It’s Okay to Have Fun

It’s good to be ambitious.  It’s good to have dreams.  It’s good to be productive.  It’s good to work, work, work.  In this life, you have to strive.  You have to push yourself.  You have to work harder than anyone else and want it more than anyone else if you want to get ahead.  Our American society is very much a work and toil and sacrifice-driven society.

Kids today are being prepped for college as early as elementary school.  College students are bending over backwards and stressed to the breaking point in order to make the grade.  Adults wander around like zombies, with dead eyes and listless spirits because they work so hard that it’s consumed their very being. It’s kind of scary.

It’s been engrained in our heads that if we don’t make the big money and have super successful careers then we don’t amount to anything in this world.  And okay, yes, I’ll admit that it is good to have a career and make money.  i’m not saying it isn’t.  Jobs are good.  They keep our world in balance.  We need people with jobs of all kinds.  But I feel like it needs to be said every now and then that it’s also okay to have fun.  Work and ambitions don’t need to control your life.  In fact, I don’t think they should.

Last night, I hung out with one of my best friends.  We both had stuff to talk about.  Somewhat heavy, but nothing too bad.  After we finished talking, we kicked off our shoes, poured ourselves some wine, and played Mario Kart.  That is not something I would normally be doing on a work night.  That’s usually when I do most of my writing.  But you know what?  It was great.  I loved just hanging out with her, laughing, and playing some good, old-fashioned Nintendo.

John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”  I love the extraordinary moments in life, seeing a new place or publishing a new book.  But those precious ordinary moments of fun and laughter and just being with the people you love, those are the moments that really make a life.  Please, goof off.  Have fun.  Be silly.  Remember to enjoy.  Life is worth it.


Dreams and Plans

My sister posted a great quote to Facebook today.  “Don’t call it a dream. Call it a plan.”

I love that.

I’ve been a dreamer all my life.  Even when I was little, I used to dream of what my life would be like, or perhaps I should say what it could be like.  I imagined beaches and mountains and castles.  I imagined swimming with orcas and meeting my favorite musicians and falling in love.  I wrote it all out in the form of a novel (which should have been a clue right there that I was destined for something other than what I had in mind at the time).

Today, I’m still a dreamer.  If you want to know what I dream about, just head on over to my personal Pinterest page.  I still dream about oceans and mountains and castles.  I still dream of all the places I haven’t seen and all the adventures I still want to have.  I still dream of falling in love.  I still dream of orcas and sunsets.  I’ve also added a few new dreams.  I dream of my own personal beach house. Or cabin in the woods.  Or both.  Preferably both.  I dream of hiking and of enchanted forests.

Most importantly, however, I dream of happiness for my family.  I dream of being able to renovate my parents’ house, to be able to replace their dishwasher and fix their faulty washer/dryer.  I dream of giving my mother her dream swimming pool in the backyard.  I dream that she’ll be able to quit her job and never have to work again.

I’m trying each and every day to turn those dreams into plans.  Isn’t that the difference, after all?  A plan is a dream put into action.  My plan right now is to keep writing, and to try to publish and sell as many books as I can.  I have a few events lined up for 2015, but I’m definitely looking for more.

I’ve heard that dreams are often hard to come by.  That’s never been my problem.  I have enough dreams to last me several lifetimes.  What I need is a plan, a real plan.  And I’m not sure I’m the best at making those.  For now, all I have are words.  Perhaps, that’s all I’ve ever had.

New Stories, Old Friends

Now that my new YA book ( is in the hands of my first beta-reader (pre-editing), I’m able to focus all my attention on finishing up the third Cemetery Tours book.


As with all my books, I’m really excited about it.  I don’t think an author can really write a story they’re just iffy about.  If you’re not excited to share your work, than you probably shouldn’t be sharing it.  But I digress.

I will admit that this new Cemetery Tours is different than the first two.  I didn’t know it would be, but that’s one of the great things about writing.  You can plan out your novel all you want, but you never really know what you’re going to get until you actually write it.  Characters play a huge role in shaping a story.  You can’t force characters to do something that they just wouldn’t, and I think when writers try to force that, the characters come off as frustrated or tense or just flat-out unbelievable.  Sometimes my characters do and say things that I honestly didn’t know I had in me.  It’s cool, but it’s also a little weird.  What else is buried in there, brain?

As I finished up Chapter 15 the other night, I got to thinking about how much I really enjoy writing these characters and telling their stories, but I’m also constantly worried that this new book won’t live up to the old ones.  I’ve gotten such positive feedback from readers about the first two books.  What if this new one isn’t as good?  What if people don’t like my characters anymore?  What if they think this new book is boring?  What if, what if, what if?

