Texas Renaissance Festival

Alright, here we go!  Pictures from this past weekend at Texas Renaissance Festival.  The theme for the weekend was All Hallow’s Eve, so my friend and fellow author, James William Peercy, invited me down to sell a few ghost stories.  I am so grateful to him and his beautiful wife, Claudette for taking me under their wings.  They are just the most amazing, wonderful, selfless people you could ever hope to meet and James’ books, The Wall Outside series, are just so beautiful and magical.  If you enjoy fantasy, I highly recommend you check out his work.

http://jameswilliampeercy.com

Although I can do things all by myself, I always prefer not to.  Besides, weekend excursions to Renaissance festivals are always so much more fun with friends.  So I took my trusty house elves, Kat and Rachel (Rat) to help me out.

Before we reached the festival, we made a quick stop at this cool, old, haunted town called Anderson.

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After we arrived at the Festival (OMG it was so muddy), we unloaded all the books from the car and then set out to explore the grounds.  Naturally, we first found ourselves in the Enchanted Forest.

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The rest of the grounds were equally beautiful.

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And the arts and crafts were absolutely breathtaking.

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Oh, and there were books too.

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I also had to get my picture taken with my Great-Great-Great-Great several times over Grandfather, Robert the Bruce.

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But I think my favorite new friends that I made were Pip and Owlbus Dumbledore.

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How did you spend your Halloween?

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Crazy-Busy, Super-Fun Weekend

Hi, friends!  I am literally just arriving home from Houston and the Texas Renaissance Festival, but I wanted to at least post a quick update before I get in to editing pictures.

First of all, thank you to all who came out to the Festival and especially thank you to all who BOUGHT BOOKS!  I hope you enjoy them and I had such a blast meeting each and every one of you! I will be posting more about the festival and sharing pictures in the coming days, but I still wanted to just say what an amazing and magical time I had!  I loved every moment!

Secondly, I’m almost TWO DAYS behind on NaNoWriMo but I’ve been out of town and in a car most of today!  But I’m going to get on that!  It’s going to happen!

Finally, the BACKSTAGE GoodReads Giveaway is officially up and running!  Enter now for a chance to win signed copies of BOTH Boy Band and Backstage!

Giveaway!

Well, I need to be off to return the rent car.  Talk to y’all soon!

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/160390-backstage

Halloween Adventures

Well friends, this will be my last blog post until Tuesday at the earliest.  By then, Halloween will have come and gone and I will more than likely be in full blown Christmas mode.  I’m a Texas girl.  It happens.  Some stereotypes are true.

As for this weekend, two of my best friends and I will be road-tripping it (or kayaking, depending on how much it rains) down to Houston for the Texas Renaissance Festival.  A dear friend of mine, James William Peercy, participates in the festival every year (he writes fantasy: The Wall Outside series) and this weekend, the festival will be celebrating all things Halloween, the perfect opportunity to read a ghost story or two!

I have to admit, I’m quite excited.  I’ve been going to Ren Faires since high school, but I’ve never been a vendor, nor have I been to the big Houston one.  I’m used to the one that’s about three times smaller!  But I think it’s going to be amazing.  Of course, I still have a little bit of paperwork/a LOT of packing but I’ll get it all done.  The hardest part of any trip, of course, is leaving my sweet baby Midnight and my birdies, but my mom is going to take good care of them.  This will be my first Halloween away from my sweet black cat!  I don’t even want to think about it.

Anyway, since I won’t be back until Monday, that means that Cemetery Tours will be $2.99 on Kindle a bit longer than I said originally, so go get that book!  Make a Halloween dream come true.

I hope you all have the most haunted and spectacular of All Hallow’s Eves.  Until next time.

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A Very Haunted Weekend

Well friends, the Witching Hour is officially upon us!  All Hallows Eve is only days away!

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As I think most of you know, I’ve basically been celebrating Halloween for two straight months now.  This weekend, however, I got to kick things up a notch or two with my closest and dearest friends. It began with a Girls’ Night on Friday.

