Things to Love in the Time of Corona

My spring flowers

Today is March 19th, 2020. It’s the first day of spring. Do people remember what Spring is? It’s the wakening of a sleepy world, one that has no memory of anything that has transpired over the last few months, even over the past few days.

I always look forward to spring. After being cocooned by cold and snow, and the depression that penetrates down to the soul. Spring is what helps awaken the seed of expression in me.

I do have moments of poetic inspiration, but it’s usually spring that refreshes the soul, dusts off the muse, and helps me remember amazing creation in nature and birth, and the simple marvels of science in how the world works.

My heart is having trouble right now. I have this strange feeling that rest right behind my ribs that feels that any moment it might ignite or completely wither. I can’t feed it too much and it can’t starve. I’m sure that several of you know this feeling. It’s not quick panic, it’s not anxiety, it’s just an anxious unsettling. And when I don’t have something to focus on, all I feel is the pressure.

Part of the reason I thought of writing this post is to help me change focus. Spring is a perfect thing to focus on. But more than that, I think that slowing the pace of life is a huge lesson to all of us that live high energy lives.

I’m considering a list of things that I forgot how much I love, not just about spring, but about living and breathing in general. In reflecting, it’s helping ease the terrible monster I feel inside.

Sidewalk Chalk Art

Pretty good art, right?

I grew up with not much money but a lot of imagination. I never had sidewalk chalk when I was younger. What we had (my friends and sister) were pieces of drywall. Remember how cool that was? Drywall? That was one of our favorite parts of when someone built a new room or did some remodeling. When we found some old drywall, a world of magic appeared before us.

For the past few Easters, sidewalk chalk was something I loved giving my girls, because of the magical experiences I felt when I was younger.

Sidewalk chalk is a great way to express yourself to others and a beautiful way to enjoy the sunshine. It reconnects the seeds of youth. When I get chalk in my hand, I’m all the sudden practicing my bubble lettering that I scrawled on my notebooks in junior high. I draw hopscotch courts and person outlines, and every color of daisy I can. It’s an expression of self that is juvenile and young. Rainbows and clouds graffiti on the ground that washes away with the rain. It’s a wonderful feeling that comes with drawing with chalk on the ground.

Baking Bread

I’m the worst domestic. I’m not very creative when it comes to cooking. I have very little imagination for it. But there is something very enchanting about baking, something that feeds me again from my youth.

My mother would make bread when I was younger. My young, formative years were spent in an unusual situation. I’ve posted about this before, but I lived for seven years of my life in a converted dairy barn in a small country town.

Living in a large family with very little money, my mother did extraordinary things to make it feel like we were always wealthy. She masked our situation when I was young, and not until I was an adult could I truly get perspective of our reality.

The simple act of baking bread reminds me of growing up an being small. Snitching dough with the pinch of my fingers. The warm smell spreading throughout our home. I loved her bread. It wasn’t a particular difficult recipe, but it was the act of making it that made it so special. And as I said, I’m not very domestic and have not carried on this tradition, but in the time of reflection, this was something I wanted to do for my family – a service I felt was important to imbue the difficult memories with something courageous their mother tried, much like my mother.

Connect Four and Sorry!

Bet you didn’t know that I am UNBEATABLE at Connect Four. My sister had the game when we were in the tween years, and often times we would just play and play. My sister is two years younger and has always been competitive with me, though she never admitted it. In playing, we both learned several strategies that have sharpened my skills and helped me predict my competitors next move.

I was given a wooden Connect Four game for my birthday last year and decided in this downtime to play my girls until I lost. We have postponed our matches because of online school, but it is still going strong.

And if you’ve never played Sorry! with me, it is QUITE the experience. I call myself sore winner. I’m funny, sarcastic, a bad sport, a loud mouth, never a cheerleader, always the one to kill the one that wronged me… and HARDLY EVER WIN. But when I do, I make it the most memorable experience of Sorry! EVER!

