Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ring Out 2013 in Style!

Today is the last day to grab a copy of either of these lovely e-books for only 99 cents. They go back up in price for 2014. Don't miss out!

Krystal’s peaceful life as queen of Fayterra is shattered when a stranger arrives with a connection to Jareth that threatens to change everything. Soon her loved ones are threatened, her people are under attack, and Krystal must face a devastating loss.
As the future becomes bleaker and the mystery continues to unravel, Krystal’s enemies will learn just how far she will go to defend the people she loves.
 The Tyrant King links:
 In the exciting prequel to The Peasant Queen, Lucien, the young king of neighboring Demarde, comes to Roweena’s father seeking an alliance, but comes away with a marriage contract for young Roweena’s hand. Furious and stubborn, this untamed beauty vows he will never conquer her. But the contract purposely gives her time to come to terms with her fate.
Roweena’s home is attacked and her parents are murdered. The Healer’s Grove is also attacked—burned to the ground. With nothing more than her horse and the clothes on her back, Roweena goes to the only person she knows can help her--Lucien.

The Wild Queen links:


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Sale!

 If you haven't gotten your copy of The Tyrant King, now's your chance. Or, if you're considering giving e-books for Christmas--or loading up a Kindle for a loved one with great books--you can pick up The Tyrant King and The Wild Queen for only 99 cents EACH! Now through December 31, 2013.

Grab a copy today!

Krystal’s peaceful life as queen of Fayterra is shattered when a stranger arrives with a connection to Jareth that threatens to change everything. Soon her loved ones are threatened, her people are under attack, and Krystal must face a devastating loss.
As the future becomes bleaker and the mystery continues to unravel, Krystal’s enemies will learn just how far she will go to defend the people she loves.
 The Tyrant King links:

 In the exciting prequel to The Peasant Queen, Roweena is the crown princess of Norvallen, a tiny kingdom with only one thing of value—the Healer’s Grove. The trees in this small section of forest are enchanted, giving a sap that can be mixed into potions or salves to heal almost any wound.

Lucien, the young king of neighboring Demarde, comes to Roweena’s father seeking an alliance, but comes away with a marriage contract for young Roweena’s hand. Furious and stubborn, this untamed beauty vows he will never conquer her. But the contract purposely gives her time to come to terms with her fate.

Roweena’s home is attacked and her parents are murdered. The Healer’s Grove is also attacked—burned to the ground. With nothing more than her horse and the clothes on her back, Roweena goes to the only person she knows can help her--Lucien.

The Wild Queen links:


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?

Likely not, but I can never resist a Pinky and the Brain reference.

Bryan is supposed to come home today. If you've been watching me on Facebook, you'll know he's been gone 125 days. That's a really long time. I know other people do this separation thing for many reasons, and many longer than what I've endured, but for me this is huge.

So is the realization that I'm kind of nervous. I mean, seriously nervous. About my husband coming home.

Why? I love him. If anything this separation has intensified those feelings. I can't wait to have him back. Can't even tell you how great it will be to have parental back up. And I also know in the long run that everything will work out but I can't stop being nervous.

What the heck? Is this common? We're all familiar with the scenes of families greeting returning troops. Hugs. Smiles. Kisses. Tears of joy. I don't see anyone being apprehensive. At. All.

Maybe they hide it well. Maybe I'm just a nutball.

But if you stop and think about us being apart, maybe I can help you understand. He's been living on his own for 4 months. Eating alone. Sleeping alone. Our patterns have been disrupted. And though I tried spreading out and sleeping in the middle of our king sized bed I always gravitated to my side, so I gave it up and let the cat sleep on Bryan's side. (Inigo has since moved to sleeping across my feet--seriously bedtime is such a joke. I have a king sized bed and me, the dog, and the cat are all curled up on my side)

Life has gone on for us at home, too. School started. The girls' classes started. Seminary. We have new patterns, patterns that don't include Dad. He's going to come home and we're all going to have to readjust, re-adapt. Change. It's not just a matter of adding his dishes to the dirties, or his laundry schedule to ours, or setting him a place at the table. And no, it's also not a complete upheaval of our lives. But it's an adjustment. A change. And we're all going to have to deal with it. Probably in different ways and in different times. There are 7 of us after all.

Then there's the other stuff. The couple-y stuff. I haven't been kissed romantically in 125 days. I haven't been held. And for him it's the same. Nobody's just held his hand because she wants to. Nobody's kissed his cheek because it's there. (And that's all the detail you're getting on a PG rated blog)

So, I'm nervous. I know it will all work out but I'm still nervous. Excited, but full of anxiety too.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How I Both Won and Lost NaNoWriMo

I wrote 62,700 words from November 1 to November 30, 2013. I wrote almost every day, save Sundays, whether it was just a couple dozen words or a few thousand. I started at the beginning and worked my way through.

And still I lost.

But I won at the same time.

First I want to explain the way I lost. You see, I actually set a goal to write *2* books in November for a total of 100,000 words. I set up an alter ego on the NaNoWriMo site and uploaded that book’s progress separately from the book I worked on under my own name.

I failed. I didn’t make it. I didn’t even finish either book. During the month I switched from one to the other as the mood struck. Both stories deal with difficult topics but are otherwise nothing alike. Yet as long as I wrote consistently I was able to keep each story straight and it was awesome. Those first two weeks I burned through the pages.

Then I started slacking off. Doctor appointments for the kids, calls from the school to bring medications or whatnot, pretty much anything started interfering with my writing time. But the plan I had was solid. I could still catch up. I could still make my goal.

Until I just couldn’t anymore. So I still have two rough drafts to finish and it’s December. I had other plans for December, not the least of which was publishing my little Christmas short story and offering my books for sale for the holidays.

Now I’m going to tell you how I won. I wrote 62,700 words in November. That’s a personal best. I’ve never written that much in a single 30 day period. Never. I’ve hardly written anything since my husband went up north in August for work. I mean, a few thousand words maybe in 3 months but nothing to write (ooh, punny) home about.

But the actual words aren’t why I’m counting the victory. I reopened the vault within, refocused my creative energies, and actually made progress on *3* novels—not just the 2 NaNo books.

And all that great stuff that I plan to unleash on my poor unsuspecting characters is waiting in the wings for me to do just that. And I have 3 weeks before the kids get out of school. That’s 7 hours a day x 5 days a week x 3 weeks = 105 hours that are just mine. Sure, kids will get sick or injured, or forget something and responding to it will throw off my groove. My husband is expected home during that time and yeah, that’s going to mean less writing time.

But just think of what I can accomplish with even 80 hours. I’m going to continue the process that I started in November. I’m going to complete those novels.

And then I’ll look at them in January and probably red pen a couple hundred pages. But at least I’ll have something to edit, right?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I keep Doing This--Confessions, Again

I have something to tell you, and right now only one other person knows what this something is. Once this post goes live, then everyone with an interest in my writing can learn what I'm doing. What I've done.

I'm doing NaNoWriMo (You know, National Novel Writing Month). Which isn't really much of a revelation. The confession comes more in how I'm doing NaNo this year and not that I'm doing it. You see, as October ticked along without me being able to complete The Lost Princess (I know, and I'm more profoundly sorry for that than I can express right now) I began to question whether I should do NaNo at all, or if I should concentrate on finishing the book everyone's waiting for instead.

The very last week of October, when I'd intended to just sprint write the rough draft and clean it up later, I realized the story had stopped speaking to me. Again. I've never had such a hard time writing anything in my life, not even the ghost writing project I did a while back. I felt cast adrift. How in the name of anything can I finish a story when I can't get a grasp on any of what should happen? By that time I had almost 30k words done in different sections with huge gaps in between. I needed things to fill in the gaps. I'd even skip around to different sections to write what would come to me, but I still couldn't finish the book.

