99 cent books, and more.

First bit of news: Forever Thirteen is 99 cents TODAY ONLY. Get it here —-> http://amzn.to/1o6hMwL

A Symphony of Cicadas is too. —-> http://amzn.to/1bM5s2u

You could totally download both of them today and be set for your weekend reading.


I’m also posting new chapters of A Symphony of Cicadas for free over at Wattpad. Today I posted Chapter 10. Here’s a link to the preview — > http://bit.ly/RcznHC

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a snippet of Chapter 10.


A Symphony of Cicadas – Chapter 10 excerpt

Sam never did come home that night. I left John alone in the apartment and found Sam huddled in the poor lighting of a pier a dozen blocks from the apartment. He sat at the edge, tossing tiny rocks one by one into the still water below. They lay gathered in a pile near his crossed legs, collected on his walk towards the bay. It was a fascination he had carried with him from his childhood, gathering rocks in moments of his life, one for each experience to hold onto the memory a little longer. There were rocks in his room that looked to be just ordinary pebbles to the unknowing eye, but held secrets that only he knew every time he looked at them. He could tell where each rock was from and what he was doing in the moment, even years after collecting the insignificant pebble.

He never felt younger than he did as he sat alone on the pier away from his depressing home. In that moment he was five years old, lost and needing some guidance in the confusing reality of being fifteen. Trying to let go of the hurts that tore at him, he watched as each pebble dropped from his hand, taking its memory into the blackness of the water and disappearing. I was surprised to see my face among the images he included in his tally of life’s unfairness. But at the front of the list was his father, John’s likeness making numerous appearances as the list grew longer and longer until everything disappeared except for him.

“I don’t even care,” Sam said out loud to no one, trying to convince himself that this was how he felt. He couldn’t fool himself, however, and swiped at the tears that kept spilling from his eyes….


Intrigued? Good. Now go take part in one of the deals I just handed you. Have a great weekend!



Back on the grid

You must have thought I disappeared off the face of the planet. Or maybe you didn’t notice I was gone. In either way, I’ve been missing in action from my blog, my newsletter, and offering only random updates on social media.

I blame it on several things. The first and foremost, my computer died a terrible death. The video card went out on my dinosaur of a laptop, leaving a white screen of death to stare me in the face. Thankfully it also gave me a few hints before it went out altogether, allowing me to backup all my files (my novels!!!) and photos before it was gone. I’m not entirely without a computer (as you can see from this blog post) – I have my husband’s laptop to work from as is necessary. But you know how it is when you use someone else’s computer for your stuff – it’s just….different. It’s like staying in someone else’s house. It’s nice, but it’s not YOURS. None of my bookmarks are here, my programs, the familiar feel of the keyboard….

But until I have finished saving my pennies for the new computer (and I’m halfway there!), this one will do just fine.

The next is project overload. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I love all the things I’ve involved myself in. I am the new newsletter editor of my writing group, Redwood Writers – the one responsible for gathering all the info for the monthly newsletter and putting it together. I just sent out my first one yesterday, and then realized I am days away from announcing the looming deadline for the next one. Next, I am one of the coordinators for a summer camp I’ve been involved with since childhood. We’re down to the wire as summertime comes upon us, and the work is starting to build up. Third, my son’s baseball season has begun, and his team is frickin’ awesome! They’ve won 4 out of 4 games so far, but that’s not the best part. The best part is that they quickly learned how to work as a team, utilizing each other’s strengths and developing a real sense of camaraderie. I watch my son, and sometimes it feels like I’m watching someone else’s kid. When the heck did my son get so tall, so talented, so close to his adult years at only 13? It’s incredible, and a little scary.

And finally, the book.

Forever Thirteen published in March after months and months of preparation. When it finally published, let’s just say I was exhausted and kind of went off the grid. This was a total mistake, since the book isn’t going to market itself. The months beforehand I was sending out weekly newsletters, blogging like crazy, reminding my Facebook peeps, and just getting the word out there that the long awaited sequel to A Symphony of Cicadas was coming. When the publishing date finally arrived, I let the world know. And then….I stopped letting world know.

Here’s where I get transparent – I was afraid of being too annoying. It’s hard to know where the fine line is between announcing the news of a newly published novel, and spamming all your friends, family, and fans. Instead of focusing on all I needed to do to get this book off the ground, I dug into my hole to begin working on the next novel (which I’m halfway through writing now). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s a story that needs to be written. But it was also my way of avoiding the part I hate the most – marketing my book.

