National Author's Day

In addition to being the start of National Novel Writing Month, November 1 has additional significance for American writers: it’s National Author’s Day! Here is some of the history, as supplied by NationalDayCalendar.com:

The idea of setting aside a day to celebrate American authors came from Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement (Illinois) Women’s Club in 1928. McPherson was a teacher and an avid reader throughout her life. During World War I, when she was recuperating in a hospital, she wrote a fan letter to fiction writer Irving Bacheller, telling him how much she had enjoyed his story, “Eben Holden’s Last Day A’Fishin.” Bacheller sent her an autographed copy of another story, and McPherson realized that she could never adequately thank him for his gift. Instead, she showed her appreciation by submitting an idea for a National Author’s Day to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which passed a resolution setting aside November 1 as a day to honor American writers. In 1949 the day was recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

If you follow the link, you can also read about how you can observe this holiday and support your favorite authors!

I may not be a “real” author – as my in-laws remind me so often, since I’ve only self-published one novel, and it was a fan fiction novel, at that – but I like to think that this day can at least sort of be for me, as well, since writing is such an integral part of my life. I’m also lucky to know personally so many talented published authors and aspiring-to-be-published authors, and I wanted to give a little shout-out to them. If you’ve got a moment, check out their blogs to read about their journeys, and, while you’re there, give them a comment or even click on one of their books to purchase!

Kate Johnston @ 4amwriter.com : writer, coach, editor with several handbooks to guide you in your writing journey

Kourtney Heintz @ kourtneyheintz.com : author of The Six Train to Wisconsin, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts, and the brand new Highway Thirteen to Manhattan!

Vanessa Chapman @ vanessa-chapman.com : writer with multiple skilful blogs and several articles (at lifehack!) to read

JM McDowell @ jmmcdowell.com : writer (and archaeologist!) of the delightful Meghan Bode series of mysteries, which you can read on her blog

George McNeese @ Project Blacklight : writer with several articles, reviews, and even short stories to share

ShadeTheRaven @ Shade The Raven : writer with lots of short stories to fill your days

Make sure to send a little bit of love to YOUR favorite author, today!

Out of Decline

Earlier this week, I updated the main header image on this blog. The last image was a photo I’d taken a few years ago in La Jolla, and its setting sun scene was pretty, but, over time, I came to associate it too much with decline. Decline of readers, decline of interaction, decline of my self.

A header image is rather like a book cover. It should say something about the writer, and that “declining” feeling of the old header image wasn’t what I wanted to project as indicative of me or my work. So, I went through my drawing archives and picked out a bunch of pictures that represent me and the stories – or attempts at stories – I’ve made over the years. Long-time readers may recognize one or more of the characters and stories on display, but, from current left to right, they are:

  • My adulterer/lovers, from many 100 Word Challenges for Grown-Ups and Five Sentence Fiction entries
  • Amber, from Fearless
  • Chie and Yousuke, from 1 More Chance!
  • Nev, from Fearless
  • Fram, who is the only one not from a story, but whose helmet I spent too long researching and drawing not to include here
  • Sally, from “Slave Girls and Shining Knights”
  • Ross, from Fearless
    and
  • Zera, from “Anywhere but Here”

These selections may change over time, as I hope to develop my drawing skills along with my writing, because I really want to get some representation for my Borderlands From Hell (A Love Story) continuity up there. Someone or someones from my “Finding Mister Wright” stories needs to be up there, too, because even as I write this post, I’m finishing up yet another tale of love, growth, and honesty with the Wrights and McAllisters. But, for right now, this is what I’ve got.

This is me.

Special: Blog Cover Reveal for Kourtney Heintz's *Highway Thirteen to Manhattan*

Today’s is a special update, wherein I join a host of other bloggers for the cover reveal of author friend Kourtney Heintz‘s newest novel, Highway Thirteen to Manhattan! Without further ado, here it is!

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I asked Kourtney how she works with her cover artists, and here’s what she had to say:

The cover artist is Creative Paramita (http://www.creativeparamita.com). I worked with her when Beckett Publishing Group published The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts.

Once I find great people to work with, I do my best to stick with them. I was lucky that she works with both publishers and indie authors.

The process begins with me filling out a questionnaire about the book. I tell her the back cover summary and what I feel are the really important details of the characters on the cover. I also explain all the things I want to see in the initial mock up.

She then delivers 2-3 unique designs to me. I consult with my crit partner, editor, and street team about what works and what doesn’t. It’s amazing what all those extra sets of eyes can catch. Then I pick the one that I like best and the cover designer does several rounds of revisions until I’m satisfied with the cover.

With this cover, I had a very specific concept in mind, but very few people liked how it turned out. The one I picked was something the designer came up with completely on her own. It was quite a surprise. But there was an overwhelmingly positive response to that cover. We only did a couple rounds of revisions. This is probably the easiest cover design ever.

