Sunday, December 15, 2013

Goals and Wishes for 2014

As you can see, I've not been blogging very regularly lately. Between homeschooling and holidays and birthdays and camping trips and conventions...well, let's just say I've been busy.

It's normal though, for me, to be insanely busy this time of year. It's also normal for me to starting thinking about my accomplishments and my goals for next year. That's likely true of most people, I'm sure.

Accomplishments for 2013:
Goals for 2014:
  • Complete my novel, tentatively titled Relent. You can read about the premise here. It's in the editing stage, although this has been the hardest editing job I've had to do yet.
  • Complete two shorter works, both of which at this point look like they'll be novelette length, or possibly novella. One is Toch Island-related and the other is not.
  • When the above two goals are cleared, then I can dive in full-force with Toch Island 3.
  • Work even more conferences/conventions and get more school visits.
  • Push for more reviews of what I've already got out.
  • Sketch more.
Yep, those sound like pretty normal goals for an author, eh?

But there are two that have been niggling at the back of my mind...

However neither of them are things I can control, so I suppose these are "wishes" for 2014 instead:
  • Fan art for Toch Island Chronicles. I know, how completely narcissistic! But I keep seeing these authors posting art that readers have done of their characters (and trailers for their books) and I can't help thinking, "That would be so cool!"
  • Some time back, there was a discussion on Facebook that involved me mentioning that I'd love to be written as a villain in someone else's fiction. That thought has stayed with me. Some may think that's an awful wish, because we all know what happens to villains at the ends of stories (especially those of a speculative nature), but I would find it a total honor. I've always thought the actors who play villains in movies get to have the most fun, but I can't act :P. 
There you have it. And if I don't blog again before Christmas, have a merry one!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My First School Event

I've been a published author for two years now. (Well, for my novels--I was published as a short story writer for the first time about five years ago.) And ever since Finding Angel released, I've been looking forward to speaking to kids at schools. Yes, I admit the idea terrified me at first, but a local homeschool organization invited me to speak at a career day and I had so much fun, so I began asking around in search of teachers who might be interested in me coming to their classes.

I found out rather quickly it's much easier said than done. Schools are already pretty short on time when it comes to covering material, and taking time off for a guest speaker doesn't seem to be anywhere near the top of the priority list.

Well, at least not if you are a virtual unknown.

Some of my friends have friends and/or relatives who are school teachers, and they've tried connecting me with those teachers for school visits. But initial enthusiasm quickly turns to excuses. "We've got to prepare for FCATs right, maybe in a few months?" "How about next fall/spring? I'll get back to you..."


I'd pretty much given up on the possibility, at least until my homeschooling Beasties are older and I can leave them alone for long stretches while I pound the proverbial pavement trying to sell myself at face-to-face meetings with teachers.

And then...

At a local writers group a few months ago, I found out one of the members is a middle school teacher. I introduced myself after the meeting and asked her to please keep me in mind if she or any teachers she knew at her school were interested in having an author come speak. She was very sweet, and took my card, but hold my breath I did not.

A couple of months later, I was preparing to teach a workshop at the Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat, which happens to be run by the same writers group where I met the middle school teacher. She came up to me during the last group meeting before the retreat and told me about the Great American Teach In that would be happening at her school in November, and asked if I'd be interested in coming to speak!

Long story, short--okay, slightly less long--last Thursday I spoke to middle school students in two of her classes.

And it was AWESOME.

Of course being the big dummy that I am, I didn't take a camera, so I have no pics to show you. But I will never forget the faces I saw there. Smiles and eyes wide with interest. Hands going up one after the other with such great questions!

I started off by asking if any students were interested in writing, and the enthusiasm of some of the responsed just blew me away. My purpose in asking them was actually not to assess their interest, but to give a way for me to let them know that when I was their age I never thought of myself as a writer. It made me kind of sad--happy, but sad because when I was that age I could have been filled with the enthusiasm they have now if I'd given myself a chance to be.

Anyway, I had my art--and still do. And that was something that surprised me as well. I showed them some of my work, from present day and from waaaay back in high school. The oohs and ahhhs, and show-me-mores warmed my heart and kept me smiling the whole rest of the day!

