Down in North Carolina

I’ve always been a beach girl at heart.  I’ve been drawn to the ocean ever since I was a little kid.  Even growing up in land-locked Dallas, Texas, I became obsessed with the idea of vast blue horizons and endless shores.  Time and time again, I manage to find myself crawling back to the water.

Last week, I journeyed out to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  The shores of the Outer Banks – and it’s lighthouses – have been a dream of mine for years now.  Making that dream a reality was probably the best decision I’ve made for myself in years.

Along with some serious beach-combing, I visited four lighthouses: Bodie, Hatteras, Ocracoke, and Currituck.  Simply visiting them was a dream come true in and of itself, but I also got the chance to climb Hatteras (the tallest brick lighthouse in North America) and Currituck.  These lighthouses are so beautiful, so historic, and so full of hope and inspiration.

Finally, and perhaps I’ve saved the best for last, I took a tour in a hummer (yes, a legit hummer) to see the wild Spanish Mustangs who roam the shores of the Outer Banks.  Commonly known as Bankers, these horses have lived there on the beach and in the surrounding dunes and forest areas, since the 1500s and are the last of their kind in the world.  They are spectacular creatures, wild and free, and it is imperative that we help preserve them and protect them in any way that we can.

Thank you for the adventure, Carolina.  I can’t wait to come back.

 

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Review: Boy Band by Jacqueline E. Smith

Love this review! Thank you, Leslie!

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Boy Band by Jacqueline E. Smith

*click on the image or the link above to purchase your own copy!*


Synopsis from Goodreads:

Sam Morneau is Melissa Parker’s best friend. He’s also a member of The Kind of September, basically the hottest boy band on the planet.

After two and a half years, Mel is all too familiar with the day-to-day occurrences that come with being a member of the band’s inner circle, including hectic schedules, passionate fans, and gossip-mongering celebrity girlfriends.

Now, with the release of the group’s third album just weeks away, their lives have never been crazier and Mel is doing everything she can to keep up, all the while trying to cope with the ridiculous rumors that follow the band everywhere they go and pretending that she isn’t harboring a secret and hopeless crush on Sam.

It’s weird enough being in love with your best friend. It’s…

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A Prayer

This is just a shout into the void, I know, but I need to get it out.

If I could have one wish in this entire world, it would be for my mother to feel like she could quit her job.

I say “feel like” because my father makes enough money for them to live comfortably.  In fact, he makes more than most people.  We’re very fortunate.

The thing is it wasn’t always like that.

When I was in middle school, my father lost his job.  He was virtually unemployed for years, working night jobs and seeking opportunities with failed start-ups just to make ends meet.  It was during this time, my mother began working at her current job.

I’m not going to go into details or the countless reasons why I think she should quit her job, except to say that I do not feel that they treat her right.  I think they take advantage of her.  I know the job exhausts her to the point where she doesn’t want to see her friends or family.  And it breaks my heart.

I have had her unwavering support as I pursue my career and I am forever grateful.  She’s given up everything so that my sister and I could get good educations and be able to pursue our dreams.  She’s always put others before herself.  I love that about her.  But I also wish that she would take care of herself, put herself first every once in a while.  She deserves it.  She’s the most wonderful person in the entire world.

So this is my prayer.  I pray that something wonderful happens so that she finally feels secure enough to be able to quit her job once and for all.  I pray that she gets to live out the rest of her life joyfully and in the knowledge that she, her husband, and her daughters are going to be okay.  I just want her to be happy.  That’s all I’ve ever wanted.  And no one deserves it more.

Body Positivity

I’m always surprised to learn that I’m not the only person in the world with insecurities, and I don’t know why.  It would only make sense, after all, that as human beings, we’re far more critical of our own imperfections than we would be of others.  But you know, at first glance, everyone else seems to confident, so well-adapted, so cool and collected.  It’s hard to imagine that perhaps they actually don’t feel comfortable in their own skin.

Ask anyone and they can probably name at least on thing that they’d change about their bodies.  I wish I was thinner.  I wish my hands were more feminine.  I wish I had long, slender legs.  I wish I didn’t have chipmunk cheeks when I smile.  I wish my neck was more elegant.  I wish my body was designed so that I could wear cute, stylish clothes instead of having to dress to flatter my proportions.  I wish my hair was straight.  I wish my eyes were lighter.  I wish my speaking voice made me sound even remotely intelligent.  The more I think about it, the longer the list becomes of things that could be improved upon.

As that list grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to be positive about the way I look.  I look in the mirror every day and think, “Meh.”  I see pictures of myself online and I untag them because my smile is off or because I think my arms look fat.  I’m so preoccupied with the way I look that it becomes my first priority.  And you know what?  That’s kind of messed up.

Yes, presentation is important, especially in the professional world.  But I think in a world where we’re bombarded with images of thin, sculpted, beautiful, “perfect” men and women, we’ve become a bit disillusioned about what true physical beauty is.  True physical beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors.  True physical beauty is what’s found in the imperfections, in what makes each of us unique.  And yes, I am fully aware I sound like an after-school special and yes, I kind of hate myself for it.  But I stand by the idea that it takes all types to make our world beautiful.