This new book, I’m discovering, focuses more on relationships of characters and what it’s like to try to live a normal live while constantly being pursued by spirits.  I’m enjoying it and I’m learning a lot about my characters, but I’m also afraid that because it’s a bit more low key than the first two, readers just won’t think it’s as good.

But then I remembered one of my favorite quotes by Carol Shields about writing.  “Write the book you want to read.”  When I started writing Cemetery Tours, I wasn’t writing for an audience.  I was writing for me.  I didn’t know if readers wanted to read a ghost story.  All I knew is that I wanted to read a ghost story.  I needed one, because I was in the midst of dealing with my own personal loss.  Every single book I have in my head is a book that I want to read.  Same with Cemetery Tours 3.

It’s really difficult to not worry about what other people will think, especially when you’re in a field that largely depends on the opinions of others.  If I don’t have readers who want to read my books, I don’t have a career.  Period.  So I do need to write for my readers.  But I also need to write for myself.  If I enjoy what I write, there’s a chance that others will too.  If I don’t like it, I’ll all but guaranteed that no one else will like it either.  I’ve always trusted my instincts, and so far, they’ve served me pretty well.  I truly hope that they’ll continue to do so, because I have two more Cemetery Tours books planned after this third one, along with about twenty other non-ghost stories.  I’m so excited to write and to share them, and I can only hope and pray that you all enjoy reading them as much as I will enjoy writing them.

Love to all!  If you’re in the path of Snowmageddon, be safe and stay warm!

Reader Questionnaire!

I feel like I spend so much time talking about my books and myself here on this blog.  I want to know more about all of you!  If you are reading this, please feel free to answer all of the questions, or perhaps just some of them.  Or none at all.  I’m not going to internet peer pressure you into anything.  I hate that.

Note: This isn’t a survey. I’m not doing research or anything of any kind. This is just for fun. If you want, you can even post the answers to your blog and send me a link.

1. What is your favorite book?

2. What are your goals? For the year? For your life?

3. Are you a writer? If so, tell me about your work. 

4. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

5. What was the last movie you saw in the theater and was it worthwhile?

6. I’m curious, are there any books that you’ve tried to read and simply couldn’t finish? This is a no judgement zone. 

7. Are you currently working on a new book/project right now? If it’s secret, you don’t have to tell me about it. If so, however, I hope it’s going well.

8. If you could live in any of your favorite books, which one would you choose?

9. Are there any book-to-movie adaptations that you think are just incredible?  That you absolutely hated?

10. What do you look for in a book that you want to read?  What’s the first thing to capture your attention?

11. If you’re an author, what do you do when you first get an idea for a book? I make a playlist and create a secret Pinterest board.  

12. How do you feel about different genres? Romance? YA? Sci-Fi? Poetry? Do you have any favorites? Any least-favorites?

13. If you could meet any writer in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?

14. Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

15. Are there any characters that everyone loves that you can’t stand? Or vice versa?

16. What do you like to do besides reading/writing?

17. If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?

18. What is your favorite guilty pleasure book? I love YA and Nicholas Sparks. 

19. Do you have a reading goal set for this year? 

20. Tell me anything about yourself that I haven’t asked. Random fact. Weird human trick. Whatever. Example: I can pop my shoulder out of its socket. It’s gross. 539655_4937759955460_21644212_n

Book Publishing and Buzzfeed

The other day, while browsing Twitter, I came across this Buzzfeed article:

I thought it was an amazing article, and I hope this is alright with author Curtis Sittenfeld, but as a writer who is still getting acquainted with all the workings of the publishing industry, I thought I might do a little Book Publishing Commentary.

NOTE: I am paraphrasing her statements here and adding thoughts of my own.  The reason I am doing this is because I do not want to take credit for her work and because I want you to read her original article, because it’s fantastic. I am also not commenting on every single statement because some I have not yet experienced. More incentive for you to go read her article because you don’t know what I’m leaving out!


CS = Curtis Sittenfeld

JS = Jacqueline Smith

CS: Other writers are your friends.

JS: Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  Never think of other authors as your competition.  They are your colleagues, and I’ve never met a group of people who are more willing to guide or offer encouragement to their peers.  I’ve often said that my very favorite thing about the book world, the indie world in particular, is the community and the support and their willingness to accept and to support other writers.  I like to think of it as a pay-it-forward group.  I had so many people help and encourage me, and I hope to do the same for other new authors.

CS: If you meet a stranger and they’ve heard of your book, be pleasantly surprised.

