Three Cheers for Indie Authors

On Saturday, I attended the North Texas Book Festival for the second year in a row, and it was even more fun this year than it was last year.  I had several friends there and I was privileged to make the acquaintance of even more wonderful readers and writers.

I may have come home with one or two new books…

Hey, it’s networking.

Currently, I’m in the middle of reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  I loved the movie, so I’ve really been looking forward to reading the book.  The thing is, however, I’m so, so, so excited to start reading all my new books that I got on Saturday that I’m finding myself kind of speed-reading through Still Alice in order to get to my new ones.  There’s something so special and remarkable about reading books that have been produced and published by the author themselves, especially authors you’ve met in person and who’ve shared their personal stories and experiences.  The best way to get to know an author is to read their book.  And I can’t wait to dive in.

I know I’m also an independent author, so what I’m about write may sound a bit self-congratulatory and egotistical, but I am so proud of the work I’ve done, and I’m so proud of my colleagues for their dedication and passion.  There’s this stigma that independent publishing is the “easy way out.”  Let me tell you now, there is nothing easy about taking matters into your own hands and learning skills that you never thought you would need practically overnight.  Independent publishing is real work, work that I would never have even considered if I didn’t truly believe that my books were worth sharing.  This is why I say three cheers for all my fellow indie authors.  You do not believe in limitations.  You will not accept no for an answer.  You conquered your own mountains, you made your own dreams come true.  I am so honored to be in your company.  And I can’t wait to read your books.

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Work in Progress

Before I send any of my works in progress off to my editor, before I begin sharing titles and plot details, before I even finish the manuscript, I send the project, chapter by chapter to one person.  My sister.  She is the only person who gets to read everything I write, no matter what.  That’s because she’s basically the only person in the world I trust to be completely honest with me.  She’s not going to look me in the eye and tell me that a book is good when it, in fact, is not.  She tells me what works and what doesn’t work, if something fits a character, if the plot is just totally and completely useless, etc…  It takes a good friend to tell you that they love your writing.  It takes a sister to tell you the truth.

I know I can trust her, not only because she’s my sister and I know she’s not afraid to be honest with me, but because she’s an even bigger reader than I am.  Seriously.  I read a lot.  KJ devours books.  She is the ultimate book consumer.  This is why she is always my primary reader.  She doesn’t edit.  She just reads.

Last night, we were texting about a lot of different things and all of a sudden, she says to me, “Not gonna lie, but I think the reason I like <Current Work in Progress Title> so much is because it’s the greatest source of wish fulfillment I have ever read.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Cemetery Tours, but you are an amazing YA author.  Like, if I was fifteen and you weren’t my sister and I found this in a store, I would eat it up.  And I’m not just saying that because it’s wish fulfillment.  I’m saying that as someone who literally went to the library every day in 7th grade and read every YA book there.”

Can I just tell you that is the best compliment I have ever received from anyone?!  Especially my sister.  She and I are always supportive of one another, but neither one of us are the type to say something like that unless we really mean it.  It meant more coming from her than it would anyone else because I know she hates phony compliments as much as I do.  I really didn’t know what to say!  I can tell you right now, however, that she’s got me so, so, so excited to keep writing this book and to finish it hopefully this month so I can get it out ASAP!  Don’t worry, I’m not going to rush it or put out a book that’s low quality just because I’m eager to share it.  But I am so, so, so excited about it now!  Her words totally and completely made my whole day.

Cemetery Tours 3 is still definitely on its way, and so is the new series I’ve been talking about.  That’s what I want to do with my life.  I’m telling you, I want to be Meg Cabot who has like, a million different series.  I’m just interested in so many different things and types of stories.  I used to think that my addictive personality was something of a curse.  I love the ocean and I love Scotland and I love ghost stories and I love boy bands and I love fantasy and I love magic and I love forests and I love chick lit and I love folklore… I used to wonder what I was going to do with myself with so many different interests… Interests that really have absolutely nothing to do with one another.

I can’t believe it took me so long to figure out the answer was writing.

Cool Things

So, I’ve been so preoccupied with my trip to Lubbock and seeing my sister’s first professional production (it was AWESOME by the way) that I haven’t really been keeping y’all up to date with a lot of the really cool things that have been happening lately.

