always get excited about the possibilities of the new year. It’s the new calendar syndrome — a blank slate just waiting to be written.
Except, this year I just can’t seem to pull it all together. Instead of tapping into vast creative opportunities, I have found myself lost in Netflix and Bejeweled Blitz marathon sessions.
I tried to trick myself into becoming productive. I decided to really focus on my art again. I had squirreled away canvases and paints just waiting for the day I could start experimenting. I bought a tabletop easel.
And there the canvas sat, on my kitchen table, mocking me. I stared it repeatedly but could not muster the courage to pick up the paintbrush to start.
I decided to go for something less intimidating — sketching. So with a very inexpensive sketch pad and a No. 2 pencil, I began to draw.
I am a little out of practice, but the whole point was to just do it and hopefully get better along the way.
So I started.
My wolf cub did not turn out very well. But I was drawing. So I kept going.
The picture of my son turned out a little better.
At first I was not happy with my wolf sketch, but the longer I looked at it the more I liked it.
My lady is not perfect but better.
Tonight, after sitting ignored for a month, I picked up the paint brush and added paint to the canvas. It will need a lot of work so I am no where close to showing it. My first images where totally wrong so I had to paint over them and start over. But that was ok. In fact, I realized that this first canvas is learning process. Whatever I do is ok because and I am doing something new and creative. Hopefully, it will be what I need to break out of my funk.
From time to time, we all get the blues. Maybe it is because we are overwhelmed at work or at home. Maybe it is because life just got hard and we don’t know what to do. Or feel helpless to do anything. Maybe it is when we compare ourselves to others and find ourselves lacking. We feel down and move to avoid feeling or thinking. So we do something mindless like zoning out in front of the TV or computer. And then we beat ourselves up for wasted time and opportunities.
Every journey starts with one step. Sometimes our path is blocked and we have to back track before we can move forward again. The important part is making that step. Then keep stepping.
“It’s Not as Easy as You Think”
Twenty years ago, snippets of a story started swirling in my head. I jotted them down and kept asking myself what happens next. On and off, I worked on my little story until I knew the characters intimately. I thought about these characters all the time. About five years after I had started, I had a complete story. My first novel was done. I set it aside to rest. I needed a break from my story.
A few months later I read my novel. My excitement melted away as I realized that it was horrible. There were holes in the plot, cliche scenes and bad transitions. It didn’t work. But I loved my characters. I knew they had a story worthy of telling and was not willing to give up on them. A couple of months later, I decided to started all over. I tore my novel apart and re-wrote everything. This too took a number of years to complete. But finally, I finished.
I began the query process, convinced that it would only be a short time before I landed an agent and soon after that my book would be in bookstores all over the country. Except, it didn’t happen. I started getting rejection letters. In fact, all the queries I sent were rejected. There is an old adage that if you continue to have the same issue with people over and over, maybe you are the problem. Once again, I re-read my novel with a critic’s eye … and I found it lacking. Back to the drawing board.
I took some time and re-wrote my entire novel. I studied writing magazines and updated my query letter. Then I started the query process again. This time I actually got some interest. Several agents asked for partials (the opening chapters of the book) to read. Alas, those too ended up being rejected. But I felt really good about my novel. Several people who liked the paranormal genre test read my novel and the feedback was very positive.
I decided that if I truly believed in my book, I needed to self publish. So I released Blood Adversaries as an e-book through Amazon Kindle. E-books are great. They are easy to obtain and convenient. Storage is not a problem. But book signings are a little difficult with e-books. When I went to my writer’s guild meetings, I couldn’t help being a little envious of my fellow authors who had print versions of their books they could actually hold in their hands. At a book festival I attended, I learned about Create Space. It wasn’t long before I had a print version of Blood Adversaries available.
My takeaways from this process?
As I’m working to get my second novel, Family Vows, into print, I thought I would share an excerpt from my debut novel, Blood Adversaries. Enjoy!
Friday, September 1
Jonathan thudded through the trees, struggling to keep his balance in the dark. As he hurried along, Jonathan kept the ancient book tucked tightly under his arm. His heartbeat roared in his ears drowning out any other sounds. His side ached.
