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 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.

 

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:

Website: http://jmhackman.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jmhackman/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jm_hackman

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15648309.J_M_Hackman

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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?