Planning…..

Juggling everything that I do doesn’t always mean I’m successful at it. No pics this time folks. My week has gotten away from me a bit. This week and last were pretty busy with baking projects with SamBee’s Sweets. Virtually no real writing has been accomplished on the book. Though I am working to get scenes in as I can between all the other projects and work hours. Really, I’m just trying to keep myself going with the day job where I’ve had bosses in the office for audit and meetings. So, believe me when I tell you that this lady is absolutely ready for a break of some sort. Hopefully this weekend I’ll have a chance to catch up and recouperate.

Things are looking up in many ways. That’s a good thing. It also means that I’ll be busier than I have been in the past. That could turn problematic if I don’t plan ahead. So, for my blog this weekend I’m likely going to give you a bit of a walk through of my planning technique and what I use to keep track of it all. I’m sure that, since there is a holiday weekend, I’ll find time for some photos of the current incarnation of my planner.

I am really looking forward to a couple of days to focus on creative projects. I’m hoping to find a couple of hours to be at the easel painting in the midst of all of the merry making. But there are so many preparations to be made for the Gala in October. We plan to get started on those things to minimize last minute things. It will already be a super busy week leading up to it. But, it should be a great opportunity to put our work out there and really let the community know we are here and doing some tasty things.

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Too Many Irons

Part of starting this blog was to give you a window into my creative world. And let me tell you something. Lately, that world has been a bit chaotic. The chaos is my own making though and I wouldn’t change it. In fact, there is also a lot of excitement in the middle of it all.

A few years ago I took it upon myself to learn how to decorate cakes. I’m not sure why, except to say that I like pretty things and cake of course. Bottom line is that it started with me learning to make gumpaste roses and it has sort of developed from there. In fact, it all started with this cake for our Thanksgiving celebration. Then we branched out with some for friends including this Octonauts cake. 

Well, in the last year or so my mother and I have been creating some really tasty and cool things. We gave ourselves a name and  started giving out samples we made. We’ve donated cupcakes, cookies, and even a massive gingerbread house to various things locally. Mainly because we were having fun but we didn’t need to eat all that cake. People really liked our twist on vintage recipes.

With time, we find that we have people coming back to us to make birthday cakes, cookies, and other goodies. Now, it is really starting to take off since we have a customer who is involved in a major organization that does celebrations regularly. This is a first and we’re still feeling things out as a business opportunity but, I’m pretty excited about it.

We have orders on the books at this point. They take time to process and crate these lovely confections. Yet it is so rewarding to see a finished project and the looks on people’s faces when they get something for a special day that is just as unique as they are.

Believe me when I say I feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I’ll be happy to see this turn into a venture with some financial gain to it though. Maybe I’ll be able to shift from working at a day job for someone else to working for myself in the not so distant future. That will also mean more time for writing as well. A life of creativity. Who could ask for more?

This could be the start of living the dream. As slow as it may seem, it is a start.

Nightstand Reads #2 : The Folcroft Ghosts

I am a sucker for a good ghost story.  How else did I get started writing the sort of fiction I do?

That being said, among my Amazon recommendations was this author I had never read before or heard of. So, with a $3.99 price tag on the kindle version, I decided to give it a shot.

I have to say that I was delighted with this gem of a read. From start to finish, the whole book was engaging for the imagination. In fact, I would place this squarely in the mystery genre since you spent most of the book piecing together clues with the main characters, a brother and sister duo in tragic circumstances.

Written from the perspective of the older sibling,  Darcy Coates’s style was captivating as it provided a window into how she coped with the incapacitation of a single parent as well as how she unravels what to do when faced with dangerous circumstances. As an older sibling myself I could easily relate to the girl and the sense of duty that Coates easily portrayed.

Well written and engaging, I was pleased with the read. I found myself reading this one in a matter of a couple of days between work and my other obligations. It helps that I had some slow time to read at the office. I would recommend this to readers both in the adult and the young adult audience spectrum. I thought it was a fairly clean read with a well-developed plot that had plenty of twists and turns before it was concluded.

