Writer’s Stories

Yesterday, I had lunch with a fellow writer friend and we started talking about what we do at the beginning of the writing process.  For me, it usually goes something like this:

1) Struck by inspiration.  For example, “I want to write a ghost story!”

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2) Characters and Muses. “Hmm… Jensen Ackles is super dreamy.  He’d make a good Luke Rainer.”

3. Pinterest Boards and Playlists.

Her methods are a little more in depth.  She’s begun writing stories about her characters on her blog, one for every year of their lives.  I think that’s really interesting, and something I might have to try.  I like the idea of little Michael reacting to ghosts, Brink in the years that he was alive, Kate and Gavin as bickering kid siblings, Luke as a young troublemaker obsessed with the paranormal.

She also shares her artwork and stories about herself as a kid.  Now, I’ve been trying to think of interesting stories from my childhood all day, but I guess I was a boring kid or something.  I know stuff had to have happened to me, but nothing that really warrants and entire post.  So perhaps instead of sharing stories, I can just share short little silly things.

For example, I’ve only broken one bone in my entire life, the middle phalanges on my wedding ring finger.  Technically, I didn’t break it.  My mom and I were passing around a football out in the backyard, she threw what she still calls to this day a “beautiful pass,” and SNAP!  It hit my finger, which I heard and felt crack.  My dad assured me it was only “jammed,” so I still went to my babysitting job where the little girl I was watching yelled, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR FINGER?” before pulling it as hard as she could.

Ouch.

So yeah, that’s my childhood story for the day.  I was in seventh grade and even though my finger was broken for the rest of the school year, my band director still made me sit with them at all of our concerts even though I couldn’t even hold my flute, let alone play it.  That was weird.  Also, no one played with me at P.E.  That was kind of sad.

If you’d like to check out my friend’s writings and artwork, you can visit her at her blog here: http://charliarmstrong.blogspot.com

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To Do List

This week has been busy, and it’s only going to get busier.  Today, I got to have lunch with a friend whose book I’m currently editing (she brought my flowers… always makes me happy!).  I always enjoy meeting with writer friends, discussing techniques, character biographies, and of course, the ever evolving road to publication.  After lunch, I ran over to Ross and bought a new outfit for the book-signing this weekend.  We’re supposed to dress sort of “in character” and I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do, but I think I’ve got it all figured out.  I’ll let you all decide when I post pictures this weekend (of course there will be pictures).  I also watered my sunflowers and planted my new flowers out next to them.  I hope I didn’t accidentally kill them in the process.  I might not have the proverbial green thumb.

In spite of this day of noted accomplishments, I still have a lot to get done in the following months.

1) Finish Editing Charli’s book

2) Re-Edit Cody’s book

3) Finish editing Between Worlds

4) Purchase Bar Code for Between Worlds

5) PCN for Between Worlds

6) Practice reading for Book Signing/Reading this weekend

7) Get over fear of Public Speaking

8) Decorations/Signs for Book Signing

9) Research other potential venues/signings/festivals

10) Marketing plan

11) Follow through with plan to become healthier in body, mind, and spirit

And finally…

12) KEEP WRITING!

 

Takin’ on the Jellies

Some days, you’ve just got to drop what you’re doing and go see jellyfish.  And other kinds of fish also. 

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I haven’t been feeling very well today, so this post isn’t going to be very deep or eloquent.  But I thought I’d at least share some of the picture I took.  Yes, I took them on my iPhone.  Yes, I feel dumb for forgetting my good camera.  C’est la vie.  

Happy Monday, all!

Challenge

Today is a good day, everyone.  The weather is beautiful, at least where I am.  The spring flowers are all blooming.  I’m finally getting the opportunity to read my friends’ book and my other friend sent me the second copy of his manuscript to go over.  Yep, life is pretty awesome. 

It’s the kind of day that requires one of my very favorite desserts, peanut butter cookies and chocolate milk.  It’s a dessert I don’t get to enjoy very often because, honestly, it’s difficult to find a REALLY GOOD peanut butter cookie.  I first tried them when I was working as a counselor at a summer camp, and oh my goodness, those cookies were heaven.  Those three summers were also some of the best times in my life, so any reminder of them that I get is most welcome.  I’m really excited because in two weeks, I’ll be back there for the weekend!  

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It’s so beautiful and one of my favorite places in the world.  

So today, on this excellent Friday (yay!), I want to challenge all of you to do something that makes you happy.  Watch a sunset.  Reread your favorite book.  Eat the best dessert in the world.  Call up your best friend for a spontaneous adventure day.  Go out and enjoy something this weekend.  

Love you all!  