Jonathan pushed past the pain even though all he really wanted was to stop and drop to the ground. If that wasn’t enough, his chest burned as his heart and lungs strained to keep up with the pace he set. He longed to turn around and head home. To shut himself away in the safety of his own apartment. To lose himself in research for his dissertation. Or maybe have a sci-fi movie marathon from his massive collection of DVDs.
As his mind wandered, Jonathan stumbled over his own feet. He fell hard on his stomach and the old book flew from his grip.
“No, no, no,” he mumbled. He frantically patted the ground around him. He’d come too far to lose the book because of something stupid like tripping. Everything he had wanted was on the line – completing his Ph.D., becoming a professor, publishing his work, earning the respect of the academic world. His fingertips brushed against the cracked leather cover. Relief washed over him. He lifted the book and hugged it tightly against his chest.
Damn the book! It simultaneously inspired and cursed him. It didn’t look different from any of the countless old volumes he had studied over the past seven years. It smelled musty and old. A rough cover housed pages brown with age and silky from use but without the frailties usually associated with an ancient book. The pages were strong and pliable and the ink remained dark. Jonathan loved old manuscripts but from the first moment he touched this one, he knew it was different. Instantly he felt a sense of devotion, of protectiveness toward it. Long ago someone had given it the title Munimentum Codex, Latin for Fortification Book. Somehow Jonathan knew it was more than that. It was his destiny.
He crawled to the closest tree and sat. His eyes stung from the sweat dripping down his forehead. He swiped at his face. No time to stop now. He focused on his next movements.
There were only a few more yards of wooded land. Then Jonathan would have to cross an open field. No cover. No place to hide. Just a clearing where he would be vulnerable. He listened for any sounds of pursuit like leaves crackling under a foot or branches scraping over a body. He only heard his own labored breathing.
He laughed silently. Of course there was nothing. He had slipped away from Dameon unobserved. No one had a reason to be after him. Only his imagination, his own fear, chased him.
Coward, he chided himself. He fought to catch his breath. His gut spilled over the top of his jeans onto his thighs where it seemed to shake on its own. Revulsion washed over Jonathan. He regretted the years of self abuse, of comforting himself with junk food when he was lonely and when he hurt. Locking himself away to his studies. Letting his body go to pot as he expanded his mind. Never realizing that one day he would actually need a strong, healthy body. And now it was too late.
If his luck held out, it wouldn’t matter. He’d simply cross the field, zigzag through the town and return to the university. He’d meet his contact and turn over this book that had caused so much trouble. Once it was gone he would get back to his own life. Finish his dissertation. Earn his Ph.D. Leave the country if needed. Above all, he vowed that he would lead a very boring life.
The idea of giving the book to someone else filled him with grief. For a moment he considered simply hiding the book among his other tomes. Even as the idea crossed his mind, he knew it wouldn’t work. The book needed to be in a safe place, away from those who hunted it. More importantly if Jonathan was truly honest with himself, he had to admit his own reaction to the book scared him. He needed to be away from its influence.
Jonathan shook his head, dispersing the thoughts that clouded his reason. He had wasted enough time on himself. He knew he couldn’t stay here forever. Even if no one realized he was gone from the house, it was better to put distance between him and them. Lots of distance. He gently stroked the book in his hands. Perhaps it would be better not to have it in plain sight.
He unbuttoned his coat and ran his hand across the bottom until he found the zipper for the quilted lining. Jonathan’s fingers trembled as he fumbled with it.
Relax. This is the easy part, he told himself.
Jonathan breathed in deeply and tried again. This time the zipper slid smoothly across the track. He pushed the book into the space between the coat shell and the lining, then zipped it shut. He adjusted the book until it rested along the front bottom of his coat. When he was satisfied that the book was well hidden, he buttoned his coat. Jonathan strained his ears listening for anything out of the ordinary. After a few minutes, he decided it was time to continue. Slowly, he rose to his feet. The book banged against his thigh. His legs quivered beneath the weight of his body.
He filled his lungs with cool, crisp air before forcing himself to move forward, away from the protective screen of trees. He took small steps to allow the blood to flow through his numb legs again. A nearly full moon illuminated the night. Eerie shadows crossed the ground before him. As Jonathan broke through the woods and into the clearing, he quickened his pace. Sweat trickled down his neck. The silence of the night burned his ears. His eyes flicked from side to side, trying to pierce through the edges of darkness the moonlight did not reach.