Another time in my childhood, I played my sister Sorry! until I won…. FOURTEEN GAMES LATER I finally won. FOURTEEN GAMES?? What is wrong with me? I love this game, that’s what’s wrong. I will drop anything to play.

Sorry! is my favorite game, and now is a perfect time to play me. My sister has an auto-immune disease and we are not allowed to visit, so the best way to play games with her is online. I love that we found Sorry! and Boggle and Punch Drunk Scrabble (the best way to play Scrabble is at 1 in the morning). If you can’t physically play with someone, this might be the best way to enjoy each other during this time.

Blanket Forts and Trampolines

Trouble is coming.

When all things started to fall apart on Friday, I knew very quickly that I needed to think outside the box when trying to keep kids and myself entertained. The first thing I wanted to do was set up a TV in our front room with retrogaming consoles and then build a blanket fort. My attempt at the blanket fort was dismal when you have a curious cat. It lasted long enough to appreciate the mysterious world that’s under a blanket fort, and also that I don’t need to live in one.

Yesterday, after a very difficult day, (oh… did I mention with all the social distancing and hoarding, we had a 5.7 earthquake?) I made a quick decision to pick up an trampoline a person was selling super cheap in my neighborhood.

Me and my girls set it up, springs and all, and don’t even care that the tramp itself is upside-down. I’ve always wanted a tramp ever since I was a teen. We never had one, but my neighbor had one, and we invented lots of games, one we called Ghost where we had to act out something and be judged, and I was rather good at that game.

My husband has been against a tramp for years. He did grow up with one and just didn’t think we needed it. We have mature trees and spent years climbing and swinging. But now the girls are teens and their imagination in suffering. I have to get them outside.

School being canceled has made my kids very depressed, bored, grumpy, constantly hungry, and the earthquake was icing on the cake. I went and grabbed the trampoline on my way home from work without even asking permission, and the girls are thrilled.

Trampolines let you fly. The weightless bounce is exhilarating. You feel the sky and are transported to a weightless world. And you know when you’ve returned to earth, because you feel gravity for the first time.

These two things center my spirit. They are just little and brought back threads of youth. Showing my silly side to my kids is important to me. My relationship with them is important. My trust and openness with them starts with their relationship with me. I’ve never been super strict, I’ve always been silly and willing to play. Be open to show that silly side.

Re-reading

As much as I love reading, I can’t concentrate on it. My brain is skimming over details and missing so much. I’m trying to finish The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow and I don’t think it’s fair to the book. I love the way it’s written, but have lost my appetite for it right now. I still want to read, so I’ve decided to reread books that I know and want to experience again. Books that I’ve been far removed from for years, foundations to my writing, and something to help distract my mind. I’ve selected three books:

  1. The Princess Bride – William Goldman
  2. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
  3. The Sword of Shannara – Terry Brooks

These three books I own but forgot about.

The Princess Bride I read in high school, mostly because I loved the movie, which is a good adaptation, however, the book is so well put together that it changed my idea of how literature can be presented to an audience.

Anne of Green Gables I also started reading because of the movie, or series, but it was the first book I finished on my own – that was in ninth grade. It’s so quirky and funny, and about a girl that I identified with.

My mother read Sword of Shannara to me when I was super young. I have very fond memories of laying on her bed with my head hanging off the edge, looking at the world upside-down, worrying about Shea when he fell off the cliff away from his brother. You all remember that part? It was the worst! I read it on my own my first winter in Logan after I was married and felt very isolated and friendless. That book brought great comfort and companionship. Sword is fundamental in my fantasy writing and it will feel really good to remember the beginning of the journey.

We’re All In This Together

I feel almost like a specter in my own life, floating in my body and walking in my clothing. I see a purple sky and wonder how it turned purple. We all have this strange feeling in our chests. Everyone is feeling it. We are not alone. This is one of those life-defining moments where trajectories are formed and changed. It’s important to bring out the memories is a good way, try to enrich the lives around you, because they are forming serious memories right now. Each day is different and ever-changing, but don’t be afraid and don’t fight your anxiety. It’s okay to feel things, it’s important to know emotion and understand it.