That was a low point for me because I feel like I'm always announcing a launch date and then having to go back and amend it. I'm going to get this story our for Halloween. Well, maybe next Halloween. I'm going to launch this romance short story for Valentine's. Well.... You get the idea.

Back to NaNo. I hadn't done it in four years, and so many ideas were swirling in my head it's no wonder I couldn't nail down the details of The Lost Princess. So I made a decision that really ended up being twofold--to do NaNo, to get something out of my head and also to prove to myself that I can still finish a book for goodness sake!

So I started Birthright on Nov 1. If you're my NaNo buddy you know I've only got 8k words so far but when you consider that's the fruit of the first two days of November it's pretty cool. I'm happy with that. What's truly amazing is what happened after I started writing Birthright. And also where that confession comes in.

The night of Nov 1 I chatted with my sister in law, Mel, who is in a similar spot writing-wise. What started as a chat turned into a full-blown brainstorming session where she helped me work out some of the kinks in TLP and I (hopefully) helped her with her blocks. I got up Saturday morning and added 2500 words to The Lost Princess--vital words that tied the huge front section to the beginning of the sagging middle section. Just like that--bam! The story revitalized. The next thing I have to write is about a death and that will give me a great deal of fodder for the next few thousand words.

But here's the confession part. I'm doing two NaNo projects. Yes, you read that right. I also set up a pseudonym account on the website and I'm writing ANOTHER 50k word book this month. Actually, at the rate I'm going I fully expect to have at least one, if not both, NaNo projects done before the third week of November. Definitely before Thanksgiving since the kids and I have some great plans for that extended weekend.

What makes me think I can do it? Honestly I don't know what happened between Halloween night and November 1st but something did, something incredible. Since I got up that Friday morning I have written 22,278 words in three different projects. And I'm going strong, focusing on the one story that speaks loudest and then going on to the next one.

I don't know why I'm sharing this. Partly to apologize for TLP being late, again, but also in part for some accountability. If I can remain strong and focused then I may have one project done by the end of this week alone. Right now it's practically writing itself, and there's no end in sight to the inspiration I'm getting. I sort of stalled out on the other one but I don't expect that to last, since the next scene I'm writing is going to be one of those intense, life altering scenes that have to happen to our main characters.

I also promise to keep you posted. They may not be long updates, but at least I can share with you my progress and when I finish each book. The floodgates have opened and I've got to get back to work.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Poodle Skirt: What it should teach me about writing, Pt 2

You all should remember this poodle skirt from yesterday's post. Here it is if you want to read it again: Poodle Skirt

All caught up now? Great.

Most of you can already see where this is going, but I have to get it out anyway. I've shared with you the utter dread and torture and agony that was the making of said skirt, and I told you why I did it. Not for the joy of it. Not for accolations.

But because I love my daughter.

When you love someone it sometimes means you sacrifice. Not your soul, not your self-worth, not your ideals or your morals, but you do sacrifice. The time and energy I sacrificed weren't for this stupid skirt--it was for my daughter. My 12-yr-old, smarter-than-me, slightly snarky, occasionally disobedient, stubborn, talented daughter.

Friday, in my post-skirt recovery, I realized that if I was willing to sacrifice so much to do a project I hated, why was I so hesitant in my writing--which is something I love? I used to think I was good with deadlines, that they made me work harder so I could meet them. But somewhere along the way, after seeing self-imposed deadline after deadline slide by, I realized that's not the case. So it wasn't that I had basically only one day to make the skirt.

Is it because I like to sew? Not particularly, and I'm not particularly skilled at it. But I do love to create things, and sewing just enables an aspect of that. But I got no pleasure from creating this skirt, so that's not it either.

Basically it came down to my girl. I did it for her. Only for her. Not for me. Not for the satisfaction of doing it but because I didn't want to see her disappointed if it was something I could actually do for her.

So if it's the person who matters most to me, what about the people who are waiting for my next book?

I'm not talking about nameless, faceless fans who I adore but in a distant non-stalkerish way. I'm talking about the kids who have reached out to me to say how much they love my series and can't wait to see what I do next. I'm talking about the little girls who've received my books as gifts and read them over and over. The ones I know by name. The ones I love.

And what about my writing career in general? My publishing goals? My plans for the future? Surprisingly, little of that really has to do with me. I don't want fame and fortune (though a little fortune would be nice, let's be honest) or to be on numerous bestseller lists. I've told you before I like being invisible. (you may now ask if I like it so much why use my real name to publish--and that plays into the part that's really about me, the part where I have to stand for what I say and my goals to improve with each project)

And then there's the fact that I write for my kids. There's so much I want them to learn and so much I want them to know, but one of the biggest things is that each of us needs to be able to follow our dreams. If what you're doing isn't what you love, then why are you doing it? I want them to pursue their dreams, to make success out of them. And how can I properly teach that if I don't live the example of it? Because the failure comparison of do it because I didn't just doesn't cut it.

Lastly, there's the most spiritual and personal reason why I write and publish. Because I know with absolute certainty that it's my calling in life. It's my part in God's plan. I have two callings--mother and writer--in that order. And I love God, so the progression goes that I should be willing to sacrifice to fulfill my part in His plan.

But, yeah, that's a lot of self-imposed guilt there and I'm only human. I'm going to backslide sometimes, make mistakes, and have to own them. Like right now. I don't care if the world never knows my name. But someday I'm going to have to answer for the things I did and did not do, and I feel there should definitely be more effort on my part in that regard.

I want to be able to say that I tried my best. Right now, this is not my best. Not my very best.

I know I get hung up on my first drafts, wanting them to be perfect and needing as little revision as possible. My new goal is to just finish the dang things. Become a fantastic RE-writer. Stop letting my doubts dictate my actions. Write for 5 hrs a day. The kids are in school, what's stopping me but me? So what if I chuck 95% of it later. That's 5% more than I'm doing now. It's still progress.

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

It's high time I start applying what I know, push through my personal issues, and just write. Because of the love.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Poodle Skirt: What it should teach me about writing, Pt 1

This is a poodle skirt. And you say, "Yes, I know it's a poodle skirt, but what's your point?"

My point? I hate this skirt. Loathe it. Detest it. It's seriously the only thing I hate more than...I don't even know--anything.

 "Wow," you say, "that's a lot of emotion about a stupid skirt."

And I agree. Completely.

If you're a long-time follower then you know that I have made some interesting comparisons to aspects of my life and how they relate to my writing. Bear with me because I'm about to do it again.

You see, last Friday was our school's Homecoming. And my daughter, who is part of the band/marching band, told me Tuesday that they had decided everyone needed a poodle skirt for the parade Friday.

Tuesday. She told me Tuesday. Afternoon. On our way out of town for a dentist appointment.

So I grumbled. And I griped. Why couldn't they have come to this conclusion a week ago? A month ago? It's not like nobody knew when Homecoming was, or that they would be in the parade. And I admit it--I'd hoped her ineligibility status might prevent her from marching in the parade. That way I wouldn't have to drop everything and make a skirt she'll probably only wear once. But no such luck.

I scoured the fabric selections at Walmart Tuesday afternoon because it's the only place with fabric and picked out a sweet floral print because they didn't have decent prices on any solid colored fabric. And because I know my daughter I knew I'd have to make an underskirt to shield her legs from the netting because she'd gripe about it being scratchy. Yeah, I know.

Wednesday I had a full schedule and couldn't do anything about it, but I did manage to make the poodle applique. But I started on the skirt first thing Thursday. I measured. I cut. I dug out more fabric. I measured and cut some more.

I found that the pretty floral print I'd bought at the store wouldn't work for the skirt. I hadn't bought enough fabric, which is a mistake I hardly ever make. Usually I have tons leftover. So I dug into my reserves and found the solid red pictured above. I probably still have enough of that leftover to make a tablecloth for my 8-seater dining room table. The underskirt? Easy--an old sheet. The netting? Less easy--I hate working with netting or tulle but I managed it.