“Stay in control. Stay in control,” he whispered to himself. However, the monsters in the pit of his stomach gnawed at him causing a wave of panic to erupt. A cry escaped his lips as Jonathan began to run.
The woods were just ahead of him. A few more minutes and he would be protected from sight again. Jonathan picked a focal point and concentrated on reaching that spot. As he got closer, he relaxed. He was going to make this work. All of it. Even if it meant relinquishing his former dreams. For so long, he wanted nothing else than to teach history. Now he was striving to preserve the present despite the sacrifices. He wasn’t sure when he had made the decision to move from passive observer to participant but he did know that he had just changed the course of his life. He smiled. It seemed life was full of surprises.
Abruptly, all light disappeared. He stopped in his tracks.
It’s only a cloud passing over the moon, Jonathan rationalized. In spite of his efforts, fear tore through him. Jonathan cautiously stepped forward. The night enveloped him, robbing him of his sight and allowing noises to assault him. The sound of the wind blowing through the treetops. The crackling of dead leaves. Footsteps. His mind urged him to remain still, to be calm, even as his legs desired to run again.
The darkness lifted and the strong moonlight returned. The sudden shift to light momentarily blinded him. Jonathan blinked hard until his eyes adjusted. He scanned the area. Something wasn’t right. He studied the scene before him trying to figure out what was different. Then it hit him. A dark form stood several yards in front of him cutting him off from the woods. A form that wasn’t there before the unexpected darkness fell. He strained his eyes trying to identify the figure. As he stared, the form moved. Jonathan was rooted to the spot as the person came closer. When it was only feet away from him, he saw a face peer at him from under a hood.
“Oh shit!” Jonathan muttered as he recognized the feminine voice. Hope drained from him. He had to keep his wits about him. He had to get away.
“Darling! Imagine running into you. Out here in the middle of nowhere.” She walked toward him. “Of course, that does raise a whole other question. Whatever are you doing out here in the middle of the night?”
“L … Lil … Lillith!”
Jonathan swallowed nervously. Lillith lowered the hood. Her golden hair reflected the white moonlight. Her smile lit her entire face. Jonathan’s breath caught in his throat. Lillith’s eyes bore into him. So often, he had admired her from afar, longing to be near her. To breathe in the scent of her. To feel the heat from her body next to him.
She stopped a mere step from him.
“I needed some fresh air. It’s a … good night … for a walk,” he stammered.
He couldn’t tear his gaze from her eyes. They seemed unnaturally large and dark. The eyes themselves disappeared into the shadow of her face leaving gaping, empty sockets.
“You don’t strike me as one to go for long, moonlit walks,” she countered. “Especially not by yourself. Besides, I thought you were enjoying Dameon’s hospitality at the house.”
“It got a little crowded.”
“I see. I guess I should be thankful for this opportunity. I haven’t had a chance to have you all to myself in a while. It seems someone is always around you. Asking questions about your work. Wanting your opinion. I feel like I’ve neglected you since introducing you to the rest of my group.”
A shift of her body eliminated the space between them. She pressed into his chest. Her breath warmed his cheek. She wrapped her arms around his neck. Jonathan closed his eyes, the irony of the situation not escaping him. For so long he had daydreamed of this. Being alone with her while she whispered endearments to him. While she caressed him. Just as she was doing now. But instead of the sweet tension of desire, he felt stone cold. More than anything, he wished she was a million miles away.
Lillith smiled widely. Shadows obstructed parts of her face creating the image of a sneering skull. Jonathan shivered.
“You’re so tense, love. And sweating on such a chilly night. Whatever could be wrong?”
“It’s nothing. I’m not feeling well tonight.”
Lillith stroked his hair. “Jonathan, I have a problem. I was at home not long ago and I noticed something awry. You see, I had a special collection of rare books delivered to your workroom a few weeks ago. Extremely valuable books. Now one is missing. I borrowed it from a dear friend who is a collector.”
“I’m sorry, Lillith, but what does this have to do with me?”
Lillith scowled. Her grip tightened. “Jonathan, I brought you into my ring of associates. I introduced you to people–rich, powerful people. I asked for nothing in return. I know that you were cataloguing those rare books. Do you have the missing book?”
Jonathan gazed at Lillith, careful to keep his face relaxed in spite of his fear.
