Spring Has Sprung

Hello, friends.  I’m sorry I haven’t been updating as much as I should.  Life, as usual, is quite busy.  My sister is home for spring break so I’ve been spending as much time with her as I can.  We went to see the stage production of The Little Mermaid on Sunday and once again, I cried my eyes out because Ariel is my childhood hero.  Then yesterday, we spent the morning at the Arboretum.

It was a beautiful day and the best way to welcome spring.

As for book updates, I’m having so much fun writing the third book in the Boy Band series.  I think it’s going to be my favorite.  I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

I’m also helping my cousin (whom I only recently connected with on Facebook) publish her book of poetry/memoir.

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The photo on the cover is hers as well.  It’s been a new experience.  This is the first time I will have published a book that is not my own.  I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to publish it so that the royalties go directly to her.  I think I’ve finally got it all sorted, but it’s been a challenge.

Of course, I’m hoping to one day get to the point where I publish a LOT of books, not just my own and my family members, and I’ve had some requests.  The thing is, I can’t work for free.  With Margaret, it’s different since she’s family.  Even still, I don’t want to be a pay-to-publish company, or a vanity press, if you will.  I want my authors to get paid.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the sort of money that would allow me to make an offer or a payment up front.  I think the best way to do it would be to publish and keep 25% of the royalties while the other 75% go to the author.  But that’s not going to happen for a while.  I’m still trying to make a name for myself as an author.  That’s my ultimate dream.

On the other hand, I am very seriously considering offering my services as a cover designer.  I have thousands of images that would work for book covers (NOT stock images) and it’s something I really and truly enjoy.

What do y’all think?

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Learning to Write

Tonight, I’ll be attending a NaNoWriMo kick starter event at a local library.  A friend of mine is presenting and the event is open to anyone who is thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo, as well as those who have participated in the past.  As y’all know, Boy Band started out as a NaNoWriMo project and has received such positive feedback that I’m planning on releasing the sequel in just a few short months.  It goes without saying that I am a big supporter of NaNoWriMo.

But you know, all this talk about writing seminars reminds has started taking me back to my own days in college, when I was just figuring out that I wanted to write.  Really write.  I remember Meg Cabot (one of my writing idols) advising young aspiring authors NOT to take any writing classes.  She claimed that studying something would instantly kill any and all love you once held for it.  To an extent, I found this to be true.

I took a few writing classes throughout my six years of higher education.  Some of which I enjoyed.  Some of which I hated so much I had to block them out.

I won’t waste too much time talking about the classes I didn’t enjoy.  One of them was screenplay writing. I think I would have really enjoyed it had it not been for my instructor.  He was a bitter, failed novelist and he made it no secret that he did not give two flying flips what we learned in that class, if anything.  The other was a short story class.  My final story was nothing exceptional, although I can’t help but remember it was about ghosts and demons and things that went bump in the night.  It seems I’ve always harbored that dark fascination.

The writing class that I really, truly enjoyed was a poetry class, which is funny, because I am a truly terrible poet.  That’s probably why I enjoyed the class, though.  Because I was learning something new.  I’ve written a grand total of three poems that I’m actually proud of.  Two of which are here.  The third is about killing a cockroach in New Braunfels.

Perhaps my favorite class of all, however, was children’s literature.  Even though it technically wasn’t a writing class, we all had to come up with our own final project to present at the end of the semester.  I decided to write and illustrate my own children’s book.  I’m actually quite tempted to upload it and share it with you here.  I’m pretty proud of it, even though the illustrations and the book itself leave much to be desired.  Still, I’ll never forget standing up in front of the class to show off the book.  My classmates were bewildered that I’d gone with writing a children’s book over writing a paper. One girl actually asked me, “Why would you do that?!” I guess to them, writing a paper was a lot less work, and it probably was.  But to me, writing a book was a lot more fun.  And it still is.

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IndieVengeance Day 2015

Hi, friends!  This weekend, along with spending a small fortune at the movie theater, I also participated in the third annual IndieVengeance Day, celebrating Indie Authors from all over the world.  I thought I’d share a few pictures from the event!

Warning: Most of them are just my books looking pretty.

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The new book covers were there too.

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Pretty snazzy.

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It was fun this year, crew!  Until next time!

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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!

Music and Poetry

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this on my blog before, but long before I realized I wanted to be a writer, I was something of a musician.  I played piano, flute, piccolo, and sang in just about every choir I could from fifth grade all the way up through Graduate school.  I took so many music classes and put in so many hours of choir and musical theater that I actually earned a minor in music, something for which I did not set out, but hey, I’ll take it!

