Confessions of a Bridesmaid Author

The dream to be published is at the heart of most writers in their journey. But what happens when everyone around you sees their dream come true, and you’re still waiting for the right opportunity to come along?

I’m Jason, and sometimes I feel like the bridesmaid, but never the bride. I’ve been writing for over ten years building toward publishing, and I’ve been really serious for the last five years. There are so many awesome people in the writing community. It has been a joy to share stories, laughter, and sadness with my fellow authors on this road.

Many times I’ve been able to rejoice with a friend when they get a publishing contract. It has been a privilege to be part of a launch team for others when they release their books. I’ve seen a lot of dreams happen during this time.

But a thought dogs me at times. Like a stalker at night, it sneaks around and waits for the moment to strike. It hits when I’m vulnerable. Maybe I’m tired. Or it’s another rejection. Perhaps I’m stuck on a passage and I can’t see my way through. That’s when this dark thought tries to break in.

When is it going to be your turn? Maybe you’re just not good enough for this. Who wants to read what you write?

I hate it when that thought tries to worm its way in. It tries to steal the joy I have for friends who are having success with their writing. Sometimes it is a challenge though. Will I ever experience the excitement of a book contract? Will I have the satisfaction of seeing my worlds and characters in the hands of new readers?

What do I do then?

In my journey, I’ve learned the best thing I can is double-down. I do this in two ways.

First, I remember that my stories won’t write themselves. Even with all the awesome stories out there, no one will write this story, because it needs me and my experiences. King, Koontz, Sanderson, or Dekker can’t do it. It takes me.

Secondly, and more importantly, I look for ways to serve. I get back to helping my writer friends. Whether it’s supporting a friend in their book launch, or giving critique or advice for someone behind me in the journey, it makes a huge change in my attitude if I can get my eyes off of me.

Many people have helped me along the way. When it’s my turn, I’ll need even more assistance. But even if I don’t make it to my ultimate destination, I’m a part of everyone else I help. The attitude of helping others lets me share in the joy, and realize we’re all in this together.

 

Author Bio:

Jason is a physician assistant working in the high desert of Idaho. When he’s not treating patients, he loves telling stories that encourage the heroic in all of us. He’s been published in the Splickety group of flash fiction magazines, but he’s looking for a home for his novels. When he’s not writing, he enjoys sports, bacon, and hanging out with his family. He may have watched Star Wars one too many times. And he isn’t sure why he’s using the third person right now…

Find Jason:

www.jasoncjoyner.com/blog
Twitter – @JasonCJoyner
Facebook – @jasoncjoyner
Instagram – @jasoncjoyner

Confessions of a Master Perfectionist

by Zachary Totah

 

Everything has to be right. Better yet, perfect.

Or else panic, chaos, the end of the world.

Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration (emphasis on “slight”), but so much of the time it seems all too true.

Welcome to the life of a perfectionist.

Did you know Perfectionism is one of the leading diseases afflicting otherwise healthy humans? It afflicts young and old, male and female.

I fell prey to perfectionism at a young age. Through my formative years and now into young adulthood, I’ve become a master at demanding nothing less than the absolute best. Which leads me to today’s confession.

 

Pains of Perfectionism

Usually when somebody says they’ve mastered a skill, we consider that a good thing. After all, deep down I think we’re all jealous of the “masters” (Paula Deen, Gandalf, Yoda). However, when I say I’m a Master Perfectionist, it’s not really a badge of honor.

Let’s face it. Perfectionism is a bane on productivity, happiness, and most other useful things in life.

Sure, aspects of it can be helpful. For example, my perfectionism means I have a high attention to detail and am inclined to focus on quality. If you’re a fellow perfectionist, try nurturing those habits without letting the Big Bad Beast gain the upper hand. We know it’s there, lurking, eager to undermine our goals.

I’ve struggled with this in many areas. As a writer, I’m always comparing myself to other (and, without fail, more successful) writers, thinking I’ll never live up to the required standards, viewing my work through a lens tainted by the persistent demands of perfectionism.

It’ll never be good enough. Why would anyone want to read my work?

So the thought process goes.

Another huge problem with letting our perfectionism rule our lives is that it erodes our willingness to take risks, try new things, and get outside our comfort zones.

I present to you Exhibit A: my blog.

As a writer, I knew I wanted to start a blog to build an audience (because of course I needed a way to become a wildly successful author *cough* idealist *cough*). I’m going to be frank. I waited WAY too long to start that puppy. I researched, read other blogs, scoured the internet for options and choices.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

It took me two years to start. Even though when I finally began I felt more equipped to launch into the blogging world, that was two years I could have spent actually writing, learning, improving, building my audience.

Lesson learned.

If you find yourself nodding and thinking, “That sounds like me!” here’s some chocolate.

In all seriousness, I get it. I’ve been down the path more times than I care to remember. And the thing is, when you let perfectionism run wild, what happens to the opportunities that come your way, the hopes you have, the dreams you want to chase?

