My Fifth Chamber: A Kitty Tribute To My Best Friend Marduk

Monday, November 12th, I had to put my cat to sleep.

I know. You are all thinking I’m that crazy cat lady that is making a post about her dead kitties, much like my cat-loving librarian character I created in Vampire-ish. I do feel that might be me someday, but this week has been more a week of contemplation about the healing of a pet’s love and devotion.

Marduk (mar-duck) found me on a cold January 2009. I was with my daughter, who was five years old at the time, and we were running to the craft store for nothing particular. Right next to it was a PetSmart. I thought for kicks we would run in and see the fish, because she’s five and might really enjoy that.

It was a Saturday and they were having a pet adoption. All was well and good, I wasn’t about to take home a puppy, but my daughter wanted to see the animals. Sure, why not, so we walked over to see them.

And I heard a meow, (the same meow I heard for ten years), and went to see who was talking to me. Inside this cage was a black and white kitten. He saw me and started talking. Meow this and meow that. I said, “Hi, kitty” and he just started purring like crazy. I read the description on the cage: male, half tabby/half manx, 7 months old, owner allergic. He had some ordinary name I don’t remember. I talked to him again and he always had something to say back. Our repore was immediate. I put my finger in the cage and he was just purring like crazy, and that was when I noticed he didn’t have a tail.

“No one is going to adopt this kitty,” I said to my girl. “He doesn’t have a tail.”

I tend to fall for the misfits, things with personality or imperfections, the ones that don’t fit the typical mold, because that’s me – I don’t fit a mold. My heart just cracked open at that moment and a flood of overwhelming emotion came in.

And now I’m faced with a problem – Dad. We had a cat whom we took in after a neighbor family couldn’t keep him. Captain Murphy (named after the captain on Sealab 2021) was an outdoor cat. He was stinky and old, but we fed him and he entertained us. Growing up, I had a cat we lovingly named Satan, because she was temperamental, selective, and generally didn’t like people. Cap’n Murphy and Satan were my only good experiences with cats. I have battle scars after I tried to nice a stray as a child, and hadn’t felt friendly toward them. The trauma was still with me. If I got this kitten, what do I do? I want him in the house, he’s just a kitten. How in the world was I going to convince my husband, the man with a heart of stone, crafted carefully out of will and determination, to let me keep this cat?

“I think this kitty needs to be with us,” I told my girl, who jumped up and down at the idea. “Do you really want him?”

“Yes, momma,” she squealed with delight.

“Then I need you to call Daddy.”

So, I coached her a little and had her practice what to say. Then I dialed the number and heard, “Hey daddy. Can we get a kitty?” I listened for a few back and forths with them as I softly stroked the kitten and listened to his thrumming heart purr like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Eventually, I knew my girl would hand me the phone. I explained and told him that no one could love a cat without a tail. He looked like half a cat. I didn’t know what Manx meant at the time. But the kitten didn’t care. He had never known a tail, why would he want something so ridiculous? What I heard on the other end, “If you really want the cat, you can get it.”

We adopted him and named him Marduk, son of Ea, slayer of Teamat, again after an episode of SeaLab 2021. I just really wanted a cat named Duck, but I never called him that. It was either Marty or Kitty or Meow Meow. We quickly learned that he had no love for other cats, especially Captain Murphy. He rose in ranks among the cats in the neighborhood. Captain Murphy passed not long after that and Marduk never mourned.

This kitty trained us. He didn’t like drinking from a bowl, that was primitive. He had to have fresh water right from the bathroom sink. He sometimes sleep in there, so when I got up in the morning it was the first thing that happened. He was always there during my morning rituals – brushing teeth and washing my face, he was there begging for a drink.

He talked with me every morning, I had to walk him to his dish. He was a very codependent eater. It was a social activity. The moment I walked away he could say “Hey, where did you go? I need the big bits. My bowl doesn’t have the big bits in it. Refreshen my bowl with big bits.” I would walk over and check. He has plenty of big bits to eat, but would top it off again to make him happy.