Sad to say, I really haven’t been all that involved in music since I graduated.  Most of my time has been dedicated entirely to writing and getting my book out there.  I don’t regret it, because that’s what I love, and I want to write for the rest of my life.  Still, performing in musicals and Broadway reviews was a lot of fun.

We even got to perform with the King’s Singers.

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That’s me with the black dress and the stupid face.

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As a cheerleader in Selections from Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

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As Bird Lady in Sideshow. For the record, I really hated that costume. They had promised me sexy and elegant. That dumb outfit is neither.

However, I do occasionally still play with a friend of mine.  She’s a harpist and we play a lot of harp and flute duets.  She’s also actually one of my sister’s professors at college.  She’s studying for her doctorate and hopes to one day run her own harp department at a University.

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If you ever need a harpist, by the way, you can find her at http://harpbyrachel.com.  And yes, I took that picture.

Anyway, we’ve recently been revisiting the Christmas music we used to play together in church, so I decided to dig out my old flute and play.

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I’ll be the first to admit I’m still a little rusty.  After all, I haven’t really played since college, and even then, I didn’t play regularly.  Just for a Broadway review here and there.

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Not a great picture, but the only one I have!

It’s weird how many things we let ourselves forget.  Music, my flute, these shows, they were all such a huge part of my life at one point.  Now, they’re barely memories.  Maybe I can start to bring some of them back.  They’re good memories, and they’re worth treasuring.

As I was exploring the Black Hole of Useless Stuff that is my closet, however, I came across a few other gems; poems and papers from old classes.  I’ve always been jealous of my friends and fellow authors who can write poetry, because they truly have a gift.  One of my favorite poets is a friend of mine.  Her name is Susie Clevenger and her poetry is just so beautiful and thoughtful and real.  I am truly envious of her.  If you enjoy poetry, you should definitely check out her collection, Dirt Road Dreams.  http://www.amazon.com/Dirt-Road-Dreams-Susie-Clevenger/dp/0988186209/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397678369&sr=8-1&keywords=dirt+road+dreams

I, as I believe I have mentioned before, am a terrible poet.  I’ve tried.  Believe me, I’ve tried for years to write a decent poem, and yet the only one I’ve ever truly liked is the one I wrote about a cockroach that my friends and I slaughtered on a camping trip (You can read that one here: https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/a-funny-story-and-a-poem/).

After rereading a few poems I wrote in college, I’ve reached the conclusion that I thought I could just string choppy sentences together and call it poetry.  One poem I found makes absolutely no sense at all.  It’s called My New Name.

My New Name

Music in my ears used to travel to my toes.
Whenever I’d walk to class, my feet would march in rhythm
To the song of my choosing.
Alas, my iPod’s batteries have failed me.

The vending machines are unappealing.
A bottle of water costs seventy five cents.
Water should be free.

“That’s a capital Omega! You can’t use capital letters!”
A professor scolds his perplexed class.
The smell of dry erase markers
resurrects repressed memories of math classes past.
That’s right, sinners.
You have to do calculus.

I want to get away from that room.
Specks of dust dance in the sunbeams
That pour in through the glass.

Outside, the festivities are about to begin.
I see my friends.
They don’t see me.
Through a tornado of color, music, and laughter,
I think I’ll change my name.

Seriously, though, what the heck was that?  It’s the weirdest poem ever.

Before I end this note, there is one other poem that’s actually sort of worth sharing.  It’s a poem I wrote for a class about how terrible I am at poetry.  Enjoy.

I cannot write poetry
The process is a mystery
Rhythms, rhymes, alliterations
All are lost on me.

I cannot write the words you’d like
Of scarlet sunsets, velvet night
Or the larks sweet serenade
As darkness turns to light.

I cannot write the melody
Of diamonds on piano keys
No use for painted harpsichords
Or gold viola strings.

So you see it’s for the best
I lay my poetry to rest
Poetry’s just not my thing
As surely you’ll attest.

So yeah, out of all the classes I took and all the hours I slaved trying to learn how to write a good poem, I only have one I’m proud of and two that are weird enough that I just had to post them on my blog.  And on that note, I hope everyone has a pleasant day!  Take time to remember the things you used to love, and not just the things you love now.  You might be inspired.

