Ode to Fangirl

This won’t be a proper ode because, let’s face it, I don’t have a poetic bone in my body, but Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell deserves nothing less than a Shakespearean sonnet.

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I’ve been wanting to read this book from the moment I first heard about it, coincidentally, here on WordPress.  I knew I would love it.  I just didn’t know how much.

This book, to me, was a love letter, not only to writers (I loved Professor Piper and the way she put writing fiction into perspective) but to anyone who has ever loved a book series so much that those places and characters, in fact, become real to them, in some instances, more real than real life.

(https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/i-believe-in-dragons/)

Simon Snow is the Harry Potter of the Fangirl universe and the book included several passages from the books and fanfiction written by the protagonist, Cath.  I’ve got to be honest, if they were real, I would read those books in a heartbeat.  They sound awesome.  I found myself reading, not only to keep up with what was happening with Cath, her twin sister, and her potential love interest, but also to find out how the Simon Snow saga would end!

In the book, Cath and her twin sister, Wren, become immersed in the Simon Snow fandom after their mother walks out on their family.  For them, Simon Snow was an escape, a refuge.  It is revealed that Cath loves the fandom so much because for a moment, her reality stops.  She doesn’t have to live there.  I’ve never had something so horrible as a parent walking out happen to me, but my family did struggle financially for years.  I won’t go into it (I’ve already written it all down in the blog entry I posted above) except to say it made our home life miserable.

That’s where Harry Potter comes in.  Hogwarts became my own personal form of escape.  Instead of living in the horrible real world where our problems dictated our lives, I sought sanctuary in the world of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  While I was there, none of my stupid problems could touch me, because they didn’t exist.  Like Cath, I began reading and writing fanfiction (though I was not nearly as dedicated as she is), which eventually led to writing stories of my own.  I don’t list JK Rowling as one of my writing influences because I can’t even begin to compare myself to her, but the truth is, she’s the one who started it all.  I have other writing idols, but JK is the Queen.  We all know this.

Near the end of the book (I don’t think this is really a spoiler, but if you don’t want to read it, skip over this paragraph), Cath and Wren and a few of their friends attend the midnight release of the last Simon Snow book.  I’m not going to lie to you, but I got tears in my eyes.  The entire time I was reading, I was reliving my own time spent waiting for each of the Harry Potter books to be released.  It was real magic.  That moment the boxes come out, the moment they’re opened, the moment the first one is sold and everyone cheers.  If you’ve felt it, you know what it’s like.  These books, these characters, are so special and have such an impact on our lives.  That’s why I love writing and reading so much.  In some ways, it’s the only world I really know.

I’ve wondered my whole life when I would find my true place in the world.  It sounds so melodramatic and cliche, I know, but it’s something we all wonder.  I see people all around me who seem to know.  Some are meant for the world of business, others for law, some for medicine.  Artists, the writers and painters and sculptors and actors and musicians, I’ve come to believe, have no specific place in the world.  That’s why we feel compelled to create our own.  By doing so, I like to think we make the world a little bigger, give it a little something new each and every day.  And maybe, if we’re lucky, someone else will find a part of themselves in our creations.

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The Second Annual Cemetery Tours Halloween Giveaway

Tis the Season to be Spooky!

In honor of Halloween, I’ve decided to do another giveaway!  This year, I am giving away two signed copies of BOTH of my books, Cemetery Tours and Between Worlds.  To enter, please visit GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/109579-between-worlds

You can sign up to enter until October 21!  I’m ending it then in the hopes that the two winners will receive their books by Halloween.

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Let the festivities begin!

The Death Talk

So, at 26, I’m pretty much an adult.  I say pretty much because I definitely don’t feel like a real adult.  I’m still trying to figure out… well… everything.  I don’t have a husband or a house or a mortgage.  I do pay taxes and have health insurance and I know how to do laundry.  I just don’t feel like I’ve actually achieved full adulthood.  Maybe real adulthood is a myth, and you never quite feel like you’ve made it.