I’m too busy writing to be a marketer. That’s like saying I enjoy writing to no one, since no one is going to read my book.

Want me to get even more transparent? Forever Thirteen is out and only a dozen people have purchased it. And it’s all my fault.

At any rate, it’s about time for me to get my head on straight and formulate some sort of schedule. I am a firm believer in the almighty calendar, and it’s time I got back to using it. I am entering the busiest season of my year, but it’s still possible to fit in everything I need/want to do. I don’t want to leave this blog for more than a month at time. I don’t want to leave my newsletter peeps hanging. I don’t want only a dozen people to have read one of the most amazing books I’ve ever written. And I don’t want to feel like a chicken with its head cut off.

So here are my rules, written mostly for myself.

1. Say NO to any new projects.
2. Create a realistic schedule and stick to it.
3. Be kind to myself. I’m only one person.
4. Look into easy, frugal ways to market.
5. Just keep writing, a word at a time.

Before I go, I have a few other pieces of news.

First, A Symphony of Cicadas is being published a chapter at a time over at Wattpad. If you’re not familiar with Wattpad, this is a free platform for readers and writers. There you will find a ton of stories to read for free: some good, some not so good, and many fan-fics about the band, One Direction. Mine is sadly not about the band. But it is the first book in my current series, and a pretty incredible story. And it’s been getting good feedback from readers over there.

Second, while I am posting this story over at Wattpad, I have decreased the price of the Kindle version of this book to only 99 cents. I wanted to make it easy for Wattpad readers to download the entire story for cheap so they could read the whole story. Now you know too. So if you haven’t read this book yet, take advantage of my next-to-nothing pricing to grab your own copy —-> http://amzn.to/1bM5s2u

That’s all for today. I’ll try not to be so absent in the future!

How I solved my computer dilemma

This week I’ve been plugging away on the third and final installment of the “Forever After” series, the prelude to A Symphony of Cicadas and Forever Thirteen. This novel (working title is Prelude to Forever) will tell the story of John and Rachel, focusing on when they met and what it was like for them to blend a family. If you know anything about me, you can be sure that I’ll be pulling from some familiar experiences, having been blending my own family for the past several years. This book has been a story I’ve wanted to write for a while, and I’m really having a lot of fun with it.

It just doesn’t get any neater 74 pages in…. Oh, and the last sentence says “If he really likes you, he’ll wade through all the necessary hurdles to get to the heart of you.” Sigh…. It’s true.

Another reason I’m having fun with it – I’m handwriting the whole first draft. You read that right – a pen, a notebook, and me. So far I’ve written approximately 18,000 words (about 74 pages at about 250 words a page), and I’m still going strong. There are several benefits to working this way: I don’t have easy access to the distractions of the Internet (if I throw my iPhone across the room), I don’t have to deal with computer issues, I’m less apt to go back through my work to re-read (thus, letting my inner critic take over and tell me it’s all crap), and I won’t be bogged down by formatting, etc. Also, it is much easier to lug around a spiral notebook than a computer that needs to be plugged in. Last, I will have a clean rough draft to work from as I retype all of the pages I’ve written, going over the whole manuscript word by word.

Reason #137 why this is proving to be a good option for me – my computer crapped out last week.

I kind of stressed on that last point. Not only did I plan on writing my next book immediately following the release of Forever Thirteen, but I just took on the Editor’s position for my regional writing club, Redwood Writers. To be without a computer at this time was kind of terrible. No, not kind of. It’s devastating. I just don’t have the money to buy a new computer right now – I spent it all on releasing a book! Thankfully, I found a “for now” computer on Craigslist. I say “for now” because it is the most basic of basic Dells, doesn’t even have Microsoft Office on it, and freezes up when I try to do more than one thing on it at a time. But it’s a computer, and it will work for what I need it to work for. Plus, it was only $60.

In other news, some people are wondering why I started writing my next novel so soon after the last one. To be fair, it really isn’t that soon….to me. Forever Thirteen has been written for about 6 months now, and I’ve spent the last 6 months preparing for its release through tweaking the manuscript, working with the cover designer, gathering promotion materials, getting the word out…. Once it was released, I was ready to start on the next part of the story – John and Rachel’s story. But there was a second part of that equation.

