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Archive for May, 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a new ‘short’ with you. The following is the first chapter of a new novel I’m working on; one that is really pulling my heart to continue working while being a complete challenge…kinda like parenting a toddler :)

I shared this chapter with a group of 5th graders recently. The room was completely silent as I read. After reading the last line, I looked up from my paper hoping that the silence was a “don’t stop” kind of silence. The room erupted in applause – I feel like I’m on track!

Please let me know what you think – if you see any typos or sentence structure errors. Writing might be a solitary activity, but it takes a team of trusted people to coax the story into perfection.

Chapter One:

Russ wasn’t one to believe in superstitions, but when the coin reappeared in his cereal, he knew he was in trouble. Even worse, Matt saw it.

“Isn’t that-?” Matt started by Russ cut him off.

“No,” he lied.

But Matt wasn’t stupid. “Yes it is.”

Russ could see the questions racing through Matt’s eyes. “Why do you have it in your cereal?”

Not wanting to think about it – or eat his cereal – Russ hurried to the trash can and tipped the contents of his bowl into the trash. He left Matt in the dining room and went to his room and locked the door. The bag under his bed, filled with food he had swiped from the kitchen, was for situations just like this. Well, maybe not just like this; Russ had spent many hungry nights alone before he came here, but never because a cursed coin kept showing up in the most inconvenient places.

He knew now for sure it was cursed. He was cursed. Matt had seen him take it from the man at the coffee shop, the dude in the expensive suit with the gold cuff links, the one reading some leather-bound, book. This guy was a perfect target, not only because of the money that oozed from his demeanor, but when he got up to use the restroom, he actually used a hundred dollar bill as a bookmark. Russ followed him, noticing how the man set the book on the sink counter, his briefcase on the floor and turned his back. Easy. Slipping the ‘bookmark’ from the book, Russ was instantly wealthy. Waiting for the flush, he used the noise to hide his quick swipe of a few things from the briefcase.

It was one of his better steals. His hands were getting faster with the locks and the bounty was impressive: a gold watch. Perhaps a Rolex. But he hadn’t seen or heard Matt enter the bathroom. There was a witness to the entire thing.

“Put it back,” Matt said. Russ walked out of the bathroom and straight outside, intending to walk home. Matt raced after him. “You have to stop stealing!”

“Back off,” Russ tried to walk past, but Matt stood his ground. He wasn’t much taller than Russ, but he was older and had an edge over Russ. They weren’t friends, or even enemies. It was worse. Matt was Russ’ foster brother. “Russ, give it back.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

A voice interrupted their stand-off, “Excuse me, boys.” The hundred dollar bookmark man was trying to walk past them on the sidewalk to his car.

“Sir,” Matt started, “I think he stole something from your briefcase.” Matt pointed to Russ.

“Really?” the man opened his briefcase. “You mean this?” He held up a gold Rolex.

Matt blushed. “There’s nothing missing?”

   Searching his case for a moment, the man shook his head. “No. Everything is here.” Russ couldn’t believe his ears, and obviously Matt couldn’t either. “Now, if you would let me by?” the man said.

Both boys stepped out of the way.

“I don’t understand,” Matt said.

Neither did Russ, but he wasn’t about to say that. He could feel the gold watch in his pocket. “Maybe next time you’ll trust me. Let’s go.”

But now Russ regretted following that man into the bathroom. The watch, as it turned out, wasn’t a watch. In the safety of his room, he had taken it out of his pocket, doing the math in his head of how much the man at the pawn shop would pay him for a Rolex. Maybe sixty dollars. But no one would by a worthless piece of black metal. It wasn’t even gold. Not even a watch or any other useful thing. Just a disc of black metal, an oversized coin that wouldn’t even buy him an ice cream cone. That was two days ago. Since, Russ had almost burned down the kitchen when the toaster overheated and shot two-foot flames out of the slots. Mr. Kerr, Matt’s dad had been the hero that night, dousing the flames with everything he could reach: the soup on the stove and a box of baking soda. It was quite the pasty, charred mess, but they had only lost a toaster and dinner. Russ worried that the Kerr’s would yell at him for almost destroying their home, but they didn’t. They actually laughed and thanked Russ for the adventure. Mr. Kerr even let Russ pick out the new toaster at the store.