Marduk was very social. He liked to be around the conversation. Whenever there were people there, he was right in the middle of the conversation, lying on the floor. And if you were new, he would come and introduce himself by jumping on you and talking, usually complaining about how he gets spoiled and loved too much. He claimed his spot on the top of the stairs, and I thought it was because he liked to be in the center of the house, where he could be the center of everything. I didn’t know until years later that the bulb in the basement heats that specific spot and it was warm.

Marduk, we later discovered, was anemic and had a hard time staying warm, so he was always needing the soft blankets and cuddles. He started sleeping next to me pretty early on. My husband would travel a lot and it was nice to have a warm body next to me. In the last few years, he’s been crawling under the covers and spooning with me. We really had a very special bond, one I still can’t adequately describe. He and I were best friends, the kind that communicate using nothing but instinct and love. And from the first day that he called my name at that pet adoption, he had always been my cat.

Around the same time that we adopted Marduk, I started writing seriously. Whenever I was with my laptop, Marduk was so jealous, because it was on my lap. He would snuggle next to me wherever he could. When I would write outside, he would come and lounge next to me, or near me. Writing became our time together. He supported me the whole way. He knew I needed the emotional support, and I don’t really know how he knew, but it was that level that people reach with their animals, communication emotion to emotion, to help combat whatever is happening internally.

After I became published and started increasing my media presence, I included my kitty in several posts, and included him in my bio. Several of my fans grew to feel like they knew Marduk through my posts, like there was a commonality in silly animals loving unconditionally the people they have pledged their devotion to.

I posted on Facebook: “Pets create a fifth chamber in your heart, woven with the fibers of loyalty and unconditional love. They understand you on a level that no one else can reach without saying a word.” There is some magic our animals have, a charm about them that communicates heart to heart. There is healing within their touch, their nuzzles, the purr and yap and attention in whatever form specifically for you. And somehow, when we get around them, well… when I get around them, I turn into a fourteen year old girl talking to a baby.

When I received the devastating call that my cat’s kidneys were failing and he didn’t have much time, I left work as fast as I could and drove half-blind with tears in my eyes, the half hour to the vet. When he saw me and heard my voice, he immediately complained about his current situation. All he wanted to do was cuddle with me, and I think that was the hardest part for me. Our eyes met and we knew. Marduk picked me, he was meant for me, and we again communicated heart to heart, without saying a word.

I have cried a lot about this. I have had phantom meows surrounding me all week. I am deeply wounded, and that part of me that makes fun of people that mourn their pets, feels the deep stab of emotional loss that comes from just being faithful, loyal and loved. I feel so shamed. Marduk was my first pet, my own. We had a dog and cat growing up, but they were never mine, never cared specifically for me in the way Marduk did. Everyone in my family is sad that the cat is gone, but more, they are concerned for me, because of the bond we had. At this time, I don’t know how to recover. It’s a different pain than other loss I have felt. I can see how people go out and get a new pet right away, because the fifth chamber is empty. My kitty well is empty. And I find it a struggle to do the little things, like brush my teeth, since that was something we did together. My house is so quiet without the continual chatter of a proactively opinionated cat, until I again hear the phantom meows in the background.

I don’t know how to thank Marduk for meowing at me that day, he knew I needed him from that first encounter. I learned and grew a lot from knowing him. He trained me to be softer and gentler, and how to communicate without saying a word.

Sweet dreams, Marduk. You picked me, and I will always love you for it.

Author Spotlight – Jodi L. Milner’s Novel Debut with Stonebearer’s Betrayal

I met Jodi L. Milner years ago at who even remembers, but we’ve been thick as thieves ever since. We both have an individual inclination for mischief, so getting us together sometimes becomes a cavalcade of catastrophes, much like watching devious monkeys escape from the zoo.

Us, in the funnest treehouse last weekend at a writers retreat.

