Hearing Voices

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I’ve been reading a lot of novels lately, more than usual. Part of the reason is me staying away from social media a bit. I comment on issues when I feel I need to, and as a public school teacher, I definitely aired my grievances about Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. But the truth is, other than organizing protests through social media, I don’t think it’s very effective to keep posting these “Hear Me Now” statements. The people who agree with you will “like” your comments and the ones who don’t will unfriend you or mute you, so what’s the point? But it’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut sometimes, so I read.

My question is, when you read, do you hear voices in your head? Please tell me I’m not the only one! I hear voices in my head all the time anyway–of my characters–I’m not totally crazy. Yet. Right? Hearing voices is acceptable when you’re a writer (so I’ve been told). Although when I was writing the final book in my trilogy, 18 THOUGHTS, I did actually lose the argument to my main character, Olga. That was a whole new level of insanity 😉

But I was thinking about this month’s question: how has my experience as a writer changed me as a reader? For sure, it’s helped me appreciate every story a bit more. I know the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into making a book, and what little royalties you get out of it in the end. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the way I hear different voices for the various characters as I’m reading . . . that’s been going on for as long as I can remember.

How about you–what’s your reading experience like? Read any great books lately? So far this year I’ve read:

Smash & Grab by Amy C. Parker

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

The Surrendered by Case Maynard

Because of the Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi

To be honest, I’d give all of these books 5 stars! They were wonderful!! Check them out if you’re looking to hear some new voices in your head 🙂

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.

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Preparing for the Future

Today’s Question5-years

Always good to think ahead, not something that comes easily for most creative types, myself included. As preparation for this post, I read the Ayres’ Christmas letter I sent in 2011. A LOT can change in 5 years. I wrote about how I’d just finished my novel and planned to send it out in February. By June, I would have my first contract for 18 Things. Then came 18 Truths and 18 Thoughts. This year I didn’t write much or publish anything new. I’m in a new teaching position and the struggle is real . . . learning all the new content is a task that occupies all my nights and weekends.

My goal is to write a fourth novel in my series that catches up with the characters as they’re approaching their 10 year high school reunion. (My 20th is sometime in 2017–GAK! Where does the time go?!). Hopefully, I’ll write that one over the upcoming Christmas break and have it published soon. I want to give my fans some closure, as I’ve received many emails, asking what happens to the characters when they’re older. After that, I don’t have it in the cards to publish any more books. I’m completely fulfilled with my new job of teaching English II to tenth graders. Funny thing is that five years ago I was a second grade teacher! If some Jedi Master predicted my future and told me where I’d be right now, I wouldn’t have believed them!

No matter what comes by way, I pray that I’ll stand with courage and faith, knowing God is always there for me. I hope you know that, too 🙂

Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you plan to get there?

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.

Co-Hosts:
Jennifer Hawes
Jen Chandler
Nick Wilford
Juneta Key
JH Moncrieff
Diane Burton
MJ Fifield

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Counting My Blessings

Today’s Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?
What a great question for November, the time of year when we reflect on our favorite things and count our blessings. I’m a people person, so I’d say my favorite aspect of being a writer are all the people, places, and experiences that have come my way as a result of publishing my YA trilogy, 18 Things. Growing up, I had some pretty dark days, and I never dreamed the life I have now would be possible. I’m so grateful for the gift God has placed in my hands, and I love hearing from readers who’ve said my books changed their life. The way written words can transform a soul never ceases to amaze me. I didn’t strive to make my books religious, but I did pray God would use my novels as a vessel through which love flowed outward, touching people the way His love touched me. To see the fruits of that prayer is a humbling experience.
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My first event as a published author. I shared a vendor’s table with fellow members of my local writers group & brought a box of my books to sell. I thought I’d sell one, but I sold . . . wait for it . . . 18!!

And I love meeting other authors, too. Most writers are great at spreading the love, and I strive to do the same. The last three years I’ve spearheaded a literacy festival at the middle school where I taught English, and now that I’ve switched to high school, I’m planning the same event but on a much larger scale. Already, 12 YA authors have agreed to come FOR FREE! Of course, they’ll get lots of book sales out of the event, but it’s just so awesome to see their level of excitement matching the students enthusiasm for this festival. Spreading the love helps me to count my blessings because I’m constantly reminded how supported I am by those around me, and vice versa.
This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.
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The awesome co-hosts for the November 2 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jen Chandler, Mary Aalgaard, Lisa Buie Collard, Tamara Narayan, Tyrean Martinson, and Christine Rains! Thanks for spreading the love, guys!!