Falling into Place

I don’t want to jinx anything here, but things seem to be going very nicely, at least as far as the impending book release goes!  My cover designer emailed me a rough copy of the cover last night and OH MY GOODNESS IT LOOKS INCREDIBLE.  I can’t wait to share it with all of you!  I might even love it more than the first one…

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(Shameless self-promotion)

So yeah, I am super excited about that.  I’m also excited because Cemetery Tours now has 38 reviews on Amazon!  My goal is to have 50 by the time the second book is released.  I think we can make that happen.  I only need 12 more!  

Recent reviews include…

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Oh!  I also got my manuscript back from my third and final editor/beta reader.  Her comment on the last page…  

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I’m so glad my readers are liking it!  No better feeling!  Now I just have to get the darn thing edited.  Again.  And again.  And again.  Yaaay.  

What are all of you working on?  

The Curse of Creativity

Last night, I was all alone in the house that I am watching while its owners are away.  This house is big and ritzy and, to be honest, a little creepy.  The other night, I was getting ready for bed and I noticed this doll sitting on the shelf across the room.  I’d never actually seen this doll before, and I have no idea how long it’s been there, but it might actually be the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.

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Anyway, as previously stated, last night, I was all alone in this big empty house and the power started surging and flickering.  It went off for a few seconds and then came back on again.  This morning, I noticed that the streetlights close by were flickering, so I’m guessing there was some sort of neighborhood power outage, but last night, I was freaked out.  That house is spooky enough without flickering lights, but being of the creative mind, flickering lights are not necessarily just faulty power lines.  They could indicate anything from ghosts to aliens to a serial killer lurking in the attic and messing with the wires.

Creative minds are fortunate in the sense that possibilities are limitless.  We do see the things that other people overlook.  But because we are not burdened by logic, we are no protected by it either.  At least, I’m not.  I know logically that a power outage is nothing to worry about, but the creative mind immediately assumes the worst, even if the worst is impossible.

I remember once, I was driving and I accidentally made eye contact with a guy waiting for a bus.  It would have been logical to think, “Oops… hope he doesn’t think I’m a creeper.”  Or maybe not think anything of it at all.  My first thought, however, was, “Oh no… What if that guy isn’t a guy at all?  What if he’s actually a demon and he latches on to the first person to make eye contact with him?  What if he follows me home and starts haunting me and torturing my family?”

Sometimes, being a creative mind is exhausting.  Most of the time, though, it’s pretty awesome.

In other news, here are a few fun and interesting things I have found around the internet and around town.

1) Gollum Sings “Let It Go”

No, seriously.  It’s on iTunes.  And this guy actually sounds like Gollum.

2) “The Fault in Our Stars” soundtrack to pre-order

I need dis.

Oh!  And if you’re interested, there’s a meteor shower tonight!  I wish I lived further away from city lights.  Maybe next time, I’ll be able to drive out to the country to watch.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Announcement!

Hear ye, hear ye! 

First of all, I’d like to wish everyone a delightful and wonderful Earth day.  I know it is rather late to wish someone a happy holiday, but every day is a good day to celebrate our beautiful planet. 

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Secondly, the ISBN for the sequel have been assigned, both for the paperback and the eBook, so it is with great pride and excitement that I announce that BETWEEN WORLDS, the sequel to Cemetery Tours, will be available on July 1, 2014!  

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Just so everyone knows, yes, I designed that.  Yes, I know I’m not a good graphic designer, but it’s the best I can do until my real graphic designer finishes the cover.  

Anyway, I am very excited to finally be able to share this with you annnnnd I’m really hoping that people enjoy it as much as the first one!  

Talk to you all soon!   

Back to Joy

I’ve been a dreamer and a make-believer as far back as I can remember.  Honestly, I always thought I was just a late bloomer, that my mental maturity developed at a slightly slower pace than my peers.  Then, during a talk with my mother shortly before my graduation from grad school, I told her how anxious I was about being a real adult and how I was afraid I was still so behind my friends in terms of “real world achievements.”  Instead of assuring me that I was completely normal and that I had nothing to worry about, however, she told me, “Well, maybe you’re just different.  You have always marched to your own tune.”

At first, I really wasn’t sure that was a compliment, though now that I’m older, I’m pretty sure it is.  I like being me.  I like the things that I do and the way I see the world.  Somewhere along the line, though, I’m afraid a vital part of me got lost.  Even though I’ve made it a priority ever since I was a teenager to hold on to the dreams and ideas that have always brought me so much joy over the years, I can feel the harsh demands of money and status and reality striving to pull them away.  Above all, the artistic soul craves freedom, and in a world where money and power are the Alpha and Omega, true freedom is hard to come by.

Like several new adults, I’ve let the idea that “I have to do this” and “I have to do that” in order to be successful get in my head.  Guess what?  It’s made me miserable.  That’s not how it’s supposed to work, is it?