Take this time to find in yourself strength you don’t know is there, but it is. The sun is still there and it will still be there tomorrow. Find the memories that have defined your life and share them. You are important to those who love you, so bring out the memories you want to craft for them. It’s a beautiful, but unclear time. But for once, the whole world is experiencing this feeling together. We aren’t alone. We are all in this together. Hang in there!

Cover Reveal: Fresh Re-Imagining of Shakespeare’s The Tempest

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder is a driven, fantastical, lyrical retelling of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest set in a world just adjacent of our own.

People have been wondering what my “SUPER SECRET” project has been lately, and I’m proud to tell you all about it!

Five or so years ago, Alyson Grauer (Aly) came and stayed with me and my family. This was a fortuitous meeting for both of us, and it felt strange that two people could be so similar yet live thousands of miles apart. This was close to the same time her book On the Isle of Sound and Wonder would be released.

The beautiful book was released in 2014 to tumultuous applause, but with the passing of time has been slowly quieted by the ever drowning sea of books. This little book was all but forgotten until a small conversation this summer planted the seeds of a much bigger adventure.

After some simmering on the idea, Aly messaged me and said she was all in; she wanted her book to get new breath. We worked on it secretly trying to iron out details, giving smallish hints of the rumbles going on. When I spontaneously hopped on a plane to Florida to help her attack some of the critical steps in finalizing everything, I think people started to suspect something was up. Finally, we are in a place to share what we’ve been working on.

Several may recall that I received my publishing rights in January of this year, re-releasing my books under my own indie press. This experience taught me a lot, I mean A LOT, and helped me gain confidence that I can do about anything and ignited my desire to help others with all the things I had learned. On the Isle of Sound and Wonder is Shadesilk’s first adventure in Indie press from an author.

With the independent spirit in mind, I wanted Aly to retain as much integrity with her book as possible. Shadesilk was used as a guiding hand and a launch pad for this magical book to reach a new audience, and hopefully rebuild confidence and renew the beauty it once had.

I thought I would send Aly some questions to help you know more about her and this incredible book. Here are her heartfelt answers.

How do you feel about relaunching your book? 
I am so excited to bring this book back in a new way. On the one hand, it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago that it was first published, but on the other, so much has changed since then, and there were things I had taken for granted in my manuscript that I really, really wanted to change. I didn’t do a complete rewrite and overhaul of the novel, but I made some well-needed adjustments and I am so pleased with how it fit together. I can’t wait to share this stronger, updated version with the world.

What does this story mean to you? 
In many ways, Sound and Wonder was a surprise to me. I had the idea during National Novel Writing Month 2013 to do a rewrite or retelling of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and I kind of just let my imagination run wild with it. Then, in reworking and revising it for publication, I learned so many things about how complicated and challenging I had made it for myself in retrospect. I had never written anything like it: large cast, complex backstories, vengeance and dark magic and a lot of hard emotions woven throughout. Oh wait. Actually. The first long-form work I had ever drafted in high school was a historical fiction pirate story with a large cast, complex backstories, and vengeance charged with difficult emotions. No magic in that one, just a lot of cruel twists of fate. I’ve never realized this parallel before! 

What are some changes we can see in this version?
No spoilers, but there was a specific moment late in the story cut from the original version by editors that has been rightfully restored.
Also, what was I thinking, writing a 25 page prologue that was a flashback-within-a-flashback??? I’ve restructured the opening chapters more sensibly and smoothed out the distribution of flashbacks across the board. 

How has your writing changed over the years?
In the NaNoWriMo community people refer to ‘pantsers’ and ‘plotters’ – that is to say, people who write by the seat of their pants, and people who plot until they can’t anymore and then they start writing. For my whole life I was a pantser, and a lot of Sound and Wonder’s original drafts were pantsed, to a degree. But the thing I forgot was that I wasn’t truly pantsing — I was using Shakspeare’s dramatic structure from The Tempest to guide me. So I was pantsing-with-a-plot? It’s a mess in my head. 
Since the original release of this book, I have read much more widely in fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction, and done a lot more research on how other successful authors hone their crafts. I read a lot of Brandon Sanderson, too, which changed the way I viewed epic fantasy.