 

Poetic Reviews

To kick off my great indie reading and reviewing adventure, I decided to begin with three poetry books.  Now I have taken several English literature and literary analysis classes, but I have only ever taken one poetry class.  I haven’t read all that much poetry outside of the works of Shakespeare (love!), and I’m certainly not a gifted poet myself.  Unless you count that poem I wrote about Sir Cuddly B. Cockroach, because that was awesome.  

These are the reviews that I wrote for GoodReads.  

Night Poems by Ben Ditmars:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13421449-night-poems  

When it comes to reading as well as writing, I’ve always been more of a prose girl. I’m not a poet, nor have I studied poetry, so I’m always looking for a connection or a story to go along with the poems, and in Night Poems by Ben Ditmars, I found one. As I read, I imagined a young man, sitting all night in an arm chair by a fire, watching the night evolve, the moon rise, and thinking about everything; life, love, the girl he might be in love with who might be in love with him back, or perhaps who may have slipped away, and the complexity of what it means to be human. Mr. Ditmars effectively transforms his nocturnal musings into vivid images and beautiful words. Highly recommended for poetry novices as well as enthusiasts!

Dirt Road Dreams by Susie Clevenger: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13421449-night-poems

I loved so many things about this collection of poetry, but I think what I loved the most was how personal and relatable Ms. Clevenger is with her writing style. She bares her soul in this collection of well-written, heartfelt poetry that explores love, loss, joy, sadness, and most of all, dreams. All who’ve experienced these kind of “dirt road dreams,” the dreams that others say are impossible or silly, will find a kindred spirit in Ms. Clevenger. My favorite line in all her poetry came from Be Warned: “What fool would believe night has neutrality?”

From a Season of Sleep by Sreya Bremtin: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18366887-from-a-season-of-sleep 

The two words that come to mind as I read this collection of poetry were “artistic” and “romantic.” Sreya Bremtin is a romantic and passionate poet with a flare for description. She uses words and imagery to create scenes of love, lust, and longing in the appropriately named From a Season of Sleep. She writes from the perspective of one who has been awaked by passion, and it leaves readers yearning for more.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll begin with Sandcastle by Justin Bog and Confronting the Demon by Ciara Ballintyne.  That is, if I’m not at a Bon Jovi concert!  *Fingers Crossed*  

Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, Darlin’ you give lo-o-ove a bad name!  

 

A Funny Story and A Poem

I realize that my last few posts have not been all that interesting.  So as far as my book is concerned, all I will say is that I finished revising and it ended up being 78,626 words.  Woo-hoo.

Okay, so here’s the story.  Yes, it is a true story.  I hope it’s as funny in writing as it was in person.

Once upon a time, a group of friends and I decided to take a trip down to Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels.  Instead of staying in a hotel, one of the guys’ parents arranged for us to stay at a campsite in these really nice little cabins, complete with refrigerators, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing (and yes, that is my definition of “roughing it”).  We spent two nights in the cabins.  The first night, all of us girls stayed up talking all night, much to the chagrin of my friend, Brittany.  We all got about two hours of sleep that night, but we were so excited to go to Schlitterbahn that we didn’t care.  It ended up being a fantastic day, full of tubing, sliding, and surfing the wave pool, and by the time we returned to the cabins, we were all chlorinated, sunburned, and exhausted.  I was so tired that I didn’t even care that a grasshopper hopped onto my leg while I was out taking pictures of the campsite.

After we were settled in the cabins for the evening, I hopped in the shower.  Now, the bathroom was designed so that the wall that separated it from the main cabin didn’t reach the ceiling.  That meant that you could hear everything that your cabin mates said and/or did while you were in the shower.  It also meant that your cabin mates could throw things like red gummy worms over the top of the wall and into the shower with you.

I was in the middle of rinsing out my hair when all of a sudden, one of the girls screamed.  It wasn’t an ordinary scream.  It was a scream of pure terror; of someone who had just looked into the deepest circle of hell and seen all of their most vivid and traumatizing nightmares staring back at them.  I knew immediately what that scream meant.

There was a cockroach in the cabin.

I, like every rational human being, am terrified of cockroaches.  I was even more terrified of them then, back before I trained myself how to slaughter them from a distance.  I immediately began formulating an escape strategy.  How was I going to get from the bathroom to the metaphoric safety of my bunk bed if I had to cross a room with a rampaging cockroach on the loose?