Is your curiosity piqued, yet? There’s more! Kourtney was also nice enough to provide the back cover summary from Highway Thirteen to Manhattan…

His secrets almost killed her. Her secrets may destroy them both.

Kai is recovering from a near-death experience when she realizes something isn’t right. Her body is healing, but her mind no longer feels quite like her own. Her telepathic powers are changing, too. She can’t trust herself. The darkness growing inside of her pushes her to use her telepathy as a weapon.

Oliver clings to the hope that he can save their marriage, even though he was the one who put her life in jeopardy. As his wife slips further and further away from him, he becomes increasingly obsessed with bringing the man who ruined his life to justice.

The sequel to The Six Train to Wisconsin is a genre-defying tale of love and consequences. Once again, award-winning author Kourtney Heintz seamlessly weaves suspense and paranormal intrigue into a real-world setting, creating characters rich in emotional and psychological complexity.

Release Date in ebook and paperback format: November 1, 2016
ARC available on NetGalley: July 15, 2016

Head on over to Kourtney’s blog, or go straight to her Writings page to get caught up on the story of Kai and Oliver with The Six Train to Wisconsin before Highway Thirteen to Manhattan hits the virtual and physical shelves!

That Delicate Scale

Feet on scale

No, not that kind of scale.

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Not that kind of scale, either.

Scale (PSF)

That’s more like it. Scales as in balance, or, more precisely, the balancing act we all have to find our way to master, to keep ourselves alive and well.

Now, I’m a firm believer in discipline. Back in 2004, I decided I’d had enough of hating my body every time I saw it in the mirror. So, while I was at a work conference and sitting around my hotel room, I made up my mind to start an exercise regime. Just sit-ups and crunches to start, but over time and with research, it grew to include push-ups, weights, squats, leg lifts, and more. Now, I do a variation of my exercise routine every single day, and have done for the last 12 years. I got in the habit of doing it every morning, and it became part of my efforts to balance life, work, health, and happiness.

In 2005, when I was in Japan, I vowed to stay away from my work email. Mostly because I couldn’t be bothered with it, but also because it felt so freeing to be un-tethered from the demands of my job. The freedom and relief I felt from relinquishing that control over work that was thousands of miles away helped me enjoy that vacation so much more. Since then, I’ve made consistent efforts to stay away from work – which mostly means my work email – when I’m on vacation and after-hours. (When I go away, I actually remove the app from my smartphone, so I’m not tempted to check it when I log in.) This is part of my life balance, too, that keeps my mental state healthy.

What feels like many years ago, now, probably around 2005’s NaNoWriMo, I decided to focus a part of my energies more acutely on my writing. Because writing has always brought me joy, and that joy is something I need in my life; it has helped me on more than one occasion to confront, accept, and move past the hardships I’ve had to face. I write every day, mostly on my commute to and from work, because train rides are good for that. But also in the mornings, after I’ve done my exercises and I’m waiting for my tea to steep, when I have a free lunch break, and sometimes when the rest of the family is playing games or watching TV after supper. This is a third part of my life balance, the part that looks after my soul.

Of course, there are other facets to my balancing act: family, work, play, chores, the elusive goal of “mindfulness” and spirituality. They all fall into the daily routine, as well. Because they are responsibilities, though – if we don’t wake up on time, we won’t make it to school; if we don’t wash those dishes, they’ll pile up; if we don’t go grocery shopping, we’ll have to scrounge – they seem to fall more naturally into place on the balance beam. It’s the personal bits that I’ve had to concentrate on, the beats and rests I’ve had to hold myself to with my own willpower, that take conscious effort and dedication. Because the consequences to not incorporating those parts to the balancing act affect me more than anyone else: they’re about my health, my mental state, my joy. Yes, those aspects will affect the people around me over time, especially my family and my closest work colleagues. But what makes me ME is something only I can control, and only I can change. I chose this balance. What about you?

Away and Back Again

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I recently returned from a long weekend holiday in London, England. I took daily notes in a travelogue, of sorts, just because I wanted to keep the memories of the little things I experienced, and writing them down always helps. Some folks wanted to see my handwritten notes, though they are mostly illegible. Still, I’ll share a few highlights. (Typed translations included to read my scrawl):

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Our first chuckle came at Immigration, when the officer asked what we are going to do while here in the UK. I said, “Pubs and walking,” and he replied, “I like the sound of the first one! The second one, not so much.”

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Did the walk past Buckingham Palace and Westminster (where we got lost), on our way to Cask. There, I had a tall, refreshing Rothaus Wheat and a burger that REALLY hit the spot.

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Coffee and tea at Kaffeine, along with some egg-and-salmon croissants that were quite tasty. From there, we planned a long-ish day of walking, up to the “Spaced” house in Islington. Walked through Kentish Town – which had some very trippy graffiti – and Camden, and found the old house in question, where husband got some pictures. We took a walk up to Hampstead Heath, as well, just because it was so close. Gorgeous windy day for the walking dogs!

