Telling Fortunes

Anyone who knows me (and maybe even those who don’t) knows that I’m a bit of a control freak.  Not so much when it comes to other people, but when it comes to me, my body, and the decisions I make, I very much like to know what I’m doing and what I’m getting into.  I like to know what’s coming so that I can be prepared for it and be aware.  After all, knowledge is the ultimate power.

For years now, I’ve thought that life would just be so much easier if I could see into the future, despite what That’s So Raven had to say about it.  If I just knew what was going to happen, how things were going to turn out, then I wouldn’t waste my time, energy, and emotions and things that ultimately wouldn’t matter. I wouldn’t go into relationships that weren’t going to end well.  I wouldn’t work for months on a project or a task that would take me nowhere.  I wouldn’t become emotionally invested in things that were going to be a disappointment.

But last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I realized something.  Even if those relationships and projects weren’t meant to work out, I was still meant to experience them, perhaps even to learn from them.  And maybe if I had known how they were going to end or to turn out, I would’t have that experience.

Case in point.  On Sunday, two of my friends and I took a trip down to White Rock Lake.  Sadly, it was too cold to kayak and none of us have a sailboat (yet), so we just decided to walk.

Now, my friends and I are hikers.  We love to spend time together out in nature.  It’s good for the soul.  And I think it’s really good for our relationships.  It’s something we all really, really love.  Well, before we knew it, we’d walked about a third of the way around the lake.

We had two options.  We could retrace our steps and walk back the way we’d come… Or we could walk the rest of the way around the entire lake.

Guess which option we chose.

I’ve never walked all the way around White Rock Lake, so I had no idea what to expect.  It was a beautiful walk.  We saw trees and docks and lots of birds.  We were all feeling great, having a wonderful time.

Then the pain began.

This is going to get a little graphic, so if you get squeamish, I suggest you stop reading and just skip ahead to look at the pictures.

Anyway, I pride myself on having a pretty high pain tolerance.  I also have ridiculously strong legs.  I inherited my dad’s muscular man legs, so I can hike for as long as you want me to.  But sadly, even the strongest hiker is not immune to blisters.

I wore tennis shoes that day, but apparently, I hadn’t taken enough time to break them in, because about a mile past the halfway point (the lake’s circumference is about 9.3 miles), my first blister began to form… and it hurt.  I tried to walk gingerly, but that only caused more blisters.

Now, I’m no stranger to blisters.  I’ve been a camp counselor before.  I’ve walked the Dallas Galleria at Christmastime.  I’m addicted to flip flops.  I can handle blisters.  That is, until they rupture.  Then every step is a sharp, stinging, white-hot nightmare.  I won’t lie to you, folks.  There were expletives involved.

The last three or four miles of that hike were torture, even with the walking stick that my friend crafted for me.  They offered to go and get the car for me, or even give me piggy-back rides, but I am just about the most stubborn person you’ll ever meet, another charming quality I inherited from my dad.  I was going to finish that hike.  I’d come too far.

And I must say, it was worth it.

It was nightfall by the time we finally arrived back at the car.  By then, I could barely walk.  Now, two days later, my feet are taped up with no less than ten band-aids and I’m still hobbling like a toddler who can’t figure out how to put one foot in front of the other.  But I have my pride.  I made that walk around the lake.  Even if I sacrificed my feet and my dignity along the way.

The point of this story isn’t to make you feel sorry for my poor, shredded feet.  It’s that had I known that the last leg of our journey around the lake would have been that agonizing, I might not have attempted it at all.  I might have recommended that my friends and I turn back at the quarter mark.  It would have saved me a lot of pain.  But it also would have prevented my friends and me from having an amazing adventure.  We would never have watched the sunset over the lake.  We would never have seen hundreds of water fowl floating in a cove.  We wouldn’t be able to boast that we walked almost ten miles around the entirety of White Rock Lake.  And I think we were supposed to.

That’s why we’re not meant to see into the future.  We might spare ourselves the pain, but we also might just miss out on something great.

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Would You Rather

Yesterday, a writer and publisher friend of mine posed this question: Would you rather be a bestselling author or a best-writing one?

Now, the dream answer to that question, obviously, is BOTH, but we were only allowed to choose one.

I know the answer I’m supposed to pick.  I’m supposed to say that being the best writer is the most important thing.  Integrity and talent and all that.  And yes, writing is SO important.  I’ve read (or at least attempted to read) books that are atrociously written and they made me want to scratch my eyes out.  It kills me when books that are poorly written become bestsellers (not mentioning any titles but…).  But then again, that’s just my opinion.  The people who read and enjoy the books clearly don’t think the writing is that bad.  I can’t fault them for that.  I can disagree, sure.  But if that’s what they like to read, more power to them.