Chance after chance passes by because it’s not the perfect fit.

Hopes become jaded because your expectations are set too high.

And the dreams—they slowly die. Because with perfectionism whispering in your ear, telling you it’s never good enough, you never start chasing those dreams.

It’s all too impossible and big and scary. What if you fail?

 

Should We Fear Failure?

So many times, I’ve let that fear be the driving factor behind decisions I make. Fear of failure and perfectionism go hand-in-hand. We don’t want to fail, so we try to be perfect. At the end of the day, such thinking doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s like planning the perfect vacation (touring Europe, anyone?) and then never leaving because what if things go wrong?

That’s my default mindset, and it’s crippling.

I love how Seth Godin puts it:

If failure isn’t an option, then neither is success.

Think about that. You can’t succeed unless you’re willing to accept failure at some level. Which means we need to face this beast called perfectionism.

All too often, conquering it seems like an impossible mountain to scale. Mount Doom perched atop Mount Everest…on the moon. As I said, I’ve found perfectionism crippling. I don’t take risks, pursue potential opportunities, or follow my dreams as well as I could.

Let’s flip the situation around. Instead of considering the problems, focus on the possibilities. What would happen if you pushed aside your perfectionist tendencies and went for it, whatever “it” is for you?

Would you trip up? Yep.

Would everything go according to plan? Nope.

Would you learn and grow and do things instead of living in a try-to-be-perfect but boring bubble? You can count on it.

 

To all my fellow perfectionists out there…

Try new things.

Take risks.

Get messy.

Learn from your mistakes.

And most importantly, don’t let perfectionism keep you from following dreams.

 

Author Bio:

I wear many creative hats, one of which is to write speculative fiction stories. This allows me to roam through my imagination, where I have illegal amounts of fun creating worlds and characters to populate them. When I’m not busy with a thousand and one responsibilities, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, digging into a good book, and watching movies.

I live in Colorado and don’t drink coffee. The two aren’t related.

I love connecting with other readers and writers, so don’t be shy. I keep my superpowers in check. Promise.

Links

Website

Facebook

Twitter

 

 

 

Confessions of a Traveling Homebody

by Liberty Speidel

Sometimes, when you get married, you don’t always realize everything you’re getting yourself into. Fifteen years into it, it can still be amazing to think about all the changes you’ve done since you married your beloved.

Take me, for instance.

If you met me as a teenager, you’d have seen someone friendly, but perfectly happy at home—a bit of a recluse even. No partying, no real close friends. And other than a week long trip to New York City I took myself on at the tender age of 17, no real traveling.

At 19, I met the man I’d end up marrying. Little did I know what I was getting myself into when I said “I do.”

While we have some similarities, our differences are obvious. He cannot comprehend how I can stay at home for days on end, leaving only for grocery shopping, doctors appointments, and church. How I’m perfectly content doing so, even.

He likes being outdoors. While I don’t mind it, I totally have days in every season where I may not venture outside, whether the weather is pleasant or not for the faint of heart.

The homebody thing has come back to bite me.

Have you ever heard the phrase that someone is happy to have traveled?

Yeah. Totally me.

My husband, you see, likes to go on trips. They can be short trips—an afternoon jaunt to a nearby lake or state park. Or they can be pack your bags, get a cooler and the kids’ meds, we’re going to go cross seven states. Okay, maybe not seven states. We live in the Midwest. Just crossing our home state of Kansas is an all day journey!

I’m usually grumbling—especially if these are spontaneous trips. I don’t enjoy a ton of spontaneity, even though I’ve been married to my husband for 15 years and should be used to it by now. I have things to do. Books to write. Books to read. Things I’d rather do than listen to our kids fight in the backseat. And he gets annoyed if I plug in my earbuds and ignore everyone, or even just read for the whole trip! Although he’s starting to be a little more understanding about me writing at the same time as we’re going down the road—as long as I’m not the one driving.

But once we’re in the car and a couple hundred miles away from home, I relax a little. I try to enjoy the views…even if it’s of boring western Kansas. I-70 is not the most scenic highway out there, especially crossing Kansas west of Salina. That part can’t be helped.

Our favorite destinations are the mountains of Colorado and the Missouri Ozarks. My husband took me to see the mountains—and my first national parks—shortly after we were engaged. I should’ve known then what I was getting myself into. But I really had no clue.

If he had his way, we’d be gone every other weekend. And if it weren’t for obligations as homeowners, I’d probably let him. I don’t necessarily like the process of traveling. Sitting in a car for 12-plus hours a day? More than once I’ve told him I want a Star Trek teleporter for the simple fact I could sleep in my own bed and actually sleep. Yeah, a big reason I don’t like traveling is because my insomnia kicks into high gear. Hard to enjoy your trip when you can’t sleep.

