Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Shiny New Cover for UPON A TIME: Booktrope Edition

Hi all!

Without further ado... I share with you now the cover I just revealed on Wattpad moments ago, designed by the incredibly gifted Greg Simanson:

I love it, end of story :) And I am so happy so many readers are enjoying the story on Wattpad: 314,000 reads and counting as of this morning!

This is the cover you'll see everywhere for the book from now on, including in stores online (eBook and print editions are scheduled to be released by Booktrope in early March!)

Thank you for stopping by to see the pretty shiny new art... I'll talk to you soon!



Monday, January 26, 2015

The Long and Short of It

"Be Mine" acrylic on canvas, 2/14 (painted by me)

First, a short demonstration.

“I love you desperately,” he whispered softly, narrowly escaping clipping the edge of his tongue on the thorn of the near-perfect rose clenched between his teeth. Its only flaw was one petal at the top that dangled, torn, and he hoped she wouldn’t notice it.

“I love you,” he said, handing her the rose. Flawless, as she was, with the exception of one torn petal.

Everyone and their brother will try to tell you the “best” or “proper” way to write a book. I’m not even going to attempt to do that here. How you write your novel, your process, is nobody’s business but yours. 

You write 100 word flash fiction? Go for it! You write 500K epic fantasy? More power to you! We are all servants of the same master: our stories.

I'm only talking about my own writing here today, if that sort of thing interests you; if it doesn't then I hope to see you tomorrow when I'll have a very pretty picture to show you (more on that at the bottom of this post.)

What I just tried to demonstrate is something I have learned as I have gone from genre to genre, character narrator to narrator, and book to book: sometimes, less really is more.

This post is born of the fact that in the past few years I have read multiple books in varied genres which were considered normal lengths for novels these days— 70K words minimum— and at times I found myself not only skimming, but outright skipping passages because they were only slight variants of scenes I’d already read.

It’s a feeling of “Deja what now?” that as a reader I dislike and as a writer frustrates me more the older I get…the feeling you're reading what was already explained to you before, even if in a slightly different way, a couple of chapters back.

People may wonder why my books are lean in word count. I have even had a few readers say they wished certain books were longer… or a series… or something to that effect. So I finally decided to comment on it here.

Why don’t I write longer books? Or turn all my books into series?

It’s simple, really. I only use as many words as I feel are necessary to properly tell each story.

Sometimes that means descriptive, in-depth and flowery prose (GODSPEED) sometimes it means stripping it down to the main character’s much more practical use of words and thoughts as he narrates (WISHING CROSS STATION). But in any event it means my novels land somewhere, in general, between 51 and 60-ish thousand words.

Am I trying to give people less for their money? Certainly not. 

On the contrary, I appreciate the reader’s time, and give them credit for their ability to pick up on what’s been written the first time they read it.

In short: I am trying to anticipate and remove parts I think readers might skip over.

I try to put something important on every page, in every chapter, so if the reader skipped ahead they may well miss a key piece of information they need to know later in the book for things to make sense.

My regular readers seem to know this, and look for the details. 

Every now and then I’ve had a reviewer say a story was ‘incomplete’ or something similar and I wondered just how much of the book they actually read, because even though one of my books in particular left the door open for a sequel (which I wrote) it is, in its own way, a complete story if you read the whole book without skipping parts.

I think writing poetry and believe it or not, writing flash fiction for Twitter has really honed my skills when reading my work back and realizing which words are necessary and which are unwanted, or worse, distracting like too many accessories…plunking themselves down in my story like the lady at the theater who sits in front of you with a hat halfway to the ceiling or a gravity defying hairdo. Things that keep you from seeing the show.

I try to get out of the characters’ way, and let them tell their own story, as they must.

On another writing related note, I am pondering where I am going, as a writer, after WISHING CROSS STATION.

It will soon be in the hands of my new editor; I am excited to work with her to make the book sparkling clean and shiny.

This is a very different book in many ways from any I’ve written before, and even though it weighs in at a modest 51K words (approximately) it is packed with story and characters that... well, have for the time being, completely taken over my head and heart.

