Wandering Beautiful – Therapeutic Poetry

Me in Seville, Spain finding inspiration in my traveling journal. This photo sums up everything, pretty much.

 

I like poetry, I always have. Several of my favorite authors also wrote poetry: Milne, Carroll, Tolkien, Poe for starters. I found them first as authors and later recognized them as poets. Though, Shel Silverstein is STILL one of my all-time favorite poets. Poetry is reflective and tricky, and the best part… it’s short.

Poetry is something I’ve always done, but never realized I did, if that makes sense. It’s been a way to express my thoughts and feelings, as I know many of us do. I’ve journaled like this since I was a teen, and oh boy, those early poem??? I’m embarrassed by the drippy/sappy/teenage angst of those early, tender writing.

And I thought poems were supposed to rhyme. My English teacher Mrs. Sawaya was the one that taught me more about the feeling of poetry is more important than straining a rhyme and ruining it completely. She said the best poems don’t rhyme. I can’t exactly agree with her, some of the old limericks have amazing composition. But this lesson taught me that a poem is more than just silly rhyming fluff, but can be a heart-driven search for understand using words, flow, and purpose. Through poems, I really found my author voice. It’s taught me how to write and that I have a poetic voice to my writing.

In my writing exercises, I use poetry as a tool to stretch my use of language. I like poetic voicing. I like using fresh words and lyrical sentencing. I have tender years of doubt, depression, insecurities, and basic figuring out who I am and what, if anything, I have to say. Poetry was a tool (is a tool) that has helped me overcome several of those hurtles.

Writing has always been a joy, like the wonderful freedom you feel when writing in the sun on the beach listening to waves and birds and rhythmic chatter. But when I became published the joy changed and become more like writing in a small closet with a sketchy swinging light bulb. This may surprise people, though I’ve talked about it before. Being published is every aspiring writer’s dream (and please don’t lose that dream, aspiring writers), but with it came a different side of publishing that I didn’t understand and had to adjust to.

There is a lot of pressure in the authoring world, things that you don’t know until you are in it, and a lot of them aren’t writing related. It’s hard being a face for your books. I have to keep and maintain a respectable media presence, I am public and need to be found EVERYWHERE. I have to sell my own work and convince others that it’s good and they want to buy it, and it’s hard when they don’t, because you KNOW they will love it. You can’t just give away books, you have to sell them. I have to be likable and sought after for cons and panels. And I always need to have my foot forward to what’s next. This to me is not writing, it’s marketing – and I’m not so great at numbers. There is a cusp for readership that when your book reaches it, the perpetual reputation of the book steamrolls into a public consciousness, so an author no longer needs to worry so much about all the things I just mentioned. Just think of your favorite books that made it to you by word-of-mouth or recommended to you on Goodreads. I have yet to steamroll into anyone’s bookshelves, I’m still climbing the monstrous hill before me. It was hard enough sharing with the world writing that was once so private. To make me push it and promote it is like dying inside. Creating is joy, but with that coin flip comes misery.

How I combat this is through poetry…

and a good group of author friends that understand the ups and downs of publishing.

Over the years since I first published, I would write poetry to keep my authentic author voice, keep my creative juices flowing, and help me through the writer’s block and other rough patches. It helped keep my sanity. The various poems have been quietly resting in different notebooks for years. I would revisit it often when I needed it, like a letter from a dear friend. A year ago I shared some of my poems with my sister to help her on a day she was particularly down. She loved them and that was very encouraging. I then shared a poem with a writing group asking for critique. I called it Flash Fiction at the time, thinking it wasn’t poetry at all. They were astonished and clearly called it ‘Poetry’ and encouraged me to seek out my poetic voice. That was when I first started thinking very differently about what I was journaling and embrace that maybe I am a poet too.