I first was introduced to Jodi’s writing in a fantasy anthology THE TOLL OF ANOTHER BELL, published by my publisher. I guess, in a way, that was my introduction to her. She found me a Comic Con and we were quick friends. Jodi went to write several more short stories in other anthologies. Shorts are a great way to get your feet wet in the industry, giving an author some publishing credits for their querying resume. (Being honest, my literary voice is a bit too epic for short stories. I’ve only written a few. There is nothing wrong with starting this way, it’s just not how I started.) I worried Jodi would box herself in to shorts only, though I knew there was a novel in her. She’d been talking about it forever. I was thrilled to hear when she signed with Immortal Works and started the novelist’s journey in publication.

Jodi has been a joy to know and I celebrate with her as her first novel is set for worldwide release November 13th, 2018. Stonebearer’s Betrayal is an epic fantasy geared to young adults or young at heart, 13 years and up.

Order here on Amazon

A secret society of immortals, tasked to protect the world.
A demon bent on revenge.
A girl brave enough to fight for her family when the two collide.

Archdemoness Wrothe stirs the ashes from a long dead war, rekindling a fire that threatens to burn the world. Only the legendary Stonebearers of the Khandashii have the power to stop her, if they catch wind of her plans in time. Katira didn’t believe the legends. She didn’t believe a person could alter the fabric of reality or live forever. She didn’t believe in the dark mirror realm or in the dangerous creatures prowling there either.

That was before the first shadow hound came for her.


I’d like you to get to know a little about my friend Jodi and her work. I asked Jodi a few simple questions.

When did you first consider being an author?

While I always dabbled in writing, I didn’t allow myself to dream of being an author until I hit the magical age of 30 and did a fierce reality check with my dreams and ambitions. I realized that if I wanted to do anything with my life, it was up to me to make it happen. I stopped waiting for the ideal time to start writing, sat down, and tried to write the book lurking in the back of my head. 

Who inspires you?

It would be so easy to rattle off the names of super famous authors, but it wouldn’t be true. I’m most inspired by women authors who manage to raise their families, look put together, hold down a day job, and still find time to write their amazing books. If they can do it, so can I. Every one of the wonderful women in my writing tribe have given me the courage to reach for my own dreams. (“That made me a bit misty, Jodi.”)

How did you get your inspiration for Stonebearer’s Betrayal?

I wish the story came from an amazing dream that insisted on being written. It would have been so much easier! Stonebearer’s Betrayal started with a series of scenes I found compelling and slowly grew into a story. Somehow all my favorite ideas and character traits from TV shows and books crept in there, so the book is in part wish fulfillment for a story I would have loved to read as a teenager. 

What makes you truly happy?

The best thing ever is sharing something that is dear to me and watching their eyes light up with excitement. In that moment it’s like two realities collide and become one.

You can find Jodi on all the medias, but her website is a good place to meet her and get to know her work. www.jodilmilnerauthor.wordpress.com
Follow Jodi on Amazon

Here is a Sneak Peak at Stonebearer’s Betrayal:

Only sixteen days remained before Katira’s coming of age ceremony, and she prayed for more time. She’d spent eighteen years of her childhood without giving the passing moments a single thought, and those moments were running out.

Katira shifted aside her well-worn quilt an inch at a time, trying not to make a sound as she readied herself to sneak out of bed. Elan promised to meet her outside the gate when the moon passed behind the highest peak across the valley.

The bed frame creaked as she sat up. She held her breath, not daring to move or lie back down. On the other side of the small room, the heavy slumber-laden breathing of Mamar and Papan continued unchanged.

Over the years, Elan had begged her to sneak out dozens of times. Each time he asked, Papan’s warnings of dangers in the woods echoed through her head. Papan spoke of things out there that wanted to hurt her. Going with Elan not only went against her father’s rules, it scared her.

Back then, there was always the promise of another chance.

Not anymore. Elan insisted that it would be unseemly for her to participate in that year’s coming of age ceremony without ever having set foot in the woods. She needed to have this small adventure to proclaim her entry into adulthood. It was expected. All the other youths did it. Even clumsy Gonal, her father’s smithy apprentice, had been rabbit hunting with his older brothers. Or so he said.