We drank some wine,

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Watched the single greatest Halloween movie of all time,

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And carved pumpkins!

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I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty proud of my Phoenix.

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Before the night ended, my friends told me that they had an idea.  I have to admit, they are pretty spectacular.  I think I’ll keep them around.

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The next night, I went with another of my best friends to Fort Worth for a Ghost Bus Tour.  Talk about a Halloween dream come true!

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There was also wine.  It was basically perfect.

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But absolutely nothing beats a visit to an old cabin village… Or possibly capturing a few unexplained light anomalies on camera.

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To top it all off, I may have stumbled across a website that allows you to Halloween-ify yourself.

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So yeah, that was my weekend.  How was yours?

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Octobering

The past few days have been filled with a lot of joy and a lot of preparation for one of my very favorite days of the year, Halloween!  The days to come will hold just as much if not more of the same.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The fun began Friday with another outdoor excursion into the woods.  The weather was so lovely, it almost felt like a real autumn as opposed to a Texas autumn.

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The next day, I joined my friend and fellow author Paula for Royse City’s annual Fun Fest, where we sold books and ate corn dogs and just had an old fashioned good time.  I even ended up running into some old friends!

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I also got to explore the city a bit.

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Yesterday was more low-key.  I lit a fall candle, curled up with a blanket, and read my very first RL Stine book.  I know, I know.  I’m a disgrace to my childhood and to my genre.  I love spooky things.  I don’t know how I went my entire kid life without reading one of his books.  But better late than never.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Books like his remind me of why I began writing in the first place.  Books are just pure exhilaration.  They’re limitless.  And I love them.

Speaking of which, if you’re a book blogger/reviewer and interested in receiving Review Copies of any of my books, please check out my new Review Copy Requests and Policies.

Later, Gators.

After Formatting, After Editing, After Death

Tomorrow is the day.  The next book in the Cemetery Tours series, After Death, will be available!  To share a little secret with you, the Kindle eBook was available last night, but then I was told that there’d been a technical error with the file and I had to take it down.

Cue every author’s nightmare.

Any other day, if you asked me if there was anything I didn’t love about what I do, the answer would be no.  But there are moments, like last night and half of today, when the self-doubt and unforeseen glitches start getting the better of me.  This is a fun business and I love it so much and I love my books and characters, but the act of publishing itself can be very stressful.  There’s already pressure on authors to write books that people want to read, but formatting and making them look professional and seeing to it that there are no (or as few as possible) typos or uneven lines etc, etc…  It can be overwhelming.

I want to be an author.  I want to write stories for the rest of my life and I want readers to enjoy those stories.  I think that no matter what we pursue, there will always be a bit of stress, a bit of fear, especially if we really want everything to work out.  And hopefully, it’s worth the risk.  Risks have to be taken in life.  Otherwise, we’d never evolve.  I hope that I’m taking the right ones.  I like to think that I am.

That being said, I really hope that you all like After Death and that all of the issues have been taken care of.  I know no matter what that I’m going to keep writing.  I have to keep writing.  I truly believe than any author who puts their work out there, especially those of us who are independent, really don’t have a choice but to keep writing.  Let’s face it, I could be making a heck of a lot more money doing a heck of a lot less work.  But I love my books and I love my characters and most of all, I love my readers.  I hope this new book is everything you deserve and more.

On a totally unrelated note, here are some really pretty autumn pictures from my trip to the Arboretum last Friday.

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I also took pictures of my books.

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Living in Dreams

On Saturday night, my sister and I attended one of the best concerts we will ever see.  Ed Sheeran came to Texas and we had floor tickets.  I’ve never had floor tickets before in my life, so I had no idea what to expect.

After spending more than seven hours on my feet in the stifling early September heat, I can tell you that I have mixed feelings on the whole floor crowd thing.