Over all, I give this one 4 stars on Amazon and GoodReads.

Be sure to follow me on GoodReads, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter for more reviews, releases, and news. Indie authors, keep watch for news on how you can have your book reviewed by me in upcoming Nightstand Reads Posts.

Vastly Overrated…

You know, it is funny how sometimes I have this overwhelming desire to have what is considered a “normal” life. You know the type. The white picket fence, husband, 2.5 kids. I’m sure that it works for some people and they are quite happy with it but for me, it doesn’t necessarily work.

I’m quirky and introverted. I’ve always been so. I don’t think that is something that I can change about myself and be happy really.  It is also the thing about me that most “normal people” don’t get.

Now,  I can pass for normal when I need to.  I can don the dress, put on the makeup, and carry on a conversation with the best of them. But, where am I truly in my element and happy?

At home, in my pajamas, with my dog and my laptop, writing away at my desk or the kitchen table. That’s the usual spot. Sometimes you’ll find me on the couch watching Netflix with an embroidery project or at the easel with my headphones on. But mostly, it is just doing what I am right now. Tapping away at the keys on my laptop.

I think it is important for everyone to figure out where they thrive. I know that I spent way too much time trying to fit in where I never really belonged in the first place. All for the sake of having that version of normal I mentioned before.

Embracing yourself as you are is important for many reasons. I might be a baker and decorator but I rarely like to do anything that is cookie cutter even if I am aiming for simplicity. I try to think outside the box and do things that will make me happy more often than I just go with the flow these days.

So ask yourself these questions. Answer them honestly because, well,  they matter to you.

  1. What makes you happy?
  2. What are you good at that you honestly enjoy?
  3. How much time do you spend of your week or day doing those things?
  4. What keeps you from doing them more?

I asked myself these same questions when I was just out of school and again recently as my life changed again. The answers evolved over the years. They were very different at the ending of my last attempt to be normal than I thought they would be. What I really learned from them was that I needed to find my bliss and stop reaching  for something that I wasn’t sure would make me happy and focus on the things that did.

Your normal is likely different from mine. The truth is, it is up to us, as individuals, to create our own version of normal for us. Going with the usual social norms, is akin to letting society tell you how you should live your life without question. And that, my friends, is vastly overrated. Take what resonates with you from it but add your quirks and your own flair to life. Wear the funky ties or the bright colors. Take your notebook with you wherever you go. Sketch in the park or set up an easel and paint. Dance or play your instrument on a busy corner for the fun of it. Speak up at an open mic night. Or whatever else you feel moved to do.

Whatever you do in your life. Just be you. We are all amazing in our own way. So, just as I sign my novels when I meet people, I say to you; Embrace your journey! Your story is in your own hands to write. So make it a good one!

Strange Research Happenings…

As a writer my life is full of research. Writing in the paranormal and supernatural genres doesn’t mean that we just make everything up by the seat of our pants. Believe it or not, there is a lot research and investigation that has been done in the paranormal field. (I know. I was part of that fringe group for many years and still occasionally partake of case work when I have the opportunity to consult etc.)

With that being said, one of my major projects is a series of shorter novels I’ve dubbed Armageddon Rising. The first book is out currently on Amazon.com. It deals with a protagonist who is a fallen angel and centers on end times prophecies. So there is a lot of research happening for me to carry on with the next book in that series. It is a very weighty topic to tackle even from the fiction angle.

Months ago I bought a book as part of that research. I put it on the shelf until I was ready to delve back into the topic and really didn’t think about it much after that. The other night, I was looking for something and it caught my eye. I thought I would go ahead and start reading it. Sure enough it is full of interesting and useful tidbits. I went to share those with family members who would find them equally as interesting and as we were talking about them my fingers randomly opened to part of the index. That’s when things got really strange.

