Fiesta

After a rather busy weekend, it’s time to get back in the swing of things.  Okay, that’s kind of a lie.  Yesterday, I did nothing.  But the day before actually was busy.  Went to support a few friends at a book signing, then a girls’ night complete with wine and Mario Kart.  See, I actually do have a life!

One of the friends I went out to support, Paula Walker Baker, has a new book coming out at the end of the month!  I’m delighted to announce that I will be interviewing her here on my blog within the next week or so, so stay tuned!  In the mean time, stop by and check out her blog: https://paulawalkerbaker.wordpress.com

It’s funny.  I met Paula at my camp, the same place I met three of the most important people in my life.  I know I mention my camp a lot, but honestly, that place and those people changed my life.  And it was all because of one postcard in the mail.  One that my friend Terri, one of those people, sent!  Life is amazing.  It’s so weird to think how different my life would be without them.

Anyway, before I dissolve into a sentimental spiral of destiny and fate, let’s try to steer this blog post back to books.  Books!  Yes!  My favorite things!  Books are awesome!  That’s why I’m writing two at the same time!  That, or I’m just crazy!  It’s probably that second one.

In all seriousness though, if Sam Morneau accidentally turns up in the next Cemetery Tours book, I apologize.

Speaking of Sam and The Kind of September, please remember that my Become a Character Raffle and Giveaway is going on until the end of the month!  https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/becomeacharacter/

Finally, I’ve been promising and promising, well now I’m finally delivering!  Here’s the second Boy Band short story!  Again, it hasn’t been professionally edited because my editors are too busy with the next Cemetery Tours book.  Nevertheless, enjoy!

Fiesta

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New Stories, Old Friends

Now that my new YA book (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23966802-boy-band) 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.

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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!

My GISHWHES Experience

When my friend came to me asking if I would write a story for her friend for GISHWHES I had no idea what she was talking about.

For those who don’t know, GISHWHES is a scavenger hunt hosted by Supernatural star, Misha Collins. Technically, it is the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISWHES). This year, one of the items was to get a previously published sci-fi writer to write a story about Misha, the Elopus (half-octopus-half-elephant), and the Queen of England. The story could be no more than 140 words, which, ask any author, is a HUGE challenge. We are, by nature, wordy people. We love words. That’s why we’re writers. Being limited to 140 words goes against our natural instincts.

Still, I’m always up for a challenge. So when my friend came to me asking for this story for her friend, I thought, “Yeah, okay, sure. I don’t know what an Elopus is, but whatever…” Thankfully, she was there to walk me through this new world of GISHWHES.

I had so much fun with that first story that I decided to check the GISHWHES tag on Twitter to see what some of the other tasks were. As I browsed, I saw writers volunteering their talent to GISHWHES teams still seeking a story. I realized, “Hey… I could do that!”

Now, I’ve always sort of thought of myself as more of a paranormal writer than a sci-fi writer, but then I remembered that Ghost Hunters is totally a SyFy Channel show, ergo ghosts = Sci-Fi. There you go.

As of right now, I’ve written stories for 55 different GISHWHES teams. I’ve met some really awesome people and had a lot of fun with it, myself. I know there are authors out there who didn’t think they should be giving away free stories, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a great way to connect with people and it provides a challenge, not to mention it’s for a good cause. Not to mention, I’m a huge fangirl at heart. These are my people! I can’t let my people down!

To all the GISHWHES teams out there, I wish you all the best of luck! I’m so glad I got to participate this year. It was pretty neat to feel so in demand! If anyone else needs a story, I will try my best to fit you in, but I will be pretty busy for most of today. Regardless, like my page (https://www.facebook.com/CemeteryToursSeries) and send me a message there. I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to finishing what I’ve set out to do.

How it Started

Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking at my first book club meeting!  I’m really excited about it, but I also wasn’t really sure what to expect, so I emailed one of the ladies hosting the event.  She said not to worry and that she had told her friends to come prepared with questions.  She did, however, mention that her guests might be interested in what inspired Cemetery Tours and how it all started.

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I think I’ve said before that I’ve always been a fan of ghost stories and that I was a little nerd who had all those scary story books and watched the true haunting shows around Halloween and that’s why I eventually decided to write a ghost story of my own.  That’s true, but mere childhood fascination with the paranormal was not the only thing that inspired me to write Cemetery Tours.