I’ve never believed that there was only “one true path” to success or happiness, though I’ve met several people who begged to differ.  I’ve decided that I’m going to take the next few months to see if I can prove them wrong.  The new book (the title of which I will hopefully be able to reveal soon) will be out on July 1.  Along with editing, formatting, and working on new manuscripts, I’m going to try to get back to what it means to be joyful, to be confident, and to live each day the way I’m meant to live it.

To be honest, I don’t really want too much out of life.  I like being outside.  I like blue skies and green fields and forests and rivers and oceans.  I want a good book to read.  I want to get healthy, in mind and in body.  I want to do good and take pictures and write.  I honestly don’t care if anyone knows my name or if I get a fancy car or designer jewelry (though a lake house would be AWESOME).  Or maybe the truth is I want everything out of life, it just doesn’t seem like all that much by today’s standards.

Regardless, I’m going to try to make it all happen.  Wish me luck!

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All Photographs Copyright © Jacqueline E. Smith 2014

Easter Stories

Happy Easter, everyone!  For those who celebrate this Holy Day, I hope you had a wonderful time with friends and family, bunnies and chocolate, and the grace and love of our Risen Lord and Savior.  For those who do not celebrate, I hope you had an equally wonderful Sunday filled with just as much love, friends, family, and chocolate.  

As High Church Episcopalians, Easter is a fairly extravagant to-do in our church.  My family actually celebrates the resurrection on Saturday night at the Great Vigil of Easter.  It’s my favorite service of the year.  It starts off in total darkness, there are some readings, a few Baptisms, and then a priest stands up in front of the church and declares, “Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!”  The congregation responds with, “The Lord is Risen Indeed!  Alleluia!”  Then, all the lights come on, brass orchestra music fills the church, and the triptych above the altar is opened to once again reveal Jesus.  It’s all very beautiful and moving and it reaffirms my faith each and every year.

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Then, after the service ends, there is always a big break-the-Lenten-fast party filled with food and yeah, okay, lots of wine.  We are Episcopalian, after all.  

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As wonderful and beautiful as the service is, however, it rarely goes off without a hitch.  Last year, I served as an acolyte throughout the two-hour-long service (yes, we are crazy, but the promise of chocolate and alcohol gets us through).  My job at the beginning of the service was to stand in the back of the church while the priest lit the Paschal Fire (a huge bowl full of holy fire that symbolizes the Holy Spirit and new life of Easter).  Each church member had a small candle that we use while the church is still dark and as acolytes, we were supposed to take fire from the Paschal flame and go through the aisles and share the fire throughout the congregation.  

Well, I’m not sure what happened last year, maybe someone doused the bowl in lighter fluid, but somehow, we ended up with a regular bonfire in the back of the church.  I’m not kidding.  The flames were huge.  The priest who was supposed to light the Paschal Candle would get close to the fire, then she’d back away going, “Hot… hot…”  

Finally, everyone’s candles were lit, but the fire was still blazing, and no matter what anyone did, it would not go out.  By this point, we knew we were holding up the service, but we couldn’t go anywhere.  It was impossible to get around the fire without catching something on fire and technically, we weren’t supposed to go anywhere until the fire was extinguished.  At one point, a man came forward with the top to the bowl and, very bravely, slammed it down on top of the fire.  For a few brief moments, we thought it had worked, but then, we all heard that familiar WHOOSH and a doughnut of fire began burning around the lid, through the cracks between it and the bowl. I won’t lie to you, for a minute, I thought we may have accidentally ignited the flames of hell.     

By that point, the priests were all pretty desperate, so they started signaling for us to just go around the flames.  Each and every one of us stayed planted firmly where we were and shook our heads.  No way were we going anywhere near that fire!  We were in robes!  My hair was down!  Something was going to catch on fire.  

Thankfully, a few minutes later, they did finally get it extinguished for real, but that is something I will never forget.  It’s actually a pretty funny story, and at the after party last year, we were all laughing so hard about it, I had tears running down my face (of course, a few glasses of wine may have been involved by that point). 

This year, I didn’t have to acolyte, for which I was thankful.  I really like being able to relax and enjoy the service.  Last night’s Vigil was just as beautiful and moving as it always is (though I would have preferred a few different hymns, but whatever), but it will inarguably go down as one of my favorite Easters ever.  

A few rows ahead of us sat a mother and her two young kids, a son and a daughter.  The little boy can’t have been more than three or four, but he was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.  He had dark curly hair and wore a plaid shirt and a little bow tie.  He would have been cute enough just as he was, but at the very end, during the last hymn of the service, he started laughing and dancing around.  Then, every time the church would ring their bells and sing “Alleluia,” He would ring his bell, jump around, and stick out his tongue.  He was clearly enjoying putting on a show, not only for the little girl behind him, but for whomever happened to be watching and laughing.  I was definitely one of them.  That little boy made my entire night.  

That’s the kind of joy Easter is supposed to bring us.  Those kids who dance and laugh and jump around get it, and I hope his happiness stays with me, not only throughout these next fifty days of Easter, but throughout the entire year. 

Happy Easter, everyone!  

 

Music and Poetry

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this on my blog before, but long before I realized I wanted to be a writer, I was something of a musician.  I played piano, flute, piccolo, and sang in just about every choir I could from fifth grade all the way up through Graduate school.  I took so many music classes and put in so many hours of choir and musical theater that I actually earned a minor in music, something for which I did not set out, but hey, I’ll take it!

Sad to say, I really haven’t been all that involved in music since I graduated.  Most of my time has been dedicated entirely to writing and getting my book out there.  I don’t regret it, because that’s what I love, and I want to write for the rest of my life.  Still, performing in musicals and Broadway reviews was a lot of fun.

We even got to perform with the King’s Singers.

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That’s me with the black dress and the stupid face.

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As a cheerleader in Selections from Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

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As Bird Lady in Sideshow. For the record, I really hated that costume. They had promised me sexy and elegant. That dumb outfit is neither.

However, I do occasionally still play with a friend of mine.  She’s a harpist and we play a lot of harp and flute duets.  She’s also actually one of my sister’s professors at college.  She’s studying for her doctorate and hopes to one day run her own harp department at a University.

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If you ever need a harpist, by the way, you can find her at http://harpbyrachel.com.  And yes, I took that picture.

Anyway, we’ve recently been revisiting the Christmas music we used to play together in church, so I decided to dig out my old flute and play.

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I’ll be the first to admit I’m still a little rusty.  After all, I haven’t really played since college, and even then, I didn’t play regularly.  Just for a Broadway review here and there.

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Not a great picture, but the only one I have!

It’s weird how many things we let ourselves forget.  Music, my flute, these shows, they were all such a huge part of my life at one point.  Now, they’re barely memories.  Maybe I can start to bring some of them back.  They’re good memories, and they’re worth treasuring.

As I was exploring the Black Hole of Useless Stuff that is my closet, however, I came across a few other gems; poems and papers from old classes.  I’ve always been jealous of my friends and fellow authors who can write poetry, because they truly have a gift.  One of my favorite poets is a friend of mine.  Her name is Susie Clevenger and her poetry is just so beautiful and thoughtful and real.  I am truly envious of her.  If you enjoy poetry, you should definitely check out her collection, Dirt Road Dreams.  http://www.amazon.com/Dirt-Road-Dreams-Susie-Clevenger/dp/0988186209/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397678369&sr=8-1&keywords=dirt+road+dreams

I, as I believe I have mentioned before, am a terrible poet.  I’ve tried.  Believe me, I’ve tried for years to write a decent poem, and yet the only one I’ve ever truly liked is the one I wrote about a cockroach that my friends and I slaughtered on a camping trip (You can read that one here: https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/a-funny-story-and-a-poem/).

After rereading a few poems I wrote in college, I’ve reached the conclusion that I thought I could just string choppy sentences together and call it poetry.  One poem I found makes absolutely no sense at all.  It’s called My New Name.

My New Name

Music in my ears used to travel to my toes.
Whenever I’d walk to class, my feet would march in rhythm
To the song of my choosing.
Alas, my iPod’s batteries have failed me.

The vending machines are unappealing.
A bottle of water costs seventy five cents.
Water should be free.

“That’s a capital Omega! You can’t use capital letters!”
A professor scolds his perplexed class.
The smell of dry erase markers
resurrects repressed memories of math classes past.
That’s right, sinners.
You have to do calculus.

I want to get away from that room.
Specks of dust dance in the sunbeams
That pour in through the glass.

Outside, the festivities are about to begin.
I see my friends.
They don’t see me.
Through a tornado of color, music, and laughter,
I think I’ll change my name.

Seriously, though, what the heck was that?  It’s the weirdest poem ever.

Before I end this note, there is one other poem that’s actually sort of worth sharing.  It’s a poem I wrote for a class about how terrible I am at poetry.  Enjoy.

I cannot write poetry
The process is a mystery
Rhythms, rhymes, alliterations
All are lost on me.

I cannot write the words you’d like
Of scarlet sunsets, velvet night
Or the larks sweet serenade
As darkness turns to light.

I cannot write the melody
Of diamonds on piano keys
No use for painted harpsichords
Or gold viola strings.

So you see it’s for the best
I lay my poetry to rest
Poetry’s just not my thing
As surely you’ll attest.

So yeah, out of all the classes I took and all the hours I slaved trying to learn how to write a good poem, I only have one I’m proud of and two that are weird enough that I just had to post them on my blog.  And on that note, I hope everyone has a pleasant day!  Take time to remember the things you used to love, and not just the things you love now.  You might be inspired.