One Last Story Before Bed

This whole #Plague business is actually reminding me of my second summer working as a Camp Counselor.  That year, during the last week of camp when we all had the really young kids (aka the kids that require the most attention and work).  All of our cabins were full.

Well, the very first day of camp that week, my cabin was enjoying one of my favorite activities; running barefoot through the sprinklers around the activity field and throwing a frisbee around.  Seriously, I love it.  It is so fun and carefree.

Anyway, right as we were turning the sprinklers off and lining up to go to lunch, I noticed that my nose was a little stuffy and I had an itch at the back of my throat.  Now, I have terrible allergies, so I really wouldn’t have thought anything of it had it not been for two of my coworkers (both from different cabins) report that they weren’t feeling well the day before.

By that night, I was sick as a dog.  I had lost my voice completely, which was a bummer since it was my coworker’s night off, which meant that I had to be the one to get the girls ready for bed by light’s out.  This particular group of girls also insisted on a bedtime story every night.  I don’t remember what I read them, but it was probably the most pitiful story they’d ever heard.

Actually, now that I think about it, I think it was The 12 Dancing Princesses.  But I digress.

By the next day, at least one counselor from each cabin had been stricken with what we officially dubbed “The All Saints Epidemic.”  (All Saints was the name of my camp).  The funny thing (and blessing, when you think about it) was that every sick person was from a different cabin, and none of our co-counselors got it (there were two counselors per cabin).  That was just about the only good thing about it, though.  Well that, and none of our campers got sick, which was a flat out miracle.

Our poor camp nurse was overrun with sick counselors.  She insisted that what we all really needed was to stay inside and stay in bed, but there was absolutely no way any of us could do that.  We had the most campers we’d had that summer AND they were all young, like kindergarten to third grade young.  So, instead of assigning us all to bed rest, she pumped us all full of Sudafed and Robitussin.  She was so dedicated that she even made personal deliveries throughout the day.

At the end of one day about halfway through the week, she ran out of Robitussin (that was supposed to last us the entire summer) and had to make a run into town to the nearest Wal-Mart (30 minutes away) to get us some more.  I actually got the very last of the old bottle and she told me not to even bother with the little cup and let me drain the bottle, just like a pirate throwing back a bottle of rum.

Along with taking care of all those kids, I also had waterfront duty that summer, so it was my job to be down at the lake, run the buddy board, ring the Everyone Out of the Water Bell, etc…  One day, though, I was so sick and medicated that I fell asleep right on the bench next to the bell.  I am a very self-conscious person.  I NEVER fall asleep in public, especially in the middle of the day.  Well, not unless I have jet lag, but that’s a different story.  But thanks to that dumb illness and the drugs I was out.  That was probably the lowest point in the illness for me.

Somehow, we all made it through the week, and I even got to partake in a mud fight.  I didn’t care how sick I was, I was not about to miss out on that!  However, the illness lasted at least a week after camp ended, making that almost a full two weeks.  I didn’t end up going to the doctor, because each day I thought, “Surely, I’ll feel better tomorrow.”  HA.  One of my co-workers (the one I suspect started it all) did, however, and she was diagnosed with a very bad case of bronchitis.  I’m guessing that’s what we all had, but to me, it will forever be known as The All Saints Epidemic.  And it was awful.

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Phobias and How They Actually Can Ruin Your Life

I had thought about writing a post kind of like this one when I heard about that cruise ship that had been overrun by the norovirus, but I thought it might be better to let you all keep thinking that I am a totally sane and mentally stable individual.  Well, tonight, I’m saying “to heck with it,” and I’m just going to tell you.

I have a phobia.  Of vomit.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t handle it well.  That’s a lie.  I don’t handle it at all.  You know how some people are so deathly afraid of spiders that they can’t handle being in the same room as one?  That’s how I am with puke (but in case you’re wondering, I’m totally fine with spiders).