I hadn’t even planned on writing a ghost story, to be honest with you.  I was more into the chick-lit genre and was in the middle of writing a college-cenetered story when I suffered a pretty unbearable loss.  I don’t really want to go into it, because it will make me sad, but it was very unexpected and it hit me harder than anything has before.  I began questioning everything.  Out of sheer desperation, I went to the library and checked out every book I could find on the afterlife.  Reading other people’s experiences brought me a lot of comfort.  Writing, as it turned out, brought me even more.

But loss wasn’t the only factor in creating Cemetery Tours.  If it had been, it’d be a much more depressing story.

My second source of inspiration came in the form of Criminal Minds.  I was at a friend’s apartment one night and it happened to be on TV.  That was when I first caught a glimpse of Matthew Gray Gubler.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again.  I’m a nerd.  I’m a fangirl.  And Spencer Reid as portrayed by Matthew Gray Gubler was the cutest guy I’d ever seen in my life.  I knew after one episode (incidentally, the one where Reid ends up in the hospital with Anthrax) that he was going to be my muse for… whoever my protagonist was going to be.  I didn’t know at the time.  I just knew I wanted a cute yet kind of awkward guy who didn’t want anyone to know that he could see ghosts.

I had several early drafts of the story that fizzled out before I finished.  Something seemed off.  I wasn’t connecting with my main character (whose named changed several times before I finally found Michael Sinclair) and I couldn’t find a way that connected him to his potential love interest in a way that wasn’t stupid or cliche.  All in all, I realized there was a key component missing in the story.

Cue Luke Rainer.

It wasn’t until I made the decision to bring in a hot shot paranormal superstar that everything finally seemed to fall into place.  Luke, in all his arrogant yet charming glory, turned out to be the key.

Interestingly enough, I first discovered one of my Luke Rainer inspirations, Ghost Adventures, the day after that devastating loss.

It was October 24, 2010, and I was so depressed that I did nothing that day except sit around and watch 16 and Pregnant.  Let me tell you, I hate reality TV shows, but that day, it was all I wanted to do.  After the last episode of the day, I began flipping through channels and noticed a show called Ghost Adventures on Travel Channel.  That was pretty much all it took.

Once I brought in Luke Rainer (who was originally a character in another story), all that remained was a name for his ghost-hunting team.  It didn’t take me very long to decide on Cemetery Tours.  In fact, I didn’t even come up with it.  It was a title that my dad had come up with years earlier on a road trip to San Antonio.  We stopped at a roadside Dairy Queen across the highway from a small town cemetery and my dad goes, “You know, you should write a story about a bunch of cemeteries around Texas and call it Cemetery Tours.”

Funnily enough, a lot of people think that Cemetery Tours is a book about cemeteries.  It does make sense.  But no, it’s definitely a fictional ghost story, one that I hope people of all ages can enjoy.

http://www.amazon.com/Cemetery-Tours-Jacqueline-Smith-ebook/dp/B00F7CHQ08/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402361581&sr=8-1&keywords=cemetery+tours

The Bee Story

Yesterday was very busy and today is going to be very busy, but I do not want to ignore my blog for two days straight.  I really don’t have very much to say, so I thought I’d tell a story instead.  It’s a short story, but it’s one that makes me laugh every time.  I was not there to experience it.  My friend told it to me.  

Basically, she knew this guy.  I don’t remember his name, so let’s just call him Doug.  Doug was having a terrible day, and he was telling everyone about his terrible day.  Just as he was listing off every terrible thing that had happened to him, “I failed this test and then I spilled my lunch and then my girlfriend broke up with me…” a bee flew up his shorts and stung him on the butt.  

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is, but I do feel very sorry for Doug, whoever he is.  I hope his life has vastly improved since that fateful bee sting.     

The end. 

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Writer’s Stories

Yesterday, I had lunch with a fellow writer friend and we started talking about what we do at the beginning of the writing process.  For me, it usually goes something like this:

1) Struck by inspiration.  For example, “I want to write a ghost story!”

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2) Characters and Muses. “Hmm… Jensen Ackles is super dreamy.  He’d make a good Luke Rainer.”

3. Pinterest Boards and Playlists.

Her methods are a little more in depth.  She’s begun writing stories about her characters on her blog, one for every year of their lives.  I think that’s really interesting, and something I might have to try.  I like the idea of little Michael reacting to ghosts, Brink in the years that he was alive, Kate and Gavin as bickering kid siblings, Luke as a young troublemaker obsessed with the paranormal.