JS: As an indie, this is especially true.  I never expected anyone to have heard of me or my books.  I have, however, been quite pleasantly surprised.  I’ve had two instances, once walking into a coffee shop and once into a winery when someone’s asked, “Didn’t you write that ghost book?”  I have to tell you, I was floored.  I was even more surprised when I got to talking to a young man in Barnes and Noble only to find out that his mother had read Cemetery Tours and was trying to get him to read it too! He was hesitant, though, because he thought it might be dark and scary. Hey, it’s a ghost story!

CS: Everyone in publishing hates blurbs.

JS: I can’t speak for everyone in publishing, but I definitely hate blurbs.  Having to condense an entire book into a paragraph?  How do you expect me to do that?  I’m a wordy person.  That’s something that one of my grad school writing professors said about me.  He called me “wordy and abrasive.” Now, I’m not sure how abrasive I am, but I know I’m wordy.  And as a wordy person, I hate blurbs.  I don’t mind reading them, but I really hate writing them.

CS: The goal is to have a career.

JS: This is so true.  More than anything, I want to be an author with lots of different books and series.  I want this to be my life, my source of income, everything.  I want to be like Meg Cabot, who writes for all ages and has dozens and dozens of books and series to her name.  I want to write about ghosts and boy bands and lakes and Scotland and science and mythology.  I want different genres and different characters and different worlds.  I want people to read one of my books and think, “Woah! I can’t believe she wrote that other book!” because they’re so different.

CS: Readers are always curious about whether or not books are autobiographical.

JS: Again, I have found this one to be true.  I’ve had several people which character is supposed to be me, or which character is most like me.  The answer is none of them and all of them.  None of my characters represent me.  I make a point of making sure none of my characters look like me or act entirely like me.  However, I do put a little bit of myself or people I love into each character.  For example, one of the characters from Boy Band and my sister share the same phobia.  For another example, Luke Rainer and I are both Episcopalian.  His parents are also named after my parents, but they are not at all alike.

CS: When you read a new book by another author, you are excited to read it and not jealous.

JS: This is almost always true.  There have only been two books that I’ve attempted to read that I felt outright and petty contempt for them having been published.  I won’t name those books, but I will tell you that both originated online as fanfiction (you get three guesses, the first two don’t count).

CS: Fiercely protect your writing time.

JS: So agree.  Writing time is every bit as much work time as a 9 to 5 job.  It’s how we make money.  It’s how we create.  The key to being a writer is, well, WRITING!  It’s the very foundation of our livelihood.  Without writing, there is no writer.

Again, I chose not to comment on every point she made because I want you to read her article.  Her list is comprised of 24 observations.  I’ve only covered a handful.  But what she says at the end is true.  Writing is magic.  In fact, it might be the closest that humans can ever come to achieving real magic.  Words can take you anywhere, they can create worlds and characters and adventures from nothing.  And I’m always going to love it.

Back to Narnia

I had an in-depth conversation this weekend with a good friend of mine and fellow author, James Peercy.  He’s an author of fantasy (, and although I have not ventured into the realm of fantasy writing (yet), it’s one of my favorite genres.  I, of course, love Harry Potter (as expressed in previous blog posts such as  I’m also a fan of Tolkien’s world and although I haven’t read the books, I’m really enjoying my journey into Westernos in Game of Thrones.  My favorite fictional land, however, to this day remains CS Lewis’ magical Narnia, Aslan’s Country.

I think there comes a time in all of our lives that we need a Narnia: a land of magic, a land of redemption, a land of beauty.  In it’s golden age, Narnia is a land untouched by greed or a thirst for power.  Its inhabitants live and coexist peacefully with love and respect for one another.  Narnia is, I believe, as close to my idea of Heaven as anything I’ll ever see on this Earth.  Except, perhaps, the Isle of Iona, but that’s another blog post.


This weekend, I decided to revisit Narnia in the form of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie.  As I was watching, not only was my love and adoration for Ben Barnes renewed, but I found myself thinking back to the conversation I’d had with James.  We’d spoken of all the things in life that cannot be explained, all the mysteries that remain unsolved, and all the wonders that have yet to be made known.  I thought, “How fortunate the Pevensie children were to discover a place like Narnia!  What I wouldn’t give!”

