Sunshine Blogger Award – Margo from “When Lightning Strikes the Cottonwood”

Sunshine Blogger Award – Margo from “When Lightning Strikes the Cottonwood”

I’ve been nominated by the beautiful and talented author of “Mantic,”- Jocelynn Babcock, for the ‘Sunshine Blogger Award.  I’ve chosen Margo from my upcoming novel ‘When Lightning Strikes the Cottonwood.’

 

I, in turn, nominate the following authors: Janice Croom, Intisar Khanani, Katherine Blakeney, AD Ellis, and Sue Harmeling.

 

 

1.) How would you describe the world you live in three sentences or less?

I’m home again – smack dab in the small town world of Brady, Nebraska. I’m here with my two young children, Matt and Sara, the only good outcome of a disastrous marriage. I’m a lucky gal.  My childhood friends – Kathy, Justin, and Darryl have rallied around me as I reacquaint myself with this way of life.

 

2.) What is the one thing or person you couldn’t bear to lose?

Matt and Sara, of course. And it’s not just the kicked-in-the-gut pain from the possibility of losing them. It’s the fear of my past tainting their chances of a perfect future.

3.) What is the one thing or person you’d love to lose?

Okay, let’s just get this out on the table. I’m not a good person. Lord knows I was raised to be, even if some lessons needed beaten into my skull. The idea of me living an honorable life feels good when I’m daydreaming and it all works out my way. Yet, the day to day grind has the real me using all tricks necessary to survive and move ahead. Sooooo, my answer is –  if Darryl’s wife was out of the picture – well, maybe we could make things right – the way they were supposed to be from the beginning.

**Groan** Yup, it’s official, I’m going to hell.

4.) What chore or responsibility do you hate most?

I hate to clean the bathrooms. With two children and one being a boy, I’m sure I clean up more piss outside than in the toilet. I also have a shiver-inducing aversion to hair. Especially, when my hands are wet and it clings to my fingers.

5.) What do you do when you’re overwhelmed?

I shut down – especially my wayward mouth. If I allowed myself to verbalize the mounting fears, what would come out? Hiccuping Sobs? Guttural Screams? Brutal accusations which could never be unsaid? Nope. I just need to withdraw and figure this shit out on my own.

6.) If there was one of your traits you wished you could change, what would it be and what would you change it to?

My stubborn insistence of thinking only I know the solution to a problem. I’d like to trust my inner circle’s input and not worry if they really have my best interest at heart.

7.) What do you most want to accomplish?

Independence. From me. From my past, my fears, and my self-destructiveness. If I can re-start my life here, regardless of the outcome, at least I know I made, not just reacted to, the choices which led to my destination.

8.) What aspect of yourself are you most pleased with?

I still make wishes. Deep under the sadness, bitterness, and sometimes vodka – I believe they can come true.

 

9.) Would you replace your author if you could? Does your author annoy you?

Replace Lisa? Oh hell, don’t get me started. Do you know we met in 2007? She pestered me to death for my story and finally after too much wine, I agreed. Before I knew it, I had regurgitated my life onto her pencil-scribbled notebooks. At first, I held my breath as I waited for my life to be exposed to the world.

(Thank goodness I have the sense not to trust wholly in anyone – or I would have died blue-faced in anticipation.)

I guess though, I’ll keep her, just for the fact she wants the public to like me, even if they don’t understand my decisions.

And yes, her procrastination annoys the shit out of me. But what can you do?

Hey, do you have a cigarette?  I quit again but all this talk makes me crave just a drag or two…

10.) If you could turn into any animal, which would you choose and why?

Oh, I don’t think so. After I burn this life up, I never want to have to survive again. Make me a rock. On a beach. I’ll just soak up the sun and if I’m lucky some drunk tourist will spill a margarita on me.

 

 

—————————————–

Now for the authors I have tagged to answer:

1.) Tell me about yourself and your world?
2.) What would you change about yourself if you could? What would you keep?
3.) Describe your favorite activity.
4.) If you could write your own story, how would you change it?
5.) Who is the one person you can always depend on to be there for you?
6.) Who most annoys you?
7.) Who do you have to protect?
8.) What motivates you to get up in the morning?
9.) If you could sit down with coffee with your author, what would you talk about?
10.) What is your favorite color and why?