But occasionally, we’ll hit the hotel jackpot and it doesn’t have a weird smell, it’s not loud or bright, and the bed is close enough to my own that I can sleep. (Usually these are Hampton Inn’s…)

Still, it’s hard not to be relieved when the trip winds down, no matter where we’ve gone or what we’ve seen or done. To be on the way home. Relief washes over me when I hit my home county, turn onto my street, and finally turn into my oasis.

Home.

It never looked so good!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find the suitcases and the coolers. And darn it, where did I leave my maps?

 

Author Bio:

A country girl at heart, Liberty Speidel feels the most at home in the wide open spaces of her native Kansas and neighboring Colorado. But her laptop is rarely far away as her favorite places are wherever her stories take her. When she’s away from her work, she’s frequently exploring new recipes, crocheting something useful, or getting dirt under her fingernails. A coffee, Earl Grey tea, and dark chocolate addict, she resides in beautiful northeast Kansas with her husband, children, and a spoiled-rotten chocolate Labrador. Liberty is also the founder and producer of Lasers, Dragons, and Keyboards Podcast.

Links:

LibertySpeidel.com

LasersDragonsAndKeyboards.com

I’m usually on Facebook and Instagram and occasionally on Twitter ( all are @LibertySpeidel ).

 

 

Confessions from a Daughter of a Schizophrenic

by Karen Sargent

Not a single photo exists of my father and me. He had just turned 27 when I was born, but during my mom’s pregnancy, mental illness had clutched him so quickly and so deeply that his eyes, his face, could no longer hide it. My father’s illness at my birth and in the months following were not memories my mom wanted to keep so—no pictures.

That was in the ‘60s when schizophrenia was a complete mystery and the stigma of mental illness was even more isolating than today. My mom didn’t understand what was happening, and her in-laws lived in denial, leaving her to cope alone.

When it was time for my arrival, my father was AWOL. Mom called a friend to take her to the hospital, stopping along the way to leave my two-year-old brother with our grandma. A few days later my mom returned home with a newborn and a toddler—a toddler who my father began to insist was a little person impersonating his young son. His mental illness escalated, and so did my mother’s fear for the safety of her son.

I remember a story she told about bundling my brother on a harsh Chicago winter evening and pushing him in a stroller two blocks to the store to buy formula. She had fed and changed me and was certain I was asleep before leaving me with my father, who was always gentle with me. But leaving my brother with him was out of the question. As she pushed through snow-covered sidewalks and blistering wind, a woman approached, glanced inside the stroller, and hissed, “You should be ashamed of yourself.” My mom didn’t respond aloud but inside she said, “Lady, if you only knew.”

I was 16-months-old when my father took his life and my mom moved us to another state. She never hid the truth from me—about my father’s illness or his death—so I grew up knowing I was the daughter of a schizophrenic and wondering if the disease would target me, too.

As a teenager, I developed a fascination with schizophrenia. When teen drama took the stage, I wondered if girls were really talking about me, or if I was being paranoid. If I was paranoid, was it normal paranoia or was it my father’s paranoia? How would I know? And I was a daydreamer, but was I really? What separated a daydream from a hallucination? I worried I wouldn’t know the difference. I marked each birthday as another year I had successfully evaded the disease, and when I finally made it through my teens, through my twenties, and into the next decade, I relaxed because I knew the research. I was 30. I should be safe.

But then I had children…and new questions. Could schizophrenia skip a generation? What does it mean that my daughters are “genetically predisposed” really? Could some trigger set off the illness? What could be the trigger and how could we avoid it?

I discovered my daughters’ chances of inheriting the disease were higher than the general population—but only slightly. And since parenting presents daily challenges in the here and now, I decided not to waste energy on what ifs. I tucked away my fear, but still I find myself gauging my daughters’ behavior, their emotional reactions, their ability to cope.

One morning I realized I wasn’t the only one with genetics on her mind.

“Mom?” My 15-year-old daughter sat with her phone in her lap as I drove us to school. “Do you think I think weird things? You know, not like normal people think?”

She was digging for something, but I wasn’t sure what. “You don’t think weird things, but you do think differently than a lot of people. That’s the creative, artsy part of you.” I glanced at her. She seemed satisfied.

After a few white lines on the highway passed by, her next question came. “When you think about things, you know, in your head, is it like a voice, like you hear your voice or maybe other people’s voices?”

“You mean if I think about a conversation I had with Dad, do I hear our voices?”

She nodded.

“Sure.”

She glanced at her phone, touched the screen to scroll down, and then looked out the window a few seconds. When she spoke, I heard the forced nonchalance in her voice. “Sometimes I think people are talking about me, like, at school and stuff. Do you think I’m paranoid?”

The destination of our conversation was suddenly revealed, but we were taking an indirect route via a list of symptoms I assume was displayed on her phone. I smiled. “Honey, you are in high school. People probably are talking about you. That’s not paranoia. That’s drama. Sweetie—”

She turned toward me. I took my eyes off the road long enough to look hard into hers.

