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 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 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 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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jillmhackman/

Google+: https://plus.google.com/100069873149516870326

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?

Confessions of an Optimist with Chronic Illness

It may sound dreamy to say that I’m literally typing this post while lying in bed, but here’s the reason: I slept very little last night and I woke up with pain all over my body.

Welcome to life with a chronic illness!

But I have one thing in my favor: God gave me a beautiful sense of optimism.

 

How Chronic Illness Works

Some days I am perfectly normal, with all the bounce and sparkle of my ENFP personality. I hike mountains, write books while chortling at my own mad genius, and try to see who I can bring a smile to.

Other days, I crawl into bed, shivering with unexplainable cold; crawling with pain; completely numb with exhaustion; sensitive to every light, smell, and sound; and overwhelmed by the idea of having to get up to go to the bathroom or get myself something to drink.

We’re still working on a full diagnosis, but right now the partial diagnosis includes babesia, a tickborne illness sometimes associated with Lyme Disease. With babesia, the nasty beasties hide out in muscles, blow up red blood cells, and wreak as much havoc as possible.

In 2012, when I first realized how sick I was, I struggled deeply with depression. Was this going to be my life? Would I ever have the energy to do things I loved? What if it interfered with my ability to have a family of my own someday?

Because of my chronic illness, I quit a job. I missed a chance to fly out for a visit with a friend. I cancelled on countless visits with friends. I lost a lot of opportunities because I knew I had no energy to commit to them.

The truth? I may never fully recover. My life is unpredictable, at the mercy of my body. My illness very well might affect my future family life.

But there’s more to the truth than just this grim reality.

 

How Optimism Works

God blessed me with a heart that sees possibility everywhere! And, though the partial truth is that chronic illness is hard, the whole truth is that it has brought me far more blessings than I could have imagined.

I’m optimistic about the future. Everybody has their own struggle. Mine happens to be chronic illness, so I’ve made it almost a game to find ways to live the most of every day God has given me.

So how does optimism bring joy to chronic illness?

  • Gratitude: Today, as I type in my bed, I am so grateful for my comfy bed. I am grateful I don’t have to work today. I’m grateful that my laptop is so conveniently portable. So many people around the world don’t have this level of comfort when they feel yucky. But I do! How’s that for cool?​
  • Focus: The things you give your energy to are the things you most care about. When you have limited energy, then you find out very quickly what those priorities are. For me, the priority is writing. Since 2012, I’ve published five science fiction and fantasy novellas and written several novels, all while riding the physical (and mental) rollercoaster. If I can do that, I can do anything!
  • Boundaries: I used to say yes to everything. Now I pick and choose my commitments. And you know what? It’s awesome. Every time I say “yes,” I can do so unreservedly and without resentment because I know I have thought through all the implications and know I can commit to it.
  • Pacing: In the proverbial tortoise and hare story, I’m naturally the hare. Zip! Zap! Then I take a break, and do it all over again. Now I am learning the benefits of being a tortoise. I used to write thousands of words a day. I don’t have the energy for that anymore, but hey! Doesn’t slow me down. I’ve actually gotten more serious writing done in the last few years because I’ve established a sustainable daily writing goal that I know I can stick to. Consistency really adds up over time! Who knew?
  • Resilience: This past summer, I had an episode in which I experienced two weeks of intense pain. My body gave me a few hours off every day to recover, and then I’d go right back to kneeling on the floor, rocking back and forth and sobbing in pain. That was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Why? Because I know just how powerful I am now (with the Lord’s help). I survived it! This gives me perspective when I experience other hard things.

I could moan about how the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but honestly, I’m too fascinated by the grass on my side of the fence. (Isn’t grass pretty? Have you ever stopped to think what the world would be without grass?) No matter what path your life takes, there are amazing things around the corner, if you keep your eyes open for them.

Yes, I’m chronically ill but so long as I stay chronically optimistic, I know I’ll be okay.