So first, a few pictures from the trip.  Lubbock wasn’t quite as awful to me this time around, but I did suffer some nasty hay fever and my friend totally burned the back of my hand with a fresh-out-of-the-oven baking sheet.  Thanks, Rachel.

Seeing my sister, though, was absolutely the best!

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We caught up on a lot of important issues, like final exams, The Hunger Games, and the new One Direction music video.

There were also several Christmas decorations around, which I loved.

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There was also tea and and an awesome Lubbock sunset.

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Then I hopped on a plane and flew home.  I had a great time, but now that it’s over, I’m so excited for Thanksgiving week, I can’t even tell you!

Okay, finally on to the other cool updates.

First of all, I got to meet one of the most iconic writers of our time and a fellow Texan, Anne Rice!

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My friend and fellow writer (soon-to-be published author) Savannah graciously accompanied me and we had a lot of fun browsing old books, enjoying White Rock Coffee, and of course, fangirling over writing.  We really lucked out too, because I didn’t realize we needed a ticket to meet Anne Rice.  A very kind and thoughtful man overheard our conversation, walked right up to us, and gave me an extra ticket!  What a cool guy!

Ms. Rice, in case you were wondering, was very polite and soft-spoken.  She signed my copies of The Vampire Chronicles and Prince Lestat, which I am very much looking forward to reading.  Then, I gave her a copy of Cemetery Tours.  I’m not sure if that was a gutsy move, or a very presumptuous one, but I wanted to give it to her A) because I admire her work and B) as a way of saying thank you.  I have no idea if she’ll read it or not, but she was very gracious.

The next cool thing to happen is I finally ordered a dragon from Donna’s Dragons!

This is Simon the NaNo Dragon.

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For those who don’t know, Donna is an independent artist who makes polymer clay dragon statues.  Ever since I stumbled across her on Facebook, I’ve been in love with her dragons!  You can find her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/DonnasDragons

Cool thing number three is that Cemetery Tours is featured in Pose Magazine’s December Issue as Book of the Month!  I am so humbled and honored and I want to send a huge thank you out to editor Tiffany Jones for including my book in this month’s issue!

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You can find the issue here: http://www.joomag.com/en/newsstand/pose-magazine-december-2014-pose-magazine/0457396001416541990

Another really, really cool thing is that I recently joined Ancestry.com.  I’ve always been curious about my ancestors and where I come from.  I have found a lot of Yankees, Sons of the American Revolution, Swiss people, and Scots.  It just so happens, however, that one of those Scots is Robert the Bruce.

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This is a picture of Robert the Bruce I took at Stirling Castle in Scotland a few years back. I had no idea at the time that he is, in fact, my 22nd Great Grandfather.

It turns out my dad is a direct descendent of Kings Robert I (the Bruce), II, and III of Scotland.  This is a really cool thing for me, not only because of how much I love Scotland (I love it a whole lot) and Robert the Bruce is remembered as being one of its greatest heroes, but because growing up, I wanted nothing more in life than to be a Princess.  Well, maybe I just have a minuscule fraction of Robert’s DNA swimming around in my veins, but you know what?  It still counts.  Childhood dream is officially a reality.

Finally, and perhaps this isn’t as cool as all of that, but after taking a few days off, I went back and reread my NaNoWriMo project.  Y’all, I really love it.  I love Cemetery Tours also and I’m still so excited and proud of it and the third one is definitely coming next year, but I am really enjoying this new book.  I can’t wait to finish it and get it out there.  Granted, I’m not sure the same crowd that liked Cemetery Tours will be as into this new one as I am, but that’s okay.  There are a lot of readers out there.  And I love you all.

Enjoy your weekend!  Mine is rainy and cold, but that’s okay, because I have warm pajamas and a kitty.

New Beginnings

This was a busy, busy weekend.  It actually started Friday afternoon when my mom and took my baby kitty Midnight to the vet for her check-up.  Midnight does not like the vet.  At all.  She’s very vocal about this.  Thankfully, after her check-up, the vet gave her a clean bill of health, except for her heart murmur for which she is being treated.  So yay! I have a healthy kitty!  And she even seems to have forgiven me for manhandling her and taking her to the doctor.

Saturday was a big day, not really for me personally, but for my church.  I’ve touched on my faith here in this blog on occasion, but since this is a blog intended mostly for updates on my work as an author, I don’t delve into personal topics very often.  My relationship with God falls under that category.