I want to be a good writer.  I would never share a book or a story that I thought was just “okay.”  I take a lot of pride in my work and I always try my best to produce high-quality material.

And yet, if I had to chose between best-writing and bestselling, I’d pick bestselling.

Here’s why.  You can be the best writer in the world and write the best book in the history of ever… And yet if no one reads it, what’s the point?

I don’t care about winning awards or being remembered.   I would rather write books that are fun, that people enjoy reading, even if it means they’re not in the same league as the greats.  Which I know they’re not.  The kind of books I write will never be nominated for a Pulitzer or be studied in a classroom two hundred years from now.  But I do think that they’re fun to read.  And that’s what matters to me.

There are few things I love more than getting a Facebook message or an Instagram post from a reader telling me how much they loved my book.  It’s a thrill like you wouldn’t even believe.  The thing about writing a book.  Yes, it’s a dream come true, but it’s a dream that comes true every time someone reads your book.  Writers are so lucky in that sense.  We get to have the same dream come true over and over and over again.  And it’s all because someone read our book.

So thank you to all the readers out there, for making dreams come true every single day.  You might not know it, but you are the most important people in the world to us.

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28

Well, another birthday has come and gone.  I am another year older and possibly .008% wiser.  Probably not.  I’m probably just as silly as when I was 27.  It was only 2 days ago, after all.

I had, hands down, THE best birthday party imaginable with so many of my favorite people.

My painting ended up looking like this…

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If you enjoy painting and drinking wine, I highly recommend Painting With a Twist.  It was the most fun ever.

Now that I’m 28 and oh, so mature, I’ve been thinking about getting my life more organized.  Okay, that’s only partially true.  I was thinking about getting my life organized back when I was only 27.  Also, I’ll never be that organized.  But I’ve had a lot of ideas come to me… A lot of ways that I hope to expand my work and my business.

One of those ways is through graphic design.

I’ve always loved photography.  I was a part-time wedding photographer for a while, but I realized that I really didn’t like interacting with people all that much, and you kind of have to do that at weddings.  However, I very much love books and photographs and cover designs, and I’m thinking I might try to do something with that in the very near future.  I would use my own photographs and my own designs and I would charge less than CreateSpace charges for their services.  I’ve designed all five (technically, seven!) of my book covers as well as my friend Paula’s book cover.

Again, this is just an idea I’ve been tossing around in my mind.  I did realize, however, that since I have a PayPal account AND a Square account, I could very well sell my products and my services through my website.  I hadn’t thought I could do that before.

So yeah, 28 is going to be a year of organization, expansion, and of course, even more books!

Love to you all.

Birthday Wishes

Birthday only come around once a year, so when they do, you’ve got to take full advantage.  My birthday just so happens to be tomorrow.  I’m not sure I’ll write a blog post or not (probably not), but today, I thought I’d send my birthday wishes out into the universe.  I know, you’re not technically supposed to tell people what you wish for.  Otherwise, they won’t come true.  But I feel like I can trust all of you.  In fact, you can help make my birthday wishes comes true.

My first wish is that you read.  That’s it.  Read in 2016.  Read anything.  Read books, read magazines, read blog posts, read tweets, read the back of your ketchup bottle.

My second wish is that you give at least one indie author a chance.  Invest in their hard work.  Let them know that you believe in them as much as they believe in themselves.  Reading a kindle book is a great way to show you appreciate an indie author.  It will make their day.  Trust me.  I know.

My third wish is that if you find a book you really love to read, leave the author a review!  I can’t say it enough.  Reviews are invaluable.  They are precious.  They are even more important than the sale itself.  If you like a book, tell your friends!

Thank you all for all that you do!  I’ll see you on the other side!

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Boys and Books

Over the weekend, my sister and I got to hang out with our older cousin, who is actually more like our sister.  She has son who is ten years old and really, really, really into hockey.  This kid is dedicated.  Hockey all the time.  His favorite movies are The Mighty Ducks movies (2, 3, and then 1).  The boy loves hockey.

He’s also really smart.  He already has his top four colleges picked out (Yale is his first choice).  He’s especially good at math, much better than I’ll ever be.  He likes to ask me these really hard multiplication and addition questions to see if I can figure them out in my head (I can’t).  Then this ten-year-old gets to feel superior to me and I remind him that I have a phone with a calculator so I don’t need to know math in my head but he doesn’t care.

But when we were hanging out with our cousin, the question of what he likes to read came up.  Jenn, his mom, answered, “He likes to read hockey books.”

Now, me being me, my first instinct was to start rambling off all these books that I’d loved when I was his age.  Danger on Panther Peak, The Indian in the Cupboard, Summer of the Monkeys…  I liked other books too, like every book ever written by Judy Blume, but I knew those were geared more toward girls and my little cousin is a guy’s guy, through and through.