Then again, the other youth didn’t have Papan as their father. They wouldn’t be forced to carry water until their hands bled as a lesson in responsibility.

She pushed the rest of the blanket aside. Nothing could make her change her mind. Not now. Today marked her eighteenth birthday. She was an adult. If she wanted to leave the house and go to the woods, she could do so without permission. She would have to face her fears and there was no one better to do it with than Elan.


StoneBearer’s Betrayal is available for Pre-Order on Amazon, or get a signed Copy from Jodi’s Website.

Book Review – A Darker Shade of Magic (Shade of Magic Series)

I didn’t feel right to review just one book, when I was reading the series. I finished A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC last year, but had editing commitments that prevented me from diving in and finishing the series until now. Now that I have finished, I will still be focusing on the first, with the reach of the other two in the series.

I met V. E. (Victoria) Schwab last year at Salt Lake Comic Con 2017, back when it was called that. I get more excite about authors I admire than big-time celebrities. I actually dressed up as her character Delilah Bard – tweeted at her with a picture – she hearted it, it was fun.

She remembered my costume. She was waiting to meet me and found out I was an author too. We talked for a bit, and of course I gave her my card. She’s with TOR! It was REALLY a fun moment.

Cool. Calm. Collected.
Super goofy grin.

I got the chance to see her again on her tour a few weeks ago. Out of all the cities, she decided to stop at quaint, little Salt Lake. And she again, totally remembered me, even after a year of meeting countless other Bards. I wasn’t even wearing the mask. I was so impressed by the sincerity and funny candidness. It felt truly special to have a level like that with someone I admire so much.

REVIEW

It’s very hard for me to put this reading experience into words. One of the things I look for in books I read is “Mind-blowing creativity,” something I admire in style and envy as a writer. I state this a lot because I hunger for it, and when something surpises me or takes me off my guard, I can’t help but smile. Ms. Schwab has done that very thing in A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC.  I stepped into reading this book without any prior knowledge of the books. I followed Ms. Schwab on twitter and I liked her online persona. I looked into her books and I FREAKING LOVED the covers and how graphically intriguing, and yet, how simplistic they were. And when I started reading it, I knew within moments, that this book did things right.

A first page is critical in setting up EVERYTHING. I learned that at my very first writers event I went to, where praised authors Shannon Hale and Dan Wells gave feedback on my first page before I even became a published author. THat experience changed a lot of the way I view first pages and writing style, I personal imprinted it on my writer soul. So, when I looked at this first page, I picked up very quickly that this was something new.

It starts with a very simple line, “Kell wore a very peculiar coat.” That’s the first line, a line that told me so much about the story without telling me anything. It turns out this coat as different identities, depending on where it was and what Kell needed it to be. This coat had its own character and story before I even knew anything about the plot. I was very intrigued. I immediately was thrown into a rich world, not of fantasy, but one with dimensions – ALL London.

RED LONDON – Rich and vivid, smelling of roses and deep with magic.

WHITE LONDON – Cold and colorless, where the magic has nearly vanished from the world.

GREY LONDON – OUR London, or the one from King George VI, industrial grey-sooted London.

BLACK LONDON – We do not speak of it, it’s that bad.

The idea of dimensions added with magic, blow me away. Antari can travel through different Londons as long as they carry something from the world, and as willing to use their own magical blood to create a portal. And what happens when a clever Londoner thief, Delilah Bard, picks Kell’s pocket from his magnificent coat? The beginning of a great adventure.

The series as a whole was unpredictable and clever. It continually surprised me. It’s not like anything I’ve read before, and that was so refreshing. Each character is well-developed and has their own purpose and drive. Ms. Schwab writes gender-fluid characters, both hard and soft, light and dark in their own way, and stays true to their flaws. I found myself not rooting for just one character, but more rooting for the magic to win. In A CONJURING OF LIGHT, Kell says Delilah Bard is “…one of a kind,” which is so true. She is fearless, determined, daring, and lethal. Kell’s character is sacrificial and honorable, everything Bard wasn’t. It was a great juxtaposition. The whole cast did a great job, though I gravitated to Kell and Holland.