For one thing, like I said, it’s super hot.  Plus all the sweaty people literally surrounding you, running into you, and smelling like farm animals makes it like a million times worse.  I’m not sure if people in Texas smell like farm animals because… well… it’s TEXAS, but I swear, I smelled sheep and dogs and horses at that concert.  And pot.  There was definitely pot.

For another thing, people on the floor like to shove.  Everyone is vying for a better view.  I mean, I was too.  It’s very constrictive and if you have any sort of social anxiety or anxiety in general, I don’t recommend floor tickets.  There was also a lot of fainting due to heat and so many people.

Speaking from a perspective standpoint, however, floor tickets are AMAZING.  It was like being a part of the show itself.

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For those of you who’ve been to concerts, you’ll know that headliners often have opening acts.  Ed’s opening acts were a British guy whose name I didn’t catch but was very talented and… Christina Perri!

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Christina is a delight.  She is a great musical talent with a phenomenal voice and beautiful songs.  In between songs, she told us about her life spent singing songs and dreaming of performing and making music.  She spoke of the nay-sayers and the self-doubt and moments of feeling like she simply had nothing to write, nothing to sing about.  And yet, she fought through.

“You are living in my dream right now!” she exclaimed before diving into her hit song, Human.

Naturally, she ended her set with my absolute favorite of her songs: A Thousand Years.  And of course, as she sang and we all sang along, I couldn’t help but think of Twilight.  I know, I know, Twilight is lame, but hear me out.  When the books first came out, my sister and I read them all.  And I’ve got to be honest, I thought they were fun.  I thought they were kind of magical.  They were a great escape.

But you know, what I love about Twilight isn’t really the story or the characters.  It’s that it’s brought a lot of readers all over the world a lot of joy.  It isn’t a story that really makes you think or a great literary masterpiece by any means.  But it is a story that millions of readers all over the world love, and it inspired a beautiful, amazing, wonderful song.  I realized there, living inside Christina Perri’s dream, that that song inspired my dreams as well.  I would love to write the kind of stories that make readers happy, that connect and resonate with them.  I’ll never be a literary genius and my books are really just for fun.  They’re not very deep or profound.  They’re just fun.  I want my books to bring that same kind of joy.

Ed gave a similar performance of his song, I See Fire.  This is a song that has made me cry at least half a dozen times.  If Twilight is just a fun little escape, Middle Earth is a world that truly holds a special place in my heart.  It all began in middle school.  My friends and I were in love with the places and characters of Middle Earth.  Seeing it brought to life once again through The Hobbit movies was, in a way, like returning home.  Hearing Ed Sheeran sing his hit song live, however, with images of Smaug the Dragon flying and breathing fire in the background was nothing short of pure magic.  Music is powerful.  Books and stories are powerful.  They exist to transform and inspire.  They are proof that magic does exist.  That the human soul is something truly exquisite.  We are capable of creating these worlds and this music and… I just don’t even have words to describe how wonderful I think that is.

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I love you all.  Thank you for books.  Thank you for music.  Thank you for reading.

Feeling Accomplished

As y’all may or may not know, I’m a big fan of day-planners and to-do lists.  This week, my to-do list was jammed packed of so many things that I needed to get done.  Including but not limited to: Adopt parakeets, go to the bank, mail books, take kitty to vet, finish short story, pick the new Cemetery Tours cover designs, and go grocery shopping.

I am proud to say that I managed to check off most items on my list this week!  Some items will never fully be complete, such as: keep reading, clean out stuff that I don’t use/need anymore, become better at marketing, etc…  But as for the urgent stuff, the stuff that I needed to get done this week, well, I’m feeling fairly accomplished.

After two months of thinking to myself, “I’m never going to think of a story that can fit into 3000 words in time to enter it into this contest…”  And yet, last week, inspiration struck.  Last night, I submitted  my short story, 2300 words, to the Texas Authors Short Story Contest.  I have no idea of the story is anywhere near good enough, mostly because I’m such a novelist.  I’m not all that great at short stories.  I’m too wordy and I love character development more than just about anything.  I’m really happy with my story though.  I’m not sure it will win anything or if it will even make it into the Texas Shorts anthology, but if it does, awesome and if not, I’ll share the story here on my blog!