However, as I was listing off books that I thought of as more gender neutral, Jenn informed me that he found those books either too boring or too whimsical.  Apparently, he doesn’t like magic, nor does he like violence, nor any scenario where a bunch of kids get lost in the woods.

Jenn then went on to point out something that I had never considered before.  There are plenty, and I do mean plenty, of coming-of-age young adult novels geared toward girls.  Even those written by authors like John Green are more likely to appeal to young women than young men.

Like I said, I grew up a very girly girl with a little sister and lot of female cousins, so I never really considered the idea that there are SO many books like that out there for girls but hardly any for boys.  I hypothesized that was because most young adult authors are women, and that those were the kind of books we like to read, but as Jenn pointed out, that makes something of a perpetual cycle.  If we’re the only ones reading these kinds of books, then we’re the ones who write them and of course, gear them toward other young female readers.  She also pointed out that statistics show that boys are more likely to read nonfiction than girls.  Not a bad thing, but something interesting to consider.

At the end of our conversation, Jenn told me, “You should write a YA book for boys.”  Interesting idea, but I’d be the worst person for the job.  I don’t know really interests boys.  Well, except hockey apparently.  But unfortunately, the things that would interest boys really don’t interest me.  Therefore, I think any book I’d write would be really disappointing for all parties involved.

Therefore, I am extending this idea to all the guy writers I know.  If you’re not sure what your next project should be, write a book for your ten-to-twelve year-old self.  Write a series for boys to get excited about, the way thirteen-year-old girls get excited about the next Meg Cabot book.  Write a book that connects with them and makes the want to read.  Apparently, the world is in short supply.

2016 Projects

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a “Who Moved My Cheese” kind of person.  I have to have a goal, something that I’m working toward.  As we all know, the beginning of a new year is a perfect time to set knew goals and to really think about what we want to accomplish this year.  I have a few that I’ve been bouncing around in my mind.

I feel like I am in a constant battle with the things in my life.  You read that right.  I have so much stuff.  I feel like every couple of months or so I have a few bags full of clothes and knick-knacks to donate, but somehow if never feels like I make that much of a difference.  I still live in clutter.  How is that?  Why is that?  Why, as human beings, do we need so much stuff?  Here’s an answer.  We don’t!  We don’t need it.  Yet somehow, it accumulates.  I want to do a purge, a thorough cleansing of my house and all my stuff that I’ve held onto for years and years.

Another goal I have is to read more.  I’m off to a pretty good start.  I think I’ve already read about three or four books in 2016.  Yes, I am a freakishly fast reader.  My sister is too.  We’re both hoping to read more this year, especially independent books!  That’s another goal.  I want to help all those awesome indie authors out there go mainstream.  Lord knows they (we) work hard enough.

That leads me to my work goals for this year.  I have two books that I’m absolutely, 100%, for sure going to release this year.  Of course, I’m talking about the third book in the Boy Band series and the fourth book in the Cemetery Tours series.

Of course, I went ahead and designed the covers before actually finishing either book.  But you know, I like having the covers.  They help me visualize what my manuscripts will be when they become actual books.  While these are both pretty close to the final designs that I want for each book, I might end up tweaking each one just a little before publication.  As for when that will be, I’m hoping for a spring release for Worldwide and another autumn release for Lost Souls.  But I’m not setting myself any actual deadlines until I get further into each manuscript.  I’m done setting deadlines for a while.  They’re stressful!  Though they do make you work, so…

As for the books themselves, I can’t tell you too much about Worldwide without giving away spoilers from the second book, which I definitely want you to read.  I can tell you that we will finally see The Kind of September on tour.  I can also promise you that Mel will never find herself in the center of a love triangle.  I don’t have anything against love triangles.  I’ve dabbled with them before in my writing.  But that’s just Mel’s story.  For her, there is only Sam.  I had one reviewer mention that they really liked that about the Boy Band series and it totally made my day.  I really love that about Mel.  If it were up to her, life would be so simple.  She loves Sam and he loves her and that’s it.  Worldwide is going to be a whole new world for her, that’s for sure.

As for Lost Souls, Book Four in the Cemetery Tours series, Michael, Kate, Luke, and Brink are going to my favorite country in the world, Scotland.  I’m so excited because Michael is finally reaching a point in his life where he’s more confident and willing to take chances on new experiences.  Luke isn’t having to drag him around anymore.  He’s going to Scotland willingly.  He’s still got that dry, cynical sense of humor, but he appreciates life so much more now, and I love that.  I’m also just really excited to revisit Scotland, even if it is (for now) only in my mind.