Pre-order Wandering Beautiful on Kindle here

WANDERING BEAUTIFUL is a selection of my poems that have helped me during dark moments. Some are reflective, some are silly, but all of them were inspired by writing in one form or another. Poetry is a tangible horcrux, the slivers of soul lace each stanza. It’s not easy to share, and frankly, I’m still surprised I put this thing together.

My thoughts in sharing these poems were that it might help others gently wander the paths before them.

I don’t think there is one path, I think there are several. And I don’t think one is better than the other, I just think our paths are different. I’m a cautious, but curious person. I’m exploratory. I like the forgotten paths or more mysterious, and the ones that have stories to tell.

I feel the paths I have wandered down have not been easy, but keep leading me to new paths, ones that I didn’t know were there. I have opportunities that others don’t get, because I’ve wandered. That’s what I’d like to share. We have similar feelings and fears. Let me share with you mine, in hopes it will help you with yours.

This collection is deeply personal about my talent, self-worth, and frankly, my insecurities. I don’t specifically write romantic poetry, but there are a few that might flutter your heartstrings. Mostly though, it’s about the magic of words and the power we give them.

WANDERING BEAUTIFUL will be released September 6th at the FanX Comic Convention. If ebooks are your thing, pre-orders are now being taken here for a release September 30th. Click here

FIVE YEARS! Vivatera’s Special Birthday

Fan art drawn in the original manuscript by my teenage neighbor. Thank you Beth!

As Bowie sang…

We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes
We’ve got five years, what a surprise
We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
We’ve got five years, that’s all we’ve got

Five years ago my life as an author began. I was so bright eyed, so shiny, so fresh to the world of authoring. It was a wonderful day. Now I’m seasoned, confident, and a bearer of a few battle scars… but I would never change it for anything. This has been a great adventure with still new adventures ahead.

I didn’t know the person I was before I started writing. I thought I was whole as a young mom and a menial lab technician. Life was very simple and ordinary, but there was still this roaring imagination that needed to come out. It never quieted. I constantly looked at the world differently. And I would often disappear in a world that didn’t exist, all while I stood talking to other people. I was made for this, though I didn’t know it at the time, but it suits me.

Look at that SHIRT! What a babe! Thank you Julie for everything!

I had no idea what wonderful fans and fellow authors I would meet. You all have been the very best fans a gal could ask for. If you’d read through to the end of Everstar, you all know how much I love my fans. And because Vivatera started this wonderful journey, I am giving it away.

From May 9th thru May 13th, you can download Vivatera from Kindle for FREE! If you’ve read it, spread the word, gift it to others. I really want to spread the joy of writing and creating with everyone I can. Plus, Billy Blacksmith the Demonslayer, the first book I edited will also be free starting Thursday May 10th thru Sunday. This is very special, and something I never believed would happen, so you want to snatch it while you can. It’s absolute fun!

I’m also collaborating with my author friends in a giveaway. Enter the raffle for cool Vivatera gifts and a chance to win a One-Year Kindle Unlimited Subscription, for all you readers.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER RAFFLE

Portland… on a deadline. Yes, I thought I’d let you all know what a DEADLINE looks like. It ain’t pretty.

I love this job with all my heart. It’s so rewarding, and yet, sorta strange, to know people are reading something so personal you wrote. But then, if I do my job right, it becomes something personal to them as well. I’m taking them on a journey and giving them experiences. There is so much magic in that. I love being a magician. I believe imagination is so important. It gets us to believe in impossible things, to dream bigger than ourselves. If it wasn’t for the dreamers, those willing to experiment, where would we be? You were made to do impossible things… so… what are you waiting for?

Moments In Millennia – Now a Memoir

In January 2014, this little book came out. It wasn’t a thunderous crash or a lightning bolt, but just a little ripple to those involved, a gentle reception in the world of books.

As with anthologies, they introduce you to different authors and are a great way to celebrate the short stories that we love to write. Shorts don’t need to follow the rules novels do, and sometimes a writer just needs to get the creativity out. They can end without finishing, it’s not as structured. And they often are bursting with creativity, like a powerful buttermint, starting strong but over within a few minutes. They are also great ways to get publishing credits, and that means something within the world of publishing. Simply, SHORTS Rock!