Speaking of short stories, I’m going to try to get the next Boy Band story out next week so stay tuned. 😉

I also found out yesterday that the North Texas Book Festival is going to be participating in North Texas Giving Day in Denton.  I got to attend my first Festival this past April (https://jackiesmith114.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/north-texas-book-festival/) and I loved it so much!  It was one of my very favorite events to date.  So on September 17, I volunteered to help represent them, talk about the festival, and try to get donations to support literacy and libraries in North Texas!  I’m so excited!  Then the next days, September 18 and 19 are Indievengeance Day and then the next weekend, I have TWO events with the Colony Library!  September and October are both going to be CRAZY busy but it will be awesome!  I can’t wait!

As for After Death, I’m going to get working on adding it to GoodReads, but mostly, I need to focus on getting it all revised and ready for publication in October!  That and I need to start really getting ready for the next Boy Band book as well!

Okay, so I will always have a heck of a lot of stuff that I need to get done.  But you know what?  I’m okay with that.

Happy Friday, y’all!

CT BTW AD

Life in Slow Motion: A Guest Post by Katherine Smith

This past Friday, July 17, was the eight-year anniversary of my sister’s spinal implant surgery.  In 2007, she underwent an operation to fix her very advanced, very aggressive case of scoliosis.  Although she’ll never admit it, I actually think she’s a better writer than I am.  That’s why I asked her if she wanted to write a guest post for my blog about her experience and everything she learned from it. 

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People always say that life moves too fast. I remember when I first started high school, my mom stated that the years would fly and, before I knew it, I would be a senior. I remember going on trips, and having people tell me to soak it all in and to make each experience fit into a pocket in the back of my mind. I remember running around in my backyard, the Texas humidity making my hair cling to my face as I ran after fireflies with my palms open to the night sky. These are the fleeting, beautiful, moments in life that we try and run after, hands always reaching for the heavens.

I remember all of this, and yet the day that still sticks out most in my mind was a day in April of 2007.  This seemingly harmless day started a phase in my life that I was not ever warned about. No one took my hands and sat me down, looking dead into my eyes as truths of the world spilled out. There was no warning sign for this day, or a lecture or a phrase that could comfort and ease my heart.

This was the day when my life in slow motion began.

Life in slow motion is a difficult, and indefinable, thing for some people. It is a span of days, or weeks, or months, that seem to be headed in a direction that has no clear destination. It can be a time of waiting – of being stagnant and wanting something wonderful in life to happen. It can be a time of heartbreak – of healing and hope that can be found around a corner that you just haven’t gotten around.

Or, in my case, it can be a time of fear.

After going shopping with my family, my mom had noticed that there was a slight hunch to my back. I remember looking in the dressing room mirror at Macy’s, and realizing that one of my shoulders rose closer to my ear than the other, and how my hips didn’t sit right above my legs. I felt that fear creep into my chest, and for a brief moment I was plagued by a collection of thoughts and worries: What if I was injured? What if I looked like this the rest of my life? What if it got worse? What was wrong with me?

I had been checked for scoliosis before, but after a recommendation from my pediatrician to get x-rays, it became clear that this condition was not something I was going to put in the back of my mind. In fact, it made a home in all of my thoughts, and throughout my entire body. During gym class at school I found myself getting progressively more and more out of breath, and I found myself on more than one occasion with my head against the wall, trying to control the air going out of my lungs as my friends ran past me with ease. Standing for long periods of time became a nightmare, and when I would walk to band class with my French horn case, I felt the weight of my world shooting all up and down my back. This was no way of living; amongst all of the worries that ran through my head, this was the only fact.