“You don’t have schizophrenia.” I smiled, a little amused, a little sad.

“How do you know?” I heard the hope more than the question.

“Because I know. I used to worry, too, when I was your age. And all that worrying was for nothing.”

She clicked a button on her phone and the screen went black. “Good.” She settled into her seat and her shoulders relaxed.

But mine didn’t. I wondered if she knew about 30. I wondered if she’d check off each year she celebrated a birthday as I did, like it’s a rush to the finish line. She may not. But I will.

 

AUTHOR BIO

Karen Sargent used to believe that being an English teacher and a mother interfered with her dream to become an author. After more than two decades in the classroom and 21 years of momhood, she now realizes teaching her students great literature and how to write made her to a storyteller and a better writer. Raising two daughters gave her something meaningful to write about. Karen is the author of Waiting for Butterflies, an inspirational women’s fiction novel, and she blogs at The MOM Journey…where moms aren’t perfect and that’s perfectly okay. She and her husband are preparing for their nest to be empty when their youngest daughter joins her sister at college in the fall. Visit Karen at www.karensargentbooks.com or on The MOM Journey at www.karensargentbooks.com/blog/.

Confessions of a Quilter Who Also Writes

by Pam Halter

I started quilting before I began writing. Both activities give me a creative outlet, but I have to admit, designing and sewing a quilt is much faster than writing a novel. I also write and have published picture books. They’re fairly fast to write, although can be tricky to revise.

I confess there are times when I enjoy quilting more than writing. Writing novels is hard work! Let’s break it down and compare:

TIME

Sure, there are folks who can hammer out a novel in a month, and maybe I could, too. Except then there’s the revisions, which can take the better part of a year. And rightly so. It takes time to know a real person when you first meet them, right? Same thing for your characters. Not so much with a quilt. The quilt I made that took the longest was the labyrinth quilt I made for a friend. I researched designs online, found one that was doable for a quilt, copied it on graph paper and started cutting squares. It ended up taking 10 yards of fabric, all in 3 inch squares. Then I had to sew them together! I sewed every day for about 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, for a solid 3 months! It ended up a king sized quilt, but it was fabulous! I also had researched labyrinths and their purpose. The center is called The Rose, so I put fabric with roses on it in the middle.

My fantasy novel, which will be coming out late next year, took me a good 10 years to write and revise, as I was learning about novel writing. I’m a picture book author! Writing novels is waaaay different. I’m sure the next novel will take less time.

PLOT

As you can tell from the labyrinth quilt, I like to plan and design most of my quilts, although it depends on what’s needed. And like the plot for a novel, things have to come together to make a pleasing design. One of my strengths in quilting is taking fabric that doesn’t seem like it goes together and finding a way to make it work. Plotting a novel is just like that – but it takes a lot longer. Still, it’s so satisfying when it happens! It comes down to what the quilt/story requires. Sometimes, a quilt requires a specific design and detail. Sometimes, it’s as simple as using a panel. And sometimes, it comes down to a delightful surprise. Like the Halloween quilts I make. I love quilting a spider web (free hand) over the quilt design. It shows up great on the black back of the quilt because I use white thread. So much fun! Stories need that, as well, but usually, it isn’t so easy to plan.

CHARACTERS

When I’m piecing a quilt together, it’s important for the fabric to be, at least, compatible. If I’m using fabric that has patterns or designs on it, they shouldn’t clash. If they do, and I’m determined to use them, I need to find fabric that joins them together in a pleasing way. And I’m even happier if it’s unexpected, but beautiful. Same thing when creating characters in a story. And just like a story has main characters, secondary characters, and cameos, I can do the same thing with fabric. Light, dark, designs, contrast. Squares, triangles, rectangles. Top stitching, appliqué, tie it off. Baby quilts, twin, double, queen, king. So much to choose from! My favorite size is what I call Back-of-the-Couch. It’s about 2 yards long and 45″ wide. Perfect for the back of your couch or recliner.

KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE

Just like knowing and understanding the readers we write for, I also need to know my “audience” when I’m quilting. Well, most of the time, anyway. I pray as I sew. Each quilt I make is prayed over. If I know the person I’m sewing for, I can pray more specifically. If it’s for a fundraiser or someone hires me to sew a gift, I still pray. I’ve been told people can tell when they’re under one of my quilts. They feel peaceful. Blessed. Comfortable. That makes me ridiculously happy. When one of my best friend’s husband was dying from cancer last year, she told me he could only rest peacefully when covered by the quilt I made him. Yeah. I cried.

 

All this to say, it typically takes less time to design and sew a quilt than to write a novel and I confess I sometimes wonder if I should stop writing. But I get joy and satisfaction from both. And I believe quilting only serves to help my writing and writing helps me create more interesting quilts. So, I’ll still do both.

Any other fellow quilters out there?

 

About the Author:

Pam Halter was a home-schooling mom for nine years and has been a children’s book author since 1995. Her latest picture book, Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch, released in March through Fruitbearer Publishing.