But then I remembered something else.  The Pevensie children didn’t really discover Narnia.  CS Lewis created it and gave it as a gift to the world so that we all might discover.  This amazing, wonderful, magical land is a product of one man’s creative mind, and in that moment, I realized how extraordinary that really is.  So many wonders of the world are God-given, it’s true, but just think of all the amazing things man has done in his short time here.  We’ve walked on the moon.  We’ve crossed oceans.  We’ve discovered the gift of flight.  The truth is there are very few, if any, things that we are not capable of.  That’s a terrifying thought, but it’s also, I think, a very profound thought. If we put even a little bit of thought into it, we could do amazing things, not only for ourselves, but for our planet and for all who inhabit it.  Instead of wasting energy fighting or obsessing over petty things that really won’t matter in the end, why not focus on the good?  On making the world a better place for future generations?

The human mind and the human spirit are incredible.  We were, after all, created in the image of God.  I think that means a whole lot more than we were created to look like Him.  We are capable of so much more than we’ve resigned ourselves to believe.  We were designed to do good, to make differences, to create worlds.  Maybe 2015 will be the year that we begin to acknowledge it.

Beautiful Blogger Award: Featuring Seven of My Favorite Beautiful Blogs!

Thank you for the nomination, April! I’m honored! ❤

A Well Read Woman

I was nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award by sister book blogger Brin @ Brin’s Book Blog! Thank you, Brin! If books are your passion, then you NEED to check out Brin’s blog and hit the follow button so you can stay up to date with the books she features and blogs about. 🙂

1. Copy the Beautiful Blogger Award logo.

2. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them.

3. Nominate 7 (yes, only seven) other bloggers and say a little something about them.

I follow soooo many awesome blogs but I can only pick seven. I present to you my seven picks! : )

image1.) Blahpolar Diaries “Where folly holds her throne.”  I absolutely love this blog and I look forward to new posts in my reader from her.  She writes honestly and frequently about her bipolar disorder, the medication…

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I had a conversation with my friend last night that really got me thinking back on my college days.  I realize that, in the almost two years I’ve been keeping this blog, I’ve never really talked about my days as a student at the University of Texas at Dallas.  I’ve touched on Grad School here and there, but for the most part, I keep my college days in my past.

There are a few reasons for that.  For one thing, I was a very different person back then.  Not so different that I would hate myself or that you wouldn’t recognize me, but I definitely had an attitude.  I was still bitter about a lot of things that had happened to my family and to people I love.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do or how I was going to get to wherever I was going.

In spite of my personal issues, UTD was a great school.  I learned a lot and for the most part, had a pretty great time.  There was one class there, though, that really rubbed me the wrong way.

I won’t name names or reveal the exact class because I don’t want to be the person who trash talks others online.  I can tell you one was a study of the arts class and I took nothing away from it except that I wanted to do the exact opposite of everything that instructor told me.  I saw no value in what was taught and I found a lot of the material weird, inappropriate, and to be honest, a little gross.  I was genuinely disturbed by what that professor considered “art” and truly resented the way he looked down on “mainstream” artists.  For him, an artist or a writer or a filmmaker only had value if what they produced was “outside the box,” in other words “weird and creepy.”

Do you want to know my dirty little secret?

I want to be mainstream.  I want my books and my photographs to appeal to a lot of different people.  I don’t want to be a part of his stupid, snobby, elitist group of “artists” who “think outside the box.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I think genuinely thinking outside the box is a good thing.  I think it’s a very good thing.  But what this guy called “thinking outside the box,” I call “being weird for the sake of shock value.”  And some of it was really shocking, let me tell you.  I won’t go into detail, but one of his “projects” involved really disgusting puppets.  It still gives me nightmares.

I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about my education at UTD.  My academic experience was, overall, very, very positive.  But our discussion last night really got me thinking about this one class.  To be honest, I’m not even sure that professor is still there or if that class is still being taught.  All I can tell you is that if he ever contacts me and tells me that he likes my books, I’ll know I’ve done something wrong.

Hello, 27

Today is my 27th birthday.  As always, I love the fact that it is my birthday.  Everyone is being extra nice to me.  I get presents and food and time with my friends and family.  But 27 is a little intimidating.  Somehow, it feels a lot closer to 30 than 26 did.  Not that that’s a bad thing.  After all, 13 Going on 30 claims that your thirties are the best years of your life.  If that’s the case, bring them on! Still, I feel like I have so much of my 20s left to enjoy.  Thankfully, I have three more years!  But if the last three years are any indication, these next three are just going to fly.

I have several goals for the next three years, but my one real goal, my ultimate goal, is really the one that matters.  That goal is to become a NYT Bestselling Author by the time I turn 30.  That gives me exactly three years.  The good news is that next year is a leap year so you know, one extra day (woo-hoo!).  My other goals are more personal, but that’s the big one.  Until that happens, however, I am going to keep working as hard as I can and enjoying every minute of it.

Oh, and on that note, it’s my birthday.  Go buy my books.