Then I started to piece it all together and sew. I put in movies to listen to in order to break up the monotony. Occasionally I got up and ate or got more water or went to the bathroom or changed out the movies. But mostly I sewed. And sewed. And sewed.

The skirt was almost complete by the time my daughter got home from school. Mind you, I've made skirts before. Usually I do a simple elastic waist and hem it up. Really, really basic. The last one I made my youngest took me about 15 min start to finish. This skirt?

Oh. My. Goodness. It had a waistband. It has a zipper. I don't have a zipper the right length. I measured and cut for the size up from my daughter's size and the waist was tiny. TINY. My daughter is 12 and does not have a tiny waist. When she tried it on it was easily 3 inches too small. After all that work?

I grumbled a bit louder. I fantasized about going down to the school and yelling at the adults in charge of the band and the parade stuff. Details like this need to be worked out well in advance, not 3 days before.

My waistband solution? I ran a seam deeper into the top of the skirt, measured her, cut off the top of the skirt so there was a bigger opening, and measured again.

And still botched it. Now it was too big. Slid right off her not-quite-yet-hips and puddled on the floor. By this time I was fed up with the whole project, but no way was I going to put this much time and effort into the dang skirt and give up there. Safety pins. Yes, the skirt is still too big for her and if it ever fits it will likely be too short. I ran up to town and while the girls were in their drama class I bought a zipper. That night I came home and sewed it in. I'm not fast with zippers so it took until after they'd gone to bed.

But, finally, late Thursday night, the poodle skirt was done. And I LOATHED IT. In fact, I'm still considering burning it.

Because I hate that stupid, awkward poodle skirt.

But I love my daughter.

*Part 2, how this relates to writing, will be up tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What is Wrong with Me?

Sometimes I just don't know what to make of myself. Seriously. I have conversations in my head, play out what the characters would say to one another in any given scene, run the plot down over and over to come up with the right pacing and everything.

Then I sit at my computer. And. Do. Nothing.

I open my documents and set myself up to write. I scroll to where I stopped last time and click the cursor into position.

But I don't write.

The act of putting these thoughts on screen (paper) freezes me.


I've published 3 books. It's not like I can't come up with the words. I'm not stuck in an endless cycle of writer's block or anything. So why can't I just write. the. words?

It's driving me absolutely crazy. I'm too embarrassed to admit the days I have wasted while the kids have been at school, not counting the days one or more has been home sick or the days I've had the truck in the shop. I mean perfect writing days where I have nothing else to do but spend hours in front of my computer.

Not writing.

Right now I'm looking at the clock at the bottom of my screen and the kids will be home in about an hour. After that I'm on the go until they snuggle into bed around 9. By then I'm so wiped I'm good for about 30 min and I slip into bed myself. With the goal and the desire to get up and write in the morning.

But I won't. Because all this time has passed and I haven't.

Is it self doubt? Am I frozen by the idea of trying to top my previous works? I don't think so. It doesn't enter into conscious thought, at least.

Mel, I may need a boot to the head. :/

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

As Promised...A Peek at The Lost Princess

I'm having some fun over on my Facebook author page, and to celebrate my new likes I thought I'd treat everyone to a tiny blurb from The Lost Princess Those familiar with The Peasant Queen series will know Douglas, and it's fun to explore his character a bit.

I'm certain you will all be pleased with the finished story. Just remember this excerpt is not edited and may change a little. :)

Jessenia knew the ring well. It had an ornate gold filigree design and a large diamond in a square shaped setting. Her father’s wedding ring—a ring fit for a king.
            Douglas handed back the ring and the chain. “It’s handsome, but I’m glad you keep it hidden. Someone could see you with a man’s ring and come to the wrong conclusion.”
            “Like what?” she asked as she slid the chain back over her head and tucked the ring into her bodice.
            “Perhaps they would conclude you were spoken for,” he replied.
            The idea was so ridiculous she almost laughed. “No man would think that.”
            “I would.” His words, spoken so softly, caused a fluttering somewhere between her chest and her stomach. He looked at her with such intensity she had to look away.
            “Don’t tease me,” Jessenia almost begged. “I know I’m not much to look at.”
            Douglas touched her hand. “You’re lovely.”
            She didn’t want to hear any more. Invariably such a complement would be followed with an unfavorable comparison to her mother’s great beauty. “Please stop.”
            He withdrew his hand, and she looked at him to gauge his reaction. The hurt she saw in his eyes gave her pause. The last person to give her what had seemed a sincere complement had been Tristan—but why would her traitorous mind think of Tristan now?

Monday, September 23, 2013

When I Say...

When I say I'm a writer, you should probably know that the majority of my "writing" time has nothing to do with the pen, paper, or a computer keyboard. So much of that time is consumed with thoughts, plans, story process, research, and aggravation (mostly self-imposed) that sometimes it's hard to say, "Yes. I'm a writer."

See, I have this story. And it's a great one. And I wanted to release it for Halloween (haven't given up yet) but the story itself isn't cooperating. So I thought I'd share a little of the process in making Love's Price ready for reading.

First off, you need to know it's not because I don't have the perfect pretty packaging. As you can tell the incomparable Deirdra has done it again. I call her incomparable because she absolutely defines that word.

No, the story is eluding me because of this: I wrote it years ago as a gift. So I have this really pedestrian first draft that needs so much revising. And I've made some vital changes to the story in the mean time, which means considerable overhaul.

I got about 2 pages into it when I stalled. And over the weekend, thinking about the story and considering setting it aside for The Lost Princess (I have that cover, too, but you're going to have to wait) I realized this particular story is going to stretch me in ways I hadn't anticipated.

Love's Price is an onion. Not because it's smelly, but because it has layers. LAYERS. The best way to write this story, my brain has determined, is to first write a quick rough draft. First layer. Then go through and add all the setting and personality quirks of the characters. Probably 2 layers there. Then I have to go through and enhance the creepiness factor. I want this story to be scary, and I'm not an inherently creepy person. So there's another layer. Then I have to make sure the ghost aspect of the story (because, when you think about it, this story is really *2* stories--Alita's and the ghost's) makes sense. Another layer. And then I have to go through it one more time to be certain it all flows right and I don't have any serious mistakes. Another layer.

And that's all before my editor even sees it.

Still, you're probably thinking, "Yeah but it's a 75 page story. What you're talking about could take a week if you really work at it." And you're right. I could dedicate a day to the rough draft. A day for the second layer. A day for the third layer. A day for the fourth layer. A day for the fifth layer. A day for the sixth....and then turn it into my editor before September is even over so it could be live for purchase by mid-October.

But then there's that pesky real life that intrudes all the time. Since Bryan has been in Minnesota I have promised the kids that I will *not* write while they are home. Still that gives me all their school hours to work on the book. Well last week I had 3 sick kids who did not go to school except for one day. Then Bryan came home for 36 hours. I'm sorry, but I haven't seen my husband for 6 weeks. He's home for 36 hrs and I'm going to make the most of every second. Family first. You know that about me.

So Tuesday. Tuesday is when I dive back in to Love's Price and crank out that first layer. And maybe, *maybe* if I really push myself I can have it to my editor by Oct 1. That would be an accomplishment. That would make me feel like a writer again. :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Empty Arms

My heart has been really tender lately. A sweet friend of mine recently lost both her twin boys when there were pregnancy complications, and when I went to church Sunday I learned one of the ladies who was pregnant lost her baby, too. Of course it's all reminded me of Lily. My heart breaks for these mamas because I remember still how horrible that initial loss is. I cried all of Sunday, just couldn't help it.