Pam is a freelance editor and the children’s book editor for Fruitbearer Kids. She was selected to attend the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop for Fantasy, May 2010, won Writer of the Year at the Philly conference in 2014, and Reader’s Choice for her short story at the Realm Makers conference, 2015. She’s in contract negotiations right now for a YA fantasy novel, and is waiting not so patiently to announce it to the world!

Pam lives in the farmlands of Southern New Jersey with her husband, special needs adult daughter, mother-in-law, and 2 crazy grandcats while her youngest daughter is traveling the country with the New Life Drama Company. She enjoys quilting, gardening, cooking, canning, crafting, playing the piano, theatre, Bible study, and looking for evidence of fairies.

www.pamhalter.com

Confessions from a Fictional (yes, you read that correctly) Author

by Serena Chase

 

My name is Serena Chase and I am not a real person.

I am an invention. A pen name. The secret identity of an author who, for reasons ranging from personal safety—due to a scary series of incidents—to shelf placement, chose not to associate her real name with her public career. But even though I’ve—no, she’s—ahem, we’ve coexisted for a long time now, it sometimes gets confusing. For both us.

More for her than me, probably.

Like now, when I realize I’m talking about the true me—the Social Security Number-bearing individual, the real me, the one responsible for the creation of “Serena Chase” and her associated products—in the third person.

Oh, boy.

When I (the real me) first made the decision to safeguard my work by writing under a pseudonym, I was revising my first two novels, The Ryn and The Remedy while blogging regularly for a popular Christian fiction blog . . . which soon led to becoming a regular freelance contributor to a USA Today blog. “Serena Chase” was gaining momentum, fast—not as an author of fiction, unfortunately, but as an influencer on behalf of other inspirational and YA fiction authors. (Ah, but that’s another “confessions” post.) The career wheels were turning, but it was becoming questionable as to whether I could keep both the pen name and my sanity. Every time I signed a blog post or an email with my pseudonym, I obsessively struggled with the idea that I was a BIG. FAT. LIAR.

Long had I bemoaned the absence of authenticity and vulnerability within the Christian community, but here I was, forming professional and personal relationships within the publishing world under an assumed name and, to some extent, personality. Through those early years, some of the authors I met became dear friends to whom I eventually stuttered through a pen name confession, but all the while, my natural leanings toward anxiety and depression screamed, “Liar!” like Miracle Max’s wife in The Princess Bride.

One moment I would be writing a draft of the apology post that would reveal my real name . . . and the next I would be deleting it, paralyzed with fear that the nasty people responsible for me actually considering a pen name in the first place would discover my secret and cause more damage.

I sought council from those who knew me by my “real name” and were aware of my situation. As a rule, the writers in that small circle saw the pseudonym as a career necessity, not a moral dilemma. My non-writing friends, however, while expressing understanding for why it felt necessary to me, either shrugged off or added to my fears and/or my feelings of being a liar. I was at a moral, philosophical, and business impasse.

Was my struggle, as one friend suggested, only a symptom of an overweening pride that wanted to claim the words I wrote under the name that was truly mine? Or, as another friend offered, was I a slave to fear, not trusting God with my family’s safety? Was I making a mountain out of a molehill? Was having a pen name a lie, and therefore sin? Or was it a solid business decision? Was it right? Wrong? A gray area?

It went on like that for a long time. I obsessed. I prayed. I cried. I hated myself for all of it. I hated “Serena Chase” for being cooler than me. I couldn’t sleep. When I could, I woke up in the middle of the night with panic attacks. I was a mess.

Sometime around the release of my third novel The Seahorse Legacy, however, there was a shift in my thinking. During a conversation with another author, we spoke about a newly released book, both us referring to it as an addition to “The (insert Famous Author Name) Brand.”

In the context of our conversation, we did not necessarily discuss the merits of the work produced. We spoke of a business model, a strategic campaign. Yes, it was Famous Author’s name—her real name, as far as I know—but we were not discussing it as a part of her human identity; we spoke of The Famous Author Name Brand as exactly that: a brand—a label attached to a specific collection of intellectual property and all connected marketing efforts.

It got me thinking . . .

As authors, we are told to “build your brand” and to “be brand-consistent across all platforms.” Could the “brand” concept justify the existence and proliferation of “Serena Chase” in the moral center of my mind? Instead of “Serena Chase” being the “big fat lie” I’d been losing sleep over, was she—er, it—, instead, a brand under which my creative intellectual property could safely reside?

Yes.  Yes, she—it—could.

It was a life-changing revelation.

Yes, it is still awkward sometimes, operating under one name in “real life” while using an entirely different identity when I need to be the human representation of “The Serena Chase Brand” online or at an event. Sometimes, I talk about myself in the third person and it weirds people out (including me, to be honest!) Sometimes, my worlds collide. Sometimes, it’s embarrassing. Sometimes, it’s scary. Sometimes, I just need more coffee so I can remember which name I’m using that day (*winks at Ronie Kendig.*)

But most of the time . . . I’m okay with it. I’m okay with building The Serena Chase Brand and representing it in the flesh when necessary.