 

About the Author:

Yaasha Moriah believes that good fiction pulses with realism, honor, and invention, so that even fiction becomes true in some way to the reader. In 2015, Wings Beneath Water earned Silver Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest and is now available as a novella. Find her on Facebook and Twitter as Yaasha Moriah and visit her website at www.YaashaMoriah.com.

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Teenager

by Heather Fitzgerald

 

I’m a late bloomer. It took many years of marriage and four kids to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

When I graduated high school back in *ahem* 1987, I had plans of becoming a model and world traveler. Yeah. I know. Very realistic and attainable. But college was definitely not part of my head-in-the-cloud plans because there wasn’t anything I wanted to do that could justify the cost.

Thankfully, the Lord had other ideas. He brought Prince Charming my way a year after graduation, and we were married shortly after I turned twenty. Billy (aka the prince) was the left brain to my right brain—quite literally—and helped me to keep my feet on the ground without giving up my desire to dream big and embrace life.

But once we started our family, a lot of my hopes and daydreams had to be set aside for a season. This was before the internet and smart phones too, so when I see busy moms that—somehow—juggle school, jobs, writing, housework, and social media, I’m a bit boggled and incredulous. I don’t think I could have managed such an itinerary with any measure of grace, let alone success! Hats off to you millennials that have grown up with social media diversions as part of your norm. I guess it’s all a matter of what you’re used to.

By the time my oldest daughter was seven, we also had a boy, age six, with autism, and two more daughters, age three and newborn. Let’s just say there’s a large chunk of my young married life that’s rather fuzzy. Beyond laundry, meals, school work, and therapy, I don’t have a whole lot of clarity on the day to day. Pretty sure everyone made it through well fed and with clean underwear, but I wouldn’t bet large sums of money on it.

Still … in the midst of our busy family life, I knew there would be another season that would allow more time for creative pursuits. Fanciful ideas always bubbled just under the surface. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t merely biding my time as a mother so I could get to the ‘fun stuff’. No. I loved being a mom, a wife, and a teacher. Creative pursuits just looked different at that time…like learning to cook and enjoying the challenge of decorating on a shoestring budget. Still, my mind constantly came up with ideas, both realistic and impractical.

One thing I had always loved to do, from childhood through high school, was dance. Think Fame and Flashdance—iconic 80’s movies. Although my parents didn’t have the finances to put me into any sort of lessons or program, public school had quite a few outlets for it, between dance team, cheerleading, and talent shows (not to mention hoofing it around my house). However, after graduation I really didn’t have an opportunity to continue dancing.

When my youngest was two, my husband encouraged me to get involved with it again (told you he was a prince!). Being that I could only take classes when he was home in the evening, there wasn’t a wide selection of adult dance classes to choose from. I could take ballet, or ballet.

I chose ballet.

Since I hadn’t any experience with this form of dance beyond a plie, it was a whole new discipline. To be honest, it wasn’t nearly as fun as contemporary dance because it’s much more technique driven and all about uniformity among dancers. I’m more of a free spirit. But it was still an opportunity to dance, nonetheless, and I learned to enjoy it.

Around that time, my kids began to take classes at a fine art school for homeschoolers. Eventually, I put my son in their ballet program to help with his coordination. I stayed in class and assisted him since his coordination and flexibility were about as natural as my talent to work quadratic equations (hint, that’s a left brained activity and I don’t have one of those).

Because of my involvement, I was eventually offered a job teaching ballet at this fast-growing school.

What???

Okay, the Lord definitely had a secret agenda for me when ballet had been my only option for dance classes a few years earlier. Someone was actually going to pay me to teach dance and I’d get to choreograph performances—which was my favorite thing ever.