#Love Wins

love wins

The month of June I read a novel for book club titled The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. As promised, ‘it illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war.’

I feel like you aren’t human if you can read a novel about the events surrounding the Holocaust and not be moved. This one was no different, but for some reason, it was even more poignant to me. Perhaps because I was reading it after the Orlando massacre. The tragedy happened while I was on vacation to Georgia and North Carolina to see family in the mountains, so I was shielded from most of the news coverage until we returned the week after.

My husband and I lived in Orlando for seven years. We graduated from the University of Central Florida. We got our first real jobs there. I gave birth to our two baby girls in The City Beautiful. We bought our first house there. A house that was just a fifteen minute drive to the Pulse nightclub. The husband of one of my best friends had a cousin who died in the shooting that night, which made it all the more real to me.

Reading The Nightingale set in France 1939-1945 and contemplating all the acts of terror still happening around the globe today, I’m reminded of how there are many events in our lives over which we have zero control. But we do have a choice to either press on or give up. Time and time again, I’m astounded at what humans have endured throughout history.

Many have concluded that the secret to survival is remembering love is greater than evil. That’s why the hashtag #lovewins has trended for over a year now. Maybe it’s why I can’t leave a little bit of romance out of my books. Remembering that #lovewins produces the endurance which sees us through all the tough stuff we face in this life. And in the meantime, we write, because it’s good therapy for our souls, as is reading a good book. I highly recommend The Nightingale, or *shameless plug* 18 Thoughts . . . because what’s summer without a book in your hand and toes in the sand? It’s a good life, after all is said and done.

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This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.

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In Rememberance

“You saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you traveled until you reached this place.”~Deuteronomy 1:31

One week ago my grandpa passed away peacefully in his  home. He was 80; he was also the last living grandparent I had . . . although I’m thankful he’s not suffering anymore like he had been for the past two years, it’s hard to lose this great generation.

From his obituary: “If you saw Doug out and about, he always had a smile and a story to tell. After retiring, he enjoyed spending time on the water with family and friends. Whether it be at Hardy Dam or Lake Michigan, you never knew where the adventure would take you, but it was always filled with laughter, love, and a memory that would be shared for years to come.”

I hope the same can be said of me when I’m gone. Every time I lose someone here on earth, it reminds me to pray for clarity of my purpose in this lifetime. There are days I feel my life doesn’t have enough meaning or depth, but I try to put my talents and skills to the best use and to show love and grace to others.

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Grandpa in the beginning . . . just starting out on his own.

As writers, we know that every story must have a beginning and an end. A final chapter. God knows our alpha and omega, but he lets us be the authors of our own stories. Each life is a book, not to be read, but a tale to be written. What a dangerous freedom! It’d be much safer for him to dictate our every feeling, word, action . . . but then it wouldn’t be love. Love is chosen. So he hands each child a pen and whispers write carefully. That’s good advice for life and for our fictional stories as well. Write carefully.

Doug

Grandpa in the end. R.I.P.

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.

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Carpe Diem!

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. . . One of my favorite quotes that I wrote at the front of my current journal. I’ve been given a lot of author opportunities as of late. There was my presentation about writing at the Lee County Reading Conference.

LCRC 2016

The third annual authors conference that I organized for my middle school, where I teach eighth grade English Language Arts. Here’s me with authors Kyle Prue, Jeff Strand, Liz Coley, Krystal Wade, Wendy Mills, Teshelle Combs, Erica Cameron, and Lisa Colozza Cocca.

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Riverdale High School Literacy Festival. One of my favorite parts is doing the panel in the auditorium with the other authors. This year I got to promote 18 Thoughts!

RHS Lit 2016

A book signing at the largest independent bookstore in my county (check out the amazing book bridge–I want one in my house!). This is me with my editor and friend, Krystal Wade, who also happens to be an amazing author!

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And I have another author event at a middle school this Friday, followed by a visit to a book club who read 18 Things later this month!