I know a lot of people will try to empathize and say, “Oh, I get grossed out too,” but it’s not the same.  I get grossed out when I see a bug or when someone sneezes without covering their mouth.  When regurgitation, it’s an entirely different reaction.  Long story short, you can’t get me away fast enough.  My irrational and admittedly ridiculous fear of people throwing up around me can be crippling.

I won’t go into details about it because, quite frankly, the details are disgusting.  No one likes being sick or being around people who are sick, but it was actually a really big issue for me in high school.  I have gotten (a little) better about it as I’ve gotten older, but tonight, I’m afraid I feel a relapse coming on, and I’ll tell you why.

My mom and I had plans to go see a musical tomorrow at my sister’s old high school.  A lot of her friends are in it and since she can’t go, we wanted to at least make an appearance, go support her friends, and it’s Sherk the Musical.  I’ve been wanting to see that for ages!

However, about thirty minutes ago, she called to inform me that her Twitter feed was exploding with reports of the #Plague going around her high school.  It just so happens that #Plague = STOMACH FLU.  The really bad kind that hits you without warning and spreads like wildfire.  If reports are to be believed, dozens of kids were sent home this afternoon.  They were literally dropping like flies.

As I’m listening to her reports of the #Plague, I can actually feel myself pulling away from the phone, as though just talking about it will somehow infect me.  I’m trying really hard to remind myself that I haven’t been exposed and that I am meticulous about my hand-washing and personal hygiene, but it’s not doing me a lot of good (hence me complaining about it to all of you here online).

You can probably guess where this is going.  Thanks to this virus, I am absolutely terrified of setting foot in that auditorium this weekend.  It’s like asking an arachnophobe to go sit in a room infested with spiders for three hours.  Although I am fairly certain no one will get sick in the theater, I am convinced the entire place will be crawling with germs with the potential to make me sick.  Yeah, the fear of puke doesn’t just apply to people puking around me.  I’m equally (if not more) terrified of catching it myself.  I will do whatever it takes to avoid getting sick.  I am a stickler when it comes to expiration dates.  I won’t eat certain things at certain restaurants.  I’ve never had more than two alcoholic drinks together in my life because I am so scared of hangovers and throwing up.  And I certainly make it a priority to avoid sick people and places where I know people have been sick.

People ask me all the time if I based any of my characters in Cemetery Tours off of myself.  The answer is usually “no,” but the truth is that I base certain aspects of all my characters’ quirks and traits off of my own.  For those of you who’ve read Cemetery Tours, you’ll know that Kate, my female protagonist, is something of a germ-a-phobe.  That’s her little bit of me.  I am a germ-a-phobe.  Actually, the technical term is “Emetophobe,” because I don’t have a fear of catching colds (though I really hate them) or even the seasonal flu (though that sucks also), just the stomach stuff.

I don’t want to not go see this musical that I’ve been looking forward to for so long, but I’m going to have to really get a grip on my anxieties if I’m going to make it through the whole three hours.  That, and pack a LOT of hand-sanitizer.  And maybe a breathing mask.  And gloves.

In other news, Cemetery Tours got another great review on Amazon.

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I’m still having a lot of fun with the sequel.  I’ve also really been in a de-cluttering mood, so I’ve been cleaning out shelves and drawers and trying to transform my home into something you’d seen on Pinterest.

That’s all I’ve got for tonight.  I hope everyone stays healthy, because if you’re not, then I do not want to be around you.

I Forgot to Add a Title

Hi, all.  Today, I am feeling oddly motivated to do things and to not be lazy, so this won’t be a very long post.  I’ve already cleaned my room, which was a feat in and of itself, as I am just about the messiest person on the planet.  However, I’d also really like to be someone who gets by without a lot of material things.  I swear, I’ve thrown out and given away so much stuff in the past year or so that I can’t believe how much crap I still have.  It’s like, every time I get rid of stuff, the remaining stuff multiplies and takes over my closet and my drawers and ultimately, my floor.