Oh, and I married a plotter. So I became one too, much to my chagrin. 

What projects are you most excited by?
I like stories that have high emotional value, stories that connect with people and move them – whether it’s drama or comedy, romance or mystery. I love a sense of wonder and whimsy – magic that isn’t quite what you think it is, or unusual, silly twists on traditional archetypes or tropes. I see things in cinematic scale, and sometimes I have a hard time giving myself permission to zoom in or zoom out to find the right balance for a story, but I love when the action, the feeling, and the characters all join together.

You can find Aly’s book for Pre-Order at the Shadesilk Webstore here! And follow all the @dreamstobecome media on Twitter and Instagram!

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

Salt Lake Comic Con 2017 – 1001 Author Tales!

Ten days! Salt Lake Comic Con is in TEN DAYS! And we are in Booth 1001! I expect to see everyone there.

I’m anxious. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m… just… so many things I might burst!

Salt Lake Comic Con has kinda become home to me. The first year was insane. No one knew what to expect or do. Everyone was new at it, my newby-ness didn’t show so much. I completely winged it and learned on the fly. Now, I’m a professional (right?) and know exactly how it runs (right?), however, it still gives me butterflies putting on the face of the author I’m supposed to be.

Tada!

This year, like other years, I am surrounding myself with authors, both promoting their works and buoying their spirits. I’ve done a booth by myself at these things and it is hard, so hard, and very lonely. When I join with other authors, there is a valuable sense of commendatory, a deep-rooted understanding of the creative process that comes from creating a book, and most importantly, a security blanket, a safe place beyond the crowds and people, where we can be ourselves and share the author world and experience.

There are six other authors in our booth. Here is a snippet of each one and there creative works:


Christine Haggerty writes dark fantasy.She calls it darker than Grimm. Her little novellas are a hit for those fairy tale lovers that like a taste of the the macabre. Her stories are mature, intended for a more sophisticated teen and up.

The Grimm Chronicles Cinderella FINAL COVER 1800x2400

Pre-Order her Cinderella story here: True Love.

Christine is my mechanical arms, the organization of this booth. I take more of a cheerleader role, but someone needs to guide the ship to dock. She holds everything together. Thank you Christine! Mwah!


Marion G. Harmon writes Superhero fiction in a comicbook styling. His series, “Wearing the Cape” made it to Amazon.UK #1 in Superhero fiction. Great for those searching for some strength. It’s perfect for 14+.

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C.K. Johnson also writes fairy tales, but unlike Christine, this is for the tamer, sweeter disposition. This is good for any age. C.K. and I have worked together before. I’m really excited to work with her again.

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Ben Ireland writes Urban Fantasy. His Billy Blacksmith Legacy series surrounds an unlikely hero and 300 lb spider trying to drink his blood. It’s a story for everyone, even the arachnophobes. 36067163Pre-order Billy Blacksmith: The Hellforged here and get the pre-order price. And Demonslayer is currently on sale for Comic Con. It’s fantastic, and seriously, so much fun!


Jessica Parker‘s The Bride Trial is a combination of the Bachelor and the Hunger Games. I think I just got every teen girl’s attention. I think her cover is so stunning. Perfect for those romantic types and teens looking for an adventurous romance. 31930741


Quinn Coleridge coined her work “Gaslight Fantasy” leaning on the Steampunk crowd but with a delicate elegance to the stories. I’m really excited for this rather dark, Sherlockian duo, solving the mysteries of the fantastical.35213244


And if you didn’t know, my Build A World is new also for Comic Con as well, for those would be writers. I sometimes forget that I need to sell my stuff as well, but I promise, here it is if anyone is interested. Pre-order is only $.99! Remember BOOTH 1001! See you there! 😉

Build A World

Adventures in Audio

I’ve been testing the waters in Audio Books

A few courageous years ago, I thought about performing my own audio books. It sounded like a lot of fun. Audio and voice recording is something I’ve dreamed about doing since I was little – probably since Gurgi in Black Cauldron, after I realized I could do cool things with my voice. 