It was a brilliant idea, told in a brilliant way. And again, it was a story done right.

Schwab set out to tell a complicated story, from several POVs, and delivered a magnificent work of fiction. It’s hard to rate the two books after, because I look at it as a whole piece. Just like any continuing story, the first magical sparks of imagination can’t be duplicated. Fans are the ones coming back to read the stories of these characters. I feel it ended perfectly well, though it was hard to guess who would die (because I thought everyone would). I had a hard time wrapping up the series. I’m excited to go back there with her continuing fiction in this world. I leave the series feeling better than when I started, a better reader and a better writer. I’m so tremendously grateful I found this series and this author, because it changes my view of what fiction can be, and that has a magic all its own.

Well done, Ms. Schwab. Anoshe.

Too Good To Be True – My Encounter With Three Fake Hugh Jackmans

Saturday September 22nd. A lovely new autumn day. On this day I felt pretty invincible. I love autumn. It is my favorite time of year. And I live in a climate where I get all four seasons on the day they promise them. So, I was feeling autumn, getting out my sweaters, wearing my boots, buying mellowcreme pumpkins, and picking apples off my tree. It was a lucky day too, I won two tickets for a concert coming up, and I thought I would Instagram my luck, something that is very fun and very me to do.

I’m a pretty big Instragram-er (check out what I mean here), just things that inspire me, fun things. For someone that needs to promote through media means, it optimizes everything for me. It links to my Facebook Author page and visa versa, plus to Twitter and Tumbler. Also, I call it “Visual Poetry” in the types of posts I make. Instagram has been my favorite of all the medias.

There are dangers in using any type of media, just as using any type of tool, but I’m a smart, capable person and have always used it with care. I do, on occasion (I say on occasion but this is nearly daily), get requests to be friends or to chat from men I do not know, like an easy tinder swipe. I heightened my security on my facebook private page to try and prevent this, but my author page and author profile are open and public. It’s hard to know fans from creeps, so it’s a gamble. I usually decline or delete any request I get from any guy I don’t know. I’m not interested in making friends, just being an author and selling books. They really aren’t my audience, so, the fact that this happened to cautious little me is a big warning to everyone. I feel rather stupid that I didn’t see this one coming.

The Greatest Showman himself, Hugh Jackman, just happened to be in my hometown of Salt Lake City on Saturday as well. The annual doTerra conference was happening downtown and it was swarming with executives and consultants. Not only do I have friends who are a part of this organization, I also witnessed the swarm while at dinner the night previous. They are a professional, yet lively crowd. It was a big affair, and believing it to be their 10th anniversary, they truly were celebrating.

I do not follow many people on Instagram, specifically celebrities, and the only one I do follow is Mr. Hugh Jackman. I started following him while he was getting ready for the Greatest Showman, but I was interested in his philanthropy work in coffee. Reiterated: the ONLY celebrity I follow.

As a follower of Hugh Jackman’s Instagram, I saw that he was, in fact, in my Salt Lake City. He was the special guest at the close of the doTerra conference. I watched a brief video a friend of mine posted, so I knew this to be true. It was beautiful to see the mountains I travel to every day on Mr. Jackman’s feed. I was so grateful he came to my humble city, I commented just thanking him for coming to my town.

I was “Comment around 816.” I didn’t have a thought about this comment. There was no way Mr. Jackman would be reading all these comments. I thought, well, maybe if he sees it, he can feel just for a moment, how much it means for our dinky state to host him, even if only for a few hours.

A little while later I received a message from Instagram telling me that Hugh Jackman commented on my comment.

I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT!