Sure, sometimes I wish I could move far away from my hometown and legally change my name to “Serena Chase” because it would make life easier. I’ve realized I often feel more comfortable operating under my brand identity than the one I was born+married into.

Is that weird? Yeah, that’s probably pretty weird. Ah, well. Another confession for another day.

What do you think about the use of pen names?

 

Author Bio:

SERENA CHASE is the (pseudonymous) author of the critically-acclaimed Eyes of E’veria epic fantasy series and Intermission, a contemporary young adult romance. She believes readers expect a novel to be an immersive entertainment experience and seeks to provide that experience through her stories. When not writing, she can often be found assisting other authors with manuscript critique and marketing copy creation through her business, Reviewer’s Eye View, or teaching workshops on the art of crafting immersive, entertaining fiction. Connect with Serena on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and through her website and newsletter.

 

June 2017 Goals

Welcome to another bright, shiny month! Can you believe how fast May flew by? I still feel that the conference I went to the first weekend of May was last week.

May was pretty crazy for me. Fun, amazing–but crazy. I accomplished a lot, but none of what I set out to do. Odd how that happens sometimes. But that’s the thing about a new month–a chance to try again!

My Goals for June:

  1. Get into a routine where I can better balance work and homeschool. I already have my schedule laid out, so it’s a matter of getting everyone on board and sticking with it!
  2. I got my first round of edits for Aletheia back, so I need to get those done before vacation at the end of the month, if not sooner. I’ll continue getting up early in the morning to edit for a couple of hours.
  3. Do a shakedown and reorganization of my work layout. I’m going to be focusing more on social media and book marketing (instead of editing). So, there’s going to be a learning curve. Plus, I’ll be changing my daily focuses to reflect this change.
  4. Get my homeschool paperwork organized!
  5. The first step to getting my health under control is to plan better meals! My husband and I are working together to plan out menus and find meals that we all enjoy.

I’m going to print up these goals and hang them up by my desk. This way I can see them every day and remember where my focus should be.

What are YOUR goals for June, work or personal?

Confessions of a Kid’s Librarian

by TLC Nielsen

 

As I work on my first novel, I can’t imagine a more perfect job for an aspiring author than working in the public library. Even though I’ve been in the children’s department for almost 12 years now, my job is still as much fun as it is work. I help children and parents find the perfect books to read. So, shhh, don’t tell anyone what I’m about to reveal. Oops, there’s no more shushing in the 21st century library!

 

My Second Home

As a child growing up in rural Wisconsin, I remember our monthly trip to the library. I loved it so much my folks had to limit me to the number of books I could carry! So when my kids were young, I took them to the library, weekly. It was free admittance with music, books, movies and magazines to borrow. We’d spend hours at the library.

Nowadays, the trend in public libraries is to be a gathering place rather than a repository of books. In my kids’ department, our staff enjoys creating a place to stay and hangout, whether playing with puzzles, toys and games, doing craft projects or reading books as a family. I spend a lot of time during work grabbing all the books families have left behind after reading. Due to the tendency of families reading books in the library without checking them out, librarians now look past the circulation numbers of books and materials. We look at how many are handled on the premises. The library world runs on statistics, so I do a lot of tallying of interactions in the library – how many times I’ve helped patrons, how many games/puzzles were used, how many prizes given out, that kind of thing. I must confess, however, that I do wait for them to come and ask for assistance since they may think, like I did, that this is their home away from home.

Because of this second home concept, I don’t like enforcing the library’s “no eating” rule either. I carry around plastic baggies to save the suckers are so often stuck in the hands of our youngest visitors. With all the toys, games, puzzles and Duplo’s being played with in youth services, tidying up is a large aspect of my job, the work part. Good news, though: my library created a tiled area in the entryway with cafeteria-style tables and chairs so patrons can eat somewhere in the library. In essence, the community library is your other living room. Some libraries even sell food on the premises, but not mine. It’s BYO style.

 

Not Paid to Read

The one thing I do for my job that’s not paid is reading. I do all my reading outside of work, even though I run a monthly book club for 7-9 year olds.  I pick books in a series and challenge my students to “out read” me. We’re called “Novel Detectives” and we find good books no matter where they hide. Each month during the school year, we rate a book and then post it publicly so other students know about the good books we’ve read. I was fortunate enough to connect with a publisher who sent my detectives Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of soon-to-be-published books. By filling out surveys afterwards, my detectives were able to influence the final printed version of the book. I will confess that the detectives out read me too often, due to the fact that I accomplish most of my reading on the workout bike at the gym.  My favorite ARC so far is Star Thief, a 2017 release.