I feel like a bit of a hypocrite, suggesting that we should all embrace our own personal beauty, because I know I will continue to critique the way that I look.  But maybe, just maybe, I can take a lesson out of this Body Positivity week as well.  To learn to be comfortable in my own skin.  And maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn to look in the mirror and see someone beautiful staring back at me.

Helpful Hashtags

Hi, friends!  Happy Monday!  Wow, it’s been a bit of a crazy week.  I’ve had a sick kitty at home so I’ve been sleeping on the couch and waiting on her paw and foot.  Thankfully, she seems to be feeling much, much better so I’m hoping that the worst is behind us.

Having spent so much time taking care of my poor sick baby, I’ve been a bit distracted and haven’t really been keeping up with my work or books the way that I should have.  But I finally have a bit of time to write a quick blog post.

If you ask an indie author, “What’s the one thing you don’t like about what you do?” I’m going to guess that at least half the time, the answer will be “Self-Marketing.”  I’ve written blog posts myself about how much I hate self-marketing.  It’s hard.  It’s time-consuming.  And it’s not something that most of us are necessarily good at.  Or perhaps I should say it’s not something that most of us really understand.  I know how to write a book.  That’s the easy part.  But actually getting out there and selling that book?  I’m lost.

However, while I may not know all that much about marketing or branding, I do happen to know a thing or two about social media.  Not to brag or anything, but I have posted over 3000 pictures on Instagram.  Okay, so that might be more annoying than anything, but I’m not kidding you when I say I have connected with more readers and reviewers over Instagram in the past two months than I have in the past two YEARS on all the other social media sites.

After discussing my experience on Instagram with a few of my other author friends, I decided to put together a little cheat sheet for my fellow writers and book-marketers.

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I also have two different photo albums going on my Facebook page.  The first contains pictures I’ve taken of Indie Books.  The second contains pictures that readers and reviewers have taken of My Books.

As indie authors, as authors in general, we’re all in this together.  The only way we’re going to make it is to support one another, read each other’s books, and lift each other up. It can happen and it will happen.  This is a great community full of wonderful, talented people and books that deserve to be read.

 

Authorfest 2016

All my life, I’ve sought certainty.  I like to know how things will work out.  I don’t like it when plans change at the last minute and I’m not very well equipped to deal with the unexpected.  Unfortunately, with each passing day, I’m learning that certainty is rarely, if ever guaranteed.  Things can always change.  Plans can always falter.  Hearts can always shift.  It’s scary, and it’s something I’m constantly struggling to cope with.

I spent this past weekend in Denison for the third annual Authorfest. It’s incredible how much this event has grown since our very first year. As always, we had a dinner and a reading Friday night and a full day of signing at Free Comic Book Day and Bark in the Park on Saturday.

I met several new authors and reconnected with old friends as well.  And I may have come home with one or two new books… Or ten…

I got to enjoy the beauty of my favorite small town.  And made the acquaintance of a few of the locals.

But being there, with people who share my passion for words and books and storytelling really reminded me of why I started writing in the first place.  It isn’t for any grand reason or a desire for fame and fortune.  I write because it’s what I love.  And hearing their stories and experiences, I felt certain that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  Am I certain that my books will become bestsellers?  No.  Of course not.  But I am quite certain that I am proud of them, and that this is what I was made to do.  It’s where I find my place.  It’s where I belong.  It’s where I find freedom and magic and hope and love.  And that’s an incredible feeling.

There have been times in my life when I felt constantly out of step.  Like I could never find my path.  Or I would find it and I’d stumble off.  For years, I constantly saw what I didn’t have, what I wasn’t, and wondered when it would all happen for me.  Now I strive to see what I do have, the chances that I can take, the experiences and opportunities that I can make mine.  I like to think I’m well on my way.  But then again, I know I still have a lot to learn.

Thank you all for your books, for your friendship, and for a fantastic weekend!  I look forward to the next time!

Raise Your Wands

Today, May 2, 2016, marks the eighteen year anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, the day that Harry Potter once and for all defeated the Dark Lord, Tom Riddle, Voldemort, He Who Must Not Be Named.  It is also the day we honor and mourn the loss of those witches and wizards who fought bravely and lost their lives in this, perhaps the greatest and most devastating battle of our lifetime.

And yes, I know that this Battle never actually took place.  There were no victories, no casualties.  Harry Potter and Voldemort and all the others are just words on a page.  Not real.

And yet, they are so much more than just words on a page to millions of readers around the world.  To us, the magic is real.  The sacrifice, the bravery, the friendship, the love are all so much more real than the cold, harsh reality of hatred, discrimination, and selfishness that plague our physical world.

But you know, I think the true magic of Harry Potter lies in its ability to connect those who have never met, who live half a world away, who are separated by seas and continents and cultures.  Thanks to JK Rowling, we all have something in common.  We love her stories.  We love her characters.  We grew up with them.  We learned with them.  And we fought with them.  We are still fighting with them today.  For love.  For acceptance.  For freedom.  For a better world.

That is why, almost nine years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, at the age of 28, I still raise my wand with my friends around the world.  Because even if it didn’t actually happen, all that Harry Potter gave us still matters.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

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