I went through all the emotions that one would think. I mean, is it possible that he truly liked my comment? I looked at it more closely and still couldn’t believe it. I took a screenshot for prosperity and sent it to a friend proving I’m awesome, and then decided to post it back on Instagram later after my nerves had calmed down. I tagged Mr. Jackman as well, hoping in some way he would like it and look at my profile and eventually buy my books, because that is a perfectly logical conclusion to come to when a high-class movie actor comments to you on his thread.

Something that stuck out to me… why me? I looked back at the thread. He hadn’t hearted or replied to anyone else. The handle was a little different and not his usual handle, but it was so subtle that I didn’t think of it at the time as anyone other than him.

Next day, I had a wonderful morning not doing much of anything besides working on my manuscript and drinking hot cocoa in my jammies. I received a message on my phone that said: thehughjackman_chat_ sent you a message.

I nearly choked. My brain came to a skidding halt. Wait…. what???

I previewed the message and it seemed rather genuine. Thank you for commenting, yadda yadda.

And then I did the boneheaded thing to do, without rationally thinking, I accepted the chat.

My reply was sincere and short, smart and well-written. (I’ve since reported the chat, so it has disappeared from my messages. I have no proof.) I thanked him for being genuine and putting his heart into his work. I mean, it was good. I used my best words, because this is Hugh Jackman, right? Or at least, maybe, his PA. He might read my books! If he even tweeted about one book, the sales would soar. I’d be set.

And that was it. I shouldn’t expect anything else. I got dressed and went about my autumnal Sunday dreaming if Hugh would endorse my book and how great that would be. How he might like to turn it into a musical. If he was still in town, maybe I could invite him over for dinner, just the regular type daydreaming.

I received a reply.

So, this was where things start to become a little fishy. The grammar was sloppy, which bugs me even in messages, and I expect a lot more from a real-classy educated actor. I’m positive bad grammar would bug him too. This Hugh asked about what I did and if I was a fan of his work. I figured since he is messaging me, he would know I am. And asked what was my favorite of his movies, quote “most people say the wolverine.”

So, wait… “the wolverine?” First thing, what movie is he referring to? Are you meaning “Wolverine” that came AFTER the first three X-Men movies, which as fun as it seemed, no one would say is their favorite Hugh Jackman show, not when you compare it with any of the X-Men shows. And if you were to pick an X-Men, it has to be X-Men: 2. Everyone knows that. But the other thing was -author instruction insert- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. If you are picking thirtysomething females to talk to, you better do your homework Fake Hugh Jackmans, because everyone on this planet knows that this demographic will pick The Greatest Showman.

This was when I decided to test the ground a little, but also I made some mistakes.

Still on a high, I told him I was an author, because I need to plug the author thing, and that everything he wished to know about me was on my website. I thought that was a safe answer, since that is author me, sorry everyone. But I’m directing Mr. Jackman to my website, so there he can buy my books. See where the fantasy took me?

I then threw out some pretty obscure movies like the PBS version of Oklahoma and The Fountain. Fake Hugh glazed over it by saying how wonderful it was to have a fan like me, and that I looked like a person with a kind heart, and how nice it felt to talk to a fan and be free to speak to true fans. Wordy, jumbled BS.

Kind heart, huh? Where did he get that from? And then, that’s when he started to talk about secrets. That he liked to keep secrets, using the fancy word of “clandestine”, and that I needed to keep our conversation totally and completely secret, even from my best friend, (which – too late, I had messaged earlier, so he already knew), because “us celebrities” can’t have the media involved. My creep vibe shot through the roof. I knew I had been had.

I messaged him “And this is where things become too good to be true” and started for the exit.

He messaged back rather quickly, pleading me to trust him.

Uhhhh. . . No.

I was pretty firm in my response back, that not without a timestamp selfie would I believe that this was the REAL Hugh Jackman. I told him, provide that and I’ll keep talking, if not, I politely asked (and yes, I was polite) to buy my books.

He did message back saying that he couldn’t provide all his fans with a selfie. Ha! I again politely reported it to Instagram.