I’m thinking I want to write one more book this year.  I have several in mind.  The last I counted, I had at least fifteen ideas for new novels and series.  I just don’t know which one it will be yet.  There are a few that I know have to wait for one reason or another. But I don’t want to forget any of these ideas.  I don’t think I will.  Some, I’ve had inside my head for years and they’re still developing and evolving.  I guess time will tell.

What are your goals for 2016?

Beyond Words

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I am hardly ever at a loss for words. I’m a natural talker and words are always my best friends. But, last night, my friend, Kim, sent me this photo her daughter took of the marquis of Half Price Books Flagship store in Dallas. It’s me! On the marquis! I was so surprised. I have a book signing for The Conservative Congregant this coming Sunday, so the store was advertising it.

I was so shocked! Needless to say, I’ve never had my name on a billboard, marquis or anything other than the role at school. So, I wanted to share this with you . I don’t want to toot my own horn, but it’s pretty cool!

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Which leads me to talk a little bit about marketing books. I’m trying to learn how to do this as Independent authors do not have the luxury of a publicist or marketing director. So…

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New Year, Good Enough Me

 

It’s the beginning of a new year and as usual, most of us are trying to come up with ways to make 2016 better than 2015, or at least make ourselves better.

This is not a bad thing.  In fact, I think the human race as a whole should always be looking for ways to improve not only ourselves, but the world around us.  We shouldn’t need a new year for us to strive for this.  However, I can’t help but wonder if our desire to change and improve is altogether a healthy mindset.

Hear me out.  I think everyone should always try to better themselves, mentally, physically, emotionally.  I think we should always be making positive changes.  But I also think our world, specifically those who spend a great deal of time on social media (and yes, I am totally guilty of this), has a terrible case of the “Not Good Enoughs.”  We’re not thin enough or we’re not pretty enough or we’re not rich enough or we don’t travel enough.  And why shouldn’t we feel this way?  We live in a society that idealizes celebrities and their superfluous lifestyles.  We are constantly being presented with images and ideas of what life “should” be if only we were rich enough or pretty enough or famous enough or successful enough.

Again, I think we should all strive for success and for health.  But I think we spend too much of our lives lamenting what we don’t have and what we don’t experience to enjoy and appreciate all that we DO have.

But it’s more than just experiences and notoriety and fancy vacations.  It’s also a personal thing.  I’ve shared this before, and after reading the book Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone, I’m inspired to share it again.  For the past three years, I’ve been treated for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Although I am in a very good place in my life, one of the side effects that I still struggle with from time to time is low self esteem and social anxiety.

This isn’t all the time.  For example, when I’m working, when I’m at a book event, or when I’m talking about books and publishing, I’m one of the most confident people you’ll ever meet.  But catch me off guard in a social setting?  Not good.

I’ve been told over and over again that I have no reason to struggle with self-esteem issues.  But that’s just the thing.  I know there’s no good reason.  That’s what’s so frustrating about any kind of mental illness.  There’s often times no reason to feel what we’re feeling.  No logical cause behind the emotion.  But the chemicals in our brain are telling us to feel a certain way or to think a certain way.

I know this is an issue.  But I’m also finally at a point in my life where I can tell myself that I deserve to think better of myself.  I do deserve better than what I’ve thought of myself for a long time.  I am good enough.  Maybe once I finally get that through my head, I can start being the person that I really want to be.  I think I’m off to a good start.

 

Last Year…

Happy New Year, friends!  As per tradition, I’m looking back on a mostly spectacular 2015… And I’m doing so with pictures!

So, in no particular order, here we go.

In 2015…

I visited San Diego for the first time…

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Where I went on my very first whale watch…

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Hung out with sea lions…

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Drove my dream car…

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And saw One Direction…

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I also got to see Ed Sheeran…. Probably the most incredible performance I’ve ever seen in my life.

I went on a ghost tour…

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And enjoyed an evening at Shakespeare in the Park…

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I also published a new book…

Or two…

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Or three…

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I also redesigned the entire Cemetery Tours series…

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And had a short story featured in a brand new horror anthology, Lurking in the Deep

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Another lifelong dream came true when I saw two movies at the Drive-In

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My friends and I (kind of) learned to cook…

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And I welcomed two new members into my family…

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I met one of my very favorite authors, Rainbow Rowell

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And R2D2…

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I had too many amazing book events to count…

I watched my sister perform in an opera…

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I was interviewed in a magazine…

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And on TV…

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I survived the Blue Bell recall (barely)…

My mom and I drove seven hours back from Lubbock in a submarine…

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But most importantly, I enjoyed my time spent with my family and friends.

Happy New Year, everyone!  It’s going to be a good one!