Confessions of a Biker Chick

by Virginia Smith

 

I’ve had many goals over the years, a lot of items on my bucket list. I wanted to learn to scuba dive. (Check.) I wanted to publish a novel. (Check.) I wanted to travel to other countries. (Check.) Riding motorcycles was not on my list. I’m not particularly coordinated, so why would I want to fly down the road at high speeds balancing on two wheels, vulnerable to traffic and exposed to weather?

Then I married a motorcycle enthusiast. If I wanted to spend time with him, I had to ride. And guess what? The very first time I climbed onto the back of his bike and wrapped my arms around his waist I became a dyed-in-the-wool Biker Chick. What freedom! What fun! I could take pictures, plot books, sing at the top of my lungs, and spread my arms wide to the wind and embrace the world. A few years ago I decided I wanted my own motorcycle, so I bought one and named her Kelly. Which leads me to my first Confession.

Confession #1: I am a control freak.

Though I love riding with my husband, I want to be in charge. I love the challenge of seeing a sharp curve up ahead, of leaning the bike into the curve, slowly pulling the throttle to gain speed as O reach the apex, and zooming out to the straightaway. Though I do still sing (and often pray!), I can’t spend brain-power plotting stories or gazing at the scenery because…I’m in control! And that’s the way I like it.

Confession #2: I like speed.

Only a biker can fully understand why dogs hang their heads out the window. The sensation of wind as you zoom down the road is a rush you can’t get in a car. But it isn’t only the speed that’s appealing. From a car you see your surroundings; on a motorcycle, you experience them. The scent of pine trees as you ride through a forest, the feel of the cool breeze blowing across a mountain lake, the warmth of the sun and the chill of the shadows. Nature is closer, more intimate when nothing separates you.

That isn’t always a good thing. A spray of rocks on the road takes on a whole new meaning when you’re zooming along at 50 mpg with nothing between you and the pavement but couple of tires made of a half-inch of rubber. Driving through a herd of buffalo in Yellowstone National Park is pretty cool in a car; on a bike it becomes a heart-pounding encounter. Seeing a doe and her fawn on the side of the road is exhilarating, but on a bike you know at any time she might dash into your path. You have to be super-aware of your surroundings and constantly alert. So yeah, there’s the thrill of conquering potential dangers too. I guess that makes me a thrill-seeker.

Confession #3: I like the clothes.

My helmet is covered in flowers and butterflies. My riding jacket is purple Kevlar with pads in all the critical places. My boots are leather and super-stylish, as are my gloves and chaps. I have a Harley Davidson black leather vest. And under all the protective gear I get to wear bling! Biker chick clothing usually displays elaborate designs and is often covered with rhinestones and glitter. And you don’t have to be shaped like a Barbie doll to wear it. Lady bikers love to show off their clothing, and nobody cares if you fill yours out more than somebody else.

Confession #4: I like to belong.

Motorcycle riders belong to a brotherhood (I use the term inclusive of both genders). There’s even a secret hand signal! Okay, not so secret, but we do have a sign we give each other. I call it The Wave. It isn’t a normal wave, with your arm over your head shaking your hand back and forth. Oh, no, it’s much cooler than that. When a motorcycle approaches in the oncoming lane, each biker drops his or her left hand, fingers loose, with two extended like a relaxed peace sign. The other fingers are also loose, not tightened into a fist. The arm is not stiff or extended too far, just kind of swung out from the side a bit. The gesture is laid back. Relaxed. Casual. Unperturbed.  Very cool, ‘cause bikers are cool.

This brotherhood became real to me three years ago when I went to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. I was a passenger on my husband’s bike and we were leaving Buffalo Chip, which is a huge campground packed with more than a hundred thousand motorcycles each day during the rally. It was late at night and pitch dark, and we inched along in a line of a gazillion motorcycles heading back to their hotels. The road consisted of packed dirt. We came to a stop. My husband put his foot down to balance us, and stepped into a rut he couldn’t see. The motorcycle tipped, and as we fell, I thrust my arm out to brace myself. Mistake. I broke my shoulder badly. I laid there on the ground in terrible pain while our friends called an ambulance. Traffic stopped, of course. At first people were irritated, and I could hear horns honking in the distance—until they realized a biker was down. The next thing I knew motorcycles circled me, their headlights shining on me so my friends could see to help me. Other bikes created a lighted path for the ambulance to navigate the dark campground roads to find me. When the paramedics arrived they had no trouble seeing. The place was as bright as day from the motorcycle headlights.