I think my big problem is sentimental value.  I try to remind myself that this is not Toy Story and that old stuffed animals do not actually have feelings and they will not be sad if I decide to give them away.  In fact, they will probably be happy to be going to a kid who will really love them and appreciate them.  However, my mom and my sister and I all suffer from mild forms of anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, and apparently one of the symptoms is “empathy for inanimate objects,” so there you go.  I’m not crazy, just a little chemically imbalanced.

While I was cleaning, however, I did find this picture that I painted a few years ago in grad school.  The assignment was to create something in the style of a famous artist.  I chose Charlotte Salomon. My inspiration came from one of her paintings. The painting was just words and it said, “And with dream-awakened eyes she saw all the beauty around her, saw the sea, felt the sun, and knew: for a while she had to disappear from the surface of life and to that end make every sacrifice-so that from the depths she could create her world anew.”  So I took those words and created an image.  I thought it was actually kind of a neat painting and I’d totally forgotten about it.

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And for the record, no, the girl is not supposed to be me.  Her hair looks like mine, but that’s only because straight hair is surprisingly difficult to paint.

Before I sign off, I wanted to share one last thing with you.  Every once in a while, I find a song or a book or something that I love so, so, so much that I have to tell everyone I meet about how much I love it and why they should love it too.  Technically, I didn’t even find this one.  My sister did and she shared it with me after I read The Hunger Games.  I was listening to it today and I was just thinking, “This is such a great song.  Everyone in the world needs to know about this song.”  It’s called Girl on Fire by Arshad, and it’s actually a song inspired by The Hunger Games.  Anyone who loves good music and the books/movies needs to hear this song!  It’s so goooooooooood.

Well, that’s about all I’ve got today.  Still hard at work on Cemetery Tours 2.  Go read the first one.  It’s awesome.

Bye!

Photography

Last night, my mom and I went out to eat at our favorite restaurant.  We got to talking with our waitress, who told us all about her love for photography and her aspirations to earn her Master’s Degree so that she may one day teach photography at a university.  I love meeting people like that who know what their dreams are and who believe in making those dreams their reality.  I like to think I’m like that, but sometimes I wonder if, even though I wrote my book and am trying my best to get it out there, maybe I not quite brave enough.  Some days, I think I’m doing the absolute best I can, but most days I think, “No… there’s a lot more you could be doing.”  I just need to figure out what those things are.

In the mean time, however, our discussion last night reminded me of my own love for photography, and how I enjoy nothing more than spending the day outside on a warm sunny day (not today) and taking pictures.  I know this blog is predominantly for my writing updates, but I thought that I could take a day to share my other passion with you.

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All images Copyright © Jacqueline E. Smith 2014.

Monday Report

Hello, everyone.  It’s the start of a new week.  It’s also very cold.  I’m sure it’s also very cold where you live, unless you’re a lucky duck Australian, in which case, I envy you a great deal.

I feel like I have a lot to talk about, but nothing so pressing that I’d dedicate an entire post to it, so I figured I’d give you a few tidbits of what’s been floating around in my mind all weekend.

1) I saw Catching Fire for the fourth time this weekend.  I’m relatively open about my outstanding nerdiness, but in case you’re new to the blog, I’ll say it again.  I am a huge geek, and one of my favorite things to geek out over is The Hunger Games.

I could go on and on about everything that I love about the books, and the movies, for that matter (Jennifer Lawrence!), but I won’t because I would literally be typing until my fingers fell off.  So, I’ll try to stick to the point I originally set out to make.

*WARNING: Possible Spoilers Ahead*

As with any franchise I find myself fawning over, I desperately want to know more about the other characters and what was going on behind the scenes of Katniss’ point of view.  One of the reasons I love the movies so much is that they give us a glimpse at the other characters and what they’re doing while Katniss is in the arena.  The books are told entirely from her perspective, so we only get what we’re told her shown through her experience, but in the movies, we get to see a little more, like the game makers who control what happens in the Arena during the games.  I LOVED seeing how they did that!  I also really love any scene with President Snow.  Seriously, he gets the best lines in the entire franchise!

“Hope.  It is the only thing stronger than fear.”

“Because of her, they all pose a threat.  Because of her, they all think they’re invincible.”