I felt like the stupidest person in the world. I had fallen for this simple, yet ingenious scam. I have always looked at myself as a very savvy media person, with the right protections and securities in place, so here I am feeling exposed, raw, naked, and frankly, plain old stupid. I should have seen this before it became a thing. There were so many red flags, and I even picked up on them. I should have picked up on it way sooner.

It’s in my nature to genuinely believe that people are good. That makes me a very trusting person, even when I shouldn’t be. I felt very used because of my gullible nature and sometimes unrestrained generosity, even though this person didn’t really know that about me, they could read it in my language and words that I was a sucker with a bleeding heart. I don’t think this Fake Hugh Jackman was after money though, I mean, what lonely girl wouldn’t want sexy talk with a famous movie star? Well, probably a lot, but this Hugh approached the wrong girl – a writer with a bruise on her pride and some mighty keystrokes.

Not five minutes later, after I had reported the Fake Hugh Jackman, did I get another message from a different Hugh Jackman saying he wanted to talk and thank me for my nice comments. I died laughing, my ego healing a bit. It lightened my dreary mood – like Daffy Duck running in after Bugs had already delivered the punchline. Three! I had been ‘catfished’ by THREE different Fake Hugh Jackmans. Well, I must be the luckiest person in the world.

The REAL Hugh Jackman made a statement back in March about impersonators on his media accounts. (cited: www.hollywood.com) I didn’t find this until after, of course, but the danger is very real and very out there.

Several actors and celebrities have made similar statements stating to be aware of fake accounts – don’t give out any personal information, money, etc. I think we can all tell the Bright Blue Badge on their profiles, but it’s not always present in messages. With the explosion of texting communication in all the different medias as a way of socializing, scam artists are becoming very slick about what they are doing. And darn it, I’m raising kids in this generation of media-level friendships. My advice, don’t accept any request from people you don’t know. And be so careful with who you are on media. Pictures are deceiving, and people are more bold in texts, so never say anything in words that you couldn’t say to their face. Even I know the art of taking a good selfie, but that’s not how I really am. I have to keep the real me for my family and the real friends who know my heart. That doesn’t make the author me not genuine or honest or funny, just not for everyone. I’m sure, the REAL Hugh Jackman feels the same way.

I’m embarrassed about what I did and how thoughtless I was at the simple invitation of talking, but I wanted to share with you my experience so all of you can be wary, be warned about the dangers of fake celebrities and just messaging in general to strangers.

When things sound too good to be true, they usually are.

Disclaimer: I am not a selling or advocate of doTerra. They are listed for story form only.

Let’s Be Authors! – Making It at FanX 2018

My panel: The Rise and Fall of Sega. Had a good crowd and a great discussion.

I had a discussion years ago, actually on a road trip to Portland with my author gal pals, about when someone “Makes It” in this business of writing. What is the threshold? I mean, I’m sure that once you need a personal assistant or a publicist to do things for you, you have definitely “Made It” in some way or another. Just having enough to pay your car payment each month is a huge accomplishment. It’s a hard classification, because my internal view of being an author is not what is reflected in the external view to the reader.

So the idea of “Making It” is difficult. And as I really thought about it, it’s only important to one person. . . That’s me.

In all these years of being an author, I’ve never really felt that I “Made It.” I’ve taught classes and been on panels at different writing conferences, with really, really cool people too, by the way. But I didn’t feel successful, I kinda felt like I was a cool kid, but not a success. My audience is not my peers, so writing conferences are not the best place to sell books or engage with your audience. Online sales are difficult to judge, because I have no engagement what so ever. It’s all just numbers, not people. My books are very buried in the doldrums of Amazon, and only with promotion do my books get any attention.

Booth set up, Christine and Conor being cool.

But when I really feel like an author and really feel an impact of what I’m doing, is when I physically get to place a book in someone’s hands. I’m handing them an adventure, my adventure that I’ve created for them. And when I get to personalize it? It’s the best! Because I am offering a part of me in this book, a special message just for them. It’s a special feeling.