I wanted to keep writing so I wouldn’t focus so hard on sales.

Has it worked? Not totally. But it’s something. Sales have been somewhat decent in the fact that my family and friends have been grabbing a copy for themselves in the past few weeks (which is so awesome and supportive of them!). But getting this book into other people’s hands has been quite the challenge. I’m a bit of an introvert, so breaking out of my shell to contact people I don’t know to write about me and my book is a bit daunting. Plus, what do I offer them so it’s worth their while? So far, my cash-strapped self has connected with one book blogger and offered a free download of my book. But is that enough? I just can’t offer every blogger I contact a print copy (which would be preferable, I know). It’s just too much. So the digital copy will have to do.

Last bit of news, I managed to land some freelance work without even trying. A friend of mine who works for the city I live in found herself in a desperate situation. Seems they are one week away from needing to finalize this year’s publication for our town’s popular parade and festival, and their writer fell through. She contacted me in her bind, and I enthusiastically accepted. Now I need to write a creative article on what ‘Home Grown‘ means to my country town, referring to different businesses, people, food…. It’s going to be a bit of a stretch to get all of this done with such a quick turnaround, but I’m excited to be a part of it. 🙂

One final note: I have placed A Symphony of Cicadas, the first book to the “Forever After” series, on sale for Kindle users for 99 cents, only for as long as I feel like giving it away for free. That’s hardly anything! I hope you’ll take advantage of this deal. 🙂  Link to Amazon page: http://amzn.to/1bM5s2u

What’s my frequency, Kenneth? (Musings on genre)

Every second Sunday of the month is the Redwood Writers meeting, our region’s group for writers of all types. I look forward to them every single month, and always come away completely inspired – from rubbing elbows with a bunch of wonderful writers and authors, to hearing the wisdom and advice from our monthly speaker.

Today, as usual, I gathered a bunch of useful information to keep with me and improve on my skill. But it was something in the very beginning of the meeting that really stuck with me and got me thinking. The speaker asked the newcomers to stand up and say their name, and what they write. One person stood up and introduced themselves as a romance author. Another was a writer of mystery. Another wrote historical fiction. Another wrote poetry.

It got me thinking. What would I say if I had to stand in front of a crowd and sum up my writing with one label?

I’ll tell you one thing, it wouldn’t be easy. Let’s look at my published works.

My first book is “A Symphony of Cicadas,” a book that could be classified as both literary fiction and paranormal fantasy. I grapple with the genre all the time. If you follow the main character, Rachel, the story is paranormal fantasy, perhaps magical surrealism, as it follows her journey through the afterlife after she and her son died in a car accident. But truly, she is more of the narrator as she witnesses the lives of all those she left behind in the real world. Then it becomes more of a literary fiction novel. But as a whole, the story is about a family who is knocked off course by a devastating blow, and must somehow pick up all the pieces of a new kind of puzzle to be able to move forward.

The sequel, “Forever Thirteen,” continues this tale, but from the point of view of Rachel’s son, Joey. If you follow Joey, it is once again a paranormal fantasy/magical surrealism, but with a Young Adult edge. But once Joey gets past his own shock over losing his life, he becomes focused on his friend he left behind, a boy who goes downhill with the loss of his friend. Then it once again becomes more literary fiction, exploring the dynamics of his friend’s single parent household, the cruelty of kids at school, and the sucky, confusing age of thirteen.

P.S. Catch a sneak peek at the preview of Forever Thirteen here.

I wrote “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows,” a collection of essays on single parenting, gathered from a column I used to write for the newspaper. It’s only the first of three I’ll have in this collection, as I’ll have a new collection of these essays coming out eventually, and end it with a full length memoir on our blended family (that may be out as early as next year).

I wrote a poetry book titled “Everything I Am Not Saying,” a collection of poetry that dapples in love, love’s loss, divorce, faith, single parenting, sadness, life…. It marks a time in my life when love escaped me, and the hurts were screaming to be written down on paper.

I have a rough draft, yet-to-be-named novel that I hope to have edited by the end of the year that tells the tale of two mothers that both suffer different kinds of tragedies that bring them together in one brief moment in time that changes them both forever.

Family, particularly the “underdog” family.  You know, single parent families, blended families, broken families, families trying to get their sh*t together… I think that’s my genre, or at least my frequency.