And that moment at the end of the first one where he just turns and walks away all dark and creepy?  Or how about in the second one when he realizes that Plutarch has deceived him?  I LOVE THOSE MOMENTS.

Speaking of Plutarch, he’s who I’d really want a separate book about.  Well, him, Haymitch, and the tributes like Johanna and Finnick who were in on the plot to break Katniss out of the Arena during the Second Quarter Quell.  How long had they been communicating?  How did they get the others in on it?  I am DYING to know.  I’m also dying to know more about Finnick and Annie and their love story.  All we got from Finnick in Mockingjay was, “She crept up on me.”

Seriously?  That’s it?  NO!  That is NOT COOL, Suzanne Collins!

2) Today, one of my coworkers at my job that’s not writing came into where I was filing and handed me an envelope.  Then she said something like, “It’s your 10.60” (I don’t remember the actual number).  For some reason, I really thought it was money, so I got really excited.  But then I opened it and realized it was just a bunch of tax crap.  I have finally and begrudgingly come to accept that people will not just walk up to me and give me money.  That is not the way life works.

3) I also went to the post office today to renew my P.O. Box, so that was fun.  And $30.  But hey, it made me feel like a real responsible adult, which you know, really isn’t that great a feeling, but everyone seems to think it’s something to which we should all aspire, so whatever.

4) Cemetery Tours received another amazing review from Paul Ruddock at http://echoesofthepen.com.  Thank you so much, Paul!  Your review almost brought tears to my eyes!

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5) Last night, as I was writing, I was watching The Walking Dead (again), and I’m beginning to think that maybe I really just can’t handle that show.  I always feel like I end up writing about the horrific experiences I’ve had while trying to enjoy a show while simultaneously ignoring my natural instincts to avoid all things zombie.  I’ve finally reached the point where I’m almost totally immune to blood and guts (though there’s still one scene in the second one that just… ugh…).  I’m still NOT okay with puke, but that’s something I’ve lived with my entire life and will probably never overcome.  Last night, however, I discovered that there is one thing in the zombie universe (or probably any sort of disgusting universe) that I absolutely can not handle.

Maggots.

Oh my gosh.  I don’t know how I never noticed them before, but there is one scene with a corpse in a tent and its nasty forehead is crawling with MAGGOTS.  One even falls off his forehead and onto his ear where it wriggles around until it finds its way back to the flesh.

EWWWWWW.

Now, I’ve always been pretty girly, but I usually can watch just about anything (except puke) and not get grossed out.  Those maggots grossed me out so much that I thought I was going to gag.  I even had a minor meltdown on Twitter because it was 2 AM and I had no one else to talk to.

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So yeah, you get the picture.  It was horrible.  Thankfully, my brain spared me further trauma in my dreams.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate.  I actually dreamt that my friend became a plastic surgeon and decided that I needed plastic surgery to make my hands more feminine (they’re kind of manly) and so she cut up my hands and wrists, but I kept telling her I didn’t have health insurance, so instead of stitching me up, she just put band-aids on my wounds!  I was so scared that my hand was going to fall off, but she assured me that probably wouldn’t happen.

But at least I didn’t dream about maggots.

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Have a good week, y’all!

My Attempt to be a Good Blogger

I have a friend who just began working a job in social media and marketing and advertising.  Tonight, she told me that the best way to get a lot of hits on your blog is to post every day.

I guess a good writer/author/blogger would never admit that she has nothing significant to write about at the moment, but that’s what I’m going to do.  I’ve written a couple of deep blog posts this week, and right now, I’m a bit tapped out, so I’m basically just writing the first things I think of that are even mildly interesting.

1) Sherlock is on TV.  I love Sherlock.  I’m trying not to watch it though, because I really want to make some good progress on the book annnnd if I watch Sherlock, I literally will not do anything else.

Seriously, who can NOT watch this show?!  Or pretty much anything when Benedict Cumberbatch is on screen?