What I've been dwelling on lately is the aftermath. Coming home from the hospital after being "cleaned out" and just feeling so empty. Regretting that my child's body was to become medical waste and I couldn't bury her. That was so hard, but at the time I just didn't know what I could do--what questions to ask, what was within my rights to request. All I felt was agonizing heartache. And then to have to celebrate two birthdays--my oldest turned 5 two days after the procedure and then my youngest turned 1 four days after that. I remember her birthday party so distinctly. Sitting there opening presents with her and trying not to let my misery show. Just wishing everyone would go home. I don't remember my son's 5th birthday at all.

There's no good way to lose a child. Some will tell you "well at least you didn't get to know them" or "At least you got to see and hold them" and they mean well, but seriously their well-intentioned words can be so inappropriate.

I withdrew after my miscarriage. We were in a weird place in our lives, and I remember Bryan being around and I remember not having to deal much with the children, but I have no idea how that was. I know he had to go to work. I just don't know when. The days just went by in a blur.

Why am I talking about this here? Because I turned to my writing. I wrote all about my feelings when I learned I was pregnant, and when I felt something was wrong, and when I had to say goodbye. Facing all of that helped me cope, helped me deal with everything. Eventually I returned to myself.

In the years that followed I began to have doubts. Despite what I knew about life and death and God's plan, I wondered if I really had a baby waiting in heaven for me. Maybe I just didn't understand as much as I thought I did.

And then, God gave me an incredible gift. Ten years after losing Lily, I got to meet her. Sure it was in a dream, but I held her, sang to her, talked to her. It felt so real, more like a vision than a dream. And it was wonderful and heartwrenching at the same time. But I know. I know that my baby is waiting for me. There is certainty where there used to just be questions.

And with that knowledge comes comfort. You never forget losing a child. Ever. The hole created by their absence never really goes away. But eventually peace comes. Understanding that there is a larger purpose than this life helps bring that peace to your heart. And while I shed tears for the heartache my friends are going through, I still know they will eventually find peace. And I'm so grateful for that.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My Review: A Portrait for Toni by Annette Lyon

*I received this ebook in exchange for an honest review*

Toni has no idea what she’d do without her best friend, Carter. Who else would she be able to vent to about her parents, her job at the dance studio, or her latest relationship woes? When Toni’s father lands in the hospital, Carter, as always, is there for her.
That is, until he starts questioning Toni, saying he thinks she has an eating disorder. Then she starts dating Clint, the hot new guy at the studio, and somehow that puts a deeper wedge between her and Carter. When she’s hospitalized after an on-stage collapse, and Carter stupidly starts in with advice about food and weight, she sends him away—then instantly regrets it.

One night after a performance, Toni tries to mend the hurt between them. She goes to visit Carter at work, in his art classroom at the high school. She doesn’t see him there, and instead, she stumbles onto proof that he has feelings for her that go way beyond those of a friend. Toni is left with the very real prospect of losing Carter forever, unless somehow she can return his feelings—but that’s impossible.

Isn’t it?

My review: This book was a little hard for me to take in some ways. I’d get so wrapped up in the story but, at times, would have to put it down and then later found myself dreading to pick it up again. Why? Not because of the writing, certainly. Annette Lyon knows words, and uses them at their best. I think it was more the subject matter. It’s difficult to watch someone, even a character in a book, continue self-destructive behavior without an end in sight. It was so hard not to scream at my Kindle, “Toni! Stop it!!”

And then there’s her relationship with Carter. Sigh. Of course he’s wonderful, and she’s clueless about his real feelings for her, but this one struck a little too close to home for me. (You will undoubtedly not have that problem) Way back when I was the clueless girl with the male best friend convinced he was head over heels for me. (All that has since resolved itself and we’re both happily married—to other people.) But I think my personal experiences clouded my judgment, because I had no clue how this story was going to end. Was Toni going to wake up? Was Carter going to move on? I’m not going to spoil it for you, but I have to say Annette pulled it all together perfectly in the end.

A Portrait for Toni is climbing the bestseller lists, so don't wait. Click on over and grab your COPY now!

Annette Lyon is a Whitney Award winner, a two-time recipient of Utah's Best of State medal for fiction and the author of nine novels, a cookbook, and a grammar guide as well as over a hundred magazine articles. She's a senior editor at Precision Editing Group and a cum laude graduate from BYU with a degree in English. When she's not writing, editing, knitting, or eating chocolate, she can be found mothering and avoiding the spots on the kitchen floor. Find her online at blog.annettelyon.com and on Twitter: @AnnetteLyon

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What Happened?

A long, long time ago...

in a galaxy far away...

I allowed myself to dream of being a writer. This is different than simply *wanting* to be a writer. Ever since I could perform the tasks, anything that involved words, reading, and writing were the things at which I excelled. I still have an old second grade "journal" where I wrote simple sentences and received inordinate praise for them from my teacher. 2nd grade. You know, when you're 7 yrs old?

I even loved word problems in math. I mean, come on.

But, even then, I was practical. Realistic. While I dreamed of fantastic settings and characters and creatures, I kept one foot firmly planted on the ground. Why? Primarily because, even at my youngest years, I knew what it meant to not have enough money for all the bills. I knew it in my core, and it was dark and scary.

So I told everyone I wanted to be a teacher, said it so many times even I began to believe it. But it wasn't what I truly wanted. And it wasn't until high school that I really, truly began to consider chasing my true and actual dreams. I didn't want to go to a job every day. I wanted to live in my fantasies. I wanted to write. I wanted to create stories and share them with the world.

But, as I've mentioned before, I wanted to do this without anyone knowing it. The idea of sitting at home furiously writing an epic novel and publishing it to great acclaim without anyone disturbing my regular life was perfect.

Stop laughing. It seemed possible then. ;)

My life sort of imploded on me before I graduated high school, and then I recovered and met the man I would marry, and we had kids in rather rapid succession. I got pretty busy, and didn't really seriously evaluate my dreams of writing and publishing until 2006.

By then, of course, the publishing world had changed dramatically. As it continues to change and evolve. As it must. I realized I couldn't live the anonymous writer life. As much as it would pain me I was actually going to have to stretch myself, grow, reach beyond myself, become more than I used to be.

It has not been easy. Even after three published novels, all I can do as I sit here and work on another is think, "Is this going to be the one? Is this going to establish me?"

It's not that I want to be JK Rowling or anything, because really--I don't. But I have a nagging suspicion that someday I will be much better known than I am now. That feeling hasn't left me, and every time I polish up a new gem to share with the world I worry. I fret. It can sometimes be paralyzing.

Because, despite my best efforts, I can't let go of that fear of success. Which is stupid, I know. Many authors do very well and even have a couple of moments in the spotlight but can still do their own grocery shopping without being mobbed. You can be on bestseller lists and still be essentially invisible in your everyday life.

So why does it worry me so much? I wish I knew. Truly. I'd probably write a lot faster if I could get past it, and that would be better for everyone.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Where I Totally Stick my Foot in It

If you haven't heard about Woven, you will. It's the book in the middle of the whole kerfuffle (yes, I seriously just used "kerfuffle) in the publishing world this week.

Here is the LINK to Woven's Facebook page, which has all the links to the articles and stories about what's going on--just in case you haven't heard. I encourage you to read about it so you are informed before continuing through my post.

All caught up? Great. Outraged, probably.

I found out about this yesterday and though I don't know Michael Jensen and David Powers King directly (I'm friends with David on Facebook) I feel involved. First, I'm a writer. Second, the publisher in question published my first novel in 2010. And third, if you haven't figured this out already, I'm a Mormon.

I was furious, sick, frustrated, and angry when I found out what happened. Jeff Savage, another writer friend who publishes kids' books under the name J Scott Savage, said this on Facebook: There are so many thing I find upsetting about this. But possibly the biggest issue I have is that Cedar Fort is trying to lay the blame on anyone but themselves. DB won't carry a book by a gay author? Considering the fact that DB already carries books by gay authors, that is patently false. People will be offended and not read it, because one of the authors is gay? When was the last time you decided whether or not to read a book based on an author's sexual orientation? And if a small number of people are offended, that's their problem. People are offended by almost anything these days.