Do you know why they helped? Because I’m a biker. I’m part of their family. I love knowing I belong to this amazing community.

Motorcycles do show up in my books occasionally. A Deadly Game ends with a suspenseful motorcycle chase scene on an icy, curvy mountain road. And the hunky handyman in The Most Famous Illegal Goose Creek Parade rides a Harley, much to the dismay of his girlfriend’s father. It’s fun combining my two passions and sharing the stories with my readers, most of whom have no idea that Virginia Smith is a also a Motorcycle Mama.

 

 

About the Author:

VIRGINIA SMITH is the bestselling author of thirty-five novels (and counting!). An avid reader with eclectic tastes in fiction, Ginny writes in a variety of styles, from lighthearted relationship stories to breath-snatching suspense. Her books have received many awards, including two Holt Medallion Awards of Merit.

Links:

www.virginiasmith.org

https://www.facebook.com/ginny.p.smith

https://twitter.com/VirginiaPSmith

 

Book Links:

The Most Famous Illegal Goose Creek Parade

Amazon:  https://tinyurl.com/y7wwfjgm

B&N: https://tinyurl.com/y7txk7a6

 

A Deadly Game

Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y73d3jjf

B&N: https://tinyurl.com/y7xwhzdo

 

 

 

Confessions of a Geyser Hunter

by Grace Bridges

 

There’s a city in New Zealand, where my father was born, where as a child he bathed in backyard thermal springs and steaming ponds in the public park. These days I live a few hours away. Imagine if you will, after a short roadtrip, cresting the rim of a caldera and coming face to face with a crater lake containing an island formed by later eruptions. Imagine descending to the town at the lakeside and blinking at steam that rises from the roadside drains and gardens. Imagine wandering a path by a boiling stream that leads to a grey pumice beach; dig your toes into the rough sand, encountering hot water that surges from just below. Imagine sleeping on grass warmed by thermal currents underneath it, to the lullaby of a blubbering mudpool. Imagine the inescapable scent of minerals weighing down the air. This is Rotorua. And this is why its utter strangeness has captivated me since I was small.

My country is full of thermal excitement, from the hot crater lake on top of snowy Mt. Ruapehu to the Coromandel beach where one is well advised to bring a spade and settle into a warmed sandhole for the day; from the Waiwera spa near my home, to Lake Taupo’s huge crater and nearby geothermal power plants. But nowhere is it so concentrated as Rotorua. Springs bubble all around its lake, on its island, through the suburbs, pockmarking Kuirau Park by the hospital, appearing and disappearing in yards and streets and concrete alleys. Several of the geysers are reliable, shooting off every hour or so – others erupt from the lake’s edge to frighten nearby residents with towering fountains at uncanny hours. Sometimes a hotspot in the park explodes, splattering the vicinity with ashy mud. Locals brag of boiling an egg in thirty seconds, when lowered into certain springs. Not far out of town there are strings of thermal arenas with jewel-coloured pools, self-combusting stones, pathways warmed not by the sun. Hot rivers, secret swimming holes in deep forest, myths and legends surrounding the spirits who watch over the springs.

I suppose it was inevitable that all of this should lead me one day to create a story where these thermal forces, these spirit guardians, bestow supernatural powers on certain humans when they come into contact with mineral-laden waters, gases, or mud. Each spring with its own unseen creature and its own flavour of gift for the initially clueless human. I took all of the most mysterious, most fascinating facets of Rotorua and made them into the story that I wanted to read. As someone said to me while I was working on it, the setting was totally begging for a superhero tale. Not of the usual kind; here we have no capes, no flying or immense strength, but a gentler kind of natural gift that helps our heroes use their minds more fully, connecting with nature, with the earth they live on.

When I had written three local stories for my gang of unlikely worldchangers, my thoughts turned to what else they could do. The answer was right in front of me: there are geothermal hotspots all over the world, along with volcanic and seismic action, all things now linked to the spirit world in my stories. The Pacific Ring of Fire, of which we are a part, where new islands even now rise from the sea as bare black lava. Tonga. Hawaii. Iceland. Italy. Yellowstone.