This morning, Matt’s car had a flat tire and they had to run to catch the school bus. Yeah. Two high school juniors riding the bus. Not cool.

More bad luck followed. Russ’ locker at school wouldn’t open and he was late for class. His sack lunch met an unfortunate end under his rear end when he was knocked down by the football players as they charged down the hallway. His sandwich was flattened and soaked by his juice box, and so were his pants.

Munching on cold pop-tarts and drinking a bottle of water, Russ was on the verge of panic. The metal disc was haunting him. After the lunch-sitting incident, he was convinced it was bringing him some seriously bad luck, so he did what any kid would have done: he threw it away. That afternoon had felt free. He had to walk home because he and Matt missed the bus, but it wasn’t raining too hard and it was only two miles to the house. He had hidden out in his room after school, changing out of the wet clothes and diving into his food bag for an after-school snack of raisins and peanuts when he noticed that disc laying on top of the bag of cookies.

After dinner, he went out to the river just down the street and dropped the black disc into the swirling depths, hoping it would carry all his troubles out to sea. No such luck. Crawling into bed that night, Russ found it under his pillow. He flushed it down the toilet immediately. It had shown up in his cereal.

So it was no surprise when he found the disc once more, no longer in the trash with his soggy cereal, but right there in his shoe.

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Gateways has received the Reader’s Den Choice Award! Here is the “Seal” of approval to prove it :)

Reader’s Den is also hosting a Gateways Giveaway – two winners will receive a signed paperback copy. To enter, visit http://bit.ly/KSO7CF, read the review and leave a comment. Just that easy!

To purchase a paperback or a kindle copy, visit http://amzn.to/KSAlyb

 

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Every morning, before I had kids, I spent time in front of the mirror primping, curling, and adjusting my appearance to get as close as I could to beautiful. I know I wasn’t alone in this morning ritual. The fact that new houses have more bathrooms than built-in bookshelves is a sign that beauty has more power than brains. The underlying message of that philosophy is that people who don’t fit the bill are, on first impressions, cast off as unworthy.

I’ve grown up a little and recently have actually left the house without make-up. Gasp! I know! My clothes are always clean, although not always ironed enough to make my mom proud, and my hair is always brushed and somewhat neat, but the idea of leaving my home without even checking my make-up is completely new. Am I more comfortable with who I am? Am I finally able to see my own self-worth and therefore it shines through my face, making me feel confident?

And now the big question… How does this affect me professionally? What do I need to be concidered “beautiful” as a writer? When people pick up my book, what  do I want them to see? Can I capture them in a story? As a writer, do I fall under the “she has a great personality” category of wall flowers, or do I stand out from the crowd and rock a red dress?

In the spirit of Marketing, I had a review for Gateways through Reader’s Den by Tiffany Cole. Talk about a professional! She was timely, full of information on what she needed from me, affordable (very affordable!), and most importantly – kind. The review is available @ http://bit.ly/KSO7CF and includes links to the You Tube site for my trailer and reviews for other books you might like.

My favorite line from the review:

“There are some (books) I like and there are some I really like, but there are only a select few I love enough to give five stars and a Reader’s Den Choice Award to. Gateways is one of those select few.”

I’m happy dancing for my Reader’s Den Choice Award and I’m going to print out the Seal and hang it on my refridgerator.

I’d also like to give a big shout of thanks to Tiffany Cole of Reader’s Den for her professionalism, skill, and awesome review.

And yes, today I feel pretty…pretty awesome as a writer! And I’m going to take my kids out to lunch to celebrate this victory. And I’ll even wear eyeshadow!