A few days ago, however, my parents decided I was grown-up enough to have The Death Talk with me.  Most kids know what The Sex Talk is (by the way, my parents never had that talk with me… they let my fancy private school teach me about the Birds and the Bees), but they never prepare you for The Death Talk.

It basically goes something like this: “We’re getting older and something might happen to us.  Just in case something tragic does happen, we want you to know who to call and what to do so you and your sister don’t have to worry.”

What the adult-kid in question hears though, is something like this: “We’re decrepit and could basically drop dead at any time.”

Needless to say, when they ambushed me with this horrific topic the other day, I was not expecting it at all.  It was so early in the morning and such a shock that I kind of dissolved into this pathetic blubbering mess, which my parents just found absolutely hilarious.  Excuse me, that is not the kind of thing you just spring on a person, especially a person with an already fragile mental state.  I’m a writer.  My mental state is like, just barely there.

I guess a small part of my parents would still like to believe that I am a totally normal human being who can deal with rational discussions about what will one day be inevitable, but sadly, that is just not the case.  Hopefully they have now learned their lesson and will think before they drop a bombshell like, “Oh hey, we might die” on their unsuspecting, unstable daughter.

New Story, New Characters

I’ve mentioned before that I currently have two WIPs or Works in Progress.  One is the third installment of the Cemetery Tours series.  This work includes familiar characters, ones that I know and love and are still evolving and growing, mystery, twists and turns (some of which have surprised even me), and of course, ghosts.  I love writing ghost stories.  Even when we were little, my sister would ask me to make up scary stories for her.  We were twisted little kids.

I am loving that I get to continue the story of Michael, Kate, Luke, and everyone’s favorite, Brink, and I really love the new ghosts and the new adventures.

However, as much as I love Cemetery Tours, I have to say the new story/series I’m working on is so much fun.  A whole new setting (one that is really, really awesome and I kind of wish I lived there), brand new characters, and no dead people.  Again, I love my ghost stories, but I’m also loving how this new story is so much more light-hearted and not nearly as dark.  Not that Cemetery Tours is all that dark.  Still, there is the whole matter of death and loss and whatnot.  You won’t find much of that in this new series.

The new book is also more YA than Cemetery Tours and in 1st person instead of 3rd person.  In some ways, that presents new challenges, but in other ways, it’s a lot easier.  It’s more like dialogue, which has always been my favorite part of writing any story.

At this point, I’m farther along in this new book than I am in CT3.  I’m not going to lie, it’s been difficult writing two books at once, and it’s crossed my mind more than once that maybe I should focus wholeheartedly, 100% on just one of them.  But I’m enjoying writing both, and I’m making progress, so I think I’m just going to keep after it and see where it leads me.  I’ve been operating under the assumption that I’ll publish CT3 before this new one… but you never know!

On that note, keep writing and keep reading, everyone!

In Dreams

Yesterday, my dad told me about a dream he had where Joan Rivers came to him in a sparkling white dress and told him to remember things.  This is weird on several levels, mostly because my dad was not a fan of Joan Rivers (he’s not really a fan of anyone).  But he often has really weird and oddly descriptive dreams.  I guess I inherited that from him.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had really exciting and sometimes really terrifying dreams.  I still remember a dream I had when I was three years old.  My parents left me in a haunted house with an evil witch, a caged lion, and lots of other kids all locked in this big room.  I ran throughout the house, asking everyone where my parents were.  The witch laughed and told me they’d left me there and I’d never see them again.  I ran out into the night just in time to see their taillights driving away.  Apparently, I was crying in my sleep, because my mom and dad came into my room that night and tried to wake me up and ask what was wrong.

Other childhood dreams were just kooky.  Once, when I was about five I guess, I was getting over the stomach virus and I dreamed that a giant Macaroni noodle with purple spots and an evil face was chasing me around town.  I woke up screaming.

As I’ve gotten older, my dreams seem to have gotten less whimsical, but are still just as weird and stressful.  I’ve been told I’ll eventually grow out of remembering them, but if I’m like my dad, and in a lot of ways, I really am, that’s not going to happen.