 

There is No “They” – Just “I”

There is No “They” – Just “I”

Black Screen
Self-imposed Media Blackout

I spent all day yesterday working unsuccessfully on a new blog. I twisted words and tried to harness my wrath and disgust for willful ignorance into a cohesive under one thousand word essay. All my attempts failed, so I slept on it.

BK (Bad Kitten), howled down the hall around four this morning, wanting someone to play with. I made coffee in the dark and had a cigarette on the screened-in porch. The German left for work today intentionally dressed in all black. I found Matlock on TV (hopefully to hurt ratings) and turned off the volume. Searching our CD collection, I found a handful of indie artists. I gathered them up and fired up the player. I made banana bread and emptied the dishwasher. Only then, did I sit in front of a blank piece of paper.

Kitten playing with writing paper and pencil.
BK helping me write.

The problem with yesterday’s writing was my own cowardice. It’s easy to write “they” and subtly distance yourself with an air of superiority. The anthropology term is “othering”. You know, “We have to help the others.” It sounds all and good as long as I don’t turn around and look at the squalor I live in. (See, I did it again. Those “I’s” were “you” and “yours” originally.)

So in this day of mourning, it is only me, myself, and I. Last night, I vowed to take a three-day sabbatical from social media. Though there is great comfort in my like-minded friends, there’s also a tendency for me to lash out bitterly at those who disrupt my assembled Camelot. Today is not about them winning it is about my failure.

The day after the election, I limped into work, signed into my corner cash register, and cried as I rang up my working class customers. The hours wore on and I started commiserating with anyone in earshot. Then I started to discover most of my co-workers – these beautiful, hardworking (sometimes 2 or 3 jobs) women didn’t vote. The excuses were bona-fide. They didn’t have vehicles, some hadn’t changed their addresses with their last move, and some just weren’t interested in the latest trickle down politics. I’d been so caught up in my own cloud of informed privilege – I just didn’t know.

These were more than co-workers, they were people I was proud to call friends. We cleaned toilets together, bitched about money, picked up the trash, discussed our sex lives, were jointly berated by customers on a daily basis, complained and bragged about our children, and laughed at our employer’s expectations and the miniscule reward they dangled. Regardless of our age, background, education level, or ethnic makeup, we all wanted the same things. A comfortable home to go to, groceries to fix a decent meal with, reliable transportation to get to work, job security, extra money to go to the doctor or dentist, someone to share our lives with, and for our children to have a better life than we did. The American Dream in a nutshell, folks.

In my self-absorption, I forgot to pay forward all those opportunities given to me. In my advancing age, I’m not shy in bossing people – especially those younger than I. Never hesititaing, I lectured them on money, their love lives, and advancing their careers. How could I ignore this topic? I just assumed, like apparently the rest of the nation, people understood what was at stake.

Starting today, when I feel the urge to bitch – I will pause for a quick self-examination. Instead of Monday morning quarterbacking on what “they” should have done, I will ask what can I do? If we become a nation of “I’s”; it doesn’t matter the ineffectiveness of our governments. We can just give them a quick glance behind us as we move ahead, and say; “I’ve got this.”

Writing supplies, CD's, and Banana Bread.
“Not My President” Survival Kit

*******
The artists show here are: Esperanza Spalding, To All My Dear Friends, Amelia White, The Wood Brothers, End Time Spasm Band, Anne Frank-Dux, The Sweetest Condition, Gabriel Harley, and Carrie Pietz.

“The Eyes of March” by Jocelynn Babcock: The Interview

“The Eyes of March” by Jocelynn Babcock: The Interview

Today I’d like to introduce you to one of the writers I’ve met on Scribophile, the on-line critique group I belong to.  As Jocelynn carefully sifted through the words of my upcoming novel, she wrote the amazing “The Eyes of March”, the first book of the “Mantic” series.