It’s hard for me to pinpoint myself as a certain kind of writer. I love writing. I love prose. I love writing that is so vivid, it paints a picture better than, well, a picture. I lean more toward literary fiction. But I’ve really enjoyed dappling in fantasy. I have another manuscript that could be classified as chick lit. I’d love to try my hand at a thriller or mystery. And I am so haunted by stuff that scares me, I think it might be kind of interesting to tackle horror.

But my passion is family – especially the kind that are overcoming struggle – because, as a former single mother and now a stepmom, that’s the biggest part of my life. It’s what I know. I know what it’s like to be in a marriage that ends. I know what it’s like to be the sole parent of two young kids. I know what it’s like to date as a single mother, and the messy side of blending a family. And I weave all of these themes into my books, taking bits and pieces of my life and intertwining them with fictional threads to create a brand new story about life, love, growth….

I write fiction. I also write real life. I am a poet, and an essay writer. I even dabble in Facebook statuses. 🙂

I am a writer.

The end.

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Being a lazy writer

Photo by AquaSixio on DeviantArt. Click for more of his art.
Photo by AquaSixio on DeviantArt. Click for more of his art.

I’ve been a lazy writer. I admit it. I have not done any book writing since NaNoWriMo, or book editing since December. I keep seeing other authors I follow in blogs and on Facebook talking about their work-in-progress, and the green-eyed monster in me wants to be doing what they’re doing.

But I’m not.

I guess I can chalk it up to catching up on my sleep. When I’m in writing and editing mode, I wake up at 5am and spend the two hours before I need to get ready for work on my book. Do that for several months straight, getting only 6 or less hours of sleep a night, and things get a little crazy. Plus, my hubby was getting the short end of the stick, since I was so tired. Patience tends to wear thin when you’re overtired. And other things tend to be lacking as well.

Second, I’ve been reading a lot. And I mean, a lot. I’ve already read three books this month, and I am currently in the middle of reading three more at the same time. I blame it on my brand new Kindle. And I thank my Kindle for it. This past year I forgot how to make time for reading. And as a writer, reading is soooo important. It serves as inspiration, and it’s pretty cool to see how other authors go about painting a scene and develop their characters. However, I should be reading AND finding time to work on my own books.

(Btw, my favorite book I’ve read so far this year is “The Fault in Our Stars“. O. M. G. That book was amazing….)

Third, I’ve been sort of focused on preparing for the release of “Forever Thirteen.” I say “sort of” because I feel like I’ve done a lot, but there’s still so much to do. Call the local bookstore, plan a launch party, gather blogs who will help host a blog tour (any of YOU bloggers interested?), get the sales pages worded right, finalize the book cover…. Everything I didn’t do with “A Symphony of Cicadas” (because I just didn’t know), I want to do with “Forever Thirteen”. I want to expand this title to even more people who might enjoy this book.

But then, I want to start on the next project. And then the next. And then the one after that….

So there is no one to blame but me for my writer’s envy. This week I start getting serious about my writing and editing. Hello 5am wake-ups. Hello finished manuscript in need of serious editing. Hello and goodbye to wrapping up the final things on my Forever Thirteen to-do list.

(and sorry in advance, hubby. love you!)

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So you’ve written a book. Now what?

This week alone, I’ve been approached by a half dozen people who were curious about writing books – from the actual writing of the story, to how to get it into the hands of readers. To have people look at me for these answers is kind of incredible. I mean, I remember a year ago, gearing up to publish my first book, and being totally lost in what I was supposed to be doing. I couldn’t wait to get that book onto Amazon and be a real live published author. But, then what? I looked up to those local authors I knew that were publishing books right and left, and I began following them via social media to see what they were doing right. And I began listening to the Self Publishing Podcast (who now have an incredible book out chock full of information called “Write. Publish. Repeat.” Go download it now).

I’m definitely no expert. But because I’ve been consuming every bit of information I can about writing and self-publishing this past year, and through lots of trial and error, I have learned a lot – particularly about what to do (and not to do) to get your book into other people’s hands.

Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Write a book worth reading. This is the first and most important step, and should be the most obvious. However, it’s also advice that’s not always followed. Before a book goes live, it should be free from errors and typos. The characters should be fully developed. The storyline should make sense and be believable. An editor (or at least someone who isn’t you) should look it over and clean it up. The cover should draw people in, the back cover description should seal the deal. Write a book that readers will want to share with their friends, and your readership will begin to grow.