The Green Room offers the best view of dinosaurs.

FanX 2018 offers a great way to find your fan base and connect with readers one on one. It was a different experience this year than our other times at the Con Formally Known As Salt Lake Comic Con. In previous years, I had filled the booth with other authors – last year, we had NINE authors. My ideas were to give other people a chance to shine, and make back the cost of the booth, without thinking that I would profit anything. This made for a very crowded and stressful environment.

Me, with my boothmates, Ben and Christine.

This year, I decided to do things differently. I didn’t want to be stressed. I wanted to enjoy being at this con. It should be fun. So, I scaled it way down to working with only my closest and best friends in my writing circle: authors Christine Haggerty and Ben Ireland. Each of us write for a different audience, so no competition in sales, and also, we genuinely really want each other to succeed, so selling each other’s books was easy. It’s all about the reader. That is so important, the MOST important thing we did in the booth.

“Waiting for all my rabid fans to arrive.” – Christine

We got lucky booth 1203, a corner very close to the opening doors and main staircase. We set Christine and I on opposite sides of the corner and gave Ben the front corner spot (picture above), so every book had its own place to shine. We all had something new for our booth: Christine’s Middle Grade – Lucas and the House of Lies, Ben’s third in the Blacksmith Legacy – Billy Blacksmith: The Ironsoul, and my new poetry book – Wandering Beautiful.

“Uhura, from an alternate timeline, signing a Wandering Beautiful.” – Candace

Historically, we never sold very well on the first day. Most people were waiting to buy everything on the third day. I don’t know if it was the phase of the moon or something, but once those doors opened, people found us immediately and we started selling.

“FanX was an absolutely wonderful experience. Sharing with fans who really get a show generates an energy you can’t find anywhere else. And meeting Anna Graves was an incredible bonus. She struck me as a genuine fan, and she was wonderfully gracious.” – Ben (Photo by CB Lee)

Hands down, this was the BEST year at FanX. The crowd was amazing, we had exceptional stars (I witnessed Jason Momoa, he is real, we breathe the same air, and rotate around the same sun. . . ), but the panels were amazing. Both Ben and I got to participate on panels. My retrogaming panel went amazingly, but not as fabulously as Ben’s Voltron panel. And Christine cosplayed as her pocket pin-ups and drew quite the crowd, plus a free red top hat.

“Cute little Paige was the 60th Harley Quinn I counted at FanX and she got a free copy of Lucas and the House of Lies.” – Christine

We had fun. We were everywhere. But the best part was talking with fans, fellow creators, fellow readers, who were interested in getting to know us and know what our books were about. We were an impressive force. Many people asked about who we were, how we became a group in a booth, and other authors were anxious for a spot with us next year. I sold out of two titles as well, Ben sold out of his first title. We were not expecting to sell so much. I under-prepared for the crowd, because it’s hard to haul unsold books back. It’s discouraging. I have one, small box of books now sitting in my empty garage instead of several. I’m just still stunned and impressed.

Goofing off with Julie, who helped us Friday and Saturday.

I’ve had a few days to let things settle, but my glow has not faded. As I was driving in on Day 3 of FanX, it was a little cloudy, but the sun was peeking through little breaks, making gorgeous little spots of sun. I thought those lucky people may not even know they are in this spotlight right now.

Check out this guy, he bought Ben’s series and I totally stole a picture of it.

“Making it as an author is much like being in that spot of sun, not until it has passed can you see and recognize how truly beautiful it is.”

I felt the admiration from each person who purchased my books, and those buying my friends’ books. We all felt the energy, which brought us closer as a group. We were making a difference in their lives, even for a fraction of a moment, but it is imprinted on me forever.

“Me and the new Doctor. It was a great year.” – Candace

I feel invincible and ready for any challenge. I’m feeling creative and set to finish my book. To all my new friends that I met at this conference, thank you from ALL OF US! FanX has made me the author I had always felt I could be and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to be in that spot of sun.