All I can say is: Totally worth the wait. And now something I want to get to do even more.

So thank you, Mrs. Kramer, for asking me to speak to your classes. And thank you, students, for your awesomeness! Write on!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In Lieu of a Real Blog Post....

And yes, I'm still slacking on this blog. The last post I put up here was wimpy, I know. And today's won't be much better.

Fact is, I've been busy. Schooling the Beasties, who are getting older and more complicated. (Yes, I said that right--their schoolwork is getting more intensive, but the Beasties are the ones getting more complicated :P.)

And last week we took five days to camp at Disney's Ft. Wilderness. You can see the pictures HERE if you'd like.

Then, after getting back from camping, I decided I needed some time to draw. This first one is a sketch of a photo I found on Pinterest. For some reason, I just really, really love this.

And this one....well, if you can't tell "who" he is... :P


Since I still have no content of substance to post here, I give you THIS, a blog post by Maggie Stievater. Neither familiarity with Ms. Stiefvater nor the song to which she is referring in this post is necessary. But not having food or drink in your mouth when reading it (and some tolerance for a few mildly crude references) is necessary. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Where I Am, Since I Have Barely Been Here

Short post today just to share that my first contribution to the newly re-launched A Flame in the Dark blog by Diminished Media Group went live today.

In "Making it Personal" I analyze the differences between the novel and movie for The Woman in Black. I found some serious differences that in my opinion made the story in the movie far stronger--and more terrifying.

Would love if you'd stop by and check out my article, and the others that are up there. I'm looking forward to contributing more to the site in the future!


Anyway, I've not been blogging much lately--yes, I'm fully aware--but hope to get my head back into it soon. The Beasties are getting older, which means their schoolwork is getting more intensive. I've been really completely swamped with schooling them lately. Not to mention my house has basically been a construction zone for months. We are in the final stretch of laying down tile floor through about 1/3 of our house. It has been a lot of work and inconvenience, but the result is worth it!


Also, don't forget about the Goodreads giveaway for Finding Angel. Only a couple more days to enter for one of two print copies (signed, of course). CLICK HERE.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Flash Fiction

Cat Call
by Kat Heckenbach
(originally published in There Was a Crooked House

The mewing came distorted and musty. I lifted my gaze from my laptop and tuned my ear toward the fading sound.
Skittles, is that you?
I squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head. Of course not. The old tabby died long ago. I glanced at the now-empty windowsill behind my desk, then returned my attention to the computer. I’d only imagined it.
            This time it was louder, insistent. Could someone’s cat be inside the house? I stood and crossed the room, opened the door. The crying intensified.
            My heart thudded against my breastbone. With the door shut, I hadn’t heard the distinctive upswing at the end.
            “Skittles?” The word creaked out, rusty from disuse.
            I shuddered. A memory played in the back of my mind. We’d been telling ghost stories at a party, when a girl I’d never met before—black clothes, chalky white skin, silver cross dangling from one ear—gazed at me through wispy, black bangs.
             “They say you hear the voice of the dead just before you are about to die,” she said, and then one corner of her mouth lifted into a smile that sent shivers down my spine.
            Could it be? Am I hearing Skittles because I’m going to die?
            I skulked across the carpet of the hallway. “Skittles, is that you?”
            I stepped to the top edge of the staircase, heart pounding.
I lowered my foot to the second step. My heartbeat steadied. Maybe the girl had it wrong and the voice of the dead is warning you, calling you to safety?
            I took the third step down.
            A strange shadow filled the corner of the window at the base of the stairs…misty-gray, with pointed ears and a flicking tail.
            Fifth step…
My toe caught the edge of the carpet. As gravity snatched my upper body, I realized the snag in the carpet was where Skittles had clawed the pile loose.
            My knees hit first, jarring me and knocking me sideways. I grappled for the handrail, fingernails clawing against the wall, and then the world became intense light and electric pain, as walls, stairs and ceiling whirled in a spherical blur. Sharp corners bit into my arms, back, legs…and a final concrete thud slammed through my skull.
            Colorful mosaic tile came into warped focus in my periphery. Something dark and viscous flowed across it, away from my face. My body refused to obey my command to move. Even my lungs rebelled, releasing air but not taking in more. My eyes, despite my attempts to shift them, remained fixed on the bottom edge of the window. A gray mist of a tail flicked against the wall below the sill.
            And then she disappeared as one last thought trickled through my brain....
            They say you hear the voice of the dead just before you are about to die. But is that only because hearing it brings you there?