2. Believe in your book. When I first published “A Symphony of Cicadas,” I was so dang shy about it. I mean, I’d tell people I wrote a book. And then they’d ask me about it. Suddenly, I’d clam up and be closely guarded about what my book was about. I was afraid that maybe the story wouldn’t matter. And when it came to knowing who this book was written for, who knew? But the thing is, I was proud of my book then. And I’m proud of it now. It’s this story about life changing in an instant, the grief that comes with that change, and the light that shines through when you accept that change and grow from it. It weaves a story that many people can resonate with who have struggled to hold on to a life that is no longer a part of their path, and the peace that comes when acceptance is changed. Know your story. Know who would want to read it and why. And believe that what you write is something that can change someone’s world.

3. Join a writing group. Last year, I joined my regional writing club, Redwood Writers. I went to the first meeting, and was totally inspired. Here was this group of people who were just as passionate as I was about writing. They held workshops, booked readings, and held events. At the meetings, authors sat at tables around the room with books for sale. Each meeting had a speaker that gave inside tips on a certain aspect of writing or publishing. And then to be surrounded by so many writers… Over the past several months I’ve been getting more and more involved with the club. I’ve gotten to know several other writers, and my face is beginning to be more familiar in the club. I’m learning a lot, both about writing and about getting my books in the public eye. And this group is catapulting me further down the publishing road.

4. Be your best advocate. You know how some local authors seem to be everywhere? They’re holding book signings at several different venues. They’re hosting workshops. Their name is seen all over. You know how that’s happening? They’re doing that. They’re not waiting for people to ask them to read their book at an event. They’re not waiting for people to come to them about their book. Their name is getting known because they’re making sure people learn it. If you sit back and wait for your book to be discovered, it’s not going to happen. Offer to host a workshop on something you’re skilled at. Sign up for local readings. Host an event that maybe the local newspaper may want to mention. Contact the bookstores in your area and ask about how to get your book on their shelves. You have to do more than just write a book to get it noticed, you have to get creative with how to get the word out.

5. Keep writing. So you’ve written a book. That’s great! Now write another. And when your done with that, write another. Give your readers something else to read once they’re done with your first book. Gather more readers with each book you write. If a book garners a lot of attention, consider making it a series to keep the momentum going. There are too many authors out there who are cranking out the books. If you write just one book and stop there, you’re going to be buried under the pile. Keep your name at the top of the list and just keep writing.

P.S. I’m holding a giveaway for an advanced copy of my upcoming novel, “Forever Thirteen,” as well as a few other prizes. Enter here.

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What the judge had to say about A Symphony of Cicadas

A few months ago, I sent my book, A Symphony of Cicadas, to the “21st Annual Writer’s Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards.” I had high hopes of placing, but mostly I was anxious about the promised commentary from the judge.

Well, I didn’t place. And I’ll admit, I was totally bummed out. I forgot all about it and let it go. But then, a few weeks later, I received a letter that spelled out the judge’s comments.

And my jaw literally dropped when I read it.

The most you can get in each category is a 5. And I got only 4s and 5s across the board. Here’s the judge’s comments in their entirety:

Structure and Organization: 4
Grammar: 4
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Plot (if applicable): 4
Character Development (if applicable): 5

Ranking note: Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.

Judges Commentary: A SYMPHONY OF CICADAS, by Crissi Langwell, is a book filled with interesting characters and an unusual plot line. At first the storyline seemed straight forward: A man and a woman, in love, both with children, but no spouses, awaiting their wedding day. Of course, there is tension and problems between the children, but the main characters, the man and woman, love each other and are promising themselves and each other that they will get through everything.

Then comes the surprise, a terrible automobile accident and Rachel and Joey are killed, while the others must go on with their lives. The tone of the book changes from one of happy anticipation to sorrow. The author takes us through the death process, the funeral, the adjusting of both of deceased and the grieving people left behind.

I must admit I was angry with Rachel for being a careless driver with her son in the car. Not that the accident was totally her fault, but a mother of two, I know how important the children’s lives are. This is not blaming, it is an indication of how real you made the story that I was able to identify with this mother losing her child, and feel anger with the truck driver, etc. Only a skilled writer has that much influence over her readers.