Art cannot be created in a vacuum. While the act of writing may be solitary, the final process takes outside eyes and ears. Since I’m a DIY writer, I rely on my critique group. This site is more than just a part of the publishing process, it has turned out to be my support group. It’s a place where they understand staring at one word for an entire day because it doesn’t fit. Or having dreams about your characters. Finally, they cry with you, at the final words, because this created world was a place where we gathered to encourage each other as we honed our craft. Jocelynn is one of the small group of writers I’ve grown to respect and admire. Let’s go find out what makes her tick.

 

Give us a brief description of “Mantic”:

MANTIC Greek word meaning prophet or seer. “Of or relating to divination. Having the power of divination.” ~ Dictionary.com

“Valena Smith” is a psychic medium (necromancy) with amnesia. She trusts her inner voice that she doesn’t want to remember her past and surrenders to her amnesia. Haunted by visions, she meets the Wyrd Sisters, a divination circle trying to find a serial killer plaguing the state of Washington. Valena enters a life of psychics, tarot readings, prophecies, and a possible death of her or her new friends.

Mimi Molyneux is a tarot reader (cartomancy) and a nurse in the psyche ward at the hospital. She’s an African American single-mother of two boys, who makes extra cash providing tarot readings.

Kim Anderson is an astrologer (astromancy) and a social worker at a women’s shelter. Her wife died of breast cancer and she is still running from her grief.

Bryn Delaney is a tea leaf reader (tasseomancy) and paralegal who gives advice pro bono to the women at the shelter. She has M.S., so doctors will not help her with her infertility problems. Nor can she adopt.

Angel Zhirova is a palm reader (cheiromancy) and becomes Valena’s roommate. She has a warrant for her arrest and hides from the police surrounding Valena’s case.

Gabe Berkowitz is a police detective on the brink of losing his job, partnered with his ex-fiancé, Danielle Taylor, to solve the Eyes of March case.

The Eyes of March: Two women were murdered, one year apart, in the month of March. Both had identical tattoos of an eye at the base of their necks. Valena, a third tattooed woman, survives an attempted drowning.

When those from her past find her, how can she accept police help and hide from the killer if she refuses to remember?

I love your new title. Titles are always tricky for me – how did you come up with this one?

Not a lot of people know the original title was Soothsayer of the Scablands. Problematic, because it is difficult for some to pronounce. I had the new title in mind for over a year, but I keep my titles secret until ready for publication, because (as my college advisor used to say) “Good ideas are borrowed and great ones are stolen.”

I was at a women’s circle ritual in the month of March and we were discussing eyes, and how many of us thought the Ides of March was actually the Eyes of March. Julia Hayes is credited with inspiring the title change. I had this story with eye tattoos and March murders. The title was a chapter title, but it needed to be the book title.

Tell us about the contract you’re trying to land:

Kindle Scout used to be an annual competition, but is currently open all year. The first three chapters of your book are available to the public for 30 days and Kindle will contact you within 15 days after campaign end. If you are selected, Kindle has exclusive electronic rights to your story, including audio and foreign languages. The author retains print rights.

When deciding whether to self-publish or find an agent and attempt a “traditional” publish, I made a spreadsheet of all the books I felt were similar to my genre that I enjoyed reading. I listed the author, agent and publisher. One of those books, when I Googled the publisher, led me to Amazon’s imprint companies.

That led me to Kindle Scout. The publishing contract is fair. It is 5 years, with potential renewal for the book selected and you have the label and backing of Amazon Kindle. I knew I would enter the competition for the better part of a year and started making connections and marketing my book months before it was posted on the Kindle Scout site. I have one shot at this. Kindle Scout encourages authors to bring a professionally edited book with a professional cover in order to be competitive, and that is good advice.

Researching agents was discouraging, though I appreciate their honesty. They want authors with thousands of followers already established. There’s also a catch 22 when writing a trilogy. Agents don’t want multiple books from a new author; however, the style of book readers are looking for is a series. If the reader saw the trilogy as one big book, they wouldn’t pick it up. If you self-publish, there is a page limit for new authors. The publishing world reflects the need to break-up stories into sections.