Xchyler Publishing did a lot of these anthologies in the first years, building an author talent base as well as an audience. So many of my Xchyler friends went with getting short stories in anthologies in a way to get published. I however, did the opposite.

Xchyler contracted my fantasy series in November 2012. I was already an author in their library. A lot of their anthologies had to do with Steampunk, at that time I knew next to nothing about Steampunk. Even today, if you ask me, Steampunk is still out of my depth. Then they announced a fantasy anthology. Fantasy was something I could do. I don’t remember the theme of the anthology, but it sparked a thought, “Well, I have my Frankenstein story.”

Frankenstein story doesn’t sound very fantasy, but it’s not really Frankenstein, but about Re-animation.

So, several years ago I had a friend named Matt. This is someone I worked with and trained during my day job at the Blood Bank. Matt was always the kid trying to fit in, he wasn’t shy but had a hard time connecting with people, or people understanding him, but he clung to me because I was nice and helpful and liked Depeche Mode, which he was a huge fan. He had mild Tourettes, though he didn’t like people knowing. He never wanted to be treated differently. I grew fond of him because he reminded me of my younger brother. We supported each other, and he was sure I would be the next JK Rowling.

My rowdy youth with my friends at the Harry Potter 6 movie release. The best picture I have. Matt is on the left. I’m the short blonde with the glasses. (I love this picture.)

Matt also suffered from night seizures, something we all knew. One day he came in with a huge gash on his face and he said he fell off his bed during a seizure. A few weeks before he died, Matt came to me asking for help. His seizures were getting worse and he couldn’t remember processes at work. We worked together and I coached him through some things. I did worry at that time, but he said he was fine. Two weeks later he just didn’t show up for work. Matt was gone. It was shocking.

I had known Matt had an identical twin. He often talked about his glowing brother, who working in computers and was making a fat lot of money, and how he would compare his lonely life to his amazing sibling all the time. But I only knew Matt as a single individual. People who grew up knowing them, knew them as a set, but I didn’t. At Matt’s funeral mass I met his brother and I’ve never felt so out-of-body than at the meeting. It spooked me. I saw Matt in the casket, but there was his face shaking my hand. I can’t describe it. It was like my logical brain couldn’t make sense of it. I know Matt died, but why is he standing, staring at me? I glanced at his brother several times during the mass, dwelling on the hardship of losing that other half of you. The whole situation bothered me.

Maybe he’s not dead. Maybe that was him?

That’s what my brain kept telling me. It was just a little thought, but it led me down a pathway of thought that continued the whole time I was there. I came home and wrote a quick outline of what would become Hawkweed. I called it my Frankenstein story, since it involved reanimating tissue, more importantly, 3D printing of a already programmed brain. I got really excited about this.

My first paragraph:

Jaren stood looking at his face in the casket, all the features exactly the same, the sharp nose and angled jaw—the very same features inherited from his father. Like looking in a mirror, all except for a small brown spot near the right temple, but in every other respect, identical.

I outlined it so Jaren (the brother) and Melina (the girl in-between) had their own narrative in a frozen dystopian Russia.

I decided to give it a go for NaNoWriMo and see if I could write the whole thing during that month. I intended on it becoming a full novel, even a series. I knew how I wanted to do it, but as I wrote it just became increasingly harder to do. Not just the cold and hopelessness of their situation, but it was extremely emotional and draining, and frankly, joyless. It got too hard to write at that moment in time, not long after Matt’s death. I stopped and shelved it.

It was close to two years when the anthology was announced and I thought about dusting it off. Maybe a short story. I could do that. I really liked what I had done. I liked the characters, the imagery, the frozen world, I wanted to share it. I edited it and reshaped it into the story found in this book. I’ve called it my finest work.