And thus I became a geyser hunter. It was Yellowstone that proved the next most attainable goal. I wanted to see how America’s primary thermal area compares to Rotorua, which I know so well. A few days was all we could manage; we signed up for bus tours, because we had no clue what to see and wanted to trust some expert guidance. I knew it would be different, but just how different…

Yellowstone blew me away. Not literally, thank goodness. But where we in New Zealand have planted a myriad of towns and cities over our live thermals, Yellowstone is empty of civilisation except for tourists and those who provide for them. Vast wild hills threaded through with only occasional roads; strict instructions not to touch the thermal waters. Some of the sights reminded me of home, like the coloured pools and terraces, the geysers and steaming rivers. Other times, it was all I could do not to let my mouth hang open, such as at the incredible Mammoth Terrace site – the biggest single thermal feature I’ve ever laid eyes on, dwarfing man and beast alike and set in a mind-boggling mountain gorge.

Wyoming’s thermal features are more dangerous than ours, which our people have used for centuries to bathe, to cook, to heal. Eruptions and earthquakes are the actual danger rather than the springs in most cases. The caldera in Rotorua is about one-third as big as Yellowstone’s rim, and Taupo two-thirds, although the active area is comparable in size, spanning from the mountains south of Taupo all the way up to Tauranga, Miranda and Ngaruawahia. Each caldera could erupt again at any time. Ours are smaller, but then, they say they heard it in China when Taupo went off.

They’re all only dormant, these volcanoes and faultlines of ours around the world. A perfect illustration of the fragility of life and just how dependent we are on their continued silence – but also a source for imagination. If the forces in the earth have such powerful physical effects on the land, why couldn’t the same be true for people?

I have many more geysers to hunt down and write about, all around the world. But for now, I’ll visit Rotorua again, imbibe its unique thermal urban atmosphere, and dream of the gifts that minerals might bestow.

Links & files:

Earthcore: Initiation (free story with video): http://www.gracebridges.kiwi/fiction/earthcore-initiation

Rotorua slideshow embed code:

Geyserlands

 

About the Author

Grace Bridges is not only a geyser hunter, but a semi-professional cat herder and kitten adoption facilitator. Indie publishing and freelance editing have been her focus for the past ten years, including 40+ titles in her Splashdown Books brand. She has written several novels in space opera, Irish cyberpunk, and in 2017 the EARTHCORE science mythology YA series set in New Zealand. Her short stories and non-fiction appear in various anthologies and online magazines. See www.gracebridges.kiwi for more information.

 

Confessions of a Pessimist Dreamer

by Rebecca P. Minor

 

As I sought to boil down the most succinct description of my artistic persona, I think I blundered into why I’m always feeling a little at odds with myself. I mean, “pessimist dreamer?” What IS that?

Maybe there are more of us out there than just me. Since the internet loves self-diagnosis, let’s make a hypothetical profile of one of these odd creatures.

  1. Every idea you have grows at a rate that rivals a thirteen-year-old boy. While you go about your day, sitting in the car line at school, power cycling your modem, and checking Facebook for comments on your orange tabby photos, that little story idea that you thought up this morning has expanded like Great Stuff into a tetralogy with awesome movie potential. Because Chris Evans would make a spot-on high elf warrior…
  2. But before a word of that tetralogy hits the page, you’ve also come up with 14 reasons why you don’t have the chops to write it and how you’ll never amount to anything as a writer, because have you read anything about the book market lately? Will people even still READ by the time you get this thing done?
  3. While you’re berating yourself about your general hackishness, you drive by the perfect piece of commercial real estate where you could house your little writers’ cafe and donut shop called Plot Holes. You can envision just where the little outdoor couches will go and where the counter…
  4. But you don’t even know how to make donuts. In fact, when you bake without a box mix, the result is something better suited for loading a slingshot than eating. And aren’t you going gluten free anyway?
  5. So you need to do something with your life that has an actual return-on-investment. Be normal for a minute, would you? It’s perfectly acceptable to provide a needed service to other normals, doing things like running a register at Kohl’s or maybe even going back to that corporate job you left to be with your kids more and pursue your creativity.
  6. But … cubicles. Fluorescent lighting. Viruses. Your gypsy soul has no hope of long term survival behind faux stone walls!

And so it goes. You’re a pin- pong match of self-contradictions. But your mind is always moving. And if one of the dreamer sides of the chimera that makes up your persona gets passionate enough, she manages to speak up and tell the pessimist to do her real job: keep you from taking some kind of really stupid risk.

This being a confessions blog, I’ll have to come clean and admit that pretty much all the above profile items have some basis in my actual life. But even though I often lament that Eeyore is my spirit animal, I have come to terms with the reality that the pessimist at least manages to help me weed through the 23 ideas I have per day and forces me to pursue only the ones that have me by the throat and won’t let go.