How can we help?

Every vote counts. Visit https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/2CEEUX2E9COXA If you like what you read, click the nominate me button. You will have to login to your Amazon account. You can only vote once, and Kindle tracks “unique” views, so if you love what is there, I appreciate you sharing the link through your social media outlets.

Every person who voted for me receives a free copy of MANTIC: The Eyes of March if the book is selected for publication.

You get to vote for 3 books at a time, and I hear romance, sci-fi and young adult don’t receive as many votes. While you’re there, give them some love.

You book cover is eye-catching. Who did this for you?

Alexia Purdy of Melancholy Muse Designs. I got a smokin’ deal too. I’d also like to give a shout out to Storytime Book Reviews who did the graphics for my teaser/ ads, so I could attend those digital marketing events before my book was released.

I don’t think people realize the length of time it takes to write a book. How long have you been working on this?

This is the part I don’t like to admit. The concept came about in 2010 and I began the research. After I graduated college, 2011, I put pen to paper and posted early rough drafts to Wattpad. I worked on the novel sporadically. I never believed I would finish it, though a friend kept me in check to keep moving forward. I put the book down while I was pregnant. I couldn’t get in the zone. Then, we tried to move and I had to stage the house every day and hang out at the park for showings. Life felt like a whirlwind and the book was on the back burner. My New Year’s Resolution was to finish the book in 2016, and I did. Now, I know I can complete a book and put it out into the world.

The research is complete. I built the world and the characters. Volume II is coming out November 13, 2017 (The Ides of November).

What social media forums can we follow you on?

All the good ones.
http://jocelynnbabcock.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/JocelynnBabcock
http://www.pinterest.com/jocelynwb/
https://twitter.com/dirtiestangel
https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31954129-jocelynn-babcock
http://jocelynnbabcock.tumblr.com

We’re now looking into the future. Your book has been published and the readers are wondering who’s this amazing writer. So who are you?

I am a technical/ grant writer by trade. I enjoy using my love of research and writing to improve my community. I write fiction because I have a story in my heart and characters in my head.

I am an avid reader and scrapbooker who enjoys travel and new experiences.

I talk too much, love fiercely and laugh often.

How long have you been writing? Why do you write?

Every writer will tell you, they’ve always written since they first held a crayon. I wrote stories with pictures on colored printer paper and binded them with my grandma’s yarn. As the recipient of her knitting supplies, I know why my needle is dull.

I wanted to be a writer since I was little. At family reunions, my extended family always said “You don’t want to do that; you won’t make any money.” (Please don’t discourage children from creative endeavors that fulfill them! They have plenty of time to have that worry thrust upon them).

I even wrote nonfiction reference books in high school, but I destroyed everything I ever wrote. When I went back to college and took a creative writing class, the teacher made me promise not to destroy my writing ever again. Now, even if I remove text from my work, I save it in a Word document. I’ve had to resurrect from the “dead words” on more than one occasion.

I write because I am inspired. I write because it brings me joy. I write because I have something to say and finally believe others may want/ need to hear it.

Where do you get your inspirations?

They come to me, or through me, but not from me. It feels otherworldly, that burst, that lightbulb. I have 9 books in my head (this and another trilogy and three standalone books). It all starts with a question: “What if…”

The Eyes of March was inspired by my husband. Returning from a ritual theater (screenplay) I wrote, I was doing homework in the car the day it was due. The assignment was a short story based on irony. I wanted to write a story about a psychic and asked my husband, “What’s ironic about a psychic?” He said, “What if she has amnesia?”

Your favorite book? Author?

Just one? At this moment I would say I’m digging Mary Sharratt. I love historical fiction about strong women who left an imprint. Daughters of Witching Hill was an amazing story about a woman I had never heard of. Seeing her story, her voice resurrected is a powerful experience as a reader.

You get a phone call and they want to turn your book into a movie!! Who are your choices for Director? Actors?

Ah, the daydream… I actually have a Pinterest board of my characters’ actor choices. I want an Amazon original series with Adam Sandler as director/ lead detective and recreational hockey player Gabe Berkowitz.