Lillith grabbed a handful of Jonathan’s hair and snapped his head back. With her other hand she pushed down on his shoulder. He gasped. Despite her slight form, she forced him to his knees.
“Wrong answer!” she hissed. Her fingers dug into his flesh piercing through the skin.
“Ahhh!” Jonathan cried out.
“Go ahead and scream. No one will hear. And even if they did, would they care? Is anyone going to miss you?” Lillith taunted him. She lowered her face to his. Red points of light shone out of the dark eye sockets. “To think of the time I wasted on you. Building you up to think you were on the same level as the rest of us. That you were special. That I enjoyed listening to all your tiresome, self-serving ramblings. You only had to do what you were told and I would have rewarded you greatly. Translate a few texts and you would have had anything you wanted at your disposal. But you wouldn’t play along. Had to bring along a moral compass. Couldn’t just look the other way. So now it ends for you.”
Lillith pulled Jonathan forward and buried her face in his neck. She bit deeply into his exposed flesh. Pain exploded through his head. He was excruciatingly aware of Lillith sucking and lapping his blood. Then as suddenly as she attacked, Lillith shoved him away from her. He landed hard on his back.
“Disgusting!” she spat as she wiped his blood off her lips. “Even your blood is foul! It tastes like mold and mildew. Just like the books you surround yourself with.”
As Jonathan struggled to rise onto his elbows, Lillith turned and walked toward the trees. The night wind whipped through her hair flinging it about wildly. She whirled and smiled cruelly at him. When she spoke, venom dripped from her words.
“I didn’t come here alone. I brought two friends with me. They are very anxious to meet you.”
Lillith clapped her hands. Jonathan glanced around nervously, expecting Dameon and one of the other houseguests to appear. Moments passed without anything happening. Confused, he stared at Lillith. Then a faint growl reached his ears. His eyes searched wildly for the source. Two silver wolves appeared on either side of Lillith.
“Oh Jonathan, there is so much you still don’t know about us. Alexa is very talented. She surpasses you in languages and history. Guess that is to be expected when you’ve lived as long as she has. Along the way she found her gift in the mystic arts. These two beauties have been our pets for years. Alexa doesn’t like to take them way from their home. There’s not enough space to roam and hunt in cities. So she created a charm to bring them to us whenever we call.” Lillith petted the two wolves affectionately. “I’ve found that particular spell quite useful. Rena and Rhana have helped me deal with certain problems from time to time. Like tonight.”
“No! Lillith! Please!” Jonathan’s heels dug into the earth as he tried to push himself away. The wolves attacked. Instinctively, Jonathan tucked his face into his chest and wrapped his arms around his head. He tried to curl into a ball but the wolves pounced on him, tearing into Jonathan’s flesh with their claws and teeth. A muzzle pushed its way into the space between Jonathan’s arms and closed around his throat. The great animal shook Jonathan as its teeth sank into the soft tissue of his throat. Its front paws slashed Jonathan’s chest, tearing through his clothing and ripping away skin. A terrified whimper escaped Jonathan. The second wolf clamped its mouth around one of Jonathan’s arms and pulled back, exposing the side of his face. The two animals ferociously shook and clawed Jonathan’s body. He waited for death to arrive, praying it happened quickly before the wolves literally tore him apart.
Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of summer. The long holiday weekend gave me a chance to catch up on some items I’ve been putting off.
First I tackled some regular housework. With two teenage athletes in the family, there is always an abundance of laundry to wash. A few months ago, my dear friend Amy Alley posted a recipe for homemade laundry detergent on her blog Pan Pan Studios. I decided to try my hand at making laundry detergent. I have to admit, there is something satisfying about using your own homemade items. You can find Amy’s recipe here.
Last summer I released my first novel, Blood Adversaries, as a Kindle Edition e-book. It is thrilling to see my book listed on Amazon.com. However when my author friends would bring print copies of their works to events or book signings, I felt a pang of regret that I didn’t have a print version of my book that I could hold in my hands. So I decided to pursue some avenues to bring my works to print. I’ve been working on CreateSpace to self publish Blood Adversaries. In July, I received the printed proof for my book. I was sooo excited.