 

Paid to Have Fun

I am paid, however, to practice the ukulele at work.  Yup, you read that right. Part of my job involves the ukulele. Two years ago, I talked my boss into buying some ukuleles for work so I could do more with music programs. I originally wanted 6-12 ukes but ended up with two. I was happy to have any. I hear two more are on the way soon – Kala Waterman Ukuleles for the kids: waterproof and in fun, indestructible colors to boot.

The best part of my job as an assistant youth services librarian is the fun of designing interesting programs for kids and families to enjoy. With books heading towards an equal balance of printed and eBook format, the library now relies on programs to bring the community into the building. This is why I moved away from basic music programming to something with a bit more pizazz: the Family Ukulele Circle complete with drums and rhythm instruments. There’s some improv, basic music concepts learned and a lot of one, two and three chord songs. So yes, I am paid to have fun, but if I don’t have fun, how will they? Favorite songs by the ukulele circle families include Don’t Worry Be Happy, Down By the Bay, You are My Sunshine, and the little-known Humpty Dump, complete with nursery rhyme rapping.

I’ve done many popular programs but not all of them turn out quite so good. In my recent Junior Chef Training for students 7-9 years old, the Health Department got involved. Fortunately, I discovered I needed a Food Handler certificate to teach cooking so I did the training. Then I found out two more things: a) the library needed a permit to have food on the premises and, get this, b) the students couldn’t eat anything they made since our library didn’t have an adequate cleaning area. Our Jr. Chef training focused on sweet treats and healthy eats -the fine art of toppings, so the students took heavy cream and turned it into whip cream, turned organic yogurt into frozen bites and did two more recipes. Since the Jr. Chefs couldn’t eat what they made, the library bought individual servings of organic ice cream with canned organic whip cream and good topping choices (almonds, dried fruit…) Next time, we hire a professional.

 

To Judge or Not to Judge

One last perk of working in the public library world is the invitations staff members get to do interesting things: write articles for newsletters, present interesting program ideas at conferences, and judge book contests. Yes, invited to be a book judge – whether on a panel or individually. My state’s libraries did an Indie author contest for teen and adult books, so I signed up. It was great when I was able to pick which books I wanted to read in round one.  By round two, I was assigned a few semi-finalist books. Those assigned books were so intense that I dropped out of the final round. Although one of my first round picks made it to the finals, I discovered there’s a reason why I’m in youth services – content. I’ve judged other contests since then (usually in the teen category), but that first library judging taught me how NOT to write a novel.

 

Author Bio:

TLC Nielsen loves her job as an assistant youth services librarian at the local public library within walking distance from home.  She is editing her first novel, By Land or Sea, which makes her appreciate every single book she has ever read. TLC belongs to Word Weavers International, being a helpful VP for the On the Border chapter. A librarian by day, jazz musician by night and a writer in between, TLC continues playing trombone in several area big bands. She played trombone on Rich Rubietta’s Resting Place CD and contributed a story to Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk’s book, I Believe in Healing (p. 68).  In her spare time, TLC interviews ordinary folks with interesting adventures on her Extraordinary Ordinary monthly blog found here: https://lookandbe.blogpsot.com and travels with her college sweetheart and spouse.

 

Confessions of a Small Town Mountain Girl

by J.M. Hackman

People hear “author” and immediately conjure up a glamorous life, full of book signing-days and jet-setting nights. That’s not me. Or they imagine days filled with writing The Great American Novel in cute little bistros and cafés. That’s not me, either.

The reality is I’m a small–town girl (population 774 and counting). Always have been, and probably always will be. I live in the same small town where I grew up and have lived in for my forty-plus years (cue the John Mellencamp song Small Town). I got married here, had my kids here, and am expecting to die here (although I have no plans to do so anytime soon). I married a small-town boy from Vermont who lived on a dead-end dirt road, so rural living suits both of us.

We live in the mountains not far from Pennsylvania State University where I commuted to and graduated from after four years. (Go Lions!) As I was growing up, I was convinced this town would smother me. State College, the closest “city,” seemed much more cosmopolitan than my small town. I couldn’t wait to get out and start living my life. Live here? Why? There was nothing to do.

I spent a year at Messiah College, only eleven miles away from Harrisburg. After seeing a drug bust complete with SWAT vehicles in the state capitol one night, I was able to appreciate the quirks of my small town life a little more.

 

Everyone either knows everyone else or is related to everyone else. If they don’t know you, they’ll ask. I went to a private high school in a different school district so upon being introduced, I often reeived a perplexed look and a “Who’s your… are you Kenny’s?” (My dad will always be “Kenny” even though he’s in his sixties). This used to irritate me. I wasn’t anybody’s. I had my own name—why couldn’t they remember that? I do it myself now to people I meet here, realizing it’s a way people establish connections.