For more scary short stories by me, visit my Wattpad page. (Free to read! No account necessary.)
And find my horror (werewolf) novelette, Ordinary Folk, on Kindle and Nookbook for only 99 cents.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway of Finding Angel (ends Nov 12)

I told myself before the Necronomicon that I'd run a giveaway when I got back. It took me a few days to get in gear, but here it is. Two copies up for grabs.

Note that there is less than two weeks to enter! And PLEASE share the link!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach

Finding Angel

by Kat Heckenbach

Giveaway ends November 12, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, October 21, 2013

Necronomicon 2013: The Best One Yet

Seventy-two hours of AWESOMENESS.

Day One:

Imagine my joy.

Getting a book and dust-jacket signed by Christopher Paolini. Can you say "nice guy"? :)

I got to bar tend at Friday night's Ygor/Igor beer-tasting party. Cheers!

Day Two:

The author table, and the author :P.

GORGEOUS corset. Those are TARDISes, btw. I love the latches down the front, too. 

Na-na na-na na-na na-na....

Steampunk love runs in the family :).

Author bud, David Berger.

My every-year Necro companion. We were waiting outside here because the hotel was evacuated when a sprinkler went off. The story seems to be that either someone hung a dress on the sprinkler, or a curling iron was left on.
Either way--it was the wedding party at the hotel, not the freak-fest that did it! Mwahahahahahahaa.....

Before they became enemies, the Doctor and his Cyberman were friends... ;)

What I did *not* get a picture of was the awesome silver balloon that these two had that said "Leaded Zeppelin." 

Me and the astronomy geekess in her awesome Dalek dress. 

Bow ties and fezzes are cool.

The pic doesn't do these two justice. They really looked the parts.

One--the Two--Elvira is pretty tall herself, so...
Anyway, they both looked awesome. 

Me and my Necro-companion, and author bud Bill Hatfield. 

Maleficent. Again, the pic doesn't do justice. She looked even more fabulous.

Welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...

I admit--I stole this off Facebook, but it's so much better than the one I took. This costume was
(And yes, that's Christopher Paolini again!)

Day Three:

(No pics during the con itself--just a few panels and then selling books.)

After the con, hanging out by the hotel bar and listing to Bill Hatfield play and sing. A lot of talent under that hair.

After the con, at dinner at Mr. Dunderbak's.
What happens at the con stays at the con.

Feeling Like an Outsider Because of My Faith: This Year's Con Experience

This past weekend was the Necronomicon science fiction, fantasy, and gaming convention. If you've been following my blog for a while, you know I go to this every year. It was my first con as an attendee, and my first con as a guest author. It's been great fun every year...and I'd have to say that this year was the best yet!

The people who run the Necro work so hard, all year long to prepare, and it shows. They are awesome people, as are the attendees and other guests. There were some amazing costumes this year, too! And I took lots of pictures that I will post in another blog post. (If you are friends with me on Facebook, however, go look up the album I have there.)

And while I could spend this entire blog going on and on about how much fun I had participating in panels and selling books and meeting people and people-watching and dancing and cheering...that's not going to be the focus of the post. Not because I want to be negative--believe me, I don't! I never, ever want to give the slightest negative impression of this con because it is near and dear to my heart! But there was this one panel....

You see, as an author I get to participate in writing panels, as in being on the panel of guests. Here is the schedule I had this year:

Friday2:00 PMSALON AWriting Basics–Creating Anti-Heroes, Rogues, and Villains
Friday5:00 PMSALON GSocial Media and the Author
Friday8:00 PMSALON CHow to Keep Writing in the Face of Adversity
Saturday4:00 PMSALON BReligion in Science Fiction and Fantasy
The first three were massively fun. Even the social media one, which I was nervous about because I feel for the most part that I'm stumbling around in the dark when it comes to social media. The general consensus, though, from the panelists was that we all feel that way, and everyone was just so supportive of each other. 