Okay sorry, my Inner Fangirl is beginning to emerge.  I’ll try to reel her back out.  Honestly though, this series is so good and all the actors are simply brilliant.  And of course, there are so many Smaug and Bilbo jokes to be made (if you’re also a Tolkien nerd, which I am).

2) I’m really trying to connect with more authors and aspiring writers, so if you have written a book or want to write a book, please follow me here or on GoodReads or anywhere else.  I love helping other writers.

3) I’m also really hoping to get more reviews on Cemetery Tours.  Of course, I’d love it if you bought the book and read it and gave it a review, but if you have some free time and you like reviewing books, I’d be happy to email you a manuscript in exchange for good and honest reviews on Amazon and GoodReads.  Barnes and Noble would be awesome too, but I think Amazon and GoodReads are key.

4)  I got another really great review from another fellow blogger.  Thank you so much, http://tjwiltshire.wordpress.com!

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5) Apparently used copies of Cemetery Tours are really valuable in the UK.

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I hope everyone has a super spectacular weekend!  I’m off to work on my book.

And watch Sherlock.

I Believe in Dragons

I should be taking this time to write more on the Cemetery Tours sequel (or you know… sleep), but I have words in my head and they will not let me rest until I let them out.  So here it goes.

I hung out with some of my excellent, very good friends tonight.  These friends are hilarious, often inappropriate, and have introduced me to the heartbreaking and yet enthralling television series, Game of Thrones.  I have yet to read the books, because I hear they are longer and bloodier than the Bible, but I’ll probably get around to them eventually.  That is, if the series doesn’t just completely rip my heart out and leave me dying on the floor like just about every character in this franchise.

As awesome and wonderful as my friends are though, a few of them are also incredibly realistic (yes, I am saying that like it’s a dirty word).  They’re big fans of things like science and politics, and they’re pretty vocal about the world’s problems and how they believe those problems should be solved.  Tonight, they were talking about education, specifically the private vs. public vs. home school debate.  I’m not going to go into what was said, because frankly it was long and heated and I don’t remember most of the conversation anyway, but at one point, I overheard one of them say, “It’s just awful to teach kids *insert controversial opinion that I really don’t want to inflict upon my readers*.  You might as well teach them to believe in dragons.”

And it was at that point that I had to go and open my big mouth.

Me:  “You know, there are dragon legends in cultures all around the world.”

Realistic Friend:  “Yeah, that’s because there are lizards all around the world.”

Me:  “We even have a needlepoint dragon pillow in our church because St. George fought and killed a dragon.”

Realistic Friend: *Ignores me and goes back to being realistic*

Just in case you’re wondering, no, I do not actually believe in dragons.  I would love to believe in them, but sadly, I am a moderately intelligent person and I know that dragons exist solely in myth and fantasy.  But when you think about it, who’s to say that makes them any less real?  I’ve read several books that were far more real to me than certain things about this “real world” that we live in.

For example, when I was thirteen years old, my father lost his job.  Both he and my mother had to work two jobs to keep the family going, while I was left at home to watch over my sister, who was only six at the time.  The next few years were incredibly rough.  My family lost everything except for our house, which, looking back on it now, was a huge blessing and a miracle.  My mother, who’d lost both her mother and her best friend, had no one to turn to, so she talked to me about our family’s financial crisis.  I was only 14-15 years old, and I didn’t know what to do or how to help her.  She told me other stuff too that I won’t repeat on this blog, but I will tell you that it was something that a 14-year-old should never have to hear.  At one particularly low point, I broke down sobbing right in the middle of my first period class and had to be escorted to the counselor’s office.

I promise, I’m not telling you all of this to make you feel sorry for me or because I still feel sorry for me.  It’s in the past and I’ve been working each and every day to live for the future and not let what is dead and gone drag me backwards.  I’m just trying to set the scene, to give you sort of an idea why my brain works the way it does.

During this horrible, awful, no-good, very bad time in my life, I had one saving grace.  Well, as a Christian, I suppose I had two saving graces.  One, of course, was God.  The other… was Harry Potter.