We don’t go “over the mountain” on a whim. The closest Walmart is twenty-five miles away. The closest Starbucks is fifteen miles away. (Yes, yes, I know—coffee addicts are gasping with horror. This is why I like tea.) Most of my doctor offices are twenty-five to thirty miles away, so every round-trip is at least an hour driving time. Therefore, I’m having two launch parties. As much as they love me, my church family and local community will not go “over the mountain” just to buy a book.

Winter storms don’t scare us. After living on the mountain for twenty years, my husband has learned we have our own weather system. When I call him to come home from work, it’s usually because we’re getting accumulating snow or freezing rain. His response? “Really? It’s raining here.”

We’ll take “the long way,” thanks. Many of us prefer the mountain road over the interstate. Before I-80 was constructed (finished in Pennsylvania in 1970), the mountain road was the only way to get to the towns east and south of us. It’s a two-lane road, with steep drop-offs, twists, and turns, and I could drive it with my eyes closed. All of the school buses still use it.

Instead of cul-de-sacs, we have gorgeous recreational land. Our community relies quite a bit on hunting and fishing. At the beginning of the fall hunting season, an influx of hunters move in from the city to stay in their cabins for a long weekend. Three- and four-wheelers are common. Instead of summer beach houses, some families have a hunting cabin they use for hunting season or for occasional summer weekends. A wooded area borders our backyard where we’ve seen deer, wild turkeys, and evidence of a local bear (claw marks on our white birch tree and teeth marks in our now-ruined inflatable pool).

 

So small-town life in the mountains doesn’t seem so “small town” anymore. My husband and I are content to raise our family close to nature, far from the glitz and glamour of busy city life. After all, there’s truth in the saying: “You can take the girl out of the mountain, but you can’t take the mountain out of the girl.”

 

Author Bio:

J.M. Hackman has held many positions: assistant librarian, office assistant, office manager, substitute teacher, writer, wife, and mother. She still holds the last three. And loves it. She received a degree in Elementary Education from Pennsylvania State University and now spends her days writing stories, consuming massive quantities of chocolate, and looking for portals to other worlds. You can find her at www.jmhackman.com.

Social Media Links:

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Amazon Author: https://www.amazon.com/J.-M.-Hackman/e/B01K9PJMPE

Purchase Link on L2L2 Website: http://bit.ly/2mf4Iwg

Spark is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBook, Kobo, and any other online retailer, and Spark can be requested at any bookstore or library.

Spark Back Cover Copy:

Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands. Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.

When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. Against her will. Who knew portals even existed? But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil. Hold up. Can everything just slow down for a sec?

Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin (Um, hello, Hottie!) pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified. Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time? And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?

Celebrate my Blog-a-versary!

Today is the anniversary of my blog! I don’t recall exactly how long–3 years? Maybe. But what an exciting–and sometimes crazy–ride it’s been. From character interviews to writing/editing tips to today with the Confessions series and social media emphasis, blogging has been anything but boring.

I just wanted to say thank you to all you lovely people who’ve been with me on this journey. Followers from the old days and people who have just joined the journey. There’s nothing more encouraging than to know that other people care. You all are the best. *hugs all around*

Blogging has not been without its own set of issues. My website was hacked once, and I lost all my previous blog posts. All those fun character interviews–gone. I had some pretty crazy issues with my previous website host, which resulted in a downed website and ultimately me switching providers. Earlier this year, a buggy plugin made it impossible for me to even get into my WordPress dashboard to blog. But my new trusty website host fixed it for me.

But that’s all in the past.

So what do we have to look forward to in the next year?

I’m continuing with the “Confessions” series for now. It’s been quite popular, and I think many of you readers find a little bit of yourselves in a lot of the posts. I know I do. I’m going to try to mix it up a bit, though, invite some non-writer people to share a bit about them and their lives. The point is to show how we all SHINE Beyond our circumstances.

I have at least 2 books coming out in the next year. So, there will definitely be a few posts about those along the way.

New to the blog, I’ll be posting about book marketing and social media, each on a separate Friday of the month. For the non-writer followers, I still think you might get something out of the social media posts, and you might just enjoy hearing about the insides of my book marketing journey.

I’m bringing back Tea with Me! For those who don’t know, these posts are an opportunity for YOU to ask me questions–about anything. Questions can be about me, my writing, life, science … anything! If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to find it; if I can’t find it, I’ll make it up. It’s tons of fun. This is one of my favorites, and readers seem to enjoy READING the posts. But I’ll definitely need y’all to be sending me questions for this once-a-month post. I usually put out a call on Facebook for questions, so be sure to follow me there.

While I don’t send my blog posts out via email anymore, I do highlight popular articles in my monthly newsletter. Sign up below so you don’t miss a thing!

 

Bellanok Sale

In addition to this week being my blog-aversary, it’s also my birthday week. And to celebrate, my fantasy novel, Bellanok, is on sale for 99 cents. That’s right. A fantasy adventure, right at your finger tips, for only 99 cents. Who’s ready to party? You can find more about Bellanok in the My Books tab!

 

Do you celebrate your birthday with any traditions?