Before I could come up with a plan, my friend, Kara, screeched, “OH MY GOD IT’S FLYING!”    That was it.  I had to get out of there.  Some may argue that I was foolish to leave the refuge shower, but keep in mind that the roach had wings, and the wall to the restroom was open.  I would have rather been in the cabin and able to see the beast with my own eyes than to have him surprise me in a dark and enclosed space.  I leapt out of the shower, threw on my pajamas, and bolted for the main cabin, where all of my friends were curled up on their beds.  I scampered up to the top bunk with Kara and Brittany.

“Where is it?” I breathed, feeling like a soldier hiding in a ditch from an enemy that was about to open fire.

“I don’t know.  We lost it,” Brittany explained, sounding tired and slightly irritated.

Knowing that none of us would be able to relax, or get down from the bed for that matter, we called one of the guys we were with to come over and kill it for us.  As he searched through the mess of food that was stacked up against the wall, we watched on, admiring him for his chivalry.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t find it, so after wishing us good luck, he headed back to his own cabin.

The five of us sort of looked around at each other, wondering what to do next.  Poor Kara was about to have a panic attack.  Roaches are her Kryptonite.  She hates them more than anyone I’ve ever met.  Meanwhile, Brittany could barely keep her eyes open.  I was right there with her.  I desperately wanted to sleep, but that wasn’t going to happen as long as the roach was running free.  realized then that my desire for sleep outweighed my crippling fear of that stupid bug.  Summoning up every ounce of courage that I possessed, I hopped off the bunk bed, grabbed a broom, and began poking around the room for the roach.

No luck.

“I’m telling you, it’s waiting for me,” Kara said.  “As soon as I go over there, it’s going to come out and kill me.”

I didn’t doubt it.  I wholeheartedly believe that roaches can smell fear and that they attack those that smell weak or vulnerable.

“Maybe if we name it, we won’t be as scared of it,” I said.  Naming things usually creates some sense of endearment.

“Demon From Hell.  How about that?” Kara seethed.

“How about… Cuddly?” Our friend, Kaitie, suggested.  So our little friend became Cuddly the Cockroach.

It turns out that naming things you find disgusting and horrifying does not make them any less so.  We were all still just as terrified by the idea of Cuddly crawling on us as we were when he was just another nasty roach.

After we named him, Kaitie hopped down off her bed and helped me search for Cuddly.  Still no luck.

Then, taking a deep breath, Kara announced, “Okay.  I’m going to help.  You watch.  As soon as I get down there, it’s gonna come out.”

Sure enough, less than two minutes later, “OH I KNEW I’D BE THE ONE TO FIND YOU, YOU LITTLE S**T!  OH YOU LITTLE S**T!”

I turned just in time to see her grab a dustpan off the wall and bring it down on that poor roach with what I can only call all the wrath of Heaven and Hell combined.  Over and over, she whacked the life out of Cuddly the Cockroach, with every separate blow accompanied by some sort of expletive, some of which I’m not even sure were actual words.

“Kara, Kara, it’s okay!  It’s dead!” someone assured her.

“NOT.  DEAD.  ENOUGH.”  Whack!  Whack!  Whack!  “IT NEEDS TO BE IMPALED AND DISEMBOWELED AND BURNED!”

After Cuddly was finally dead enough, we swept his poor, flattened carcass out onto our front porch as warning to all other bugs who might have considered dropping in unexpectedly.

A few years later, I was in a poetry class and our assignment was to write a ballad.  Now, I have mentioned before that I am pretty much the worst poet ever, but this is the one poem that I’m actually proud to share.  As you may have guessed, it was inspired by our poor, dearly departed Cuddly.

The Ballad of Sir Cuddly B. Cockroach
An original poem by Jacqueline E. Smith

Life in New Braunfels suited one
Sir Cuddly Cockroach fine.
Fresh country air, tall fields of grass
And campsites full of grime.

He lived life as a happy bug,
Full of stress-free, sunshine days.
By moonlit nights he searched for food
Through cabins’ muddled maze.

Then one day in Cuddly’s realm
Arrived five human girls.
Two were tall, two were short,
One wore a head of curls.

Now these girls seemed nice enough,
No motives to attack.
Cuddly stepped out to say hello,
A scream, a swear, a WHACK!

Sir Cuddly’s blood was shed that night.
Just what was his offense?
Being born a lowly little roach,
Devoid of common sense.

Poor departed Cuddly B.
The life he loved so well
Was ended by the vicious girls
Who bid him, “Rot in hell!”