I’ve been a member of my church since before I was born.  My grandparents were founding members and my mom has been a member there all her life.  As it turns out, my mom is even BFFs with the Bishop of our Diocese (who also bought a copy of my book… Oh Lord…).  I could probably write a book just about growing up in that church, the people I’ve met, and the adventures I’ve had as a result.  However, the book would also include some less pleasant stuff, stuff that I really don’t want to go into for the sake of my church and the people it involved.  If they read this blog, I’m sure they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Hopefully, they don’t.  It was nothing illegal or taboo or anything.  But it was hurtful.  And it was wrong.

The incident that I’m talking about ignited a part of me that, honestly, I wish didn’t exist.  It’s the part of me that holds grudges and doesn’t forgive easily.  It also marked the beginning of a time when, honestly, I did not feel all that welcome in the church.  I still went, but the atmosphere there changed.  I no longer felt God’s presence.  It all seemed a show.  I’m glad I had my camp in the summers, because I felt closer to God there than I have anywhere else on Earth, except perhaps Scotland.

I could ramble on about this forever. The point is, our church went through a phase where I was not proud to be a member.  However, on Saturday, we welcomed our new Rector, and let me tell you, this guy is the real deal.  I don’t know him very well, but just from having heard him speak, I know he’s going to do good things for our church.  The energy he exudes and the energy he ignites in the congregation is extraordinary.  Once again, I’m feeling hope and excitement and joy inside our church.  I feel God’s presence there again.  I’m so thankful to have our new Rector and to see our church revitalized.  I think he’s going to do amazing things, and I hope he inspires our church to do amazing things as well.

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That night, I went and hung out with my dear friend and editor Kit Kat and her new boyfriend and some of his friends.  We played Cards Against Humanity (always a fun time) and then we built a campfire and sat around and drank hot chocolate.  It was lovely.

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And of course, all the while, I’ve been hard at work on my #NaNoWriMo project.  I’m still working on Cemetery Tours 3 also, which I think is going well.  My primary reader AKA my sister seems to be liking it, but she’s really liking the NaNo project.  I don’t know.  I might just have to publish it under my real name.  And why not?  I’m kind of proud of it.  It’s fun.  It’s SO different from Cemetery Tours but you know what? That’s not a bad thing.  I’m proud of both of them.  I think they’re both pretty awesome.  I should, I’m the author, but still!

I’m sure I’ll do a more in-depth update on NaNo later on this week.  For now, have a pleasant Monday!  And sound off in the comments section how your NaNo project is going!

Writing Writing Writing

Hi, friends!  Just a quick note here because as it turns out, #NaNoWriMo really keeps you busy!  I’m not only working on my NaNo project, I’m also keeping up with the new Cemetery Tours.  Needless to say, my fingers are quite tired from all the typing.  But it’s so much fun!  I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy National Novel Writing Month!  It really gets you to open your mind and explore new ideas.  I’ve even been asked, at the end of the month, to come speak to a writing group about it!  How fun!

That’s all I’ve really got to share for now.  Just a lot of writing!  I need to start reading more, also.  I have so many books that I’ve received from friends and indie authors that I want to read and review.  I wish there were more hours in the day!  I wish I didn’t need sleep!  And I really like sleep!

I also wish this dark rainy weather would go away.  I know we need the rain, and it finally feels like fall, but it makes me feel so sleepy and unproductive.  Blah!

Anyway, keep on and carry on, my fellow #NaNoWriMo authors!  5 days down!

Such an Amazing Weekend!

Oh wow… where do I start?

I’ve got to be honest, I might share more than one blog update today because I’m not sure that everything will fit in one post!

I guess I’ll start with Wednesday evening.  I had the distinct honor and privilege of meeting Kathleen Kent, NY Times best-selling author of The Heretic’s Daughter and The Outcasts.  She was such a friendly and lovely person, very personable.

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I also took her a copy of Cemetery Tours, which, I admit may have been a bit presumptuous of me, but she was so sweet and excited about it.

The next day, I was delighted to be a guest at the Melissa Book Club.  They were lovely ladies and I had such a wonderful time!  I love going to book clubs.  It’s so much fun meeting and connecting with people who love books as much as I do.