I don’t mention this to brag, but to remind all of us how each day it’s up to us to look for new opportunities, and not to just further our careers. Every person I meet is an opportunity to uncover a new story, see a different perspective, discover a new friend.

Each place I go is an opportunity to try a new route, enjoy the scenery along the way, explore the surroundings, create adventure.

Each book, meal, conversation-Each Encounter–is an opportunity.

We’ve each been given our own unique talents and gifts to share with the world. Nothing makes me happier than shining my light and helping others to do the same. You never know what tomorrow may bring, so CARPE DIEM!!

~How have you seized the day lately?

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

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I WANT CHANGE!

One of my favorite quotes is:

change

Why? Because I don’t think it’s right to notice or talk about what’s wrong in the world if you’re not going to do something to make the situation better.

As an author, one problem I’ve had with my last two books is lack of reviews.

18 Things, the first book in my YA trilogy, which released in January 2013, has 188 reviews with an overall 4.1 rating.

18 Truths released the following January. Two years later, it has only 50 reviews with a 4.7 rating.

Then, most pitiful of all, is 18 Thoughts with just 27 reviews and a 4.8 rating, which released almost one year ago.

So what did I do over my Christmas break? I was a bad writer (because I didn’t write a word in my WIP), but a very good friend, because I read six books by different authors I know and left a review! Now, most of you wouldn’t know I left you a review because if I use my regular name and email address, the gods at Amazon take my review down because *gasps* I’m a writer. SO WHAT?! I was being the change I wish to see in the world 🙂

A writer lives and breathes by reviews and word-of-mouth! I keep getting all these reader surveys, which are nice, but my inner toddler stomps her feet and yells, “BUT WHY NOT PUT A REVIEW ON AMAZON INSTEAD AND HELP A SISTER OUT?” Because most of these people got my first novel for FREE and are wondering if/when the next two books will be free.

Can you hear my horrible Chewbacca growl from here?

By the way, if you don’t think reviews are important, then you might want to check out Kristen Lamb’s blog. Her last three posts have been about this topic, and I couldn’t have said it better myself (or funnier).

Any of you have insights on getting more reviews? Do you wish to be the change in my world (HA! See what I did there!). If you’d like to read any of my books in exchange for an honest review, just let me know!

Insecure Writer's Support Group

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Another Year In the Books

It’s that time again already . . . reflecting on the past year. In preparation, I read my blog posts from last December. 2014 was rather crappy, and I looked forward to 2015 being a lot better. And the truth is . . .

IT WAS AMAZING!!!

It's been a magical year!

It’s been a magical year!

But not for the reasons I anticipated. This time last year I was still really focused on writing. The last installment of my YA trilogy, 18 Thoughts, was getting ready for release, and I anticipated an increase in sales and a fulfillment in my professional life I’d never experienced before.

Except even though I had more book sales this past year than in my previous two years combined, that fulfillment never came. Instead I felt empty and unmotivated in the area of writing. So after my media blitz, I took a break. In the past, if I didn’t have my daily writing time, it’d send me into a FULL DOWNWARD SPIRAL, eating cookies in a corner, nearly ODing on sugar, and making horrible Chewbacca howling noises. Probably not a healthy place to be. But I didn’t write again until mid-July, and then I finished a stand alone novel in a month. In August, school was back in session, leaving no time to edit as I taught eighth grade English for the first time. Maybe I’ll find editing time before 2015 ends (I do have 2 weeks off starting December 18th, but there’s also Star Wars, and NOTHING will take that away from me).

Sooo maybe I won’t.

And that’s okay. I’ve been so focused on writing, writing, writing since 2009 . . . from trying to get a book deal to getting a book deal to honoring that book deal and all it entails. This year, I finally felt like I had my life back. I’ve spent way more time with my wonderful family. I even made my 15yo daughter smile sometimes instead of scowl at me. So yes, this year has been a miracle.

How about you? Any surprises in your life this year? (Good, I hope, not like an unexpected incoming FaceTime or discovering your Starbucks app is empty. There’s nothing more terrifying than that.)

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This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

 

Enjoying the Journey

Today my baby graduated from elementary school. HOLY CRAP! How’d that happen? Wasn’t she just starting kindergarten YESTERDAY?!