 

Purchase your copy of Gateways @ http://amzn.to/KSAlyb

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Gateways Book Trailer

Book trailers, according to people who know about such things, are the new ‘must’ for authors. Part of me really enjoyed the adventure of putting this together. The other part laments the time away from my current work-in-progress. In the end, this was a great experience and I would happily do it again – and will do it again for future books. Enjoy!
Jessica

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I’m no expert in book trailers, but I’m certain that the use of every type of media in terms of promoting a book is well worth the effort! After studying several trailers on You Tube, making notes about what I liked and didn’t like, searching my computer’s clip art files for suitable photographs and downloading the perfect song…I had the beginnings of a book trailer. If you are familiar with Microsolt Publisher or Power Point, the Windows Live Movie Maker is an easy tool to use. If you aren’t, it might take a little practice, but the results can be very rewarding.

The most valuable aspect of a book trailer is the text. What does your trailer reveal about the story? Does is entice a potential reader to purchase your book? Does it reveal too much of the story? In terms of the pictures: Are the faces in your trailer that would ruin the reader’s idea of what the characters look like? Is there a pattern to your pictures: black and white, then color? Is there movement? As you watch your movie, what draws your attention? Is that where you want potential readers to look? And, most importantly, did you acknowledge the source of photos and music? Double-check copyright laws.

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Here is a link to my first attempt at a book trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE9tP1tNPfU

If you like it, ‘like’ it on Facebook. If you Tweet, please Tweet it. Share it and be a part of the marketing. And when you make your own trailer, send me a link! I’d love to return the favor!

And if you are intrigued, the book is available @ http://amzn.to/KSAlyb

 

 

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Finding time to write and crank out that best-selling novel is difficult enough, but when you do carve out a few minutes here and an hour or two there to write, you want to have the space to be completely effective. With a small amount of preparation once a week, you can maintain the ‘space’ you need to let the creativity pour out and pen those spine-tingling scenes.

 

  1. The space between your ears must be clear of clutter. Yep. Your brain is the first area to spring clean. A wise woman once told me, “Leave your issues at the door. I promise they will still be there when you leave.” Put that into practice. When you come to your computer or your pen-and-paper to work on writing, leave everything else behind. Problems at work, marriage issues, kids, in-laws, financial troubles, pesky neighbors – they will all still be problematic stressors when your writing time is up. I’m not suggesting that you not deal with any of these problems, but during the time you have designated to write…write!
  2. When you write, face a direction that is clean. For some, this will mean keeping your dining room table just for writing. For others, writing outside is best because the fresh air is your ‘clean’ feeling.  For me, I face a wall. I know, sounds terribly uninspiring, but it works for me. I can’t write when the house is messy; which it often is with four homeschooling children. My solution? Turn my back on the mess and face the wall. Presto! Clutter-free line of vision and my creative-self is free to roam. To make the wall more interesting, I hung an empty picture frame above my desk – something I can gaze at and visualize the “movie” in my head.
  3. Fill the air around you with pleasant noise. Try a sound spa, which has settings for rain forest, waterfall, and rain storms – a variety of white noise fillers to drown out the busy sounds of life. Use instrumental music. I like George Winston, violin music or the soundtrack to The Last of the Mohicans. If neither of those sounds right for you, purchase ear plugs. The point is to focus your senses on the task of writing by unplugging your sense of hearing, thus allowing your other senses to heighten.
  4. A Bonus Tip – When you’re writing time is finished, take a moment and write down what you accomplished on a post-it. On another post-it, write down what you will work on during your next writing marathon. Why? Keeps you focused on small successes and moves you forward by planning what to do next. Consistency and continuity are necessary for anyone looking to achieve a huge project divided over weeks and months and separated between day jobs, families, and sleep.

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I am blessed to have a writing partner. Her name is Elizabeth, but I like to call her Eliza-bless! Last night she wrangled me out my front door and shot a confetti gun into the air to celebrate my first contract with a publisher! Yes, after all the hard work, the rejections, and the rewrites, Glass Page Books is going to publish Unforgettable Roads! And it took a girlfriend, a confetti gun, and acting like silly girls to make it feel real.