On Friday, I was finally, for the first time in my life, talked into signing up for NaNoWriMo.  Originally, I had been led to believe that people just write books during the month of November.  I honestly had no idea it was this entire website and community that you join!  How cool is that?!  Anyway, I signed up under a super secret pen name A) just in case it doesn’t work out and B) because the project I’ll be working on is YA and SO COMPLETELY different from Cemetery Tours and I want to keep my reputation as a spooky ghost story writer for at least a little while longer.  I’ve got to tell you though, I am SUPER STOKED to be participating this year.  I think it’s going to be a lot of fun!  I even designed my own cover for the book.

Saturday, was one of the most exciting days of my career thus far.  I was asked to give a short presentation on ghost stories at the Colony Public Library!

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I decided that no one wanted to listen to me talk at them, so I decided to engage the audience in a little Ghost Story Trivia!  I think everyone really enjoyed it.

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There was a bucket of fun prizes.

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And consolation prizes.

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This is me, looking dumb while talking.

I also had the honor of meeting and listening to a presentation on Ghost Towns by non-fiction author, Robin Cole-Jett.  Her photographs and experiences in these abandoned places are so fascinating that she’s inspired me to delve more into urban exploration.  You can find her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Red-River-Historian/195104580538409?ref=hl

Afterward, I went on an amazing history tour of the Colony, but I’ll tell you more about that in my next post.  I have a lot of pictures and one totally creepy story to share!

Before I get to that blog post, however, I wanted to share Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s AMAZING review of Between Worldshttp://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/2014/10/worlds-jacqueline-e-smith.html

I highly recommend Kimba for anyone looking for an honest, thorough, reliable, and all around awesome reviewer!  You can find her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/kimbathecaffeinatedbookreviewer

Seriously, folks.  She’s awesome.

Thank You All!

Well, my GoodReads Giveaway is officially closed and the winners have been selected!  I’d like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to Debra and Elaina and thanks, not only to them, but to all 1035 who entered!  I am so honored and humbled!  That is huge for me!  This giveaway was so successful, I’m thinking I might have to host another, perhaps around Christmas time.  You know, Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, Ghost of Cemetery Tours.  Perfect.

I know a lot of people ask the question, “What is your advice to aspiring authors?” and usually, my answer to that question is, “Don’t give up, don’t get discouraged, keep writing, keep trying.”  The truth is there are several answers to that question, but I think one of the most important answers, one that isn’t said enough, is “Appreciate your readers.  Let them know how much you respect them and how much they mean to you.”  After all, without readers, an author is just a person who happens to write books.  You can’t be an author without readers.  It’s that simple.  So thank you all, those of you who’ve not only read my books, but who’ve read any book, and I’m pretty sure that’s all of you.  Without you, we’d be nothing.

In other news, this week I am hard at work on my presentation for Saturday at the library, so I might not update as much.  Then again, I am a procrastinator at heart, so who knows?  I might be updating twice in the same day.  I have started on the PowerPoint and let me tell you, it looks AWESOME!  I can’t wait for Saturday.  It’s going to be so much fun!

Finally, before I head off for the day to work on whatever, I would like to share with you some pictures that I took at the State Fair on Sunday.  I love the Fair.  It’s an autumn tradition!  Please enjoy! And yes, I know they’re mostly butterflies. 1800370_10204152373183209_6172022537605151984_n 10358576_10204152391023655_6875129902640818005_n 68140_10204152392743698_2983443370607601280_n 10616188_10204152416224285_6970240175496926964_n 10435032_10204152427504567_3854728729772781408_n 10410717_10204152435504767_7071731802431461461_n

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The 2014 IndieVengeance Day Scrapbook

Over the weekend, I had the honor of participating in IndieVengeace Day. A group of Indie Authors from all over came together to read, sign, and share their books.  I had such a lovely time with this talented and amazing group of people, and I’d like to share some of the pictures with you today!

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Such a great and talented and hilarious group!

Day 1 of the event was held at a Cafe Brazil.  For the record, I highly recommend the grilled cheese.

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The room looked amazing.

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We even got our own place cards.

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I reconnected with some dear old friends.

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Me and the lovely and talented Tracy James Jones.

Some of us read stuff that we wrote.

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Scott Morgan.