I guess this is on my mind now, because after another night of restless and exciting dreams, I woke up feeling like I hadn’t slept at all.  Unlike most creative minds, I have absolutely no problem sleeping.  In fact, I sleep way more than I probably should, 9-10 hours a day.  I used to think that was just my body’s normal sleep pattern.  Now, however, after that talk with my dad and a little bit of internet research (always reliable), I’m beginning to wonder if maybe my active subconscious has something to do with my tendency to oversleep.

In all honesty, I could probably write short stories based on some of the creepy dreams I’ve had.  In fact, I included two of the scariest dreams I’ve ever had into Between Worlds, the sequel to Cemetery Tours.  I featured another of my dark dreams, though that one was actually pretty cool, in Cemetery Tours.  Of course, I changed them up a bit to fit the stories, but I kept in the parts that made them really creepy.

I wrote down one dream that I had over the summer.  I was going to share it here, but my sister told me it was too weird and that everyone would think I was sick or something.  But since we’re on the topic, I’ve decided to share it anyway.

It was like I was watching a movie.  The first scene opened with a young sickly looking man and his wife.  She was very pretty and had short brown hair, cut to her ears.  I knew immediately that the young man was very, very ill, probably dying.  His wife worked as a nurse, and she was clearly exhausted from long shifts and caring for her husband.  

In the next scene, the husband was taking a walk around the park, when suddenly, he collapsed and began bleeding out of every orifice.  It was some sort of blood cancer.  His wife was appeared out of nowhere, holding him and crying for someone to help her.  A crowd gathered.  One of the onlookers was a tall, shadowy man.  He had no distinct ethnicity, but his hair was long and dark and tied back in a ponytail.  

He spoke to the dying man and said, “I can help you. Do you want to be saved?”

“Yes,” the young man gasped.

In the next scene, he was healed and happy and getting ready to go back to work.  His wife was happy and looking much healthier and more refreshed than before.  But both knew that it was only temporary.

Before long, his symptoms returned.  His time was running out.  

The man with the long dark ponytail appeared again.  He said, “I can cure you.  I can take this disease away from you forever.  Is that what you want?”

The young man said, “Yes.” 

The shadowed man raised his hand and immediately, the illness left the young man’s body.  Then, the shadowed man turned and, for the first time, acknowledged me.  Before I could do or say anything, he clasped his hand over my mouth.  

“It’s hers now,” he said.  In exchange for curing the young man, he’d given the disease to me.  I was going to die.  Maybe not immediately, but soon.  

The young man looked at me, horrified.  I knew that he was feeling guilty that I had to be sick, but I also knew he wasn’t going to go back on his deal with the devil.  He let me take the fall.      

Albus Dumbledore has a great quote: “For in dreams, we enter a world that is entirely our own. Let him swim in the deepest ocean or glide over the highest cloud.”  I guess my world is a little more disturbed than I would prefer it to be.  Maybe one day, I’ll get to the point where I can swim the deepest seas or learn to fly.  Until then, I guess I’ll continue on my own twisted adventures.

Fall is Here!

Ladies and gentlemen, the autumnal equinox is upon us.  This means cooler weather, colorful leaves, sweaters, scarves, and pumpkin everything.

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Confession: I like the idea of pumpkin spiced lattes and cakes and bread, but I do not enjoy the taste.  At all.  I love the smell and the pumpkins themselves, but I cannot eat or drink anything that is pumpkin spicy.  

It’s hard describe with words what exactly it is that makes fall so magical.  For me, it’s always been more of a feeling, an experience of the senses.  Fall looks like crisp blue skies, orange and red and yellow leaves, brown grass, haystacks, and just a touch of purple and black.  Fall smells like pumpkin spice and firewood and wool sweaters and a fresh northern breeze.  Fall sounds like the crackle of leaves and the whispers of wind and a hint of eerie, hypnotic, ethereal music.  Fall feels like crisp, cool, refreshing air, like the memories of ghosts who’ve gone before, like for the first time, all magic is possible.