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“Pissing rain” for part of the afternoon, but we got a reprieve with some very tasty – if pricey – sushi at Murakami. The soft-shelled crab was so good, we had to order 2! It was a bit too much to get dessert there, so we picked up some macarons and a parfait – and a few more beers to try – from Whole Foods, and went back to the hotel for an early night. A good thing, since we were both very tired and ended up sleeping for about 9 hours! Walking so many miles every day will do that, though.

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Walked by 10 Downing Street, but Larry was “napping.” We did see the Horse Guard’s Parade, or at least part of it.

Meeting Beth and Vanessa today. Very excited! I hope I don’t end up being a stereotype [sic] American and making an ass of myself.

Turned out, I didn’t have to worry! We had a very nice time chatting, drinking, and eating at Lowlander Cafe, a Belgian bar in Covent Garden. After, we had tea at Pret a Manger – which I’m still not certain how to pronounce – before we parted ways. I may need to go out to Kent next time, though.

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We travelled out to Brighton, on the coast. It’s very much a seaside town; parts of it reminded me of Harbram. We stopped for a pint at another chain-type pub, and after that took the bus out to The Seven Sisters cliffs. The train to Brighton was about an hour plus, and the bus ride just about an hour, as well, so it was mid-afternoon before we got to walk around the cliffs area. It was gorgeous, though, with sheep and cows and a real English countryside feel.

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I loved the vibe walking through the park. The parks were my favorite part of this trip, as they usually are for my vacations. Saw lots of birds and dogs, and it just felt so peaceful and welcoming.

Imperial was very much like home. The students and faculty walking around, doing university business, really made me feel like I belonged there. The bustle of Piccadilly was exciting, but the atmosphere around Imperial was much more my speed. I’m glad I got the chance to walk around the campus by myself before we left. I would definitely go back there and through Hyde Park, next time we’re in London.

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Hoping for a smooth plane ride home to Philadelphia. Meanwhile, story ideas are coursing through my head for the flight…. <3


I appreciate how lucky I am to be able to travel and have experiences away from home. My family, friends, and colleagues all helped me prepare for, cope with, and enjoy this vacation, in a way I couldn’t have done were I alone. Even though I was supposed to be alone for a portion of this holiday, and I was looking forward to that me-time, I am glad that I got to experience it together with my husband, as it became something of a second honeymoon, for us. Adventures that take us to new places – and new places within ourselves – are exciting when we’re on our own…but they can also be so much more fulfilling when we have someone to share them with.

The crunch-time of vacation merrymaking didn’t allow for as much writing as I might have gotten were I by myself, but I did manage to finish the story linked to below on the plane ride home. It has nothing to do with vacationing, but I don’t know the next chance I’ll get to indulge myself in writing younger Rob, Paige, and Daniel.

“Just a Man”
[~6800 words / 26 pages DS; PDF opens in a new window]

Have you enjoyed any adventures, recently? What do you like best about vacations? What are your favorite (in)activities while on holiday? Do you keep a travelogue while you’re on the move?

Points of Light

NightSkyFlying

I was flying home from a work meeting on the night of Friday, November 11. While frightening and deadly acts were happening halfway across the globe, this was the sight outside my wingside window. I didn’t have WiFi, so I had no idea what was happening in world news. There was only the thrum of the engines, the buzz of my overhead air vent, and this view, with the city bustle below, the reddening sky ahead, and that sliver of lunar light above.

When I walked out to the family car that had come to pick me up at Terminal B, my husband informed me about the breaking news in Paris. We wondered how people were coping over there, and if the extra security walking around the airport had anything to do with the events still developing in France. Over the next few days, there were political discussions, as well as conversations about safety, social centrism, and the cultural narrow-sightedness of our first world society in particular. But my mind kept coming back to that picture I took from an Embraer window.

I’ve always enjoyed flying. Since I’ve been a kid, I’ve been getting on planes at least two or three times a year, and, despite some of the rigamarole involved in check-in and security lines, it remains one of my favorite ways to travel. There’s a feeling of detachment from the land below when we fly. We can look down from a plane in flight and see for miles around: freeways, farmland, rivers, lakes and oceans, all as a kind of separate spectator. As a child, I often wondered if that vantage point was how spacemen saw us, and how that high perspective affected their opinions. From 10,000 feet, you can’t hear what’s going on below, the prayers or the curses. You can’t see individuals, either, neither their shape nor their color. You can only see the parts of the world as their own wholes: villages, towns, cities. And when you fly at night, even over large expanses of land or water, you look for light. Sometimes, it’s just a point. But, if you keep looking, odds are you’ll see more points, more light, until there’s so many, they’re impossible to count.

When we hear about violence, hatred, and acts of terror, it’s natural to be afraid. It’s human to want to close ourselves off and hide. But it’s important to remember that the world isn’t all darkness. There is light here, too. Sometimes, it’s just one point. But keep looking. You’ll see more.

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