It took a long time to decide on who would best fill the MC, Valena’s shoes and I think Margo Harshman is a great fit. I thought this based on her performance in Betas, but you may know her as Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s assistant on Big Bang.
No one other than Fairuza Balk could be Angel Zhirova.
Yvette Nicole Brown as Mimi.
Jenna Elfman as Kim.
Kirsten Dunst as Bryn.
Sadly, I did want Anton Yelchin as the police captain Immanuil Zhirov, but he died in 2016.
Shirley McLaine as the tetchy landlady Mrs. Brauer.
Julian McMahon is such a good bad guy and Maggie Gyllenhaal could make Gabe’s life miserable as Danielle Taylor.
Because Adam Sandler brings his entourage, Kevin James can be Nathan Delany, David Spade can be Dr. Morgan.
Some one sexy needs to be Hunter Jordan (Chris Hemsworth) and Jett Nicola (James McAvoy)

The new year is coming up on us fast. What are your 2017 writing goals?

A few authors I know are pairing up to do a JanWriMo, or as my writing partner Tinthia Clemant is calling it JanOhWriMo. I am going to get the first 50,000 words of Volume II completed and spend the spring finessing the document and filling the gaps with the remaining 30,000+ words. I want that book to my editor (at Ink Slasher Editing) in July.

Speaking of leaving 2016 behind us, we have lost a great many icons this year. Which, if any, grieved you the most?

Alan Rickman. I was in denial about his death for all of January. I actually argued with my family that he wasn’t dead. God he was talented! And so versatile. Die Hard, Robin Hood, Sense and Sensibility, Dogma, Galaxy Quest, Bottleshock, Harry Potter… He didn’t make a bad movie. I really wanted to see more from him.

Anything else you want us to know about you?

I talk a lot, but I don’t like writing about myself. It is so… permanent. And I am continually evolving and changing. Though I keep telling my children, “Pencil is for quitters, chose ink.” I guess the only thing that doesn’t change is the optimism I carry, for myself, for the world. I try to find the silver lining, draw my lessons and keep walking my path.

Aren’t writers the coolest people? Remember to go nominate “Eyes of March” at https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/2CEEUX2E9COXA. Let’s get this published. Books always make this world a better place.

Frost

Frost

frost

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

I am veering off the path of my scheduled blogs and throwing something spontaneous out here.

*****

A heavy blanket of cold oppression droops the Zinnias. Only their heads remain tall and strong.

“Pick me. The seeds within will help you welcome spring.” They whisper as I mourn.

I’m sad to see their bright faces fade away. Logic tells me it is the middle of November. Yet, the bleakness of the outside world gave me an additional enjoyment of the extended blooms. Now they too are gone.

And the dogwood droops. As do the leaves of the pepper plants which were blooming just yesterday. Women are hurt and scared. Friends are wondering do they rush their relationship into marriage just in case. Old men are angry, young men have yet to figure out what this means.

Only the Marigolds are defiant. The scrubby, almost weed of a plant, has refused to surrender. The golden orbs of petals rival the sun declaring to make its own inner warmth.

Foolhardy I know, because their days are numbered. Yet, so are mine. I’m just a weed growing at the edge of a society I no longer understand. Knowledge is easily accessible but they flock to the forest of ignorance. They eat the fruit and complain of bitterness but shove their way to get more. Surplus surely guarantees happiness.

I make peace with my seasonal melancholy as I prepare to deadhead the Zinnias. I will emulate the Marigolds and shine. Spring will come eventually. It always does.

Money Honey!

Money Honey!

I can’t make a living doing this.

I’ve made a discovery about the above statement. Somewhere between birth and learning to speak, I became a hard-wired good ole American Consumer.

Drowning in editing, it’s easy to be distracted. What I could buy to make my life easier? All I have to do is work more hours. Then dedicate myself to time management. Because I deserve it for all my hard work, buy more stuff.