Bottom line is that the publisher was dishonest, cowardly, and just plain wrong. This is the time when they need to rethink their decision and issue an apology.

He pretty much said it best. And while I'm outraged that this whole thing happened in the first place, I'm confident David and Michael will find a much better publisher for Woven because of this mess and go on to sell many, many copies. Heck, I may even buy 10 and give them to anyone and everyone I can think of. I wish them all the best and can't wait to see them succeed.

What truly bothers me about the whole kerfuffle (I said it again) is this: One person who happens to own a business and is Mormon made a mistake and suddenly it's open season on Mormons and Utah in general. I've read many of the articles and blog posts about CF's decision and also the comments, and they verge from mildly irritating to downright ugly. 

So I'm asking. Please. Don't make this about Mormons. Because that's not what the issue really is here. And I know that because I'm Mormon, and I don't hate Michael because he's gay--I don't hate him at all. And I admire David for wanting fair treatment in the author bio for his co-author, and for sticking by Michael through the whole thing. Incidentally, David is Mormon. So are several dozen authors who are mutual friends on Facebook and abhor how David and Michael were treated. They are supporting these authors, as we all should, because what was done to them was wrong. And, most of all, it is not indicative of how all Mormons feel. Or even most Mormons. Or, honestly, ANY Mormons that I know.

Christ taught us to love all men. We don't have to do business with them, but we should love them.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What a Difference a Week Makes

When I posted last week I had just begun to come to terms with my writing in this new life reality, and then life changed on us. A lot.

Last Friday, Bryan found out that his boss lost the bid for August, and with gov't cutbacks (end of fiscal year tidying up) there was no work for Bryan for August. Friday he also had lunch with a buddy from his old job and got three solid employment leads.

By the end of Sunday he had no less than 9 job leads. 9!!! When he left the job at the jail last spring he spent 5 WEEKS unemployed trying to find a driving job.

Monday (yesterday) Bryan had an appointment to see one of the employers. Before I'd even gotten out of bed that morning he had a job offer. (don't judge me, I was up by 9am) They needed to get the final approval and run his MVR but it was a cinch. Monday night while we were grocery shopping he got the official job offer. Bang. He was employed again. After essentially one weekend without work.

Just like any job, this one has it's drawbacks. The biggest one is obviously that he leaves in 2 days and will be gone about 4 months. But--that's better than what we'd heard initially about the job, that he'd be gone 8 months. That prospect was scary, honestly. Rather than getting the water hose operator job he'd applied for he was hired as a driver, which means he's making more money per hour. That's a good thing. Overtime--also a good thing. And when he comes back there will be work around OK and TX during the slow season (winter) in the oil field.

Change is kind of scary. Having him gone is not something any of us are looking forward to. But we're going to make it work. And I'm going to get a lot of writing done these next months. All in all, I'm feeling kind of blessed.

Friday, August 2, 2013

This is Me

I've probably said this before, so forgive me if you find me repetitive.

Sometimes live is a bowl of cherries. Sometimes life is just the pits.

Usually, it's a mixture of both.

Today's been kind of a pit day so far, so of course I find myself on my blog writing about well, writing.

I gotta be me. Sometimes I find myself trying to stuff a square peg in a round hole and then I step back and realize that I have to do things my way in order to be the best me I can be.

Let's get a bit less cryptic.

Take publishing my books. While I won't rule out traditional publishing in my future, I have found I really, really like self publishing. I'm not great at marketing, true, and lately it's been bugging me that my books don't get as much attention as I'd like. The real issue is--at least I think it is--that my target audience has no idea these books are out there. There are tons of great books to read and they just haven't found mine yet.

And, of course, the last thing I published was last year so I'm not on anyone's radar.

But that needs to be okay. Right now, it is what it is.

I'm working currently working on three major projects. One is the final book in my YA fantasy series. Two is a contemporary, serious novel. Three is a dystopian fantasy. There are more, but I'm focusing on these three right now. The thing is, life just threw my family a major curve ball and I think I took it right in the gut.

I'm going to take the walk. The ump said so.

So, writing my books. I still have to be me. I have to write them and publish them on my terms, in my way. It may not be the best way, but I guess I'm just one of those people who have to carve out their own niche. I'm not the fastest, even though I want to be. But setting up a bunch of expectations just leaves me disappointed and empty.

I'm still going to try to get The Lost Princess done and in print by Nov 30th. I can do that. I still have time, and I'm more than halfway done. But at the moment there's a ton of things going on in my life and most of the big ones aren't good. In fact, right now I need my writing more than I have in the recent past because it will help get me through this mess, help me focus and pour out my feelings and leave me better for it on the other side.

I did that before, back in 2002 when I miscarried Lily. Writing kept me sane then. I'm relying on it now. I did that when I finished The Tyrant King. I did it in high school when I first wrote The Peasant Queen (and other things I will never subject you to--you're welcome).

Because writing is my lifeline as well as my business, I'm focusing on the lifeline aspect of it. In a month or so I will probably be more ready to take on the business part. But not now.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Lost Princess Name Contest Winner

Last week I posted a naming contest for a character in The Lost Princess.  It's funny because I posted the contest on Facebook, and in my post I mentioned having done these types of contests on FB before, and it turns out the winner posted on my FB link to the contest.

The winning name is: Lessa. I was able to narrow it down to the 5 names and then did two drawings where I eliminated all but one name. Lessa won out!

Because I'm busy writing this week I'm going to make this post short and simply cut to the chase.
 And the winner is

Debbie Korous!!

 Congratulations, Debbie! Email me at Cheriwrites (at) yahoo (dot) com and get me your address. You will receive one of the first copies of The Lost Princess just as soon as I get the shipment (no later than November 30, 2013)!

Thank you to everyone who submitted!

Monday, July 15, 2013

You are Invited: The Lost Princess Contest!

This fall, I hope to (finally) release The Lost Princess in ebook and print, and have a lovely blog tour and offer free copies of The Tyrant King to keep everyone updated with the story. If you've forgotten, The Lost Princess picks up where The Tyrant King left off, and will complete the series, with the possible exception of a few novellas to round out the story.

So, what about this contest? I have discovered through writing the story that I have a character in need of a name. You've seen authors do this before, they'll ask for a name and then offer some sort of reward for the name chosen.

Usually this happens on Facebook. The last time I did it, I needed a name for a a witch in The Tyrant King  and offered to use the name of the person who submitted the winning witch's name in The Lost Princess as a character. That winner was Tawnya, and her character in The Lost Princess is someone of note.

This time, I'm using my blog as the setting for my contest so I can go into more detail. Also, the offered prize is a signed print copy of The Lost Princess when the book is released! So, you get to win now but you will have to be patient for your prize. I hope you don't mind.

Here's what I need: A female name for a woman (thankfully), a peasant who lives in one of the villages on the outer borders of Fayterra. Her village was attacked by the evil king's army during the course of The Tyrant King, most of her people killed, and she herself was wounded. Most importantly, she was separated from her 9 year old daughter, Rianne.

In The Lost Princess, this mother has recovered enough from her wounds and trauma to travel in search of her daughter. Mind you, she's not fully recovered, but she has recovered enough--which to me means she still has weak spells but hasn't let that deter her from searching for her little girl.

This mother needs a name. She's going to meet Krystal and poor Krystal needs something to call her other than "you there" or "woman."

That's where you come in. This week and this week only (July 15th through 20th) I need you to submit names. I will pick 5 favorites and then one will be randomly selected as the winning name. The person who submits the winning name will receive a free, signed copy of The Lost Princess NO LATER than November 30, 2013.

I will post the winner next Monday, July 22, 2013.

Get submitting! :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

We Have a Winner!

As promised, I will be releasing the name of the winner of my Blog Hop Contest!

Just to recap, the prizes were as follows:

Signed copies of each of my 3 books, The Peasant Queen, The Wild Queen, and The Tyrant King, along with bookmarks, a $25 Amazon gift card, and a previously unpublished SNEAK PEEK into my next novel, The Lost Princess

 I decided to have some fun with the winner selection, so rather than using RaffleCopter or any of those types of programs I opted for a more old-school approach.

I made a list of everyone who participated, assigning each a number and making note of how many entries in the contest they'd earned.

I took the numbers corresponding to each person's name and wrote them down on pieces of paper one time for each entry. For example, This person, number 6, had 3 entries, so I wrote the number 6 down on 3 pieces of paper.

Each numbered piece of paper was then folded and placed in a box. *Note, I will not be using a box next time as some of the papers got caught under the folded ends and I had to fish them out after shaking the box every time.

Because there were then so MANY pieces of paper, I went to my 5 kids and had them each pick out two. Then I threw the rest away and had them each put their 2 entries back in the box so I could shake it up again. From those 10 entries I had them select 5 (one each) and then threw the 5 non selected slips away. And then I used just 3 kids to narrow the choices down once again.

Lastly, I had my almost 12 yr old daughter draw the winning slip from the remaining 3. And she chose NUMBER 18.

Which means nothing to you. Or to me at that point.

So I consulted my master list and found that NUMBER 18 belongs to none other than

Helena Ferrell!!!!

A hearty congratulations to Helena! I will be contacting her so we can coordinate prizes.

This author blog hop was so much fun I can't wait to do it again! Thanks to everyone who participated and commented on my blog. I really got some nice messages and I loved how willing you were to play.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thank you all


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Authors Blog Hop!

This is totally exciting because I think it's the first time I've participated in such a cool author hop, at least on such a scale. Thanks, Lady Amber, for the invite. I'm prepared to have a lot of fun! First I'll introduce myself to all you new visitors, and my fellow participating authors. I'm Cheri Chesley and I'm a writer and a mom. My first book, The Peasant Queen, which is YA romantic fantasy, was published by Cedar Fort in 2010. My other two novels in the series, The Wild Queen and The Tyrant King, were self published.

Since this Hop falls at the end of my multi-book blog tour, I wanted to be certain you had the link to the kick off that has all the participating blogs listed so you can keep up with the rest of the tour. CLICK HERE to see all the awesomeness.

If you haven't had a chance to look at all the incredible participants for this Authors Hop, you can find the list at the bottom of this post. Lady Amber has really outdone herself. 130 participants and counting! Be sure you check out the other blogs and get in on their giveaways as well as mine!

Now for the fun part: My contest. What do you need to do? How can you win? WHAT can you win?

I'm glad you asked. ;) First of all, Lady Amber has been awesome with helping me get a little more book attention lately, and I really appreciate all she's done. She brought my author page on Facebook up over 400 likes, which was so wonderful since I'd been stuck just under 400 forever. But I think there's room for a little more, so we're going to start there.

CLICK on over to my Facebook page and "like" it for One contest entry.

FOLLOW me on Twitter for One contest entry.

Leave a comment on my blog for One contest entry.

***For a 5 entry bonus (meaning you will get 5 bonus contest entries for a possible total of 8 entries), go to FIVE of the other authors participating in this contest and tell me something about their work. Do they write fantasy? Horror? Children's books? Share with me. You may want to enter their contests while you're visiting. :)

Isn't that wonderful? A single person can have up to 8 entries into my contest just by sharing a little bloggy love with my fellow authors. And with 8 entries your chances of winning the prize increases dramatically.

So, what is the prize? Signed copies of each of my 3 books, The Peasant Queen, The Wild Queen, and The Tyrant King, along with bookmarks, a $25 Amazon gift card, and a previously unpublished SNEAK PEEK into my next novel, The Lost Princess.

Excited yet? You'll get a chance to read something no one has read before. Well, except me of course. This isn't going to be the first chapter of The Lost Princess that I included at the end of The Tyrant King. This is something entirely different, something from deep within the story itself. And you're going to love it.

So what you waiting for? Start clicking, and be sure to leave a comment on this blog (which, incidentally, is good for ONE contest entry all by itself) telling me everything you've done and how many contest entries your efforts have earned you.

The contest ends 11:59 PM WEDNESDAY, JULY 10TH, so don't delay. I will be posting the winner on Friday, July 12th!

See you on the flip side.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

And Then It Was June

May was an important month where I learned something vital about myself--I am so NOT cut out for ghostwriting.

Several months ago I approached a brilliant writer/illustrator friend of mine about helping me out with my children's picture book, Lizzie Lilac and the Left Socks. Despite what you believe about a writer's life being all money and glamor, I didn't have the money to pay her for the illustrations and hoped we could work out a trade. The book proceeds from my book will be donated to UT's Huntsman Cancer Institute--I'm not planning to make any money on this book.

Long story short, we worked out a trade. And because we wanted to be fair we put together a contract. Unfortunately we sort of skipped a vital part of the contract that I'll get into later, but for the time being we were good to go.

She kept me updated on her progress, including sending me sample drawings and stuff and I was so excited about the process and how it was all coming together. I had several other things going on in my life but we gave each other almost a year to finish the projects we'd traded so I was confident I could still get her book written.

Then she delivered the pictures, all done and signed and sealed and everything. And they were awesome. I mean, really, really beautiful.

And I started to feel like I could never deliver something of equal value to her. Sure, I had agreed to put together a 2nd draft-worthy copy of the 4th book in her series. There was lots of material to draw from, plenty to get me in the heads of the characters, and everything.

Then 2013 happened. Well, December 2012 wasn't exactly kind, either. My mother in law died, my computer crashed, my son broke his arm, my daughter nearly broke hers, my fridge died, the washer started acting up--you name it, it fell apart. And I still didn't have the final storyline pages I needed to do the ghostwriting project. I couldn't access anything on my computer, which had the stuff she'd already sent me, for three months.

But through a lot of prayer and work things started settling down in my personal life. I wanted to write again. It was the whole reason I quit my job at the beginning of December. I made a really ambitious plan for myself for the year and wanted to really work hard at getting the books written that have been invading my mind for the last several months.

But first I knew I needed to finish my contractual obligations. What's more, I wanted to. I thought it would be fun to get into someone else's characters' heads and really cut loose. I was excited to do it.

So I re-read books 1 through 3 and prepared to get going on book 4.

My husband quit his job at the end of April. He put in his notice and was confident he'd have a job within those 2 weeks. His boss filled his spot. He still didn't get a job. For more than 5 weeks. My stress levels went through the roof and I just can't create when I'm that stressed.

Nothing. I mean, my brain turned into a wasteland. All the flashy, fun ideas just dried up and I had nothing. May rolled around and I really started sweating. I had everything I needed but couldn't write the book. What was wrong with me?

All I could see was my deadline. I had to write the book and then go through and revise it to 2nd draft quality and I only had until May 31st. I had wanted to be able to deliver the book early, like May 20, but that dream quickly went up in smoke. I prayed. I fasted. I begged. I started the book in my head at least a dozen times and didn't get beyond the first page. I got into the file and started rewriting the chapters that were already there. And got hung up on chapter 2. It just wasn't going right, and I didn't know what to do.

Finally, with about 8 days left till the end of the month, my husband--who had been trying to encourage me through the process--went into the office with me and we started taking the story apart. What needed to happen. How did it need to happen. When did it need to happen. Etc.

I threw up my hands and said, "What if I just started with a blank page? What if I just wrote the whole thing out from scratch?"

He thought for a moment and then said, "That might be what you have to do."

So I did. I opened up a new file and started typing. I did take bits from what the author had already written and added them in at parts, so honestly saying that I wrote over 50k words that week isn't exactly accurate. But I did go through each part and smooth it out so it flowed with the rest of the story.

I still felt bad. I mean, I'd promised a 2nd draft quality manuscript and would barely be able to piece together a rough draft. It upset me. And it was still so, so hard that I considered giving up at least a dozen times. But then I thought, "I have to give her something. I have to try."

I added 20k words to the manuscript on May 31st. No lie. Bryan got a job and he wanted to take the family out and celebrate and I couldn't not be a part of it, but staying up after we got back only netted about 4k words, which just wasn't enough. And that was May 30th. I had a lot to do when I got up on that last day.

All I could think was at least she will have something to work with. You can't edit a blank page. And here's where the contract came back to haunt me. We hadn't really spelled out consequences if we didn't fulfill our obligations. I mean, not really. And I hated that. I wanted there to be fairness if I failed, even if it meant I had to shell out the money for every single drawing she put her heart in for me.

But, I finished the book just before midnight on the 31st and emailed it to her. I explained to her that it wasn't what we agreed on, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances.

And then I went into a vegetative state for almost two days. I read a couple of really bad books on my Kindle. I slept. I felt like the walking dead when I wasn't sleeping. It's Monday, and I'm still not at 100% but I sort of feel almost normal now.

Writing that book was the hardest thing I've ever done. I had no idea it would be like that when I agreed to do it, nor when I started it. I can't even compare it to any of the other challenges I've faced in my life. It was so, so hard. And I still don't feel like it was enough. But I have no idea how much of that is real and how much is my overall sense of unworthiness. You know? Like I'm never going to be good enough. That feeling pervades so much of my life it's not even funny.

I really hit rock bottom when I was failing my friend, failing our contract. And I don't know how good the book is, but I did like it when I was done. I was satisfied with several aspects of it. But the idea of going back to it and making changes gives me the chills. I'm not ready. I may never be ready.

That's disappointing. I wanted to be able to do my best. And my best didn't turn out to be as good as I wanted it to be.

Now I'm sitting here thinking I need to work on one of my projects. Maybe starting tomorrow. But I can't decide which one to work on first.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Detective Banks leaned forward to switch on the recording device and then sat back in his chair. Ainslee watched him, her hands gripped three facial tissues like a lifeline. She swiped at another tear and tried to calm the trembling of her body.

            “I just want you to take us through the events of this morning,” Banks said. He used a handkerchief to wipe the sweat off his bald head. Ainslee wondered why the little room didn’t better air conditioning, but then chided herself for thinking of something so trivial at a time like this.
            She hunched forward, closer to the microphone. “Mom had just left to take Ashlyn to soccer. It’s just at the park up the street from our house, so they walked.” Her throat caught on a sob and she swallowed before continuing. “I was supposed to go with them but I’d been up all night studying for my geometry final and Mom let me sleep in.”
            Banks nodded like he was encouraging her. “And then what did you do?”
            Ainslee looked down at the partially shredded tissues in her hands. She’d been tearing at them ever since they sat down. “I got in the shower. I always hook up my iPod to the waterproof speakers and I guess I had my music on pretty loud.”
            He moved as though to put a hand on her arm but reconsidered and leaned back. “What happened next?”
            You already know, she wanted to scream. Why are you making me tell you?

            “I heard a couple of bangs and a thud,” she said. “I figured Dad and Jayce were roughhousing. They always get a little wild so Mom doesn’t let them do it when she’s home.” She thought of her little brother, how he had taken the last bowl of her favorite cereal this morning and how she’d yelled at him for it.

            She wished she could take everything back.

            “What next?”

            Ainslee took a deep breath to keep the tears in check, but there was no way to keep her voice from wavering. “I felt something shake the walls. I thought maybe it was an earthquake, so I turned down the music and listened. Maybe my dad would call me to get into a doorway or something. But I couldn’t hear over the water so I turned that off too.”

            “Did you hear anything?”

            She shook her head, but then realized the microphone couldn’t pick that up. “No. It was so quiet. I got out and put on my robe and called for my dad. He . . . he didn’t answer. I yelled for him again, even though I could tell there wasn’t an earthquake.”

            Banks nodded again. “And then what?”

            “I heard footsteps,” she said, her voice hoarse. She didn’t bother to wipe the tears streaming down her cheeks. “Then the bathroom doorknob rattled. I thought that was weird since Dad would have said something so I thought it was Jayce being a dork—“

            “Do you always lock your door when you shower?”

            Ainslee shot him a look. With a prankster brother and his perv friends what do you think? “Yes.”

            “Did the person say anything?”

            “No.” Ainslee choked back a sob. “I thought it was Jayce, so I yelled at him to leave me alone. Then the rattling stopped.”

            “Did you exit the bathroom at that time?”

            “No,” she said. “First I put on my moisturizer and then got dressed. See, I thought everything was normal.”

            “When did you discover the bodies?”

            The question sent a shiver right through her soul. Ainslee’s tears poured down her face. “I went to the living room to watch TV,” she sputtered between sobs. “And there they were. Jayce was behind the couch but Dad was right in the middle of the floor!”

            “We have the recording of your 9-1-1 call, so I won’t need you to repeat that,” Banks told her. “Do you remember anything? Did you see anything? Hear anything?”

            “I only heard screaming,” she whispered. It had been her screaming and she knew it, but couldn’t remember opening her mouth. “I just don’t understand. Who would do this? Why?”

            “We don’t have any answers yet, but I promise you we will.”

            Then the question spilled out. “Why didn’t he kill me? He knew I was there. Why didn’t he kill me too?”

            Detective Banks reached over and shut off the recorder. “Miss Dawson, I just don’t know.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


This is a response to the dad who wrote that he and his wife were angry that they are expecting twins. You can read his ARTICLE and then come back if you want. No big.

I don’t know you. And I imagine right now you’re questioning whether writing the article was the best idea, even though you elected to remain anonymous. But, like it or not, writing that article and publishing it gave me and everyone else who wrote it a glimpse into your life. I liken this glimpse to peeking in your living room window on a random evening—it doesn’t give a full picture of who and what you are. I’m sure you and your wife are lovely people who are, right now, struggling with something huge. I respect you greatly for having the courage to say something “out loud” that is essentially unpopular. That’s never easy, and I appreciate your struggle.

And, fair’s fair, so I’m going to give you a look into my living room window at a certain point in time. It’s Christmas 1998 and my husband and I just found out that we were expecting not one, but TWO sons. Our oldest boy would be three months shy of his 2nd birthday when the blessed moment would occur. We were in the process of adjusting my husband’s visitation and support for his daughter (the process began sometime that fall and ended in March 1999, just so you know) to better enable us to accommodate our growing family. Incidentally, my stepdaughter was present at our “discovery” ultrasound and went home and cried that she would not be getting a baby sister after all. What’s more opposite than a baby sister than two baby brothers? I can tell you that she felt pretty dang screwed by the whole system at that point.

No, we never struggled with fertility. The twins happened naturally.

About 30 weeks into my pregnancy, my body decided that it really wanted to be done and started practicing pre-term labor processes. I was closely monitored, including several weekly 30-mile-both-way hospital visits for non-stress tests. My bed rest was increased to 50%. By 32 weeks’ gestation I was at a full 100% bed rest, had been given steroid shots to increase fetal lung development, and was popping pills to prevent me from going into labor. At this same time my husband’s court date, which had been postponed by his ex’s lawyer a month, loomed on our calendar. Though he’d already purchased the plane fare to AZ and back and taken the time off work, my husband didn’t feel he could leave my side and so trusted his lawyer to handle things for him. I’d already been in the hospital twice that week (I was admitted both Mon and Tues and he was to fly out Wed kind of deal) but I still wanted him to go. I felt it was imperative that he be present at the hearing, and apparently the judge felt the same. Though my husband participated via phone, it was only to hear the judge call him all sorts of worthless names and barely let his lawyer say a word. Nothing was decided in our favor and we ended up probably in worse shape legally and financially than we would have been had we never filed. To demonstrate this, when our twins were born the court ordered child support decreased by $20/month. His overtime, though never steady and not reliable, was considered regular income and we were left paying more than we could reasonably afford. But once bitten, we never refilled with the AZ courts to adjust or change anything after that.

Meanwhile I spent my days on a mattress on my living room floor. Friends took my firstborn for a few hours every morning until his nap time and my sister in law moved into our garage apartment so she could be there if I needed help in the afternoons and evenings.

My twins were born at 36 ½ weeks, April 21, 1999. It was a Wednesday, and I went home Sunday. For their privacy, I’ll simply call them J and D. I elected to breast feed my sons since that had gone so well with my first child, but J would projectile vomit green sludge in the middle of every other feeding. D was gassy and had a hard time. The medical professionals in our service all said it was because they were preemies and that most digestive issues sort themselves out. Still, we had J back to the ER with his pea soup colored vomit within a day of being home. During those first weeks doctors told me many things. I was even told to stop breast feeding because that was the problem.

I never went back to that doctor.

D had some issues with colic and gas and spitting up. J never seemed to complain much but then he would projectile vomit several times a day. Knowing his stomach was empty I would wait for it to settle and then feed him again. I was literally nursing a baby every hour on the hour. It got wearing, I’ll admit, and by their six week check up I had to admit defeat and switched them to formula. In some ways that was easier because anyone could feed them—my sister in law, myself, my husband when he was home. But I still struggled with J’s vomiting. Soon, though, I detected a pattern with his vomit and it got to the point where I could schedule doctor visits and grocery shopping without worrying that he would throw up in the car or in public. Because he was still growing and “thriving” and only a little smaller than his brother, his doctor seemed to think whatever he was experiencing would pass as he got older.

When the twins were about 3 months old my husband took a job with the Special Services section of the company he worked for. This meant he would be away (for us it was Wyoming) from home for 3 weeks of every month, and home for 6 days including travel time. So he wasn’t really home for 6 days. It was more like 5. Even with my network of support and help, I was really the primary person responsible for all 3 boys 24/7. I can’t give you a whole lot of details about that time because it’s really a blur for me. I was in survival mode, eeking by day to day without thought or plan of tomorrow or even the next week. I was doing the best I could, dealing with vomiting, waking at night, teething, and a toddler all on my own.

Finally, when the twins were at their 9 month check up I got the doctor to admit that J should not be vomiting like he did. And finally he was beginning to lose ground on their stupid age/height chart so he couldn’t be considered “thriving” anymore. She scheduled an Upper GI where they have him drink a barium solution and then track that solution through his body via a type of X-ray technology.

The barium was the only thing he never threw up. I have no idea why.

The procedure revealed a blockage in J’s duodenal area, just beyond his stomach. Because it couldn’t give us any specifics, we were referred up to the OKC Children’s Hospital for further testing. Their department couldn’t get us in for 4 weeks.

The Monday before J’s appointment in OKC, he and D woke up with the stomach flu. By 6pm that evening J’s diaper was still dry—he hadn’t wet a diaper in almost 24 hours. I took him to the hospital for dehydration for the second time in his life (he was ten and a half months old) and had them look over D too, since he was fevered and fussy. They confirmed the stomach flu diagnosis and released D, but wanted to get J on an IV and rehydrate him.

Except they couldn’t. He was so tiny and his little veins so dehydrated that they finally had to go into the marrow of his shinbone to get fluid into him. My poor baby screamed for almost an hour while they used him as a pincushion trying to hydrate him.

At first, they didn’t know if they would admit him to the hospital or just treat him as an ER patient and release him. Then they wanted to admit him but weren’t sure if they should do it there or just transfer him up to the Children’s Hospital. I lobbied for the Children’s Hospital. His doctor did the same. And with friends watching my other two boys, J and I rode on stretcher in the back of an ambulance the hour and a half up to the Children’s Hospital in OKC sometime around midnight.

We spent ten of the longest days of my life in that hospital. My husband had to be called back from Wyoming and met us up there. That week was supposed to be my big vacation away from the kids week so he’d planned to have the week of but not quite that soon. Meanwhile, D was still very sick at home and had to be treated and helped by friends because I couldn’t be in two places at once. I still haven’t mastered that.

At the hospital they ran more tests on J and then scheduled an exploratory surgery to go in and see what was wrong and (hopefully, if they could) fix it. The morning before his surgery he pulled out his IV. We were at a children’s hospital, mind you. Their patients are all little and all sick in some way. No one could get an IV in my child. They even asked the nurse who puts IV’s in kids while in a helicopter in mid-air and she couldn’t even do it in a hospital bed inside the building.

If you ever want to know fear, then I dare you to hand your child over to the doctor at the doors of the operating room. I didn’t know if they could fix him. I didn’t know if he’d survive. But I did know that if we did nothing he would definitely die. He was dying already, starving to death no matter how many times I fed him. There was no other option.

His procedure lasted forever. Really it didn’t, but it felt like forever. When the surgeon finally came out to tell us he was in recovery I felt like I couldn’t even stand up. Basically, when my two little boys were tiny little embryos some of the cells that were supposed to go to another part of J’s development ended up in his intestine causing the walls at that part to be much thicker than any other part, and much thicker than they should be. The surgeon was amazed he’d lived that long without being diagnosed and fixed. His food was trying to slide through an opening the size of a pinhole. When it backed up, he’d vomit. They bypassed the damaged section so food would process normally.

They also took out J’s appendix. Because of the location of the blockage they had to cut at the tethers holding down his appendix, which left if “free floating.” The surgeon didn’t want to risk J having appendicitis at any point in his life but the pain being nowhere near where his appendix should be and thus being misdiagnosed.

We remained in the hospital another several days. His feeding tube down his throat rubbed at the end causing blood to come up. He did vomit once after his surgery. But they did finally let us take him home.

About a month after his surgery, I was feeding J some applesauce and he threw up. I panicked. After everything we’d gone through I was afraid it hadn’t fixed the problem and we still might lose him. It turned out to be an isolated incident. At his post-op check up the surgeon told me he should grow up to live a whole and normal life.

I’m sure about now you’re asking yourself why I would share my horror story. How is this supposed to make you feel better about what you’re facing?

I’m glad you asked. Life’s hard, and sometimes we all get thrown curve balls (or even get beaned in the head by a fastball) when we least expect it. And it’s hard. And it can really, really stink. I can’t tell you how many times I cleaned up sick green vomit. I can’t tell you how many nights I didn’t sleep. I can’t even tell you how many diapers I changed.

But I can tell you this: if you expect it to be a living hell it will be. If you expect to be burdened and miserable by your twins then you will be. You can’t expect them to come and somehow magically bring about a change in your heart. And I can promise you that children know when someone doesn’t want or love them as much as they should. They sense it. And there’s nothing more horrible than a child growing up feeling unloved or unwanted.

But what about you? What about your plans, your wants, your dreams? This is going to screw it all up. If you let it, sure. But if you make your boys part of your new dreams, your new plans, then your life will be fuller than you can even imagine.

My twins are 14 now. And I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I don’t regret one second. My experiences made me who I am, and I kind of like me. My boys know their worth. They know they are loved. They don’t even have to question it. They are amazing and I wouldn’t trade them for a rewrite of my life on any terms.

Now I wish to plead with you. If you and your wife truly don’t feel you can give your children the love and nurturing that ALL children need then don’t short change them. Give them to someone who will. I’d happily take them. Or, as an alternative, I have some friends who have struggled with infertility who would love to bring them into their home.

But, really, for your sake, I hope you choose to keep them. I also hope for your sake that you choose to want them. Because they can be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you.