But the last panel, the one I was both really looking forward to and also a little nervous about because I wasn't sure what direction it would take, nearly broke me down.

Let me take this moment to point something out: There has been much talk in the news lately about "harassment" at cons like these. But they focus mostly on women wearing revealing costumes. Or women, and I suppose some men, of larger sizes wearing costumes some would deem appropriate only for skinny-minnies. And there is a lot of effort to show acceptance to LGBT guests. All of which is wonderful.

Notice, though, that there is nothing in there about guests of religious faith. 

I blogged about this a few years ago regarding this same con. In my first post, I mentioned some rather uncomfortable moments that stemmed from an attendee's t-shirt that mocked Jesus' resurrection, and that year's guest of honor slamming Christians who write sci-fi. The following year (two years ago), though, my experience was nearly a 180-degree change, as I met several guests who were open about their Christian faith. Last year there was one small instance where an attendee made a joke at the expense of Christians - to me - and I simply gave her a look that included a smile, but that made it clear I didn't find it funny. 

I've let this all slide. I've never said anything to anyone at the con about it all. I figure you're going to meet people who differ from you, and sometimes people say things without thinking, and we ought to just forgive and move on.

However, when you are sitting in front of an entire room of people as a guest on a panel about religion in science fiction and fantasy, and you are the ONLY one on that panel that is NOT an atheist***, and the other panelists are speaking rather frankly about how they consider all religion to be myth and fiction...

And then when an attendee speaks up and shares his "clever" remark for "dealing with creationists"--a remark that includes calling our God "stupid"...

I nearly walked out.

But I couldn't. For one, it would simply be unprofessional. Also, it would just fuel the fire. 

Fortunately, that attendee asked why authors aren't "addressing" the issue of the stupid-god worshiping creationists in fiction, and I explained to him that writing fiction with a message and agenda like that, whether it be Christian in nature or atheist in nature, is considered "preaching at the reader" and ignores story and should not be a part of fiction.

He said no more during that panel.

I thank God that He was there with me through that hour. That I had the words to answer that attendee. And that I found through looks and comments an attendee that obviously shared my faith and with whom I spent some great quality time talking after the panel. I'm not sure my nerves would have survived if not for her, to be honest. 

Anyway, my point is not to bash anyone from the con. Or, as I said, to focus on negativity there. Because 99% of my experience this year was phenomenal

I just needed to get this out there. I felt harassed for the first time at a con. Not directly--no one came up to my face and called me names--but the comments were said with such a strong assumption that sci-fi cons are just not a place for Christians

Yes, the panelists were more diplomatic, although as I said, they made it clear that they find religious belief...naive. A few of them did step in and remind the audience that authors need to be careful when touching on religion because their readership may very well include someone of the very faith they are including in their fiction in a negative way. I did appreciate that. But the hurt is still there. The sting still felt.** 

The other thing felt was the irony of the situation, being that those of non-religious belief are free to fill their books with religious reference, yet those of us with religious belief are expected to keep it under wraps.

And speaking of irony--there was another instance, although no one in the room (other than me) was aware of it. There were six panelists including me. I was the only Christian. Those that are not tend to point at science as the "proof" that there is no God, or at least the measuring stick on which they lean in that assumption--and yes there were comments in that area. Yet, I was also the only one on the panel with a background, much less a college degree, in science

Still, as I said, the other 99% of the con weekend was pure awesomeness and ended with many hugs and "see you next year"s. Maybe I'll even see you there!

**I hold no one--no one--that ran/worked the con or participated as a guest responsible for this feeling. Just so you know. My utmost respect for the con crew in every way.

***I am adding this clarification based on some comments I've gotten--the panel did talk about religion as mainly myth, and I did take that as the rest of the panelists being atheists. Only two of them outright said they are atheists. The other three never said specifically, and may have some kind of spiritual beliefs, but my impression was that their spiritual tendencies were...deity-free. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Necronomicon 2013

Yes, I've totally slacked on blogging lately. Get over it. Or, come to the Necronomicon this weekend and berate me in person:

Florida's Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Convention
October 18-20, 2013 - Embassy Suites USF - Tampa
The "Back To Tampa" Tour!

(Click HERE for more info and directions.)

Guest of Honor:
Christopher Paolini
Author of "Eragon"

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

So Few Words, So Much Power

I just finished reading The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvator. You can see my review of the book here. In that review, you'll notice I mentioned a comment I posted on Facebook:

"I'm reading one of *those* books. The kind that reminds me why I started writing. The kind that makes me lose myself in another world. The kind that is so wonderfully written, I feel like a total hack and wonder what possessed me to think I could ever do this...."

For anyone who doesn't know, The Dream Thieves is the sequel to The Raven Boys. And this week, my friend Kessie Carroll posted a blog that features Stiefvater's prose in The Raven Boys.

Take a moment and go read the blog post. Seriously, now.

OK, back?

One of the things you should have noticed is this particular statement by Kessie:

"I don’t think there’s a superfluous bit of description in this whole book."


A thousand times THIS.

I know that all the great classics are filled with full-to-bursting paragraphs, passages, even whole chapters of rich, vivid description. I can't even deny that my own writing may run a little long in those areas--at least in Finding Angel. Probably not so much in my other work, as my beta readers tend to whine for more description these days :P.

But here's my point. Description, and prose in general, the way Stiefvater does it just blows my mind because it keeps things to a minimum and yet packs a full punch. A fuller punch than most books that are weighted down with massive amounts of description.

It's kind of like what you learned--or should have learned--in physics. There is less impact from the same force spread over a large area. You make that area smaller--the head of a hammer, the edge of a knife--and the force is not only more powerful, it's easier to control.

After finishing The Dream Thieves I picked up some older historical fiction as part of research I'm doing for a work in progress. Honestly, it was painful.

***Please, historical fiction fans, don't take this wrong. I know that many readers love detailed description, and I am NOT saying my preference is better!

What I am saying is this: 

There has been accusation that fiction has been dumbed-down. That this minimalist approach, with less description and making sure every single action, word of dialog, thought, etc, moves the story forward, forward, forward, is sucking the intelligence from fiction. Granted, I'm not going to disagree that much fiction out there is dumbed-down, but I take heart in books like The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves because they prove that less is not always less. That less CAN be more. That power comes from the force behind the words. That a big vocabulary is only as strong as the intent of the author using it.

In other words, NO, I am not losing brain cells from reading YA, because there is SO much YA fiction that packs real force behind fewer words.

That is how I want to write. And the kind of fiction I want to read. I admit it. And it's not from laziness. Impatience, maybe, but only because I'm seeing it done in these amazing books and I just really no longer want to take the time to read paragraph after paragraph when the same thing could be said with:

"Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn’t know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves."

So few words, so much power. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Subtraction and Sibling Rivalry

I don't normally post about things like this on here, but this seemed too long for a Facebook status :).

A discovery I've made as a homeschool mom is that a secret to teaching subtraction is....exploiting sibling rivalry. 

Not what you're thinking. No--I don't mean setting your kids up to compete with each other. I mean, use their rivalry to help them understand practical application of math concepts.

For example...

This is the word problem you're given:
Suzie has 14 crayons. Mary has 18 crayons. What is the difference?
You have explained to your child about 4,327 times that "what is the difference" means you subtract. Still, she looks at you like you're speaking another language. So you reword it and ask, "How many more crayons does Mary have than Suzie?" Again, a blank stare.

Now, say this:
You have 14 crayons. Your brother has 18 crayons. What is the difference?
What immediately goes through your child's mind:
He has MORE than me. This is UNACCEPTABLE. 
And the calculation will happen almost instinctively. Actually, she will also be able to tell you that if he gives her two crayons, they will now have THE SAME.

Another example... 
4 - 2 1/3 = ?
What is probably going through both your head and your child's:
Fractions??? Are you kidding me? 
A common problem is getting the fraction on the "wrong side"--in other words, your child may answer "2 2/3" or even "2 1/3" because 4-2=2, and they're not sure what to do with the fraction part.

Never fear. Say this:
You have 4 brownies. I'm going to give your sister 2 1/3. How much will you have left?
Your child will immediate envision four brownies sitting in front of him. He will fully understand that TWO WHOLE BROWNIES will be taken from this precious stash. And not only that, but 1/3 of one of the other will be given to her. Which is, of course, unacceptable. And you may be surprised that he can not only answer the question, but tell you exactly how much his sister needs to give back in order to make them have THE SAME.

Notice--"the same" is of utmost importance.

And of course my disclaimer that I can't guarantee this will work with your kid, but my little Beasties.... ;)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Necronomicon 2013

Me at last year's Necro.
It's less than a month away. The 2013 Necronomicon, that is. If you don't already know, this is a sci-fi/fantasy/horror/anime/gaming convention that takes place every year in the Tampa Bay area.

In past years, it was in St Pete, but this year it will be at the Embassy Suites USF in Tampa, from October 18th to 20th.

(Click here for full info. Registration is only $35, btw.)

I will be participating as an author for the second year. Which means I get to be on cool panels!

This year, the panels I'm on are:

Friday2:00 PMSALON AWriting Basics--Creating Anti-Heroes, Rogues, and Villains
Friday5:00 PMSALON GSocial Media and the Author
Friday8:00 PMSALON CHow to Keep Writing in the Face of Adversity
Saturday4:00 PMSALON BReligion in Science Fiction and Fantasy

The guest of honor this year is Christopher Paolini, author of the Eragon series. In honor of that, they've deemed this year's theme "The Dragons are Coming." Check out the t-shirt design:

Yeah, mine's already pre-ordered :)

So, maybe see ya there? And feel free to spread the word!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Free Ebook, Protection's Prison, Companion to Finding Angel

Running another promo on Amazon. 
Protection’s Prison, which I basically think of as Toch Island 1 1/2, is free on Kindle now through September 19thCLICK HERE to get yours.
If you don’t have a Kindle, the Kindle apps for your computer, tablet or phone are free. And this is a short read (about 20 pages) so no excuses ;) .
And please remember that honest reviews are much appreciated, as is spreading the word.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction - "Clay's Fire"

In honor of Friday the 13th, and to help ya start getting ready for Halloween (seven weeks away!), I've decided to post some of my short horror stories. This one is posted on Wattpad and is my most popular story there by a wide margin. Enjoy!

Clay’s Fire
 (originally published in The Four Horsemen by Pill Hill Press)

            Clay appeared in the bedroom doorway clutching a stack of papers, a wide grin set across his face.
            “Turn off the TV, Katie. I just finished my latest story. I want to read it to you.”
            I reached over the pillow and grabbed the remote from the nightstand. The flickering glow from the television snapped off, leaving the room in almost complete darkness. Clay walked over and turned on the small lamp clipped to the edge of the desk against the far wall.
            “Is this the one you were working on the other day? When you wouldn’t let me in the study?”
            “Yeah, that’s it. Now settle in. Close your eyes.” The chair creaked with the all-too familiar sound of him leaning back.
            “Just this once can’t you sit by me?”
            “Katie, come on. I can’t read with you watching me.”
            “I’ll keep my eyes closed, I promise.”
            Clay laughed. “You’ll keep them closed anyway.” The chair creaked again. “Now be quiet.”
            I pulled the sheets up to my shoulders and rested my head against the pillow. The last thing I saw before closing my eyes was the silhouette of the footboard that served as a wall between us.
            “Ready?” Clay said, his voice already deepening into the storyteller mode I fell in love with.
            Clay’s voice drifted through the room, deep and resonating. Smooth. His words caressed me, soothing me, even when he read something terrifying. I never felt safer than when he spoke in that mystical, storyteller voice…
            Charles entered the convenience store at exactly seven-thirty. The clang of the bell ended abruptly when the door slammed shut behind him. The store was crowded, and Charles felt heat climb up his neck.
            Too many people in this small space, with its narrow aisles stuffed full of junk. Bags and boxes of chemical-laden snacks in their neat little rows along the shelves.
            I knew that part of the story came from Clay’s own fear of small spaces. Claustrophobia to the nth degree in his case. Our house had gobs of windows and soaring high ceilings. I felt a pang of discomfort, knowing Clay had mentally put himself in Charles’ shoes and experienced the heat and fear of the crowded and confined store, the kind of place he’d never willingly enter in real life.
            People milled around, avoiding each other’s eyes, as if stopping in to buy a six-pack and a bag of Fritos were some sort of conspiratorial act. Charles lowered his eyes as well, tugging at the collar of his shirt.
            Tight…so tight.
            I pulled at the sheets. Hadn’t they only been up to my shoulders? Why were they pushing against my chin?
            His neck was slick with perspiration, and as he stood in front of the newspaper rack, beads of sweat popped up on his forehead. He swiped his hands through his bangs, the heat from his forehead surging into his palms.
            “I must have a fever,” he whispered to himself.

            The sheets suddenly smothered me, sticking to my legs. I folded the edge over and kicked myself free, trying to stay tuned in to Clay’s voice. Air, not quite cool enough, hit my skin and I settled back into my pillow... 

Continue reading on Wattpad. (No worries if you don't have an account--you don't need one to read it!)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Albert Einstein is quoted as defining insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Yet, what writers are told is to "keep submitting" stories that get rejected over and over.

And if you get published and your book is not selling? "Keep writing more books" and putting them out there.

And if those books don't sell? Keep writing and putting more out there...

Take what you will from this little observation--all I know is it's really hard to type in a straight jacket.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Local Talent Rocks

Inspired this week by some really talented local bands, so I wanted to share these links with you.

First, the Caleb Hyers Band. I first heard Caleb Hyers (center) sing at a church we attended several years ago. His acoustic version of "How Great is Our God" pretty much blew me away, especially because he was all of about 16 at the time. His band is releasing an album on September 17th.

Sample some of Lay Down Without a Fight on the Caleb Hyers Band site. (My favorite is "Come At Me". I've already listened to it like six times since finding the link today.)

Next is Midnight Fiasco. The guitarist and vocalist is Michael Holton (far right), who was a member of my homeschool group. Yeah, that's right--homeschoolers rock. Literally :D.

They've also got an album nearly ready for release. You can get a sample of their work on their Facebook Band Page.

Third is Sailing the Tragic. Lead vocalist and rhythm guitar is Drew Law (far left), a member of my church. They haven't quite gotten to the album creation stage, but they are playing some local gigs. They graced us with a few songs at the Back to School bash at church a couple of weeks ago, and performed a rock-edged version of "I'm a Believer" I really wish I could give you a link for!

But I do have this, a youtube vid of one of their original songs, "Black and Blue."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Guest Post by Jill Domschot: "Yes, but What Does it Mean?"

Jill Domschot has published exactly one book, and I am already a total fan of hers. My review (5-stars, of course) called her novel Anna and the Dragon "more literary than fantasy, but...still fantasy true-and-true." What I fell in love with about her writing was the depth and quirkiness and thinky-ness.

And I happen to know it's chock-full of symbolism. Which is why I asked her here to post on that topic. I am happy to say she obliged. 

Without further ado, and mainly so I don't come of as some squealy fan-girl, here's Jill's guest post:

A classic example of a skeptical English student is Bruce McAllister, who, when he was sixteen, boldly set out to foil his English teacher by sending out questionnaires on symbolism to 150 well-known authors of his day (see this article). He did this because he believed authors, and not just scholars, should have an opportunity to provide answers to the nether world of fiction. He put forth four questions: Did the writer intentionally or unintentionally use symbolism? Did readers create symbols where none existed (and did this annoy the writer)? Did the writer believe that classic authors used symbolism in their books? Did the writer have anything else to elucidate on the subject?