I could take a higher position which would demand more hours but a promised a raise. This cycle continues until I look in the mirror. I see a fool who discarded her dream to make some CEO’s yearly bonus. But hey, check out the new shoes I bought …

The next three blogs will be on how I made money work for me. Trust me, this is the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. (I go bra-less a lot and I thought THAT was freeing.)

I’m learning to discard those passive sweats and slip on a proactive power suit. Hell, if you the 80’s generation; grab those old shoulder pads.

I had to acknowledge I don’t write mainstream books. Hence, most publishers are going to sniff and keep walking. Short story spoiler: there is no money in these here books.

That’s okay. I know weirdos just like me. And they read! I decided self-publishing wasn’t a dirty word. My publisher, BookLocker, is a reputable publishing company. I have followed the owner, Angela Hoy’s “Writer’s Weekly” for years. I appreciated their policy of having to approve my manuscript. It assured me I wasn’t being seduced by a vanity press.

Decision made, now I needed mula and that’s the topic for next week’s blog. Make sure you pop into Goodreads and enter my giveaway for “Religion of Trees”.

How to Live the Dream (While Being a Member of the Working Poor)

How to Live the Dream (While Being a Member of the Working Poor)

The Dream

I am a writer. An unconscious decision, writing is just something I do.

In the third grade, my first attempt at writing a book backfired. A fellow classmate ripped my scribbled Laura Ingalls Wilder’s plagiarized attempt out of my hands. The mocking ensued. Miss Bliss rescued my writings and offered encouragement, but I learned my lesson. This dream was an underground one.

My writing starts and stops by life inspirations. I flirt with possible success but succumb to the seduction of a sensible life. Now mind you, I wanted more than to be published. I wanted the fame and fortune I supposed came along with it. This of course has changed.

I had two poems published in vanity presses in high school. The next published works came in ’93, ’03, and ’11. I joined writing groups and wrote short stories, and flash pieces. Learning how to submit my writing, soon I had to deal with rejection letters. I interned for a music website, where I interviewed bands and reviewed their shows. In August, I published my first book, “Religion of Trees”. This accomplishment happened when I shut down all outside voices and wrote for little ole me.

Any readers old enough to remember real thermometers? The ones with mercury in them? I was warned never to touch it. As an always curious and defiant kid, this made me want to. The mercury scooched away from my finger. Which of course made me try harder.

The act of writing is mercurial. Every time I get in the sweet writing zone, detractors start calling for my attention. Sometimes I need the reminder to shut up the internal voices and write. The only fact I need to recognize is writing is my dream.

I invite you to follow me on Goodreads. There will be a book giveaways soon.

Religion of Trees


How to Live the Dream (While Being a Member of the Working Poor)

How to Live the Dream (While Being a Member of the Working Poor)

Naked

I just turned fifty. There wasn’t much fanfare for the day, just the usual routine. Well usual for us. Roger played his guitar in the office. I sat in the corner of the couch and edited my next book. Soccer was on the TV and the dogs were complaining about not going outside. Is this the stuff of dreams?

Yes, in my world it is.

I have spent forty some odd years waiting. Waiting for something good to happen. Waiting for my attempted good behavior to pay off. Waiting to wake up one morning living the scene of Snow White, with the birds and forest animals singing to me. Not however, waiting for the seven dwarves coming home wanting dinner. I am passed the caretaker stage, thank goodness.

It wasn’t all passive. I’ve read the classics, watched the news, and sought out thought provoking movies. I’ve participated in all night life conversations with varied walks of life. Bob Dylan, bottles of wine, and my soul have had cerebral late night meetings. An immobile saturated sponge, I was absorbing life.

There had to be a point, though, where I started actively living. Why can’t I expect more from life than just inhaling and exhaling until my body deteriorates? Why can’t I live the life of my dreams?

This is where it gets tricky. It took me a long time to strain the excess of my expectations. What do I really need out of life? The best options are usually the stripped down ones. All those bells and whistles just confuse me or the first thing to break. So this chapter of my life will be naked and true.

This blog will be a weekly progress report on how I am attempting the life of my dreams. Taking charge and responsibility for my choices, while maintaining my sanity. Feel free to take notes or just laugh at my attempts. Until next week, Dream On.