Fast forward fourteen years. I’m still teaching ballet at this fabulous school. We’ve grown from a handful of students to close to one thousand! We’ve expanded from two ballet teachers to five. And choreographing for our ‘showcase’ is still the best part of the year for me. Choreography is storytelling set to music. I prefer to use songs with lyrics so that we can express the story through dance, though certain instrumental pieces can move me in much the same way and I’ve used them as well.

As my children became teens and tweens, I began to see how swiftly our school days would come to a close. When my youngest was in sixth grade and my oldest had graduated, I could feel the fetters of schedules, classes, rehearsals, and performances loosening, little by little, as each child became a young adult. What was I going to do with myself? Ballet classes were only a once a week event. I didn’t want to choose a career path after our final graduate walked the stage. I needed a goal to work toward.

Enter writing. If I could begin a career in ballet in my thirties, why couldn’t I begin a writing career in my forties? I’d always had the desire and the ability lurking just under the surface. Where I had struggled tremendously to keep my head above water in math, I had easily coasted through English and literature courses. And as a homeschooling mom, I enjoyed reading to my kids most of all. “Just one more chapter” was a sure way to take a bite out of my well-intended schedule.

I had already been playing around with writing kids books and venturing into the blogosphere, so writing wasn’t a brand new pursuit. But I made a firm commitment to have some sort of career in place by the time my youngest graduated. Though I had often dipped into creative pursuits only to let projects sit unfinished for eons (if finished at all), I felt like the Lord was calling me to look at the big picture, the long term, and the future of my grown up self.

Well, number four graduated in May of 2016. My first book The Tethered World was published in February of 2016 with The Flaming Sword releasing that November. The Genesis Tree is coming out this June which means my first publishing contract has been fulfilled. Pretty much divine timing, right? Divine indeed because I look back and wonder how my blonde, right-brained self managed to pull this off.

I can’t help but view the past twenty-seven years of marriage with a thrill of awe and thanksgiving over how well the Lord orchestrates our paths. He has blessed me with a wonderful husband, terrific kids that have grown into treasured friends, a beautiful grand daughter, and—amazingly—a dual career doing things that I absolutely love. It’s humbling to look at how little I had to do with any of it. Even the talent to dance or to write are gifts from Him, designed by Him.

I feel like I’m getting some sort of do-over from my graduation in ’87. Probably because I needed to grow up a bit to know what I wanted to be when I actually grew up. Thanks to the disciplines of being a wife and a mother, I’ve matured enough to handle the freedom of self-expression that would have been wasted in my youth (on me anyway).

Yep. I’m a late bloomer. What about you? Maybe you had different opportunities than me and were able to enjoy a career before you reached middle age (okay, maybe you’re not anywhere close to being middle age but, I promise, you’ll be there in a blink). Still, we all have hopes that are deferred for one reason or another. What are your future dreams?

Although there’s controversy surrounding whether or not C.S. Lewis actually said this, it is still a favorite quote and sounds like a tidbit of his wisdom. “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” I’m certainly proof of that.

And I’m not done dreaming!

 

Author Bio:

Heather L.L. FitzGerald writes from her home in Texas, while dreaming of being back in the Pacific Northwest, where she grew up. When her four kids were young, she enjoyed reading aloud until her voice gave out. (Her son, who is autistic, would just move on to his favorite audiobook).

Certain stories became good friends—the kind you want to revisit. The kind you wish never needed to say goodbye. Those are the kind of stories Heather aspires to write. Stories worthy of delicious coffee. Stories difficult to leave. Her YA Fantasy trilogy The Tethered World Chronicles will be complete when her third book, The Genesis Tree, releases June 1st. Her other books, The Tethered World, and The Flaming Sword, are available on Amazon or can be ordered at any book retailer.

Heather is a member of the North Texas Christian Writer’s group, ACFW, CAN, and helps with the Manent Writer’s group in Fort Worth, Texas. You can connect with Heather on her website/blogFacebook, Pinterest,(Belongs to her main character, Sadie), Character blog: (Sadie’s mother has a blog pertaining to legendary creatures), Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads.