Monday, December 08, 2014

Guest Blogging

Just a real quick update!

I'm going to start doing some guest posts over at the AuthorCulture blog. The kind folks have invited me to join them permanently, but I'm not sure yet if that's something I can maintain, so for the next three or four months, I've agreed to do some guest blogging. My first post is today! So go check it out. :) 

Also, I probably mentioned it before, but I did a guest post last month at K.M. Weiland's blog, Helping Writers Become Authors. My post was about how to keep writing in the midst of adversity. I kind of have a bit of experience in that area.

I'm hoping to branch out with my guest blogging in the next several months, so if anyone has any suggestions I should inquire at who are open to self-published/hybrid, mystery, or science fiction authors, please leave a note in the comments! 

Until next time...

Thursday, November 06, 2014


I'm putting the final touches on Retaliation this week, and starting to work on its sequel. Okay, who am I kidding? The sequel is written; I'm editing it already.

And I woke up yesterday thinking how fun it would be to give away a few advance reader copies (ARCs in publishing language!)

So, here's the deal. Through next Tuesday, November 11, you can enter to win one of three copies of Retaliation! I'll also be giving away three copies of Emergence, so if you haven't had a chance to read that, here's your chance. The first winners will be given a choice between the two books, until I've given away all of one, then the rest will get whatever is left. You may choose to assign your gift to a friend or loved-one if you so desire. :) Please note that these are e-books only--the hard copy version is coming, but I have another book to finish up before a physical copy is ready!

You can enter as many times as you want up to the Rafflecopter limit. Already liked me on Facebook or following me on Twitter? No problem, you just have to confirm it with the robot!

I'll contact the winners on either the 12th or the 13th to see which book they prefer, so be watching your e-mail. The email will come from: AuthorLibertySpeidel [@] gmail [.] com (without the brackets or spaces) so keep an eye out! Please share the link far and wide--I really want to reach some new readers!

Also, I'll be guest blogging over at K.M. Weiland's blog, Helping Writers Become Authors on Friday, November 7 (that's tomorrow!) Stop by and say hi!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Counting My Blessings

I am a very blessed woman.

I live in America, in relative peace.

I have a family who loves me, children who are (mostly) healthy whom I adore.

I get to pursue my passions, and enjoy the work I do (on most days--every once in a while I hate it.)

And I've gotten to spend three decades of my life with all four of my grandparents living.

Last year, when we returned from Seattle following my son's bone marrow transplant, I lost my first grandparent the night of our arrival home. I was lucky to be with her when she passed away, to have the chance to say goodbye.

Last night, my family said goodbye to my grandfather on the other side of my family. I was with him, as well, when he went to be with Jesus.

He was 94.

As I hugged my aunts, uncle, grandmother, and cousin, we were able to reminisce a little about the life he lived. He was born in rural North Carolina. Had several brothers and sisters. Served in the Pacific Theater of WWII. Married my grandmother before the end of the war, celebrating 69 years earlier this year. Worked for the post office. Raised my father and his siblings. Could be very loving, but just as cantankerous. He was a bit eccentric, and many things we did, many of us in the family shook our heads over. But he loved us, and adored my son, calling him his buddy.

In recent years, he'd gone down hill, and for many years, I've wondered if he'd see another birthday, another Christmas, another wedding anniversary with Grandma. I'd held out hope he'd get to celebrate 70 years together with Grandma next year, but it wasn't to be.

While I remember the cantankerous man who could snap at us grandkids, I also remember him and Grandma gardening with me, tending their cows, and taking me on rides on their property and picking wildflower bouquets for me along the way. One of my fondest memories is knowing that every night, both he and my Grandma would read the Bible. I have no idea how many times they've read it through, but that has always been a stand-out memory of him (and her.) Every Sunday that I was at their place, we'd go to church, almost without fail. And he took my family and me to see the Passion Play when I was 5 or so.

We'll say our final goodbyes next week. In the meantime, I will be reflecting on my memories of him. Hopefully, a few more I'd forgotten about will surface as I talk with my family.

Go hug your family. If you're blessed enough to have grandparents with you, be sure to tell them how much you love them today. I'm glad my final words to him were, "Grandpa, I love you."

Until next time...

Friday, September 26, 2014

Doctor Who: Season 8, Ep 2 - 4

There's some sort of quote about the best laid plans of mice and men... Well, apparently I operate more on the theory that whatever CAN go wrong, WILL go wrong. And that involved not one, but TWO 4-day hospital stays for my husband, The Man Of The House (affectionately known here as TMOTH.) So, I haven't had a chance to do a review of the three most recent Doctor Who episodes, although I did take a bit of time to watch all of them.

So today, I'll do a recap of my thoughts as best as I can, and hopefully reboot and have a new review for the one airing tomorrow.

Peter Capaldi. I really feel like he's oozing into the role as the Doctor quite nicely. I still see a few remnants of Matt Smith's doctor, but he's really making the character his own. If anyone has any doubts about this, go watch (or re-watch) Listen. I've seen many of my friends proclaim this episode as the best in years, and I definitely agree. It's probably the best episode since Blink, and definitely the scariest.

For the storyline, I'm curious what the writers are going to do with Missy, but I'm also curious about one of the scenes in Listen where  Clara happens into the barn of a young Doctor before he WAS the Doctor. Are the writers going to expound on this at some point? It makes sense that Clara, the Impossible Girl herself, would show up at points like this in the Doctor's timeline, so maybe we'll be seeing more of this in future episodes. It would be interesting to see more of a young Doctor...but maybe this is also a one-time tease. Steven Moffatt is good at that.

Clara and Danny Pink. I like where this relationship is going so far, and am excited to see the Doctor interact with Danny...and just what Clara will do. She's always been a feisty character, but I think it's gotten a bit more so with age, a change in her job, and with the new Doctor. Adding in perhaps a bit of jealousy on the Doctor's part where Danny is concerned will probably prove to be an interesting dynamic, and I'm looking forward to it. 


I'm hoping to get a newsletter put together either this weekend or early next week. If you haven't subscribed yet...well, why not?  I'm planning to have some more publishing news either in this new newsletter, or sometime mid-October. In other news, I'll be guest-posting on K.M. Weiland's blog on Friday, November 7th. More details about that in an upcoming newsletter.

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Until next time...and hopefully next week...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Doctor Who: Deep Breath


I've only been a fan of BBC's "Doctor Who" for a little more than eighteen months.

But when I get into a show, I dive in.

So, in the last eighteen months, I've watched all of the modern episodes, and have viewed at least a few episodes from most of the previous doctors (I'm sadly lacking with Number Eight...I need to rectify that one.)

Being up to speed now, I was eagerly anticipating the new season, with the new Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi. I'd heard a lot of whining from some "oh he's too old to play the doctor." Oh, really? Was William Hartnell?

The Doctor and Clara. Photo from BBC America

I was blown away by the episode which aired on 8/23, which, ironically, was my wedding anniversary and I wasn't supposed to be able to watch it that night. But friends with football tickets made seeing it Saturday a possibility since my husband was gone! :)

Let's get one thing out of the way first, then I'll go into my thoughts on the episode itself. Since I started watching Doctor Who especially, but also coupled with Sherlock (because they are presently produced and written by the same team--Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss), I've mentioned to several writer friends that I'd love to kidnap the pair and just pick their brains. (No worries, BBC, if you're reading this. I'm not planning a trip to Britain any time soon, and this is mostly tongue-in-cheek. Mostly. Not to say if I wasn't in Cardiff or London and saw either of them, I wouldn't stop and try to pick their brains!) Right now, both writers--especially for Sherlock, a little less for Doctor Who--make me want to get into writing screenplays. Perhaps one day.

Cinematically, I have to say, I'm less impressed by Doctor Who than I am Longmire. (If you missed my gushing on the season finale of Longmire, see the post that precedes this one.) I'm sure it's because it's a science fiction show, and they're mostly shooting on a soundstage, and there's a lot of CGI that needs to be added in. But still. It would be nice to see a bit more flare in how the show is put together. That would be my only real criticism. I've never watched an episode of Doctor Who yet where I've just marveled at how the photography is used to tell the story--unlike Longmire, where it's a week-in-and-week-out thing. Apples. Oranges.

River Song
Insert River Song saying in her super-sexy voice, "Spoilers."

Story-wise, I felt the plot was sound. Rarely have I felt a Steven Moffatt script was off (although 7.2 felt off for most of the season. It mostly came together by the end of the season, but 7.2 was disjointed overall. I'm hoping season 8 is different.) The dinosaur being set ablaze, I've seen several people say that was gratuitous. However, after re-watching the episode last night, it played a role. It drew the Doctor and Clara into the main part of the story. I did notice, as some others had noted, that the episode seemed like a bit of a mashup of three older episodes (which ones, I'm not certain of the names, and don't have the time to look them up.) For the most part, I'd agree, although this definitely had its own feel to it. And I think Moffatt was aware of it, and probably had a plan for it to feel vaguely familiar because he was introducing a new Doctor.

 And let's get to the new doctor. As I said above, I was eagerly anticipating Capaldi. I knew he was a fan of the show (I've seen on the internet where he wrote a fan letter to the show at the age of 6! So you know he's got the show's best interest at heart.) And while Matt Smith is my doctor, and David Tennant is just a sliver behind him, I have been curious how they'd take the story in a new direction, especially after "The Day of the Doctor," the show's 50th anniversary special which aired last November. Keep in mind: I'm a writer. As a writer, I'm curious about these things. I watch TV as much for relaxation as I do for learning about my craft. 

As a fan of the show, I was simply delighted at the number of Easter eggs I caught in the episode. I'm sure it was meant to be like that, and there are probably more that I missed, but some of my more memorable ones were these:
  • The face/mirror in the alley scene. Why this face? I've seen this face before. This is probably a reference to the Tennant-era episode "Fires of Pompeii", which Capaldi guested in (which, ironically, Karen Gillan, also was a guest in. If you don't know who Karen is, she was Amy Pond for the first 2.5 seasons of Matt Smith's Doctor, and is currently playing one of the bad guys in "Guardians of the Galaxy.")
  • The scarf question in the same scene as above. The line was something like, "Do you have a scarf? Maybe a long one? No, we're avoiding those." Obvious reference to, I believe, the 4th Doctor. (If I'm wrong, please don't hate me--just let me know in the comments and I'll fix.)
  • "Some days I wish you were Amy." If you're a Whovian, this one doesn't need any explanation. I miss the Ponds, too. 
  • The eyebrows. They're angry eyebrows. They may cede and start their own state of Eyebrows. Not so much an Easter egg, as a something many Whovians have been going on about since Capaldi was announced as the new doctor last year. 
  • Clara at the end, coming into the revamped TARDIS. "You've redecorated. I don't like it." Nearly shot me to tears because Tennant said the same thing to Smith in "The Day of the Doctor" and I think it's a tradition in some of the older episodes as well with multiple doctors. And she said it almost the exact same way that Tennant did! 
Now I need to gush about the MATT SMITH SCENE.

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor in the "Broom Scene"
Photo from BBC America
This is the scene that pushed me over the edge, the one where, if I wasn't crying already, I was by about the mid-point in this scene. I've said it already in a couple places within my friends circles, but I think we as an audience needed the Matt Smith scene. We needed to have one last chance to say goodbye to the Raggedy Man, needed to hear his voice one last time, and know, along with Clara, that this was going to be okay. I almost wonder if this was thrown in for the Capaldi-skeptics, and even though it wasn't essential to the story, I think it helped get us over the hump of believability. Of course, Clara kind of needed to hear it, too. I think she was about ready to bolt on us. And even though I have not been a fan of Clara, she really shined in this episode, and held her own.

Last thoughts, I promise. This is getting lengthy.

 I'm a fan of a good story. Give me solid writing, and, in TV, solid acting, and I'm pretty much hooked. That being said, 7.2 almost lost me because I felt it floundered around a bit. At the time, I needed it, though, because I was far from home, and my son was undergoing a bone marrow transplant. Keep in mind, I love Matt Smith's incarnation as the Doctor.

But even though I was sad to see Matt go, I was eager to see what Capaldi would do. While I think not everyone is as sold as I am, I felt he was refreshing, and I'm looking forward to a darker side of the Doctor.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some squeeeing to go do. ;)

Until next time...


Reminder! My debut novella, "Emergence" is out now! You can find it at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords for the low-low price of $2.99US. If you like mysteries, suspense, or superhero stories, you will enjoy "Emergence"! Go download your copy today.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

New Feature and Longmire: Ashes to Ashes

Good morning!

I'm trying out a new idea this morning here on the blog which some of you may enjoy, and others of you may not. Here's the skinny: I've been in a blogging rut, and have been racking my brain trying to come up with some brilliant idea for months. Writing about writing is boring sometimes, and writing about my family...that can get a little too personal sometimes.

But here's the thing: I love stories. Always have. And I love stories in the short form, especially as TV shows. I'm pretty selective on the shows I watch. Most are mysteries or crime shows, a couple, sci-fi. I also like to occasionally flex my muscles learned in my Film Theory class in college.

So here's what I'm going to try for the next several months: doing posts on some of the shows I watch--what works, what doesn't, and some of the things I notice in the show. They may not always be the day after a show airs--I am a busy mom. Heck, I still have the last 3 or 4 episodes from the last season of Bones on my DVR! But I'll try for a couple posts a week on shows I watch. Nothing long, something you can read easily on your coffee break, other than this introductory post. I'll try also not to post too many spoilers. I know some of you watch the same shows I do--but on Netflix or some other service, and are a season or two behind!

Up first, the season finale on my summer favorite: Longmire.

My background with the show: I've been a fan since about midway through the 1st season, and I've read almost all of the books the show is based on. Craig Johnson, the author of the books, is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. The fact that the books are set in Wyoming where I have some family is a bonus. I feel like I can picture them better in my head.

Walt Longmire after spreading his wife's ashes where
they said their wedding vows.
Photo from

Last night's episode was the season finale, entitled "Ashes to Ashes". And as far as season finales go, it was amazing. It ran a little long, ending about 10 after the hour, but that was okay. I loved every minute of it.

For the past three seasons, Sheriff Walt Longmire has been trying to figure out who was behind the murder of his wife (which happened before the show started.) At the end of Season 2, his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, was accused and arrested for killing the man who killed Walt's wife. We all know Henry didn't do it, but who did? With a mystery like that, I've been engaged. This is something not in the books, so I had no answers. There have been clues all along the way, and something in last night's episode sparked a revelation that I won't divulge for those of you who haven't watched. I will just say I was on the edge of my seat. I was writing in the commercial breaks, but my own fictional world was no competition for Longmire. They'd better come back for a Season Four. How they left things and not knowing if one of the characters has been shot--or even which character--was nearly heart-stopping!

If you don't watch Longmire for ANYTHING else, you should watch it sheerly for the cinematography. Nearly every episode is absolutely beautifully shot. Granted, they have a great place to shoot the show, somewhere in New Mexico. But I'm constantly amazed at what they can do with camera angles, lighting, and just a bit of music--plus a great cast. This show, if it hasn't already, NEEDS to be winning some awards for cinematography. If you can watch last night's episode, even for just five or ten minutes, take the time. I'm especially struck by the opening scenes. The actors playing Walt Longmire and his now-former deputy Branch Connally don't speak, but it tells a wonderful story. Another scene where the actor doesn't speak, and yet his character speaks volumes, involves Henry Standing Bear. But that would possibly give some spoilers, as it comes near the end.

As for the whole story, there are a lot of holes left open. Several are closed, but new ones open. I can't wait for Season Four, and desperately wish that A&E would take this show out of just being a summer show and bring it full-time.


I don't know precisely when I'll be doing another of these posts, or for which show. My shows are typically: Bones, NCIS, NCIS: LA, Elementary, Castle, and Agents of Shield. I adored Almost Human last year, and keep hoping FOX will bring it back. (Please, FOX, please bring it back!!) Any of these are fair game for a post, although Castle already has a good post mortem done on it, but from the police procedure aspect, over at 

Until next time...


P.S. If you haven't picked up your copy of "Emergence", be sure to do so! $2.99US at Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble! If you haven't signed up for my mailing list, you can do so here, or in the form on the side under my picture.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Adventures in the Great Outdoors, I

If you took the way that my husband (The Man Of The House, or TMOTH) and I grew up and compared them, you would see the reason why the two of us are vastly different. Unless we were at my grandparents' farm, we didn't do much outdoorsy stuff--camping, hiking, fishing, etc. My husband? was outside ALL THE TIME.

Ironically, my husband and I met on a camping trip--the weekend was the first time I'd ever stayed overnight in a tent.

While I'm still not an "outdoorsy" girl--I'd still rather be at home with my books and laptop--I've been getting better about being outside. Or at least I'm trying to be.

Frequently on the weekends, my husband says for me to pack a cooler and grab some diapers for our three-year-old, and off we go. Sometimes I grumble, if not to him, to myself. I'm not a spontaneous person, I like to have some time to plan things when possible. An hour to pack everything we'll need for the rest of the day and it's 11 AM? Yeah, doesn't thrill me too much.

But, I like what it's teaching my kids--to be flexible, roll with the punches, and most importantly, enjoy the outdoors (although, much of the time, all they're enjoying at this age are movies in the car and an excessively long car ride.)

Father's Day was one of these days. On the way to church, TMOTH made noises that he wanted to go fishing. So, I had about a two hour warning before we got home that this was on the plate. Get home, pack lunch, grab the diapers, head out. 

Then, what inevitably happens with us, "Where are we going?"

"I don't know. You tell me."

"It's Father's Day. You pick."

"I don't know where to go!"

A bluegill our daughter caught on Father's Day
I sigh, make a few half-hearted suggestions. We stop and he retrieves the Gazeteer from the trunk. I start telling him directions. The kids watch "How to Train Your Dragon" for the 17th time in the last few weeks. The younger one naps. The dog is cramped, on the floor between the front and back seats of our mid-sized sedan.

We're all wishing we had a Suburban, especially the dog.

Eventually, we find a spot we've been to before, a long, long time ago--maybe before the kids came around. TMOTH and our daughter fish.

Our daughter catches two small bluegill, TMOTH catches a small catfish and a small bluegill.

I keep our son from falling into the water, take pictures of dragonflies when I can get close enough to them without our son getting too close and scaring them off. We huddle down together after retrieving our hats from the car as light showers come across the lake and hit us head on. By the time we leave, my T-shirt is soaked from the rain.

I'm cold, haven't had dinner, and am tired, but other than gently reminding my husband he neglected to get me something to eat when I couldn't eat at Subway (I started a gluten-free diet last fall, so Subway is NOT on my menu,) I don't say too much. I do adjust the thermostat in the car to something a little warmer, then help my husband figure out where the heck to go. We take a wrong turn or two (I've gotten turned around on where we are,) and I mark the Gazeteer in ink on where to go again, and scratch off roads shown on the map that aren't roads.

It's been a successful day overall. We made it home in one piece. The kids got to run around and fish. I took several pictures, none I'm thrilled with, but they're okay. And more importantly, my husband got me out of the house. I've become quite a homebody the last couple years. Having your life center around the health and wellness of your immune-compromised son will do that to you.

Next up on our list of challenges--a possible weekend trip to a cabin, or maybe even in a tent.

I'm not sure I'm ready yet.

Until next time...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Murder Down the Street

This week has been an INSANELY busy week for me. I've been exhausted because of it. Even so, on Monday afternoon, as I was heading home from an appointment, my curiosity was piqued by a site: a police car sitting in the driveway of a house about a half mile from my own.

My first thought: why would they be running radar from there, and did they get permission from the homeowner?

See, it's across the street from a parking lot where I FREQUENTLY see cops running radar. No big deal to me--I'm always turning onto the road a block away, and there's no way I've even come close to reaching the 35 MPH speed limit by the time I pass the radar-gun carrying officer.

But this Monday was different. As I was watching the evening news, I learned there'd been a murder in my town which had been discovered after a welfare check. The neighborhood looked like mine--I hadn't caught the address.

Sure enough, it was the house I'd observed earlier in the day.

I didn't know the victim, may not have ever seen him. And I'm not in fear for my life. Sure, the area of town I live in is slightly more likely than other areas to have violence of this sort, but this is only the 5th murder in my city this year--and three others made the national news because they were a mass shooting at the Jewish Community Center.

But, that's not what I'm writing about, and I most certainly am not trying to insert myself into this tragedy.

As a mystery writer, I've been fascinated to watch the happenings at the house this week. Because of appointments and vacation Bible school for my daughter, I've had reason to go past there every day. I've also been very perplexed in my drive-by observations.

For instance, I've observed crime scene vans on sight for three days (Monday on the news, and Tuesday and Wednesday in person.) I've also spotted up to six vehicles on scene--some from the local PD, but others from the Sheriff's office. More interesting, there's always a police car parked in the driveway of the house, I presume protecting the scene.

This all has been making my little writer's brain click away the last few days. I hope the police find the killer, and he or she is punished appropriately. But I can't help but be a little grateful for this chance to observe from a distance.


Did you know I've redone my mailing list? In an effort to get ready for the release of my first novella, I'm doing some cleaning up and tweaking. As such, I've started a new mailing list through MailChimp. If you would, please look to the right and enter your info for my mailing list. (As you've scrolled down this far, you'll need to scroll up in all likelihood.) I'll be using the mailing list for keeping you updated on new releases, specials, and giveaways. Also, when the time comes, guest appearances at other venues. I'll only be sending out an e-mail every month or so, so no worries about getting a bunch of junk!

Sign up for the mailing list, and you'll be the first to know about new titles, specials, and appearances.

Until next time...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Major Announcement!

It's truly funny how things work out sometimes.

For the past year, since about the time my son began pre-treatment for his bone marrow transplant, my thoughts where publishing were concerned have turned dramatically towards self-publishing. I've seen countless friends self-publish in the past 5 - 8 years, some who even surprised me because of their vehemence towards NOT self-publishing in the same time frame.

I've spent numerous hours in the last year reading popular self-publishing blogs, listening to podcasts, and questioning key friends who have both self-published and been traditionally published. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that self-publishing was for me because of the certainty of having my words and stories in print, and because of the level of control I'd be able to have.

And then, a random post about a month ago turned things on its head.

On my personal Facebook page, I made a comment one weekend about the priciness of ISBNs--those 10 or 13-digit numbers that uniquely identify your book and its edition. I knew I'd need several in the next year or two, considering my plans. But, yikes! Were they expensive!! I'm a stay-at-home mom, and I can't ask my husband for $500 for 20 ISBNs (or whatever the rate is.) We just don't have it in the budget, and I haven't shown him the evidence that I could earn it back yet.

So, back to the comment. I was surprised at how many people responded to my post--all authors, of course (because who else knows what an ISBN is??) It was an interesting conversation, especially because I commented that I almost wished we lived in Canada, where ISBNs are free to authors.

What I didn't know is that they're free in other countries, too. Like New Zealand.

One of my friends happens to live in New Zealand.

She also happens to have her own press.

She also has read my work, and was my mentor when I did the Team PYP challenge about two to three years ago.

And, late last year, I'd asked her advice on a short story I had wanted to develop into a longer piece of work, and she gladly gave me some advice which was key into developing it into a novella rather than a short story.

She also invited me to send her the completed novella to possibly publish it through her press.

My brain turned on its head. Traditionally publish? But... but... but... I've been planning to self-publish for the past nine months!

Still, this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. One thing I've struggled with was the idea that my stories were worth it. Another was what I'd do about editing because I knew I'd need at least a good polish, if not much more. If she was interested in the stories, maybe they do have worth, maybe they are good enough. If not, well, maybe she'd have some input on what I could improve.

I'm not going to prattle on much longer in my story, but long story short is: I sent the novella. She loved them. We talked. We agreed it would be mutually beneficial for us to work together.

A contract was sent. A contract has been signed.

As of March 25, 2014, I'm contracted with Splashdown Books. My editor is the fabulous Grace Bridges. I'm completely over the moon, especially since this is my birthday week. What better present could an author ask for but a contract?? Of course this year, I'm just thrilled to be home on my birthday, with my husband, daughter, son, and dog. But a CONTRACT! Probably one of the best presents ever!

We're still working out all of the details, such as titles and time frame. That information will be forthcoming as it's available. Check here, the Splashdown Books website, Twitter, my Facebook, or the Splashdown Books Facebook page for updates.

So, that's my major announcement! I'm so, so happy to share this with the rest of you!

Until next time...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Time to Say Goodbye

Yesterday, February 11, was a difficult day for me. I awoke earlier than normal, scarfed down some breakfast, badgered my kids out of bed before the sun was up, and hit the road before dawn.

Anyone who knows me knows this is abnormal. Heck, I'm writing this at 8:30 AM, and I'm still in my pajamas.

But, I had a very important reason to hit the road.

On Friday of last week, I learned that a friend from my grade school days had died. Killed in a murder/suicide, actually. Very hard words to absorb.

I hadn't seen her in well over a decade, but she'd been on my mind for a few days leading up to this news. See, I'd had some personal turmoil last week, and in the midst of it, I remembered what a good friend she'd been to me all those years ago.

I first met her when I began taking piano lessons from her mother. Despite the fact I'd be taken out of the public school we both attended a few years later, I continued taking lessons from her mother until I was about 16.

We were in a combination class together the final year I was in public school, she in the lower grade, me in the upper. I've always been a little odd, and was not "in" with the other five girls in my grade level. Throughout the school year, I was constantly teased, but for the most part, ignored it. But my friend didn't. She and a couple other girls in her class eventually came to me and said if I didn't do something about what was going on, they would--and they did go to the teacher.

My grade-level classmates were called on the carpet for bullying me. But it wouldn't have happened without Erin intervening.

This story was in my head a lot last week before she had even died, and I'd been about to ask a mutual friend of hers and mine about where she was and to try to get in touch with her when I learned the news.

So yesterday, instead of talking to her, I got to hug her mother as I said goodbye to a woman I wish I'd stayed in touch with. I was so glad to be reassured of how much she loved her family, her friends, and God.

Life can be full of regrets. This is one that I'll definitely regret the rest of my life, that I didn't stay in touch, or get in touch sooner.

Rest in peace, Erin. I know you are already missed, but those who loved you and appreciated you will see you again, one day, in Heaven.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Culturally Different

In the last couple of weeks, I read Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman. For those of you not in the know, this is a memoir of sorts that Ms. Druckerman wrote about her experiences as an American mother raising children in France. I found myself laughing and learning frequently in this book. I rarely read memoirs, in fact, this may be the first I've ever sat through, but the subject matter was intriguing to me: how the French raise their children. Culturally, it's quite different than we Americans raise our kids, and I found myself wishing that even for a few years, my kids could have the influence of the French.

One thing I found intriguing was the idea of expectations. In one chapter, Ms. Druckerman describes how the expectations of life are much different in France than in America, and it filters into their literature, especially for kids. Where in our children's books, we have a story that gets resolved in most cases, and things become "perfect" (or as close to perfect as the author can make them so they're left with a feel-good effect), the French stories published on the other side of the pond are more true to life. She describes one story in a very popular French children's series where one character is mean to another (don't remember the context now, and I had to return the book to my library!) They work on the problem through the book, and I believe the mean child eventually apologizes to the other character... In an American book, that'd be the end of it, but the French book finishes with a final scene where the mean child repeats the same type of offense as originally started at the beginning of the book.

While I thoroughly enjoyed all of the rest of the book, and have learned several things that I'm going to try to implement with my own children, that story about French literature really stuck out to me, probably because I'm a storyteller. I love the art of storytelling, love learning about the so-called "rules," love digging in to my own stories to figure out what's working and what's not.

And I can't help but think I've approached it in a fully American way.

In adult fiction, it's a bit easier to have an ambiguous ending to a story. Fine. We're adults, we can handle it. But, I can't think of any stories I've read to my kids where there's not a happy ending. And, as Ms. Druckerman pointed out, that's not really all that true to life. It leaves kids with a false sense of what should happen in life, that our problems can be solved easily, when often, things are much more complex.

I love a happy ending just as much as anyone. I always get a bit teary-eyed at the end of Return of the Jedi when Han and Leia come to terms, and it's obvious they'll be getting together. Same goes for the end of Pride & Prejudice, and a whole host of other books and movies.

But, should we always let our kids watch shows or read books where problems are easily, and fully, resolved? Wouldn't it be better to expose them to life, and give them a sense that life isn't going to always be full of lollipops, roses, and puppies? As in the French book referenced in Bringing Up Bébé, wouldn't be better to let our kids know that friends won't always repent, and are just as likely to repeat the same offenses over and over?

I, for one, think that would be a benefit to kids.

What are your thoughts? Do you remember reading any books with ambiguous endings as a child, or were all your book choices ended in a happy way?

Until next time...

Friday, January 17, 2014

It's a New Year!

Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows just how crazy my last 12 - 18 months have been. Being told my son needed a bone marrow transplant pretty much threw everything askance since August of 2012. However, now the light is starting to show at the end of the tunnel. As of January 1, he was 8 months post transplant, and doing AMAZINGLY well. All of his doctors seem very pleased with his progress, and while we have a follow-up planned in Seattle, when we return from that, he should return to treatment with his regular hematologist for Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome.

Even though clinic appointments are far too regular still, with no end in sight until mid-late spring, that light at the end of the tunnel is starting to shine a glimmer on the future.

While I'm not going to guarantee I'll be posting here regularly--even pre-transplant, it was beginning to be a gamble--I'll post as much as I'm able to. But, this is what my goals are for this year where my writing is concerned:

  1. Write five days a week for at least an hour. To accomplish this, I'm going to try institutiting an early-morning writing time. Between appointments, and the fact I'm a stay-at-home mom (and my daughter will be starting homeschool Kindergarten sometime this year), early mornings are about the only time I can guarantee I'll have uninterrupted time, five days a week. I instituted this early morning time on the 30th of December, and so far, I've gotten up four of the five days, and wrote/edited for three of the four.
  2. Publish. This one should go without saying, but I have a very aggressive goal to publish several short stories/novellas/novels this year. I'm not going to specify my exact number (partially because I'm not 100% certain of the exact number, but also because I don't want to have life happen and not be able to follow through), but when I say it's aggressive, it is. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion. I'm trying to put myself into motion so that it becomes just part of it that I'm constantly writing, editing, and publishing. Listening to the Self-Publishing Podcast since May of 2013, and reading "Write. Publish. Repeat." (by the same guys behind SPP) in December really motivated me. I can do this. It just takes momentum to get started.
  3. Set a production schedule. The only way I can stay on track is to know what I expect myself to do. Listening to Joanna Penn's The Creative Penn podcast (also started around the same time as I started listening to SPP--I think I learned of one from the other) has helped me see that a production schedule will help me stay on track and on purpose. I'm apt to take rabbit trails, and distractions are very easy, so knowing I've GOT to work on this project rather than that one may help keep me on track. I say may because who knows. ;)
I have other goals, like getting my feet in order where I can begin exercising again (I was told I had a very bad case of plantar fasciitis in my arches in December, so I haven't been walking the dog at all) and sticking to a gluten-free diet (I've lost about 5 pounds since Thanksgiving just by going gluten-free, and 99% dairy free!) But, I'm really mostly focused the writing goals. Hopefully, on January 1, 2015, I'll be able to look back at 2014 with a smile.

How about you? Do you have any new goals you want to accomplish in 2014, writing-related or not?

Until next time,


P.S., if you haven't done so already, be sure to pick up a copy of CSI Effect

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