The responses to his questionnaire were varied. Some authors, such as Jack Kerouac, denied using symbolism because symbolism is for “fiction” and he told “true life stories.” However, Kerouac was willing to admit that some authors of “fiction” intentionally place symbolic elements in their work, while others don't. Ray Bradbury was a symbolism denier of the wholesale variety, claiming that the intentional act of laying out symbolism destroys creativity, which is unsurprising. Bradbury loved to wear the artist cloak—in his case a magician's—in whose guise creative acts sprang unspoiled from his black hat. If the world knew how he created his art, the magic would be lost.

By contrast, Ayn Rand wasn't a denier. She admitted to both consciously and subconsciously using symbolism in her stories. This isn't surprising because Ayn Rand was, by ego focus, an intellectual. Intellectuals crave acknowledgement of their intellectual abilities. If nobody asks, they'll often tell, anyway. On the other hand, they're cagey about their methods. They want others to know they understand a subject or a process, but they don't want anybody to be quite at their level of expertise. So, while Ms. Rand was perfectly happy to give an affirmative answer to sixteen-year-old McAllister, she also added, “I have no method; there is no method in writing fiction; you don't seem to understand.”

I'm not sure what Mr. McAllister expected in the way of replies. If he was attempting to prove to his teacher that most authors don't intentionally use the symbolism one learns from literature studies, he proved something else entirely—that authors are the worst people to ask such questions. I highlighted the authors above because their answers give away nothing but their own ego projections. One is too busy keeping it real; the next is too busy being creative to bother with such nonsense; the third is trying to maintain an aura of labyrinthine intellectuality.

At the same time, I'm going to make a shocking claim: all authors, even those who readily deny it, use symbolism, at the very least, on a subconscious level. Our subconscious minds are wired to respond to symbols. Many of us aren't aware of the way symbols affect us. Hence, many authors are unaware of the symbolism they employ. This general unawareness is why marketing campaigns are so successful. Once people are consciously aware of the way they're influenced by symbols, the advertising will cease to be effective. In a sense, aware authors are simply marketers of story. They might admit to using symbolism, as in the case of Ayn Rand, but what purpose does it serve them if they're too specific about their methods? They'll weaken their power to influence the reading audience.

Now that I've established how unreliable authors are when asked questions about—not just their methods—but their core motivations, I'll go ahead and do what my blog hostess, Kat, asked me to do in the first place. I'm going to give away some of the symbolism I used in my debut novel Anna and the Dragon. I take that back. I'm not going to give away “some.” I'll highlight one piece of symbolism I consciously used. After all, I'm an intellectual like Ayn Rand. I want the world to acknowledge my brilliance without understanding how I arrived at the dreamscape that creates my story.

When my protagonist, Anna, first meets the love interest, Franklin, he takes her to his apartment, where he falls asleep on a bed covered with an Indian tree-of-life spread. The tree-of-life is a simple, workable symbol for several reasons. First of all, it fits with the Portland environment of the nineties. Portland in the nineties has taken on the character of a hippy, free-wheeling place. Imagine for a moment walking into an upstairs, downtown apartment in a city covered by perpetual cloud cover, where all is green and dusky and gray outdoors—and set with brilliant, billowing Indian spreads indoors. That's the Portland I remember from my youth.

On a deeper level, almost every culture will instantly recognize the tree-of-life. It's what God barred Adam and Eve from in the garden of Eden. Its branches connects us to the heavens above and the underworld beneath. It is present in mythology. Even science uses it to denote common descent through evolution. In short, it's a powerful pictorial representation of physical and spiritual life (for an overview). This symbol, then, connects my story to a larger human reality. Ultimately, Anna and the Dragon is a story about characters choosing life. Franklin has a genetic heart defect, but Anna chooses life when she joins him on his bed—becomes his wife, has his child.

Even though authors will be cagey about their symbolism, naturally projecting their egos when asked to explain their methodology, I've chosen to be candid about this one small element to the point of … insecurity. I'm insecure at the moment, having just given away a secret. It's much easier, and just as enlightening, to sit in an English class taking apart the works of long-dead authors than it is to become self-aware about my own work. I hope the skeptical Bruce McAllister understands that writers are the worst people to ask now that he's no longer sixteen and, in fact, a writer of some merit himself.

Thank you, Jill!

And readers, if you didn't catch the links in the text up there, here's Jill's website and Anna and the Dragon on Amazon