Melina’s Room, Petersboro

Cold, colder than usual. The frost on the window cracked near the edges on the thick panes of glass. No use in looking out at the white blizzard anymore. No one should walk in the frigid winter at this time of night, not even the soldiers. Pointless. Yet, I continued to stare.

It had been six months. Six months of cold. Not just the continual winter that blankets the world—I made it cold, like suffocating ice. I made the world colder by my existence.

I scratched a name into the glass, a name I loved. Why torture myself again? But I couldn’t help it. I took my fingernail and slowly smoothed it away until only a small square of smooth blue glass shown underneath. The hurt came back. It always returned when it was frosty like this. The memories returned, but I pushed them back. My brain shouldn’t wander there. I knew better than to dwell on my previous life.

I titled the story Hawkweed after a little resilient flower, much like a dandelion. The hawkweed doesn’t know it’s not supposed to grow where it shouldn’t, it just grows because that’s what it needs to do… it needed to live. Life continues on despite what happens to us. It’s symbolic, and I liked it. The title came organically, just like a hawkweed would.

As with many anthologies, our time is up and the rights are being released back to me. I don’t know if this will be the end of Hawkweed, but several are looking forward to reading it as a full novel. Short stories don’t need endings, and this one leaves you wanting a conclusion. In order for me to write it I need to figure out some logistics and how to tell the narrative. Big decisions like that. But I don’t see it as an end, but as a beginning, a new chapter for this story of a thousand possibilities. So, I accept it back with open arms.

To my fellow authors in this collection, I walk arm in arm with you to the end of the stage and take our last bow.

Au due!

Narrator Spotlight – Meet Aly, the Voice Behind Vivatera

As Vivatera’s audiobook comes closer to release, I thought I would spotlight the very talented actress that took on this series with such enthusiasm.

First, let me tell you of the unusual circumstances that led Aly to my door.

We met on a hot summer day when I picked her up from the airport. She wore this completely out-of-my-normalcy steampunk-y bowler hat, that stood out immediately in the quiet, pretend-to-be-normal atmosphere… It was so charming. I liked her instantly. This is very much Aly, my fated twin sister from across the nation. She flew to Salt Lake City from Chicago to stay with my family and I, and attend Salt City Steamfest, a local Steampunk festival with our collective publisher. She is an author as well, so we knew each other cyberly, but not formally.

Within two hours of landing, Aly had climbed my tree, found my ukulele and serenaded us with Radiohead’s Creep, had a good conversation with my talking cat, and told me she wanted to see the UP House, from, yes, the Disney/Pixar flick “Up.”

It was serendipitous, one of those cosmic moments when you couldn’t believe someone so alike lived on the same planet. The friendship forged that weekend went on to alter both of our paths. Now, you could call her my ‘sister.’

I knew Aly was a voice actor, and she mentioned wanting to record my series, just a fleeting, playful idea maybe someday… but the timing was never right. She approached me this summer when an opportunity arose for her to record all three. Yes, of course I wanted her to, but I didn’t want a friendship to get ruined if it wasn’t right. So I approached this with a business mind, being very professional. I had her audition like I would have for anyone, both us knowing that if she wasn’t right for the series then I would hire someone else. I was blown away…. blown away. She was perfect for the job.

I know several of you have been waiting years for Vivatera to be on audio. I’m glad the wait is nearly over and so happy Aly could record all three.

So, meet the voice talent that brought the Vivatera series to life… Alyson Grauer!


When do you first want to be a voice actor?

What influenced you?

My dad loves audiobooks. I loved reading a lot as a kid, and I treasured the times when Mom or Dad would read to me at bedtime from a favorite story. As I got older, Dad got me into listening to professional audiobooks. I wore out several cassette tapes’ worth of Peter S. Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn” – I had the abridged version and the unabridged version! I loved the magic of hearing a voice carry you through the story in your mind’s eye. When I graduated college (I studied acting), I found out about a website called ACX – Audiobook Creation Exchange. I set myself up with a cheap mic and a determination to learn everything on the spot and that’s how I got my start.