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Ben Ditmars

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Amber Jerome-Norrgard

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Stacey Roberts

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Yours Truly

All in all, it was a great night.

The following day found us all in Allen, Texas at Savour Tasting Room and Social Club.

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There were balloons.  A lot of them.  Which is okay, because I really like balloons.

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It was a bit windy, so I had to tape down my name tag and even my flowers.

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But overall, the day went splendidly.

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Reading a ghost story and there are orbs in my picture… Hmm…

I’m so honored to have spent the weekend with these amazing, wonderful authors.  To find out more about them, please visit their personal websites!

Bed Ditmarshttps://benjaminditmars.wordpress.com

Julie Frayn: http://juliebird.ca

Tracy James Joneshttp://tracyjamesjones.wordpress.com

Jeanne McDonald: http://www.jeannemcdonald.com

Scott Morganhttp://www.write-hook.com

Amber Jerome-Norrgardhttp://amberjeromenorrgard.com

Stacey Robertshttp://www.trailertrashbook.com

Cinta Garcia de la Rosahttp://cintascorner.com

Melissa Zaroskihttp://melissazaroski.com

Susie Clevengerhttp://www.susieclevenger.com

Love you all!  Thank you for an amazing weekend!

Let the Good Times Roll!

This will be my last update before Monday, and it’s going to be a short one because I still have so much to do!

This weekend, I’ll be participating in IndieVengeance Day, which includes readings and book signings.  I think it’s going to be awesome.  If you’re in the Dallas area, you should definitely check it out! http://indievengeanceday.com

I have a lot of other stuff I’m working on also, but I’ll tell you about that later.

While I’m gone, keep in mind and spread the word that there are still a few days to enter my GoodReads Giveaway!  I’m giving away 2 signed copies of BOTH of my books in honor of Halloween and I want you to win!  Yes, YOU!

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/109579-between-worlds

Characterization Exploration

I’m in the middle of writing the first draft of the third installment of the Cemetery Tours series.  I’ve come to really love these characters.  I’ve been with them for a while now, and they feel like friends to me.  In the past few years, I’ve probably spent more time with them than with my living, breathing friends.

Characters have always been the absolute most important element of any story for me.  If I don’t like the characters, I’m not going to like the book.  It’s that simple.  I read one book last year (I will not mention it because I don’t want to trash another author’s work on my blog) with such horrible, selfish, whiny characters, I could hardly stand it.  None of the characters had any redeeming qualities whatsoever.  If I succeed at nothing else, I want my characters to be likable.  Well, except for the ones that you’re not supposed to like.  They’re actually a LOT of fun to write, but I digress.

As the first book in the series, Cemetery Tours served as sort of an introductory book.  We met the characters, learned their names, the basics.  Between Worlds delved more into developing relationships and adjustments after the events of the first book.

This third book, however, takes place five months after Between Worlds, and the characters have developed a lot since then.  They’ve had more time to get to know each other and I’ve had more time to get to know them as well.  Now, instead of watching them react to certain situations, I’m exploring what exactly makes them that way.

Of my three main characters, Michael, Kate, and Luke, Michael remains the most stubborn.  Kate and Luke are a lot alike in that they’re both happy characters.  They’re both easily amused and easily fascinated.  Michael is more reserved, which stems from a lifetime of trying to remain unnoticed by ghosts and spirits.  Since he met Kate and Luke, he’s become more outgoing, but those twenty-eight years of hiding within himself I think really took a toll, and I think he’s always going to be a little reserved, and that’s okay.  That’s why Kate likes him, and that’s why I like him.

Last night, I tried to imagine what Michael what be like, what he might have done, if he didn’t have the ghosts.  I realized I feel a little sorry for him, because being surrounded by the spirits and trying at all costs to avoid them and not draw attention to himself really inhibited him from developing a real sense of self.  Unlike Kate and Luke, who have real interests that they discovered by themselves, Michael’s entire character evolved from a desire to be something he’s not.  He didn’t have time for self discovery because he was too obsessed with self denial, if that makes any sense at all.  That’s why I’m glad he has Kate, Brink, and even Luke.  I think they really bring out the best in him.

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Friendly Reminder that you only have ONE WEEK LEFT to enter my GoodReads Giveaway! Win signed copies of BOTH Cemetery Tours and Between Worlds just in time for Halloween!

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/109579-between-worlds