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Fall is a time to spend with your friends and family.  It’s a time for state fairs and pumpkin patches and being outside.  It’s a time to savor and enjoy.  It’s a time to remember what it means to be simple and to believe in what we can’t see.

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Best of all, it’s a time for ghosts and witches and things that go bump in the night.

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Happy Fall everyone!

Happy Birthday Cemetery Tours!

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It’s been exactly one year since I first published Cemetery Tours, so I thought I’d take a little time to celebrate the book, the characters, and the readers that have come to mean the world to me.  I was a junior in college the first time I seriously considered writing a book.  This year has far exceeded anything and everything that I could have imagined in that moment and I have all of you to thank for that!

So now, for a little bit of fun, please enjoy…

The Unofficial Cemetery Tours Soundtrack: https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/soundtrack/

My Dream Cast: https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/dream-cast/ 

Cemetery Tours on Pinteresthttp://www.pinterest.com/windtrailpub/cemetery-tours/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18470430-cemetery-tours

Fun Facts and Trivia:

The only character who did not undergo a drastic name/personality change throughout the entire four years of developing and writing the story is Brink.

Luke Rainer was originally a character in a different story.  He was going to be the main love interest.

The Bible verse quoted in Chapter 19, Phillipians 4: 6-7, was my class’s senior verse in high school.

I use the British spelling “woah” as opposed to “whoa” throughout this entire book. I think I’ve spent too much time reading Harry Potter because I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

Kate and Gavin’s parents, Terri and Rex, are named after my mom’s best friend and her husband, both of whom passed away while I was in high school.

I despise female characters who don’t eat anything except salads and veggie burgers, so I make a point in every book to show Kate eating pizza or fast food or chocolate.

My dad came up with the title Cemetery Tours before I even considered becoming a writer. We were on a day trip to San Antonio and we stopped at a Dairy Queen in a small town, right across the street from an old cemetery.  He said, “You should write a book about a group of kids who travel around to different cemeteries.  You could call it Cemetery Tours.”  The name stuck.

Cemetery Tours on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CemeteryToursSeries

Thanks for an awesome year, y’all! Here’s to you!

Still Learning

These past few months, I’ve been attempting a sort of writing experiment.  It’s one that’s working okay, but not as well as I’d like it to.

I’ve been attempting to write two books at once.

I’m sure some authors can pull it off.  After all, how else do they get so many books out there in so short a time?  For me, however, I feel like I’m only giving each book 50% when each book deserves 100%.

One, of course, is the third Cemetery Tours book.  That one is my priority.  After all, it’s part of a series, I know readers enjoyed the first two books and are waiting for the next one, and it’s full of characters that I know.

The new book I’m writing is a bit more complicated.  It’s YA.  It has several new characters, all of whom seem to have secrets that I don’t even know yet.  It’s mythology as opposed to paranormal.  There’s just a lot going on.  I know I’m capable of writing it, but I think it will take more time that I’d originally planned.  I was hoping that I could jot it out in six months and have it available in less than a year.  I just don’t think that’s going to be the case.  I want to do this story justice, and in order to do so, I might have to give it time to evolve.

On the other hand, I don’t want to wait too long to get these stories out because I have no less than a dozen other stories that I eventually want to get written.  They’re all out on paper (and on secret Pinterest boards), but I don’t want to let any of them go to waste.

A few years back, my sister and I went to see Josh Groban in concert.  It was pretty much the best concert ever.  We had floor seats and we were fairly close to him.

How close you may ask?

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Pretty close.

Anyway, at this concert, he had fans text in questions and throughout the show, he would answer them.  One question was the age old, “What advice would you give to aspiring singers?”

Josh gave an astounding answer.  I don’t remember it word for word, but it was something along the lines of, “Never stop learning, never stop being a student.  No matter how far you go, or how successful you become, always be willing to learn something new.  Be humble and be gracious.”

I thought that was just awesome, and it’s something I’ve tried to remember and keep in mind in this past year.  Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of Cemetery Tours release! How cool is that?!

On that note, I’m off to go make my book a birthday card.  Talk to y’all later!