Okay, yes, I’m a nerd, a huge nerdy fangirl, but put yourself in my shoes.  I was too young to go out and do things for myself.  Even if I had been old enough, I had to stay home most of the time to watch my sister while my parents worked.  Harry Potter was my escape, and Hogwarts, my sanctuary.  I needed that refuge, that time to not be smothered by thoughts of doubt and bankruptcy and fear.  Thanks to those books, I spent my days, and often my nights, exploring Hogsmeade, playing Quidditch, and fighting alongside the Order of the Phoenix (the final two books hadn’t been released yet).  And let me tell you, all of that was so much more real to me than all the crap that the “real world” was trying to throw at me.

Maybe some will argue that turning to fantasy isn’t healthy, or that it can’t really help, and maybe it didn’t help us with our struggles or financial needs, but it saved me in a way that being realistic never could.  It saved my spirit.  It kept my sense of wonder and hope and awe and adventure alive, even when the world was trying as hard as it could to kill it.  There have been times in my life when I truly thought that such strife might devour me, that I might lose myself to the callousness and cruelty of what is supposedly real.  But every time I’ve come close, that small part of me remembers what it’s like to read those books for the first time.  Not only that, it remembers how it felt the first time I touched a dolphin, the time my grandmother taught me how to tie my shoes, the first time I held my newborn kitten (who is now almost 21), the day my parents told me I was going to be a big sister.  The girl who lived through those moments would never let herself succumb to fear and doubt.  That girl believes in hope, in beauty, in miracles.  She believes in the goodness of life and the power of love.

She also happens to believe in dragons.

The Sunshine Award

I am thrilled to announce that A Platform of Sorts has been nominated for another award!

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Thank you so much to the awesome T. Edward Redd at http://fictionfanaticandromance.wordpress.com for nominating me!

Here are the rules for The Sunshine Award:

  • Display the Award on your Blog.
  • Announce your win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded you.
  • Present 10 deserving Bloggers with the Award – “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”
  • Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded.
  • Write 10 interesting things about you

I hereby present the Sunshine Award to the following bloggers:

http://randalane.wordpress.com

http://wwwdotdanicacornelldotcom.wordpress.com

http://heatherellisbooks.wordpress.com

http://sookthisbooknook.wordpress.com

http://tjwiltshire.wordpress.com

http://audreyhepburnbooks.wordpress.com

http://friendlyfairytales.com

http://aislingrain.wordpress.com

http://paws2smile.wordpress.com

http://ambersalley.wordpress.com 

Congratulations!

Now… 10 interesting things about me…

1) I wrote my first book in preschool.

2) I love traveling but I don’t like flying.  I would much rather drive.

3) When I was in seventh grade, toe socks were a huge fad, but I couldn’t wear them because I have two webbed toes on both feet (worse on my right than my left though).

4) One of my favorite trips I ever took was to Hot Springs, Arkansas.  I went with my church choir in January 2003 and every night, we went swimming outside in the heated pool.  Also, the insides of all of our ears turned green.

5) I love to swing dance, but haven’t been in ages.

6) I had a poem published in my University’s Arts Journal in the “Best Of” Edition.  No one told me about it though, so I found out because one of my friends came up to me and congratulated me.  I hated that poem.  It was so awful and I’m so embarrassed to admit I wrote it.  I wish they had published the one I wrote about slaughtering a cockroach instead.  That poem is magical and hilarious and probably the best thing I’ve ever written.

7) When I was in high school, my friends and I invented our own tropical island called BanaCoco.  It had a Pirates Hotel, a church named after St. Francis of Assisi, and a bike trail that went all around the island.  I still kind of want to live there.

8) When I was in Calculus my senior year of high school, my teacher went around and handed out applications for kids he thought could pass the AP test.  I didn’t get one.

9) I’ve worked several odd jobs in my life from camp counselor to lifeguard to cashier to wedding photographer.  For the record, camp counselor/lifeguard was both my favorite and the cause of one or two mental breakdowns.

10) When I was nine, I won a goldfish from the State Fair and she actually survived for a year and two months.