So maybe I won’t ever launch a Classical Christian school with a robust focus on the visual and performing arts. Or invent a special mesh bag for putting your cat in when he needs a bath but is a master of stretching his legs to the side ledges of the tub. But for now, there will be a growing writers conference, a truck and trailer full of books headed to fantasy and sci-fi cons, and maybe, just maybe, some novels of my own to put in that trailer someday.

 

About the Author:

Becky Minor lives by the continual mantra, “If you’re going to be a geek, go all out.” From serving as Drum Major of the junior high and high school marching bands, to founding the University of the Arts Gaming Society, to establishing Realm Makers, her pattern of bringing geeks together has a long history.

Besides directing the Realm Makers Conference with her husband Scott and amazing committee of volunteers, Becky occasionally writes fantasy novels of the sword and sorcery variety. Her serial fiction, Divine Summons, is currently available on Amazon, as well as a couple of short works set in the same story world. Her remaining five completed novels are currently seeking publication homes, either with traditional publishing houses or as further self-published works.

Becky makes her day-to-day living as a freelance artist, currently focusing on sequential art (which is a fancy term for comics and graphic novels.) No matter what the vehicle, though, she has a passion for the storytelling arts.

The Minor family makes their home about an hour outside Philadelphia, PA, where foam sword fights on a trampoline are just part of a normal Saturday afternoon. You can connect with Becky on FacebookTwitter, and RebeccaPMinor.com

Confessions of a Lovelorn Romantic Novelist

by Kristen Stieffel

 

In the 1984 film Romancing the Stone, mousy Joan Wilder braves the jungles of Colombia to help her sister. After a bus wreck, she meets adventurer Jack T. Colton and introduces herself as a romance novelist. Later, when the villains come for her, he says, “Romantic novelist my —”

As much as I’d like to give the whole quote, Ralene runs a clean blog here.

The point is, without my intending to, I seem to always wind up writing romantic stories. I may start out with a science fiction idea or a fantasy idea, but the romance always winds up in there. One time I got an idea for a story that was just pure historical romance, and after I sketched out the plot, Jack T. Colton’s voice rang in my head. I never actually wrote that story. Still have the synopsis, though.

The romance in my first published novel, Alara’s Call, is one of my favorites. Alara and Dorrel are friends as well as sweethearts, and their relationship is built on mutual respect as well as affection.

I once wrote a novel that, for all I tried to make it science fiction or women’s fiction or something else, is honestly just a straight-up contemporary romance. It even won first place in the Inspirational Romance Unpublished category at the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary awards.

“Hi, I’m Kristen, and I’m a romantic novelist.”

Hi, Kristen.

The crazy thing is, while I was doing all this romantic novel-writing, my marriage completely fell apart. My second marriage.

So now I’m trying to reconcile myself to the cognitive dissonance of being a romantic novelist who has two failed marriages on her resume. I’m not here to point fingers at my exes or dissect why my marriages failed—if I did, we’d be here all day. Besides, that’s what I pay my counselor for.

I told her I felt like a failure at marriage. She asked me to reflect on why I feel that way. I still haven’t come up with a solid answer. I mean, I did all the things I knew to do. I read the books and followed the advice and still came up short. But ultimately, what it really comes down to is that I somehow know how to craft lovely relationships in books, but I don’t know how to craft them in real life.

When I was trying to decide whether to leave my second husband, a friend who had an up close and personal view of our marriage was helping me talk it through, and at one point she said, “You’re young. You could marry again.”

I’m not sure I want to. I’m not sure I should. Because even though I could technically wear the label “award-winning romance novelist,” I’m apparently really lousy at the whole marriage thing.

One of the last things my second husband said to me before I moved out was, regarding our dysfunction, that “we will always be this way.”

I had no words for that.

Later—don’t you hate that it’s always later you think of the right thing to say?—I realized I should have said, Speak for yourself.

I don’t want to always be that way. I don’t want to shrug off my dysfunction as if it were an inescapable part of my personality. I want to overcome it. I want to improve in relationships.

Maybe, by experimenting on paper to see what functional relationships look like, I can get better at relationships in the real world.

 

Bio:

Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor specializing in science fiction and fantasy and is associate editor of Havok, a flash fiction magazine focused on the speculative genres. She provides a full range of editorial services and has worked on all sorts of projects, but she is a novelist at heart. Her first novel, Alara’s Call, comes out September 19. Kristen is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection and is a Word Weavers International mentor. Website: kristenstieffel.com.

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.