In the second line of that page where I opened at random I find my legal last name.  Then on the opposite page, I find a close relative’s name. Crazy right? And I’m not talking about just a first or a last name. I mean the whole thing. Knowing this person as I do and the context of this site they are named on, I wonder if they’ve ever googled themselves. It was just a super strange way to end the day and start a weekend of my own work (as opposed to the day job).

This weekend will be busy. Working Saturdays is always a thing. At least it has been for the last two and a half years or so. But, after 2:00pm tomorrow, I can refocus my efforts on research, writing, and my own projects. I’m ready for that. It has been a long start to the month and a super busy day today. So this lady is ready for a bit of R and R.

Trendy Things…

I am going to preface this entry with saying that I am aware that I am a minority in this matter.  This post is simply my way of expressing my own view points and a sense of nostalgia for something that I haven’t yet been able to experience as an adult. I’ve mentioned before that I had very different views of what being an adult was going to be like when I was young. The dream has never left me. In fact, it has shaped the person I have become today.  That being said, I’m going to talk about some recent trends that I am seeing in entertainment that bother me. Note that I said bother and not offend.

I’ve been a part of a good many creative writing and book groups over the last several years. And I am perplexed by how much emphasis is placed on erotica. Now, I’m not talking about a steamy scene in the typical romance novel where you usually expect to find one or two of these scenes. I’m talking about the sort of stuff that is so explicit it might as well be porn. In fact, in some cases, I find that it is porn trying to be passed off as mainstream fiction. There is no plot to speak of. Certainly there is no character development beyond chiseled abs and large breasts. The entire piece seems to be smut scenes strung together with very little action beyond that.

Now, I’ve been singled out on more than one occasion as not understanding the desires of today’s audience. (Couple this with being a prude and too old-fashioned, for the sake of transparency.) Apparently this stuff sells big time and we writers have to pay bills like everyone else. Some of them are willing to write whatever is selling at the time to make money. (Which I feel rather denotes a lack of integrity but, that’s another argument altogether.) If a person is compelled to write this material then by all means they have the right to do so. They even have a right to market it in my opinion. However, I think that putting out there among groups that are not age restricted is just irresponsible and adding to the problem of young writers looking for guidance being exposed to matters that they shouldn’t have to feel anymore pressured about than they already are by their peers.

On a more general note, I’m disturbed by how popular this sort of content is. It seems that most everyone out there is obsessed with sex. Personally, I don’t see the big draw. I am one of those rare few who value compatibility in intellect, humor, and interests over a physical connection. You can draw whatever conclusion you like about that. My interest in those matters went out the window long ago. There are reasons I am single after all. That’s likely one of the major ones. But, as a society it seems that we have lost interest in things that last and make an impact unless those things are used to make a physical connection with someone. That makes me incredibly sad.

As I said before, I know I’m a minority. But I also know that I am not alone in this.

Just today, a friend was commenting on not being able to find a decent book that didn’t contain a lot of profanity and vulgarity. She was looking for cleaner reads for adults. And I think there are many more adults looking for the same. So I’m looking for suggestions of authors and books that fit the bill. I’ll make a whole post on recommendations later as I amass them.

If you’re one of the minority on this matter. I’d love to connect. Leave a comment and follow the blog. I’ll be posting reviews as I find them and sharing some of my favorites. I grew up reading classics and I still love them. I will always want the world to be a bit more refined and polite. I will always want children to be children as long as they can. I’ll stick to being a minority for now. I’ve become accustomed to not fitting in for various reasons over thirty-eight years. I don’t see that changing any time soon. Maybe one day I’ll meet someone who shares that. Maybe not. Either way, I’m okay.

As always, you can find a cleaner read over on my Amazon Page, if you’re so inclined.

Overcoming Discouragement & Rejection

Being a writer isn’t an easy path. It takes years to perfect your style and voice. You spend most of your time sending out material to be rejected over and over again. So it is a necessity to develop a thick skin early on if you hope to survive the process of being successfully published. This is something that every writer struggles with to some degree. We wouldn’t write stories if we didn’t want people to read them and actually like them. But readers are often fickle and you can’t please everyone.

Some of us are blessed with people who believe in us. Family members encourage us to pursue a passion. They want to see us happy and fulfilled. When we finally show them what we’ve been working on for months or years, they tell us how wonderful it is. They know how much time we’ve put into it. They don’t want to burst our bubble or discourage us, so instead of being completely honest, they sugar coat and tell us to keep going. This isn’t a bad thing. We need those people in our lives. We need that cheering squad. But if that’s all we surround ourselves with dealing with rejections and discouragement can be a death sentence to the dream.

When I was a kid, I was most often surrounded by the side of my family that was full of people who constantly made me feel like nothing I did was good enough. They didn’t see my artistic side as an asset or something to be celebrated. In fact, it landed me in a good heap of trouble with them on more than one occasion. I’ve been a black sheep in the family for years because of it. Believe me, I wear that badge proudly now. Their influence helped me to develop that thick skin and temperment needed to continue despite the rejection and criticism.

I was listening to some vlogs and podcasts about social media and how to gain following etc. And something clicked about what Lisa with Lachri Fine Art said about target audience. Now, granted she is talking about art as opposed to writing. However, the concept is the same. You can choose to go to a general art festival because your work is “for everyone”. But, you draw dogs and do dog portraits. So maybe setting up at a dog show is a better idea. You really can’t expect everyone out there to like your work. And, the internet is full of trolls and people waiting to pounce and kill the dream over technicalities. So try to silence the critics.

You see, for me, I tend to keep things pretty close to the vest. I don’t talk about the rejection often because I process the hurt with my journal and morning pages. I put it on the page and I try to just let it go. I remind myself after the venting process of why I write. I sum it up with a list of reasons to keep going.

  • There are people who like my work.
  • I am always growing as a writer.
  • Each piece I produce is better than the last and that usually brings a new reader along with it.
  • The positive feedback is always a boost and it does happen even when it isn’t family or friends giving it out. The first time I had an Amazon review that wasn’t a family member or friend, I was on cloud nine for weeks and wrote more than I had in months.
  • This is who I am and what I do. It is the one thing that I cannot imagine my life without.
  • And somewhere out there is someone who needs to read the story I produce. I don’t know the reasons. I don’t know how they will come to find it. My job is to be brave enough to put it out there so that they can find it.

Part of that bravery is knowing that the critics are a dime a dozen. And it will often seem like their sole purpose is to pull you down and make you quit. Well, for me, I dealt with enough of that growing up. I was fiesty enough to do it anyway then, and I’m still just as fiesty today. So I keep following my dream, writing my stories, and being brave.

So should you if you’re pursuing an artistic career. Whether you sing, write, create art, or something else entirely; don’t let the world take your passion away. If it brings you joy then it is worth it. Even when it isn’t easy.

I am still finding my feet in the marketing department. But I’m confident that, with time, things will continue to grow and I’ll meet more readers and writers. I know I won’t be everyone’s favorite. That’s okay. At least I’ll find that some people out there do like what I do and they are the ones I want to write for anyway.

If you’re curious about what I write you can hop on over to my Amazon Author Page for a list of my current releases.  And you can always join me over on social media. The buttons at the top will direct you how to connect.

Also if you enjoy learning different art techniques I highly reccommend Lisa over at Lachri Fine Art on YouTube. She’s extremely talented and teaches her techniques through videos there. She’s been awesome for my own art skill progression. So please go check her out.

In which the author is sidetracked…

Wow, the time got away from me.

I’ve been most of the week in my little writer’s studio working away on my novel in the time that I’ve had. Happy to say that it is going really well. Hoping to be at the halfway mark by the end of the day today. We shall see if the muse sticks around like she has been. So far, so good. The outline helps. But it has been good to be doing what we writers do.

I am going to try to have something a bit less trivial next post. I’m looking over options from my brainstorming sessions to find something interesting to bring you.

I’ve been thinking over the idea of bringing an episodic fiction series to Patreon. Initially thinking about something with a bit of a vintage feel to it. For those who don’t know me well yet, you’ll find that I love the Victorian Era fashions and social graces. I’ve wanted very much to write something set in that era. I’m not sure if it would quite fit the usual steampunk mold or not. I’m not about the cogs and gears so much. But, I do think it could be interesting and find an audience. For me it would be a bit different from the usual style as well. That sort of break could be good for me.

Speaking of breaks, I did take one this evening to watch Kong: Skull Island. I’d seen the movie while on a date when it was in theaters. I’m not usually an action film girl. I made an exception here because I remembered it being pretty good. (Well, it could also have been because of Tom Hiddleston but, I digress.) It was a good film. I think it went into a greater detail that opened the whole concept up for a new generation to enjoy. Definitely was more about the myth behind it and wove in a whole history that was interesting and kept you riveted.

I have mixed feelings about the remakes I see now. It almost feels that Hollywood isn’t willing to take chances on new ideas anymore. There is no shortage of new fiction out there to pull from. Many a novelist also dabbles in screeenwriting. We’d love to see our characters brought to life on the silver screen. But, again, Hollywood would rather invest time and resources into making a new version of King Kong or It for example. I get it, those are sure box office revenue winners. They are in it to make money. I’d just like to see more storytellers get their work to the audiences that will love them.

Before I call it a night, I want to take a moment to reach out to all of you. What would you like to see here? I have ideas but, I would love to answer some of your questions as well. It can be about writing, self-publishing, creativity, or even just life in general.

What’s on my nightstand?

There seems to always be an interest in what authors are reading. Make no mistake, most of us are always reading something. Some of our favorite places are bookstores after all. So, I’m going to do a recurring posting series talking about books I’m reading and what I think of them. Hopefully I’ll be able to promote some of my fellow independent authors in doing this too.

phone-1052023_960_720I admit that I’m a slow reader. Between a day job that consumes many of my waking hours and trying to write my own fiction, this blog, and market the whole, I don’t get a lot of time to read for pleasure. But there is always something on my Goodreads shelf, Kindle Fire, and bedside table.  In fact, I’m one of those people who start a lot of books and take forever to finish them. If you want to follow me or connect over on Goodreads, I welcome you to check out the profile by clicking here.

So, what am I reading?

Big Magic

BigMagicPB

Big Magic cover courtesy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s website. https://www.elizabethgilbert.com/

 Creative Living Beyond Fear – by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book is a great read for anyone who is ready to make the leap into a more creative lifestyle. I found it to be both inspiring and practical really. Gilbert doesn’t mince words when it comes to the valid fears that come up when you consider embracing your creativity.

She talks about various concepts that depict creativity as a series of experiences that are almost spiritual in nature. It is not a new concept. In fact, I find that the more creative people I talk to, the more I find most of us hold that belief about our own unique experiences in living this creative life. And there is something almost transcendental about bringing something to life on the page, easel, or whatever other media you choose to work in. What it definitely takes to do that is courage.

Big Magic is a huge pep talk for creatives. Wonderfully modern and frank in tone, Elizabeth Gilbert essentially tells creators to push aside the fear more often than they give into it. Reminders that while ideas are always out there, they may not all work out or be great ideas for a particular artist. The key is to step out and make the art instead of wishing we were or pining away for a life we aren’t willing to allow ourselves to lead.

I am definitely taking a page from her book of wisdom.  Realizing that life is about discovering what we are capable of.  I’m taking steps to write more and put myself out there more. Which is why you see me more often here and hopefully on the Amazon virtual book shelves in coming months.

What is your favorite book on creativity? I can always use more on my shelves.

Stop over and check out my Amazon Author Page for my latest work in print. All available in both Print and Kindle format. And don’t forget to subscribe so you can get the latest posts from yours truly.

My Top Tool For Creativity

When you get to know me, you’ll quickly realize that I am all over the place creatively. Yes, my primary focus is writing fiction. There are tons of other creative interests in my bag of tricks though.

For example: Did you know that I sing? Yep, I even recorded an album with a band. I also performed in musicals back in the day. I also decorate cakes and cookies with my mom. (Psst… If you’re in East Texas. We have a facebook page and take orders. So check us out here.) I am learning to draw and even paint using acrylics. I do embroidery or other sewing, usually by hand, when I watch television. And I’m slowly learning to play the violin. I could list a bunch of other things. My point, however, is that I try new things and do my best not to limit my options.

But what helps me do that? Is there some common thread in all of these things that I do?

The answer is that there is something I do on a daily basis that helps me keep it all together. I journal. I don’t mean sit down an type on the computer either. I use an actual book and I don’t limit it to words. Granted, my journals usually consist of a ton of words but, I also doodle and sometimes design pages so that they are a bit more visual. The point of it all is to put my thoughts down however they manifest.

Why?

Well, how many times have you thought of a great idea for something to do and you get sidetracked by some chore or errand? You do the required whatever it is. Then, you come back to your creative space to manifest your idea only to have forgotten what it was.

It happens to us all. Don’t worry. I can’t tell you how many great book ideas are lost to the ether because I failed to write them down early on. Carrying a notebook everywhere is second nature to me now.  You’ll rarely ever find me without a way to write something down when it pops in my mind.

Now, there are plenty of journaling resources out there. I won’t get into all of that. Some will tell you that you should only use a leather bound, lined, 80gsm paper, with an expensive fountain pen. And you should format the pages a certain way and all sorts of other nonsense. If those things suit you, go for it. But for someone who wants to keep things simple let me give you the basic break down of what you need.

Number One

A notebook. Any notebook will do. Pick one up at Walmart or Target. Back to school shopping is upon us so they are cheap to find. If you’re inspired by something fancy then, go for it and splurge. I do, however, suggest something you can carry with you. That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Walmart usually carries a half size notebook that easily fits in my purse or messenger bag. When on a budget, that’s a go to item on my list.

Number Two

A decent pen. Whether you prefer a felt tip like Papermate’s Flair Pens, Pilot V5s or G2, or Bic Crystal Sticks you can spend as little or as much as you like. I have all of the above along with a box of others. In fact, some of the best writing ball point pens were freebies from the bank.  But, I also have a fountain pen that I favor. It really just depends on my mood.

As for formatting? Throw all of those suggestions out the window at first. Just be creative with it. Do what you do. I generally freewrite for a while in my journal before I get started on any projects. It clears my head of the clutter and allows me to process things easier. So, start there and focus on getting the ideas out of your head and onto the pages. Think of it as a reference for later. If you feel like drawing or painting, go for it. If not, that’s okay too.

Some days may be nothing but complaining about life and the circumstances you find yourself in. That’s okay.

Some days you may find that you have a brilliant epiphany about what you want to do next in life, in a relationship, in your career, or in art. That’s okay too. In fact, those days are just amazing.

And sometimes, it will just be a mess. It will seem incoherent and disjointed. And that’s okay too.

Remember, no one reads this but you. Unless, of course, you allow them to. Then I would hope that it is someone you trust.

For any artist the journal is an essential. It is the catch all for ideas, fears, and even for celebrations. It is a sacred space with it’s own special sort of magic. The more you use it, the more of yourself you uncover. That includes hidden talents and desires for your life. I encourage everyone to try it.

In fact, give it a go and tell me about your experience with it in the comments.

Don’t forget that The Secret of the Storm is available over on Amazon. Click Here  It makes for an awesome summer break read and is available in ebook and print format.

Also, if you haven’t already, subscribe up at the top so you don’t miss a post.

If you want to know more about my journaling experience, feel free to leave questions or suggestions in the comments. Maybe a journal walk through could be a good starting video for a Youtube channel. What say you?