The book cover and book jacket summary are at www.glasspagebooks.com under the “Coming Soon” listing. I love love love the cover! Pamela Alexander did a fabulous job capturing the essence of the story in the picture.

The first three chapters can be found in the archives of this blog by clicking http://bit.ly/A1G8GA  and http://bit.ly/IVUFn2 . Unforgettable Roads will be available August 2012.

If you like the first few chapters of Unforgettable Roads, check out my other book, Gateways at http://amzn.to/KSAlyb . I’m proud to say that it is recieving 5 star reviews from readers.

Another moment of success yesterday was the response of students at my first school visit as a guest author. The kids applauded every time I said something they liked. They asked beautiful questions about my writing, why I chose what I did for the story line, where the story ideas came from. Their teachers had prepared them by reading Gateways in class to them. I sold a few copies and several more students expressed interest in purchasing the book after meeting me.

All around, yesterday was a magnificant day! I hope you find applause in your day, enjoy the company of a friend who would shot confetti into the air at your success, and find the peace of knowing that every little step toward your goals of writing find fruition. Baby steps really do add up!

 

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If you want to be a marathon runner, you must work at it every day. That requires strapping on the shoes and hitting the road. Want to lose weight, put locks on the cookie jar, up your veggie consumption and break a sweat. Same is true for writing. If your goal is to run a blog, do it. If you have a story that needs to be told, write it.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it.

The how, the motivation, the time, the ‘don’t feel like it’ feelings that cloud the goals are formidable objects that need an equally formidable plan to overcome. All it takes to succeed is a plan a few materials.

 

  1. Identify the things in your life that are blocking success. For me, there were several parts of my life that served as a distraction from writing, but were also things that I was responsible for: children, homeschooling, exercise – things that I obviously would never abandon in order to write. But other aspects of my life were easy to give up, freeing my time to write: Internet, movies, T.V., sleeping in.
  2. Get over the idea that in order to write, you must be ‘in the mood’ or ‘feeling creative’. Writing is a profession. Authors write daily, we keep idea journals, personal journals, we read books, poetry and blogs. Cross the obstacle off your list by scheduling writing time. Ideally, a daily schedule works best, but that isn’t an option for me. Instead, I have two days a week set aside to write for at least three hours. I work better with larger chunks of time. The other days, I’m able to find ten minutes here and there to read blogs, a chapter of two in a book, look for markets for my work and read up on what publishers and magazines want for publication.
  3. Subscribe to a newsletter or magazine for writers. I like Writer’s Digest, a monthly magazine filled with ideas, suggestions, and skills I need to hone my skills. On-line, I subscribe to a weekly newsletter called, Funds for Writers by Hope Clark. Her style is approachable and the information valuable. It’s a weekly shot in the arm to keep submitting, keep trying, and keep writing.
  4. Find a supporter, a writing partner, a writing group, a friend who will listen to your ideas and keep you focused and accountable. It works in the 12-step program and in weight loss classes, why wouldn’t it work for writers?
  5. Have a space just for writing. This might sound like a home-make over project, but it’s must simpler than that. It could be a desk outfitted with all the nice office-like paraphernalia. It could be the dining room table (and you eat off TV trays). Your writing space could be portable – a bag with your notebook, a few pens, the latest copy of your favorite Writing Journal, and your corner coffee shop frequent customer card.
  6. The greatest obstacle is our own ego. Rejection letters can come fast and furious, stomping on our best work with photocopied rigor. Don’t allow that “No” to jam up your thoughts. Re-examine your writing. Take a month off of writing and read a book about writing and 10-15 books in your genre. I guarantee by the end of the month, when you return to your writing, you’ll see areas you can improve. Then get back in the game stronger than ever.

Be what you want to be. Nothing will be different next year unless you make the changes today. The obstacles you must leap are ways to become stronger…not to mention all the fodder for future characters and plots!

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