She also shares her artwork and stories about herself as a kid.  Now, I’ve been trying to think of interesting stories from my childhood all day, but I guess I was a boring kid or something.  I know stuff had to have happened to me, but nothing that really warrants and entire post.  So perhaps instead of sharing stories, I can just share short little silly things.

For example, I’ve only broken one bone in my entire life, the middle phalanges on my wedding ring finger.  Technically, I didn’t break it.  My mom and I were passing around a football out in the backyard, she threw what she still calls to this day a “beautiful pass,” and SNAP!  It hit my finger, which I heard and felt crack.  My dad assured me it was only “jammed,” so I still went to my babysitting job where the little girl I was watching yelled, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR FINGER?” before pulling it as hard as she could.

Ouch.

So yeah, that’s my childhood story for the day.  I was in seventh grade and even though my finger was broken for the rest of the school year, my band director still made me sit with them at all of our concerts even though I couldn’t even hold my flute, let alone play it.  That was weird.  Also, no one played with me at P.E.  That was kind of sad.

If you’d like to check out my friend’s writings and artwork, you can visit her at her blog here: http://charliarmstrong.blogspot.com

One Last Story Before Bed

This whole #Plague business is actually reminding me of my second summer working as a Camp Counselor.  That year, during the last week of camp when we all had the really young kids (aka the kids that require the most attention and work).  All of our cabins were full.

Well, the very first day of camp that week, my cabin was enjoying one of my favorite activities; running barefoot through the sprinklers around the activity field and throwing a frisbee around.  Seriously, I love it.  It is so fun and carefree.

Anyway, right as we were turning the sprinklers off and lining up to go to lunch, I noticed that my nose was a little stuffy and I had an itch at the back of my throat.  Now, I have terrible allergies, so I really wouldn’t have thought anything of it had it not been for two of my coworkers (both from different cabins) report that they weren’t feeling well the day before.

By that night, I was sick as a dog.  I had lost my voice completely, which was a bummer since it was my coworker’s night off, which meant that I had to be the one to get the girls ready for bed by light’s out.  This particular group of girls also insisted on a bedtime story every night.  I don’t remember what I read them, but it was probably the most pitiful story they’d ever heard.

Actually, now that I think about it, I think it was The 12 Dancing Princesses.  But I digress.

By the next day, at least one counselor from each cabin had been stricken with what we officially dubbed “The All Saints Epidemic.”  (All Saints was the name of my camp).  The funny thing (and blessing, when you think about it) was that every sick person was from a different cabin, and none of our co-counselors got it (there were two counselors per cabin).  That was just about the only good thing about it, though.  Well that, and none of our campers got sick, which was a flat out miracle.

Our poor camp nurse was overrun with sick counselors.  She insisted that what we all really needed was to stay inside and stay in bed, but there was absolutely no way any of us could do that.  We had the most campers we’d had that summer AND they were all young, like kindergarten to third grade young.  So, instead of assigning us all to bed rest, she pumped us all full of Sudafed and Robitussin.  She was so dedicated that she even made personal deliveries throughout the day.

At the end of one day about halfway through the week, she ran out of Robitussin (that was supposed to last us the entire summer) and had to make a run into town to the nearest Wal-Mart (30 minutes away) to get us some more.  I actually got the very last of the old bottle and she told me not to even bother with the little cup and let me drain the bottle, just like a pirate throwing back a bottle of rum.

Along with taking care of all those kids, I also had waterfront duty that summer, so it was my job to be down at the lake, run the buddy board, ring the Everyone Out of the Water Bell, etc…  One day, though, I was so sick and medicated that I fell asleep right on the bench next to the bell.  I am a very self-conscious person.  I NEVER fall asleep in public, especially in the middle of the day.  Well, not unless I have jet lag, but that’s a different story.  But thanks to that dumb illness and the drugs I was out.  That was probably the lowest point in the illness for me.

Somehow, we all made it through the week, and I even got to partake in a mud fight.  I didn’t care how sick I was, I was not about to miss out on that!  However, the illness lasted at least a week after camp ended, making that almost a full two weeks.  I didn’t end up going to the doctor, because each day I thought, “Surely, I’ll feel better tomorrow.”  HA.  One of my co-workers (the one I suspect started it all) did, however, and she was diagnosed with a very bad case of bronchitis.  I’m guessing that’s what we all had, but to me, it will forever be known as The All Saints Epidemic.  And it was awful.