When the opportunity came to create a studio in my home, this was just the push I needed to get into voice acting… right? I thought about starting a podcast, a vocal art studio, possibly composing the music for the intros, and really expanding my reach as an author. What a WONDERFUL dream. I currently hold all my audio rights for my series and I felt like this was a golden opportunity….

This was two (plus) years ago. And though I still have delusions of recording, different opportunities and challenges took precedence over my starring role as recording artist and composer.

But here is what happened to help branch my books into audio…

My grandmother, who is a personal hero of mine, is blind, Macular Degeneration, where the eyes just slowly lose vision. I fear this will eventually happen to me as well, something to look forward to, I suppose. She is currently in assisted living, but the crazy girl is teaching exercise (within reason) to the other residents. She’s spry and sharp, and a well of experiences. I don’t ever have the time to visit (I’m the worst offender out of all her grandchildren) and she wouldn’t be able to read my books anyway. Around her 95th birthday back in May, the thought came to me that I wished my grandmother knew my stories while she is still here.

Now was the time to get into audio.

A friend asked why I didn’t read Vampire-ish myself, with all my audio talk and whatnot. Very simply… well, I’m not a guy. I can’t even fake this on a good day. The thing about Oliver (Vampire-ish: A Hypochondriac’s Tale), it is told in first person narration. I needed a guy.

I looked into ACX and decided to give it a try. I went for halvies, profit share, and received a lot of incredible auditions, but none were right for Oliver. My main character needed a specific, youthful, yet slightly nerdy voice. All these deep baritones just wouldn’t work out. When I heard Ryan Jeanmaire, I knew immediately this was my Oliver. Ryan not only had the vocal sound I needed, but the comic timing required for the part, and it was a bonus that he studied acting and currently lives in New York City. I’m VERY excited to announce that Vampire-ish: A Hypochondriac’s Tale will be available in audio – Audible, iTunes, and Amazon – at the end of this month, July 31st. (link to come)

 

But, another incredible thing happened.

A few years ago, an author friend and someone I’ve mentioned before, probablyAlyson Grauer (Whimsy and ArtificeDreams To Become), talked casually about recording my books. She loved Vivatera and always wanted to do it, but at the time her life was circumnavigated by change and the timing wasn’t right. Last month, Aly contacted me and approach the subject of recording my books. My series is finished and this was a great chance to get all three done by the same person, and field into another arena of book lovers. A slot had opened in her artistic life to read my books, and I jumped at the opportunity for her to audition.

Salt Lake Comic Con 2015: Aly in the Steampunk cowgirl and me as Honey Lemon. You can tell it’s the end of the con. I was exhausted. Photo credit: Bryan Rasmussen, Chisledlight Photography

I have a lot of professional artistic working relationships, and working with friends, especially the dear ones, can be very delicate sometimes.

Here is some advice:

  • Always draft a contract
  • Follow the contract
  • Remember this phrase – “It’s Business.” (coined while editing the Blacksmith Series) Don’t take it personal, it’s business.

Aly sent me the Prologue and First Chapter for Vivatera and my jaw hit the floor. Unlike Oliver’s 1st person narrative, Vivatera is 3rd person limited view. It spines a vivid cast of characters, all across this world I created. Aly asked several questions about the characters before starting, comprehensive questions about region and dialect, audio samples and word pronunciations. We also audio chatted in :22-ish audio clips, just bouncing back and forth about specifics while I was in my car.

From what I have heard, this will be an audio experience. Aly is an actor, storyteller, a dialect coach, a creator, and for me, a very fortuitous friend to have in my life. Contract is drafted and I’ll have more details later.

I can’t wait to share this with my grandma, and all of you when it comes out. Stay tuned!

**If you are interesting following Aly and her projects, please click on her Patreon link here: Whimsy and Artifice