Then something unexpected happened. I was at a point where I was feeling overwhelmed by things happening in my life. So my proof just sat. I would edit a few pages and then put it down for a few days. I pushed myself to finish the edits over the Labor Day weekend. The edited version is uploaded. I’ll proof one more time and then my dream of having my novel in print will be a reality!
I also wanted to work on some crafts. A while back, my husband had asked me to decorate a birdhouse for him. I finally got around to it.
Finally, I worked on some decorations for fall. I had seen pictures of Halloween luminaries on Facebook that were adorable. Since I had a surplus of glass jars, I decided to try my hand at it. I found the directions on the website Crafts by Amanda. It was pretty easy. Here’s my first batch.
After being in a creative slump for a few weeks, it appears an extra day off is just what I needed for a little inspiration!
I love where I live. I really do.
I’m fortunate to live on several acres of land surrounded by natural woods. I can walk out of my door and stroll leisurely though a forest. I have a large front yard that used to be a pasture. My house is surrounded by oak and pecan trees. There are all manner of birds that visit and nest here. Often when we come home during the fall, we have several deer munching on the persimmons that fall from the trees. It can be a paradise.
But this is also where I deal with the everyday demands of life. Cooking, cleaning, mediating family squabbles or sometimes being in the middle of a squabble. Stressing over work, family, bills and the future. It can drain away the creativity.
I have been longing to get away. Last year, my family was fortunate to be able to vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for a week. This year, a week vacation was not possible. An overnight trip to the beach planned for June had to be cancelled. So I was thrilled when we could combine dropping my son off for summer camp with an overnight trip to the mountains.
The drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway led up into the clouds themselves as we stopped at the highest peak along the Parkway (North Carolina).
There was interesting flora.
We went to Mt. Mitchell State Park and climbed to the observation tower. At 6684 feet above sea level, it is the highest point east of the Mississippi. However, the clouds had moved in obstructing any view.
On the way back down the Parkway, we were surprised by an amazing sight.
This was the first full rainbow I had ever seen. The colors were so bright and vibrant. It was truly a gift.
There was also a reminder of the magic of our surroundings.
We stayed in Hendersonville, NC where I found a mountain mermaid …
This special kitty has extra toes on his paws.
Our lives are full of miracles but the routine of everyday living can block our appreciation of these. We all need a chance to stop and breathe. Sometimes, we can do this at our homes. But sometimes going somewhere new is just what we need to be refreshed.
Ok, it was a very conscious decision.
I entered my second novel in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
Last year, I accomplished two of my goals. 1) I entered my first novel, Blood Adversaries, in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I actually made it through the first round. Alas, that is as far as I went. But it was thrilling that out of 10,000 entries, I made the cut to be among the 2,000 who moved to the next level. 2) After the contest was over, I released Blood Adversaries as a Kindle Edition on Amazon.com.
Since then I have been editing my second novel and trying to decide when I should release it. The end of the editing process coincided with the opening of the contest. So I decided to try again.
Unfortunately, my entry was not selected this time. However, I decided it was time to release it as a Kindle Edition on Amazon.com.
For the last three months, my church has partnered with another local church to have a Second Sunday worship service at the community Arts Center. The brief service, approximately 45 minutes, is held in the gallery and features an artist and poet to enhance the service. Each Second Sunday service has its own theme. This month I was asked to contribute a poem on the theme of law.
I love the Arts Center. I drop by when I get off work early or when I have extra time at lunch to stroll through the current exhibits. I have attended many writing events at the Arts Center. I enjoy being surrounded by the artwork. There is a sense of inspiration and peace from being surrounded by the work of other artists. The Arts Center is a natural fit for creativity, but I have discovered it is just as conducive to worship.
Some studies have been conducted about the positive effect of religion on the overall wellbeing of people. Combining two areas of my personal comfort – art and worship – made the experience a joyous one.
Try combining two things that you love to spur your creativity and bring you peace.
Here is my poem:
Reflecting on Justice
This law —
passed down through your fathers
and your fathers’ fathers —
do you know it
or just recite what you’ve been told
hoping you’re doing good enough
to avoid judgment
unlike some convicted souls
whose only crime was being human?
Lady Justice —
strict upholder of the law
blindfolded so not to see who appears
before her scales —
does she still hear the moans
of mortals and confer
with her sister Mercy
before announcing sentence?
Do you wonder
how it shall flow
to your daughters and sons
on to their prodigy
throughout the land