Congratulations for weaving an interesting story line and entertaining us as well as making us think about what death means. I thought the complication of having Aunt Rose there to greet her added a lot to the storyline, and also gave the reader reassurance that all will be well when it is our turn. Well done.

– Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards

Me again.

Now that I’m almost a year into this self-publishing adventure, I’m not as prone to enter contests anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I was smitten with this commentary the judge gave. It let me know that I’m on the right track, and I’m actually not making a fool out of myself with each book (yes, these thoughts do go through my head). It gave my baby princess ego a much needed boost.

But contests like these come with a price. Like a $ price. Some are small, others are large, and they all add up to costs I just can’t afford – just for a measly ego boost. Of course, the winners of contests like these get much more than an ego boost. They get a ton of exposure – the very prize every struggling author wants (along with a cash prize. Trust me, the exposure is more valuable). But the odds of winning these things is slim, as there are so many books out there.

Maybe one day again I’ll entertain the idea of entering my books into contests. But for now, I think I’ll focus my energy on writing. 🙂

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End of a pretty dang good year

Today I feel all warm and gushy inside. It’s the last day of 2013, and I can’t help feeling like I really lucked out in the good year department.

I entered this year as a newlywed, coming off the high of marrying my best friend and blending our smorgasbord family into one. Then I published my very first book, which led to two more published books after that, and two more drafts that will be published in the coming year. We introduced a puppy into our family, which has been both a blessing and a curse. And I said goodbye to my Wine Country Mom column – also a blessing and a curse (the ego has a funny way of making you want to hold on to something you don’t really enjoy anymore…).

This year also saw a few human moments.

My daughter moved away. It took all my strength to let her go and not force her to stay. And then she moved back home. (YAY!) And I believe we’re closer than ever.

My dog broke his leg a few weeks ago (in more of a canine moment than a human moment), and we spent more money than I ever thought I would spent on a pet (BOO). As a result, we had to postpone a trip to Hawaii we had planned for the whole family this summer. But our hearts were warmed as friends we knew, and some we didn’t, donated a total of $500 to help towards our puppy’s recovery.

Side note on the puppy: in the two weeks of his recovery so far, he has torn apart two cones, his cast, his replacement bandage, his bed…. And he has relieved himself on the carpet more times than I want to count. And still we love him to pieces. Go figure.

Also this year, my mom discovered she had breast cancer. And then she beat it. Now she is recovering from a knee replacement, a procedure that has stripped her of all control over her life on the way to something much better.

It’s almost a metaphor for life. Sometimes we need to journey through the pain, through the complete loss of independence, through the muck of all things horrible so we can get to the good stuff on the other side.

I see this in my own life. There was a time when my life was on the darker side of the spectrum. I suffered through a horrible marriage, and then struggled in life after divorce. It’s a dark place to be. When I could finally get on my feet again, the kids and I experienced an exhilarating form of poverty. We were only scraping by, but we celebrated in it. It was ours. And we made the best of it.

Now, we are more blessed than ever. I’m in a good marriage, we live in a good home, our community is wonderful and prosperous, and life is easy, comparatively. And now more than ever, I feel honored that God put me on a path where I got to experience both sadness and joy, poverty and blessings, heartache and love, meekness and courage, loneliness and friendship….

These are the things that make us human, the things that help us grow, the things that help us get to the good parts of life and appreciate them when we get there.

I loved this year. And I loved the one before that, and the one before that, too. And I can’t wait to see what happens in the next year.

Thank you everyone for all your support and love this year. I feel blessed having connected with many of you over this past year, and I look forward to even more friendships and connections in 2014.

Hope your New Year is filled with love and blessings, and that you see each one that comes your way.

Do 13 year olds blog?

diarypageWhen I was 13, I used an actual paper diary. I have a bunch of old journals in my boxes from way back when, chronicling those awkward teenage years. But now? There are a ton of online alternatives for teenagers to record their innermost thoughts and feelings.

This is something I had to mull over as I did my first read-through of ‘Forever Thirteen’.

At this point in my edits, I’m looking through it for any grammar mistakes, and also making sure the facts I’ve presented are consistent throughout the book. This is the process that will take my story from “raw draft” to “rough draft” – when I can then edit each chapter by adding in further description or prose.

