Making it Through

Yesterday was a bit of a rough day.  I won’t go into details.  All I will say is that I’m glad it’s over and I’m hoping that everything will work out for the best.

Today is already turning out to be a better day.  The weather is finally feeling cool and crisp, One Direction released a new song (YAY!), and I’m really beginning to feel like the holidays are on their way.  I’m so ready.  I’m ready for Christmas lights and hot chocolate and Christmas sweaters and the smell of fresh balsam and firewood.

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I’m ready for my family and friends to get together for Thanksgiving and Yuletide festivities.

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I’m ready for parades and good food and drink and laughter.

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I’m ready for Christmas music and snowflakes and winter’s chill.

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I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.  Trust me, I’m excited for Thanksgiving as well.  It brings just as much warmth and joy and laughter with it as its December counterpart.  But after yesterday, I need this dose of holiday cheer.  I’m ready.  I’m so ready.


Usually, I can always think of something blog about.  Books, writing, polymer clay dragons, but today I’ve kind of got nothing, except to say that I hope that our nation, heck, that our entire world, can find peace.  That’s probably a long shot, but it’s something I know a lot of people are praying for.

As it is the week of Thanksgiving, however, and I probably won’t be posting again until after the turkey comas have come and gone, I would like to dedicate at least a little bit of my blog to the people, places, and things for which I am thankful.  I know, I run the risk of sounding terribly hokey, and I apologize.  But it is the season.

I’m thankful, first and foremost, for my family, my parents and my sister.  They are, without a doubt, the most important part of my life, and I’m so grateful for their love and constant support.

I’m thankful for my sweet kitty, my Midnight.  She has been through a whole lot in her life, but I hope she knows just how loved she is and that she is safe and sound inside her forever home. I think she does.

I’m thankful for friends who make me laugh and listen to me when I’m crazy and who I know I can count on no matter what.

I’m thankful for books and for the gift of words.

I’m thankful for my home.

I’m thankful the opportunities I’ve had in the past year.  To be honest, getting to participate in book events, being asked to speak (I’m actually speaking at a writer’s group on Saturday!), I just never could have imagined that I’d get to do stuff like this.  I made the decision to become an author five short years ago.  It’s insane to look back and think about how far I’ve come.  And I’m hoping it’s just the beginning.

I’m thankful for this holiday season and all the joy it brings.

Finally, I’m thankful for you, all of you reading this.  To everyone who has supported not just me, but any author, traditional or indie, a huge THANK YOU.  I know several of you are authors yourselves, so I know you’ll agree with me when I say that we owe our readers everything!  Thank you so, so much.  You make our worlds go ’round!

NaNo Update

Hello friends and fellow writers!  How goes it?  I hope you are all warmer than I am.  In case you don’t know anyone who lives in Texas, it totally snowed here last night.

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Look at that.  Snow.

So yeah, it is uncommonly cold around here for November.  I mean, I actually really love snow.  It’s so rare here that every time it comes, it’s like seeing snow for the first time.  Of course, I’m not a fan of the hazardous driving conditions (both the roads and already dangerous Texas drivers), but I love snow itself.  It’s magical.

As far as NaNoWriMo goes, I’ve fallen a bit behind.  I’m still working on my book every single day, but if I’m being totally honest with you and myself, I’m not thinking I’m going to finish it by November 30.  Why, you ask?  Several reasons.

1) I’m fairly certain the book is going to end up being longer than 50,000 words.

2) I’m still working on Cemetery Tours 3.

3) I’m going out of town this week to see my sister in her first professional musical production.

4) My sister is coming home for Thanksgiving next week and I plan on spending as much time as possible with her.

5) The holidays are a time for family, not obsessively trying to finish a novel.  It is very important to finish what you start, but for me, finishing this book in thirteen days is not worth what I would have to give up with my friends and family.

Don’t get me wrong.  I WILL finish this book.  I absolutely love it.  I’m having a blast writing it, and I do think NaNoWriMo is still a good thing.  It encouraged me to begin this project that I wouldn’t have even touched otherwise!  Now I’m kind of thinking I’ll be ready to publish it before the next Cemetery Tours!  But I’m not sure I’ll be one of the ones who is able to claim that they finished within thirty days.  And that’s okay.

Again, I’m so thankful that NaNoWriMo exists.  I’m going to participate every year, I’m sure.  I might never finish within the thirty days, because let’s be honest, November is a crazy busy month!  It’s the beginning of the biggest holiday season of the year!  But I will finish it.  That’s a promise.

Peace out!

It’s the Holiday Season

Greetings and good tidings, all!

I hope my American friends had a splendid Thanksgiving and that all my Jewish friends had an amazing first night of Hanukkah.

As usual, my family spent the first part of Thanksgiving watching (and critiquing) the Parade.


After the parade, we headed over to our family friends’ house, where we spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The day always starts off with pre-dinner refreshments…


Followed by a bit of holiday shoot ’em up games.


Thanksgiving and Christmas… the only two days of the year I indulge in video games.

Then, once dinner is ready, the kids (i.e. those of us ranging from ages 25 to 16) mosey on down to the kitchen, where those of us over the age of 21 prepare the alcoholic beverages.  This year, however, we had a bit of a mishap.


In case you can’t tell what this is, my friend tried to open a bottle of wine… and somehow managed to push the cork INTO the bottle. So far, in fact, that it got stuck.


Seriously, how does this even happen?


The absolute failure in this picture is overwhelming.

Once the cork has been freed and the wine is finally flowing, we head into the dining room to claim our rightful seats…


At the kiddie table.

Yup.  25 years old.  Masters degree.  Published author.  Still at the kiddie table.