I’ve always wanted to do voice over for cartoons or games, but I’ve yet to really get into that area of voice acting. It’s a wide spectrum of possibilities!

What is your favorite parts about recording a book?

What challenges do you face?

I love figuring out the characters’ voices. There’s so much that goes into it for me: how old are they? Where are they from? What is their odd personality quirk that comes through vocalization? Who do they remind me of in real life? It can be hard sometimes if there are a lot of characters to keep everything straight in my head – I keep a spreadsheet with notes and commentary to help me keep track. Sometimes I even have to record samples just to jog my memory of a certain type of voice.

Is it weird to hear your own voice?

I used to HATE the way my speaking voice sounded!!! In middle school and high school, despite my best efforts to ignore it, I had to record myself for various projects and absolutely despised it. I learned that it’s normal for people to hate the sound of their own voice – when we speak normally, we hear ourselves THROUGH our own skulls and various other body parts, so the resonance and the pitch are slightly different to us on the inside than it is to people on the outside of our bodies hearing us. It made me feel better to know that I wasn’t alone, but it took a long time for me to personally get over it for myself and learn to like my voice.

In college I took a dialects class and fell in love with that aspect of acting. Being able to mimic intonation, vowel changes, and rhythms was something that I took to very well, and through that I learned to like my voice.

And now, doing audiobooks, it’s not hard at all – I rarely hear ‘my’ voice on the recordings. There’s Narrator Me, and then there’s a million other characters. Rarely do I use my own natural voice.

What other endeavors do you have that prepared you for voice acting?

Like I said, I studied acting at Loyola University of Chicago and have performed in various shows, events, and venues since then. Listening closely to the voice patterns of people around me also helps – at work, while traveling, while watching TV. There are clues everywhere!

What was your favorite part about recording Candace’s series?

Candace has written a trilogy of magic, but for me some of the magic was nostalgia. It reminds me of some of the young adult fantasy books I read when I was younger, books that inspired me to imagine and create on my own. I love the nostalgia of some of the themes of these books: a hidden power, a journey to reunite severed pieces, learning how to be a person as well as a person with magic, taking control of destiny, etc.

As far as recording the characters goes… I gotta say, Katia is my girl. Her scenes with Landon are pretty fun to record. I also really liked creating very specific voices for Ferra and Micah, thinking I’d never have to do two ‘hard’ voices in a scene together, only to be proven wrong! If you could only see what my face and posture were doing when switching between those voices… It was very fun to do, though challenging.

When I first heard Micah and Ferra I couldn’t believe it. Aly sent me these two videos back in September to show how she was doing the voices. I found them adorable.

This one is Micah…

This one is about Ferra…


I had so much fun working with Aly on this project. Vivatera is set to release the first part of February. Conjectrix will soon follow in March, and Everstar early Spring.

I want to thank Aly for giving me some of her time. You can find the first book Vivatera on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon. Click here for my Amazon Author page to find my audio books.

And find out more about Alyson Grauer here:

Alyson Grauer is an author, actor, podcaster, and voice actor. Her first novel, “On The Isle of Sound And Wonder” came out in 2014, and she has produced short stories for various anthologies and roleplaying game books. She narrates audiobooks and produces a podcast called Warda, which she co-creates with her husband Drew. Warda is an original fantasy roleplaying game, with magic, intrigue, and class warfare between humans and fey living in a utopian art deco fantasy realm. For more information, check out welcometowarda.com. Originally from Milwaukee, she lived in Chicago for many years before transplanting to Florida, where she currently lives with Drew and their cat, Queen Felicia. For more, please visit dreamstobecome.com.

Project Conjectrix – Journey of the Misprinted Misfits

Conjectrix:

In Latin it means: diviner, female soothsayer, female dream interpreter.

I used this word in my second novel for all three definitions. But, I added that this magical item, called the Conjectrix, traveled around to different locations. How appropriate for the adventure it is about to embark on.