On a day in April, I went to Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and was officially diagnosed with an aggressive case of scoliosis. The only “cure” for this condition was not exercises, or even a brace, but spinal implant surgery. My curvature, which was around 79 degrees, would only be getting worse as time went on and I grew. My doctor looked me in the eyes and told me that if I did not have this surgery, it could take up to twenty years off of my life.

Scoliosis is perhaps one of the most common conditions that people have, specifically in young girls who are developing and going through puberty. Some cases of scoliosis relate to other medical problems or birth conditions, while others (like mine) are idiopathic. In layman’s terms, that meant that the doctors had no idea why my body decided to grow like that – it just did. As a twelve-year-old girl, I found that diagnosis to be extremely frustrating; I already had the self image issues that many young people suffer from, but to have it confirmed by doctors on that day? The fact that my body was deforming “just because” was proof that the universe was conspiring against me.

The whole summer (during which my life was in that same slow motion) seemed to drag, and I found going to sleep each night became more and more difficult as the date of my surgery in July seventeenth inched closer and closer. I’ll never forget the night before my surgery, I had an anxiety attack so horribly in the shower that I gave myself a nosebleed. I had to be medicated that night because of my own fear.

I’ll leave out all of the details of my surgery (mostly because I’m afraid I might make some scientific inaccuracy), but it was, by the doctor’s standard, a success. I was in the hospital for around a week, and then I had around a month long recovery period at home. I needed help anywhere around my house if I wanted to sit down, lay down, or stand up, and walking was a task in itself. As a twelve year old girl longing for the independence that comes with almost being a teenager, having to rely on everyone humiliated me.

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I wish I could say I learned to appreciate my surgery experience during my actual operation and recovery, but nope. There were nights I would be so frustrated because I couldn’t move, and the pain in my back was so strong it kept me awake. Sometimes I would be completely envious of all of my friends who were enjoying their summer, and were able to swim and ride their bike with ease. What made it even worse was my own anger with myself, and how I felt fearful still of the healing process. Even though my body was healing and regaining strength, I wanted it to speed up. I was afraid I would never feel like my “old self” again.

But who was my “old self”? I’ll tell you who she was. Someone who was ashamed of her body and who was constantly in pain. Someone who lived her days in fear, and who thought she would never be better, or beautiful, or healthy. Definitely someone who never thought she would undergo a surgery and come out victorious. But, in the end, I had to thank my “old self” for all that she had done for me. I can look back on all of my “old selves” that have been angry and fearful and ugly and beautiful and happy because they have taught me who to be the person that is typing this right now. I can look back and see a difference in myself, and to learn from that.

I am reminded of the words of the Serenity Prayer by scholar Reinhold Niebuhr, which is a prayer I hold near and dear to my heart:  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

What does it mean to truly know the difference though? By looking back on my surgery, I think it’s in knowing that you have to be somewhere before you can get somewhere else. Whether you are in a slow motion life, or a fast moving life, you will always wind up a different person – full of wisdom, and a story. The scars and heartbreak and lessons that we carry and bear are the inspirations for another day, and we should accept these gifts as wonderful paradoxes:

It’s okay to have times when we are weak, because in the end we learn to be strong.

It’s okay to not have all the answers, because from the unknown comes questions, and imagination, and adventure.

It’s okay to be absolutely terrified, because then we learn how to believe in hope.

And I truly hope that I, and you, whoever is reading this, will continue to not only know the difference – but to be it.

A Few Photos

So, I had a long-winded post planned out about the new Princess Diaries movie and why Michael Moscovitz needs to return and sweep Mia off her feet and marry her because he is her one true love and Chris Pine, while very, very hot, is simply not in the books.  Anyone who’s read the books knows that Mia belongs with the dreamy, intelligent, witty, medical entrepreneur that is Michael Moscovitz.  Mia and anyone else, even someone as aesthetically pleasing as Chris Pine, is just wrong.

But I’m feeling a bit lazy on a Friday night, so instead I’ll leave my argument at that and instead, share some new pictures I took yesterday at a nature reserve.

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I also found a baby grasshopper and spider in my sunflower garden.

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