One part of this first read-through was to decide how likely it would be for Joey’s best friend to have a diary where he recorded his thoughts. Would he really have a diary? Or would he have a blog or a Tumblr account? My teenage daughter told me he’d have nothing, that it was highly unlikely for a 13 year old boy to waste his time writing down his thoughts. But the thing is, the character in question isn’t your average 13 year old, so I decided to seek out advice from others.

Through research and a few helpful friends, I found that there are still teenagers who keep a diary. Most would not blog, preferring to keep their most private thoughts away from anyone else. After all, most 13 year olds would rather the whole world didn’t know their most inner secrets or anything that makes them different.

So my character got to keep his wire-bound journal where he shared his thoughts. However, I started a blog for him, making it a mirror copy of what his written diary would be.

This is a secret that only you know!

I’m not giving the web address away yet, but the URL will be included inside the book so that readers can check it out. The blog I’m creating will hold all of the journal entries included in Forever Thirteen, as well as a few extras to give you a glimpse into who this kid was before and after Joey (the main character of Forever Thirteen) died.

Did you ever keep a diary? If you have kids, do they? Or do they prefer something online instead of writing in a book? Share in the comments.

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So I’ll reach up to the sky and pretend that I’m a Spaceman

I became aware of the possibilities that lay before me as I floated free from my earthbound body. The space that Joey once described to me was out here, and I had the ability to see it all. Earth, in the far away distance, shone at me like a star in the sky. The giant orb of Jupiter moved in a slow rotation next to me, the gasses swirling in an ever-moving sphere of colors. Beyond that were much smaller planets in their own slow-moving journey around the sun, a star that looked much smaller from this far away than it did from the comfort of Earth. And all around me were particles of rock and dust floating beside me, sparkling from the faraway sun.
But what caught my eye the most was the trail of faded stars that led further than I could see, winding toward the edges of the galaxy and beyond. My curiosity was working overtime, and I turned to move toward the Milky Way. I picked up speed as I went along, traveling faster and faster until I was plummeting through space at full throttle. If I were more than just a spirit, I was sure I’d have a tail of fire as I moved forward with increasing velocity.
I came close enough to view the stars that made up the Milky Way, still millions of miles away, and moved parallel with it. I passed planet after planet, the space around me feeling colder as I moved further away from the sun. I saw the glow ahead of me, still thousands of miles away. It was like a sheet that wrapped around space, invisible above and behind me as I traveled onward. But as I got closer, the glow got brighter. I picked up speed and flew forward with all my strength. It could only be the edge of the galaxy. Even closer, I could see space rock moving toward the glow. But with shock, I saw each rock sucked through, an invisible wind grabbing hold and propelling it into a storm that swirled around the galaxy.
I was going too fast to stop, or so I thought. Had I controlled my fears long enough to think with clarity, I would have remembered that I had no limits, that I could think myself away from this place in just a moment. But as I streamed towards the edge, all I could think of was being swept into a vortex I wouldn’t be able to get out of. “This is my hell,” I thought. “I’m going to be stuck here forever in a blender because I chose to leave Earth behind.”
– Excerpt from A Symphony of Cicadas, Chapter 12, pages 156-157

And here’s where things get weird…

Fantasy is not my usual genre of writing. In fact, this book is the first real stab at creating a story within a totally unreal type of world. All of my other fiction exists in worlds that one could logically live in. But this…this was a whole new experience for me.

When I wrote this scene, I never planned for it to happen. It just kind of did. Writers will often tell you that after a bit of story writing, the story tends to take on a life of its own. The author no longer controls it. This scene is no exception. But I’m glad it did. It ended up setting the stage for a pivotal scene later in the book.

Fun fact – did you know that space tastes like a copper penny? This is only one of the facts I uncovered when researching what it would actually be like to be in space.

When I wrote A Symphony of Cicadas, I had reservations about the space scene. Was I going too far out on a limb by sending Rachel into space? How would I describe the setting when I had never been there? Would it just be too weird? I had to let go of all these doubts and just write on. And I’m glad I did. Personally, I find this chapter of the book fascinating. For those of you who have read the book, I hope you did, too.

This is just one of several posts to come that dives into the chapters of A Symphony of Cicadas, and the inspiration behind the story. For all sneak peeks at the novel, CLICK HERE. To purchase the book, go to http://amzn.to/17ayBAP.

Stay tuned for more!

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