I can’t lie.  We all secretly love it.  Seriously, who wants to sit with the grown-ups?

After we’ve thoroughly stuffed ourselves, it’s time to decorate the Christmas tree, or as the grown-ups say, to earn our desserts.  At the Kiser-Smith Thanksgiving Dinner, we have to work for our right to cheesecake.



I think that looks pretty cheesecake-worthy.

Finally, before the night ends, it’s time for the annual years-of-friendship photo shoot.


This includes the traditional Kristen Stewart Face group photo.


Kristen Stewart Face 2011


Kristen Stewart Face 2012


Kristen Stewart Face 2013

And of course, I had to get a picture of the newest edition to the family in front of the Christmas tree…


In case you’re wondering, yes, everyone did make fun of me for this.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, we are in full-fledged Christmas mode.  That means non stop Christmas music, decorations, and regular viewings of The Muppets’ Christmas Carol.

On the Cemetery Tours front, I’m still hard at work on the sequel.  I am still aiming to have the first draft of the manuscript finished by the end of the year.  That’s going to mean some serious focus and dedication on my part, but I think I can do it.  Cemetery Tours is still receiving amazing reviews on Amazon and that motivates me more than I can even tell you.

Well everyone, let the Christmas festivities begin!

Writing Lessons Learned

Last night, I went to my first local writer’s group meeting.  I had a lot of fun and met some really nice people.  I talked with one girl, who was from Barcelona, for hours about Harry Potter.  She asked me if it was true that American girls like British guys.  I told her that all a lonely British guy has to do is come to America, say “Hello,” and he’ll never be lonely again.

She also asked me how I learned how to write, and to be honest, I really didn’t have a great answer for her.  I’ve been thinking about it, and although I did take short story, poetry, and even screen-writing classes in college and grad school, I’m not sure it’s really something that can be learned.  Writing is just one of those things that has always come naturally to me.  Like my sister and singing.  I had to work and train and listen really hard just to learn how to carry a tune.  My sister has a natural ear and quite near perfect pitch.  She’s taken lessons, but she’s never really had to work at it like I did.  As far as writing goes, however, I just decided that I wanted to write a book one day and that was it.

That’s not to say I haven’t taken advice from other authors.  I read Stephen King’s entire book On Writing and it had some great pointers (Duh, he’s Stephen King).  One of them was to use adverbs sparingly.  I like adverbs.  I use them all the time.  But any writer will tell you that it’s better to show than to tell.  It’s something that my high school English teacher called “pics.”  Paint me a picture with words.  Don’t tell me.  Show me.  That was honestly some of the best advice I ever received on writing.

Another bit of good advice that I’ve tried to keep with me, I learned from an author I met at the Renaissance Faire of all places.  She was there, signing books, and I told her that I was working on my first novel (this was at least a few years ago), but that I couldn’t seem to get past the first couple of chapters because I kept going back, rereading, and changing them.  She told me to stop doing that immediately, or else I would never move forward.  This may have been the best piece of advice I could have received.  I’m by no means a perfectionist, but I do want my work to be the best it can be.  However, it won’t matter how good it is if I never finish it.

For me, the creative process has always seemed like a leak in a dam.  I believe everyone has creativity and stories and paintings and music all stored up in their brain, but sometimes, it gets trapped.  For those of us who write and paint and compose in our day-to-day lives, that little bit of creativity that leaks out is like a trickle in a dam, and if we keep working at it, eventually a trickle becomes a wave until the entire dam bursts.

One of the guys was asking how another author and I keep going through writer’s block.  The only answer either of us had was “keep writing.”  Make something up.  Do something you had no idea you were going to do.  It always amazes me how, when I sit down to write, I’m never 100% sure what’s going to happen.  The other night, I was working on one of the stories, and one of my characters just kept spouting out stuff that I’d never even considered before.  It’s amazing how the words and thoughts and emotions that you never knew you had inside of you flow so freely and so honestly through your fingertips, and often times, spoken through the mouths of others.  That’s one of my favorite parts of writing.  I can have an idea of where I want the story to go, but deep down, I’m not totally in control.  In writing, you have to be determined, but you also have to keep an open mind and be willing to make changes, because you never know where the story will take you.

Finally, the last piece of great advice I received was from Josh Groban.  Sadly, he was not talking to me one on one.  My sister and I were at his concert a few years back (Fantastic, by the way.  He sounds better live than he does recorded!) and he started talking about his training and everything he learned.  He said, “The only advice I can give, and it’s the best piece of advice I ever got, was to never stop learning.  Always be a student.  Be humble.  Be thankful.”  In other words, don’t get too big for your britches.  Unless you’re JK Rowling, in which case, the size of your britches don’t matter one bit because you created Harry Potter.  But for most of us, it rings true, no matter what line of work you’re in.

As for me, I need to just sit my butt down and write.  This is the busiest time of the year, and I’m thankful that I have stuff to do!  But I really want to finish my first draft of the Cemetery Tours sequel by the end of the year.  I think I’ll make it.  I just have to sit down, concentrate, and write.  It’s not that hard, but at the same time, it is so incredibly easy for the creative mind to get distracted.  To be honest, I blame my  mother.  She brags all the time about how she gorged herself on Twinkies and Ding-Dongs when she was pregnant with me.  I’m like, “Well, that’s great for you, but did you ever think about the effect all that sugar had on my brain while it was still developing?”  Clearly, it was not a positive one.

And with that, I’m off.  Please enjoy my feeble attempt at holiday humor/shameless self-promotion.

Cemetery Turkeys

My cover designer is going to kill me.