When I considered this post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I thought of how my writer’s journey has flown by in its various stages too. From vomiting ideas onto paper in 2009, to attending my first writing conference in 2010, to getting involved in critique groups in 2011, to querying & entering a contest & winning a contract in 2012, to publishing my first book in 2013, my second in 2014 & waiting, waiting, waiting on sales . . . to finally selling over 25,000 books so far this year after the release of my third novel, 18 Thoughts.

I worked hard toward my goals, just like my daughter did during her formative school years, just as I’m sure you do now and always! So let’s take a moment to be grateful for the journey, to recognize how far we’ve come, no matter how far we still have to go. The start of June is the perfect time to do so with vacations, picnics, barbecues, and that feeling of happiness and nostalgia and carefree attitude that only summer seems to bring.

Which brings me to an announcement . . . You won’t see much of me during the next two months. Thanks to my buddy, Kyle Prue (who gave me the idea), my girls and I are having a “Summer Unplugged.” Quite simply, we’re going to enjoy each other’s company instead of our electronics. I pray God would help us see the blessings right in front of us during this time, because sometimes the busyness & shiny objects of life has a way of obstructing our vision.

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” ~Henry David Thoreau

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month!

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#ReadOrWriteAnywhere Monster Giveaway!!!

 

Summer is about to begin! 

But just because it’s summer doesn’t mean we should stop reading and writing. I’ve teamed up with the YA Chicks and many participating authors on a global campaign to encourage readers, writers, students, and teachers to share pictures all of the places—both ordinary and extraordinary—where they are reading and writing. This is open to all readers/writers of both middle grade and young adult books!

You can also take part in…

A MONSTER GIVEAWAY! 

32 Readers Will Win A Book!

32 Readers Will Win A Book!

I’ll be giving away ONE PAPERBACK EACH OF 18 THINGS, 18 TRUTHS, & 18 THOUGHTS!!!

That’s my ENTIRE TRILOGY!

And there’s more! Authors participating in this campaign aren’t just giving away books, but critiques, swag and/or Skype visits, too!!!

So are you ready?

Drum roll….

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Can you guess where I am?

Here are my 5 clues:

*It’s adjacent to the Caloosahatchee River

*There are lots of bamboo trees around (extra hint: used in light bulb filaments)

*One of the most visited historic home sites in America

*You’ll find the Botanic Research Corporation Laboratory on the property, which was constructed to help discover a rubber tree plant that could grow more quickly in the U.S. (extra hint: think tires)

*Open to the public since 1947, visitors can tour the gardens, the lab, the estate, as well as the museum, which features lots of inventions!

Once you’ve figured out where I’m reading, head over to the YA Chicks site and:

  1. Officially enter the giveaway by inputting each author’s name and your guesses about our locations. Every author location you guess correctly increases your chances to win.
  2. For even more chances, post a picture of yourself reading or writing on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere (must have the hashtag).

For writer prize packs:

  1. Post pictures of yourself writing in a fun location on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere. Then follow the directions on the Rafflecopter giveaway to let us know you did it.
  2. For even more chances, gather your writer friends together and post a group shot with the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere (must have the hashtag). And hey, since you’re already together, why not host a write-a-thon?

For teacher prize packs:

  1. Post pictures of your class reading or writing on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere (must have the hashtag).
  2. Then let us know you did it when you enter the Rafflecopter. If you don’t have a Twitter or Instagram, you can email your picture directly with the picture pasted directly into the email (no attachments–we won’t open them) AND the subject, “Read or Write Anywhere.”
  3. You can also check out the YA Chicks Read or Write Anywhere lesson plan, available on their site.

We will keep the giveaway open from 9 am on May 22nd– 12 pm on May 31st so entrants have plenty of time to hunt for clues.

And I also have an exclusive giveaway here on my blog today! 4 complimentary copies of my 18 Thoughts audiobook! You need to be registered at Audible/Amazon to redeem your prize – if you aren’t, you’ll be prompted to register prior to redemption – but you do not need a paid membership plan.

How do you claim your prize?! Just make sure you like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, then leave a comment below . . . first 4 people to do so get the prize 🙂 (If you’re already a follower, please share this blog post and tag me). Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

Now, what are you waiting for? Get out there and READ OR WRITE ANYWHERE!

 #ReadOrWriteAnywhere