I’m still living there, in their story with them, and I suppose I will be until editing is finished and the book is in my hands, completed and published, later this year.

So the question: what’s next? Right now, I don’t know. I have to deal with some serious health issues head on and that may end up taking up a lot of the coming year in one way or another. Something I hadn’t anticipated, but that is the reality.

I wonder if I’ll try going back to writing poetry and flash to fill the time.

I miss writing serialized fiction, which I did for more than a decade before I wrote my first serious attempt at a novel.

I miss meeting the characters and finding out who they are, sharing a snapshot of their life. Maybe I should be gearing my mind towards a collection of short stories and such instead of thinking in terms of another novel, next.

I told my husband after he finished reading WISHING CROSS STATION that if it was to be my last novel; if I never wrote another, I felt at peace with that. Maybe my muse is just sleepy right now; too exhausted by the state of my physical health to inspire me.

It could be when Camp NaNoWriMo comes up in April or July or even November that I will be swept up again in the possibilities. In the simple ideas my books start from that always seem to begin with either “…what if…?” or “…how does…?”

But I know this, whenever I do write the next story, I will write it exactly the length it needs to be to tell it and no longer.

I’ve written books that sit in trunks that weigh in at almost 100K words (it took that long to tell that story.) I’ve written many six word stories on social media, and all lengths in between. I feel a satisfaction in each, but most of all I am pleased when I feel like I’ve used just the right amount of words to say what needed to be said.

It’s the difference to be between a large taffeta gown with ruffles and bows and a simple, elegant little black dress.

The taffeta may fit certain circumstances (like standing up in your sister's wedding) but in the little black dress, a girl can go just about anywhere.

So that's what's in my head today. I hope you have a happy Monday.


P.S. Be sure to tune in tomorrow to see the gorgeous new cover art UPON A TIME will have for its Booktrope edition. It was designed by artist Greg Simanson, and it is a beautiful sight to behold. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Seventeen Days in January

In the past two and a half weeks or so, give or take, I have been the following things/ways/places:

In my living room, having an unexpected asthma attack.

In the Urgent Care, on a nebulizer for the asthma attack.

Shot full of steroids.

Waiting for my pulse ox to come back up to 100.

Introduced to nice fire and policemen when Urgent Care staff called 911.

In the back of an ambulance.

In ‘room’ 42 of the closest emergency room: a hospital unfamiliar.

Stuck with GRIMM on the TV as I couldn’t find the freaking remote to turn it off as my heart thumped on.

On monitors as my heart rate increased.


Poked with needles—IV one hit a nerve in my arm, sending waves of pain up my shoulder that are only going away now.

On another nebulizer.

Informed my blood count was seriously low by a concerned ER physician.

Admitted to the aforementioned, unfamiliar hospital.

Lucky, lucky, lucky to get a brand new private room in a wing that had just opened that very week.

So grateful for the above, I cried.

So scared I asked my husband to stay the night—he slept on the pull out couch while I counted stars in my head in an imaginary sky.

Given more breathing treatments.

More steroids.

“Your numbers are good, you shouldn’t feel so short of breath.”

“We have to make sure you’re not bleeding internally somewhere before we can send you home.”

Taken to Ultrasound.

Discovered I liked the night shift a lot better than the day shift.

Told I was stable, to follow up with whah whah whah, after that my hearing faded out, my brain repeating “I just need a little more sleep, that’s all. Just a little more…”

Sent home in the cold and sleeting snow with a handful of prescriptions.

Following up with Primary Care Saint, I mean Doctor.

Quote: “I am afraid the anemia is going to be the thing that takes you out of this world.”

Primary Care Saint asked if I would follow him to someone who might be able to help. Like a child I said yes, and I trusted as he led me on the spot down the hall to a specialist in the same building.

Waited nervously while he talked to her about me. Whatever he said must have scared her because she agreed to see me on the spot.

I have been…

In something of a state of shock as I undressed.

Cold on an exam table.

In stirrups.

Examined by a doctor I had never met before that moment, and found her to be endlessly kind.

Told by this doctor that I needed further testing.

Made an appointment for that testing as soon as I could.

Waited four endless days.

Too tired to write, too tired to think. Too tired to walk across the room without getting winded.

So tired the thought of taking a shower brought me to tears.

Shaking in the shower, trying not to pass out as the room spun and my breath was short again.

…swallowing iron pills.

Eating more meat than I’ve probably consumed in the past year in two weeks’ time.

Scared out of my mind.

Then completely resigned to whatever may come.

In one day a week ago I went from…


To the Exam room

In the stirrups

Enduring the biopsy (which didn’t go well or to plan)

So deep inside my own head that I didn't feel as though I was in my body at all any more...but outside of it, watching from the corner of the room.

Hearing the doctor's nerves in her voice.

Hearing it may not be a normal result.

Being left alone in the exam room in the aftermath of a 'simple procedure' that turned out to be anything but.

Somehow managing to dress myself again despite the pain.

In the lab: more blood drawn.

Mindlessly stumbling from there into an immediate opening down in Radiology for my first Mammogram in the half hour between the biopsy and the time I had a pre-scheduled regular check in with my psychiatrist. (Results pending, but expected to be normal.) Convenient to have them in the same building.

Surprised people make such a fuss over mammograms. It was nothing compared to what I'd just been through.

Upstairs again to the Psychiatrist’s office.

Meds left unchanged for now, doctor surprised how well I managed everything that had happened to me in the past few weeks. So, frankly, was I. But it could have been the medication making me brave.

Finally… home after one of the longest Tuesdays of my life.

Then waiting, waiting.

Days later...

On the phone: ‘blood count is up slightly with the iron. Not enough, though. Nowhere near enough.’

More waiting.

On the phone yesterday: ‘This biopsy isn’t cancerous but it isn't normal either. You need more testing, to rule out any more polyps that could be trouble. You could very well need surgical intervention.'

Echoing in my head, my Primary care doctor's voice: You can’t continue on as anemic as you are, there will be consequences; possible damage to your heart.’


On the phone.

On hold.

Calling the university hospital where I had all my eye surgeries.

Where they understand my genetic disorder.

Where they diagnosed it.

Waiting… waiting. On hold a lot longer than two minutes.

“Hail to the Victors” plays; a violin singing in my ear.

I try not to choke up, thinking of all the times I have thought or heard or sung it.

Thinking of all my Dad went through in that hospital. Of all 
I’ve been through there.

Thinking of his deteriorating cognitive condition.

Of the general state of my body at the moment.

All of it.

I feel so old...

Finally, on the phone: ‘The first available appointment is more than three weeks away, do you want it?’

“Yes, please, and thank you.”

‘Allow half an hour for parking, at least. We often run out of spaces and if you’re late they will ask you to reschedule.’ The woman’s words blur. I won’t be driving myself, so I tell my husband what she’s said so he’ll remember. Hopefully.

I doubt I will.

An hour later, I’m in the therapist’s office; a scheduled appointment.

I tell her what’s going on; she says that she is pleased with how I am handling it all.

But I’m not handling it all, not really.

I’m living moment to moment, knowing that in a week my blood count will have dropped significantly again and there is nothing I can do to prevent it.

All I can do is wait for the Gods of Medicine to decide my fate and hope it turns out better than the place where I am now, a place all the doctors are telling me I can’t stay.

All I can do it wait to have tests and procedures that scare me.

Knowing I will be cold, and back on the exam table waiting… 




I managed to get out on a day of January thaw to get my hair cut. A small step toward feeling human again.

And somewhere in all of this, I propped myself up on pillows when I couldn’t hold up my head, and finished my edits on paper to WISHING CROSS STATION.

I am in love with this book. I mean head over heels, weak in the knees in love with it.

It is my dream, my heartbreak, and my savior right now, all in one.

I can only hope my new editor will see what I see in it.

I will hand it off to her soon, and then I will be waiting on that as well.

I would love to paint to help fill the time, if I have the strength to lift the brush.

If I can stay awake for more than two hours at a time.

Otherwise, I will do what everyone keeps telling me to do: I will rest.

And I will wait for February (the month, not myself… though in a way I am waiting for my life to restart) and hope it will bring answers that January only answered with more questions.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Thankful...And Living In The Story

First of all, I have to stop everything a moment to thank everyone who has been so supportive of UPON A TIME during its first week as a featured story on Wattpad. The response has been amazing, and makes me so happy.

I hope you're enjoying reading it before it is published in the spring! (One note on that... the final new cover design is in for the Booktrope edition of UPON A TIME and It. Is. GORGEOUS...can't wait until I can share!)

I have to thank Wattpad for their kindness and support of my stories. I have to thank my publisher, Booktrope, for allowing me to post the book in its entirety to Wattpad, and also/especially all the Wattpadders who are reading, commenting, voting, all of that, for this unusual twist on an old fairy tale.

Where UPON A TIME ranks, as of this writing, at 12:11PM on 1 12 15.

It warms my heart to the very core to see it resonating with so many readers. Though there is definitely a "Team Thomas/Team Julien" situation arising LOL I adore both characters and I love reading reactions in real time as people read.

I am doing my absolute best to keep up with replying to comments-- a real challenge with my health in the state it is in at the moment-- but I promise you, I am trying. Please bear with me. If I miss your comment somehow, please know it isn't intentional!

Speaking of my health, this week is going to be a rough one...

It reminds me of times when I was working on GODSPEED, how I would prop myself up on pillows and listen to the story read to me to keep it progressing... how sometimes I'd type blind, how other times I couldn't work on it at all but could only think of it, and it was a refuge from the realities I was dealing with.

I am experiencing something similar with WISHING CROSS STATION: though I have to prepare you all this book is different from anything I've published, or planned to, before.

It's going to make you cry-- fair warning.

I am too deep in it to cry over it today, but I have before, and I am sure that I will again. The characters are so alive to me, the setting a character in itself, objects in the book are taking on a huge significance, too.

I will never look at a train the same way again, especially a vintage locomotive. That much is certain. Every whistle I hear, even on the freight trains going through town not far away, take me to WISHING CROSS in my mind.

I will be giving you glimpses into WISHING CROSS STATION later on in the months ahead, as it is planned for release later this year (UPON A TIME publishes first, in the spring.)

I feel like I am finally really getting to the heart of this one, and that is what I have to do to make it the best representation of the story as my heart conceived it.

All started by this painting...

 And then this one...

I went and did some research locally that helped me out more than I can say...

and now we're at this point... revision of draft number four.

I have rarely been so grateful for the distraction of living in the story... as long as I can make it last.

I've fallen in love with it, and that is the only way I can imagine telling a story: from the point of view of someone who feels they're living inside that world, for however short a time.

Thank you all again, for your continued support.

If you enjoy fairytale retellings, please give UPON A TIME (link on sidebar) a try and if you like it, share it around.

I have no idea how long it's going to be up on Wattpad (hopefully at least six months) so this is your chance to read it before you can buy it...

Much love to all and Happy Monday...


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Happiness: The Underrated Version of “Success”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, not just due to my recent health scare, but before that, about what my key words were going to be to keep in mind going into the New Year.

I don’t make resolutions: I do adopt key words. At least for the last few years. I paint them on canvas, sometimes find art by others that includes them. I keep them where I can see them, often.

They’ve evolved as I have, from “survive” to “courage” to “hope” back to “Courage” (capitol C that time) and this year, to “Happiness” which is wrapped in as large a blanket of “Kindness” as I can swaddle it in.

I want to be as happy as I can be: as I pointed out in my first post of 2015: as happy as I can be despite the things in life working against me. Despite chronic, undertreated, disabling physical pain. Despite the state of my body and the mood of my ever-changing Bipolar brain.

(To demonstrate the wild swings of my moods: these paintings were done days apart. The first is called Mourning...

The second, is of some of my hopeful key words for the year. 

Same artist, different Bipolar mood state.)

Most importantly, I want to be as happy as I can be, despite difficult family circumstances.

I want to take, no, to WRING every drop of happiness I can out of every day this year and in the years to come, if I can, because I’m getting to an age where I’m wondering, honestly, if you’re doing all these things you always dreamed of doing (and more…) and you’re not happy, then what is any of it worth? What is the point of reaching any level of success as an artist if you are suffering a l l  t h e  t i m e?

I read more and more posts and articles about what writers are supposed to be doing to sell more books. Some of those things I will gladly embrace, like Twitter and Wattpad and sharing the work of others as I am able on this blog and elsewhere. But there are lines I know now it would not only make me uncomfortable to cross, but would make me downright miserable: and that is, to me, too high a price to pay, at this point in my life, for anything.

I must battle the Bipolar, PTSD, and OCD every hour of every day. And believe me, with my brain it can vary wildly from hour to hour. I have many PTSD triggers and must work to avoid them at all costs and unfortunately that means there are some books I can’t promote because their covers are dripping in images of blood and it sends me into a state that is not easy to come back from, because that sight is one of my triggers, after multiple real life traumas involving it.


I ask myself, as I review what makes me happy, why am I still trying to remain a published writer, especially a novelist? Why don't I just go off into a cave somewhere and go back to the method of putting all my writing in a trunk a'la Dickinson?

Finally, I arrived at this answer: because when I connect with someone through my stories, through a particular character or moment or line of prose… I’m happier for it.

It’s not about sales numbers for me: I have had two Amazon bestselling books by this point, but it wasn't the numbers that made me happiest. It was the thought of connecting with people behind those numbers.

I've never had the idea I could support myself by writing. Hell, if I could do that I’d be healthy enough to be working a regular job and writing on the side. 

But I can’t, and haven’t been able to for a very long time. I am very fortunate I have a husband who so willingly supports me financially, and is my caregiver as well. Without him, I would most likely be on the street. But I digress.

Writing, for me, is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle when I am on Bipolar medications.

The words come in torrents and then disappear for months at a time at the whims of my medication mixture, the disorder, and the dance the two do without my ability to control it. 

I can only do what the doctors tell me, be a “good” patient (and I’ve been told I am a very compliant patient— I have to be, the knowledge of what happens when I’m not being treated and managed scare me sufficiently to keep me in line 99 percent of the time.)

Sometimes, I can’t write but I can paint.

Sometimes I can’t pick up a brush. 

Sometimes I can't I stop the words if I wanted to.

Sometimes, all I can do is shake, and rock, and cry myself out until the medications kick in and knock me out, haunted too deeply by the past to remember or even understand that I’m in a very different present.

Then I sleep, and sleep, and sleep.

Sometimes I get sick with something I can’t easily heal from: I generally end up in the ER three to four times a year on average with complications from my ‘constellation’ (what my doctors call it) of chronic, genetically caused health issues.

My life is never the same two days in a row. The time in which I can do anything like a normal person is nonexistent.

I cannot plan ahead.

But I can still be happy, somehow. I can try.

Because even if I never wrote another word from today on, 
I’ve introduced some interesting characters into the world. 

I’ve received emails like the one telling me someone bought my book in print so they could read it every day and think about why they wanted to be a writer.

I’ve had people tell me that my stories have helped them through tough times in their lives by distracting them, comforting them, giving them something to believe in or hope for.

You can’t put a price tag on the value of that sort of connection.

So I won’t try.

I will find happiness living somewhere IN the connection.

Yes, yes, of course I would still love to sell a million books. I will still do all I can to be a ‘good’ author and do everything I can manage to do to get the word out about my stories and my platform.

But really, right now, the highest point on my ‘platform’, the goal that I am most seeking this year, is happiness.

Writing fits into that. It has to, I know that.

I am just glad that maybe, finally, I am beginning to understand just how it does.

Wishing you happiness, success, and every joy that life can offer as we shuffle through winter and trudge toward the sleeping spring that awaits us…

(A bouquet I bought myself recently to remind myself spring WILL come...)