I’m sure authors know what I’m talking about when I say MISFITS. It’s not a regular term that we use, but there are always mistakes that happen when printing books, it’s a hazard of the trade. The printing is too dark, the numbers are wrong, the cover is misaligned, I’ve heard of a different book actually being printed under the wrong cover, misspellings, formatting goofs… you name it, it happens, especially in the world of fast printing jobs and POD. I have a lot of these misfits hanging around my garage. I bet many authors do too.

But what do we do with these misfits? Burning them sometimes feels appropriate. Tearing out pages to use as craft projects, I’ve actually done that. They hang around in our basements like gremlins, knowing exactly that they are not sell-able and how costly the error is. It’s so much money wasted.

People may think they might be of value some day, you know, when you become famous. That’s why they creep around for so long. With my first printing of Vivatera that I yanked from Amazon a few months after publication, I found one listed as a “rare” book, which in truth I guess it was, since I only printed very few of them. The copy listed on Amazon for $865. I laughed. WOW! No one is going to buy that.

My misfits have grown fewer as I grow more established, more smart about my purchasing, more and more willing to pitch the trash. My newest misfit though is not something I’m willing to just toss. A couple of problems: I love this book. It was my favorite to write. Not many have read it. It’s the second in the series, and I’m having an internal struggle with what I should do with them, something rather than just let them sit in my garage. They are screaming to be read.

Here is the problem.

Now that my publisher has finished my series, it was discussed to make a box set and redo the first cover and update the second. I really like how Conjectrix looks. It was a fine cover before, but it wasn’t outstanding like my first book.

The covers are very new. I hadn’t seen them in print yet. I have a book signing coming up that I prepared as my box set release. I ordered my new books and received them on Saturday.

It’s always a thrill when you get new books, so I opened them right when they arrived. My new Vivatera cover is a little on the dark side, but I can handle that. My Conjectrix, however, has a misprint on the cover involving the font.

My series is known for its font, it’s nearly an identifiable trademark. So, when I look at Conjectrix both the font on the spine and the back are wrong. My heart sank. I can’t sell this as part of a box set, it doesn’t match. That’s what people look for, all the matching covers. I contacted my publisher and they were quick to fix it.

But the question remains, what do I do with these misfits?

We live so globally. And we are all so connected. Nothing seems small anymore. Back in September, I tagged one of my favorite authors on Twitter, knowing she would be at Salt Lake Comic Con. When I came over, dressed as one of her characters, she knew EXACTLY who I was and we struck up a quick friendship. The weaving of connectivity is astonishing. I’ve always wished I could be more connected with readers and I feel this mistake might be my chance.

I have always wanted to leave a book on a train, letting it fall in the hands of a random reader. Like in the movie Orange County, a random encounter with a book could change your life. This is exactly what I am preparing to do with my misfit copies of Conjectrix.

In the book, the heroine Naomi uses the Conjectrix to see where her friends are. I’d like to do the same here. In these misfit copies I have placed a little note with a QR code linking to my website. Here you can share where it has been and how you came across it. Naomi also uses it to travel across her world. This is also a goal. I’d like to see where these books go, like wheresgeorge.com. If you decide to keep it as a treasure, I can’t blame you, but the intent is to share.

The downside to a lot of this, Conjectrix is the second in the series. Though it is good on its own, it is better as a companion. If you do find one of these books, I’ve kinda handled the problem within the note. 😉

I plan on posting where I will drop a few of them. One I know will land in Kansas, one will most likely be heading to Florida, one might even travel to Argentina. Who knows where these little books might go. I feel like I did in third grade when I launched a balloon in the air with a note attached to it, hoping to hear from some stranger far away. I’m fascinated by life beyond my sight, and how others discover imagination. What a beautiful idea, this experimental extension of human connection.

God speed my little Conjectrix. May all those who you touch ride on the wings of dragons.

Follow my Instagram (candacejthomas) to see where I will be making the drops.