Joy and Grief

Today, I should be seriously happy.

My latest book, Omission, is finally out, and I’m so thrilled to share it with the world.

As I got online this morning to start work for the day and get some things done I didn’t get done yesterday, I was slapped in the face.

A little boy, Rowan Windham, all of 10 years old, passed away overnight.

I’ve never met Rowan, but I know of him. And he and my son share a special set of circumstances: both went 2000+ miles to Seattle to undergo bone marrow transplants for the same disease, Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome. The difference is, one got to go home. The other got to go to Heaven. 15589817_10102662315427538_1330244952191687796_n

This morning, instead of wanting to spread the word about my book, I’m crying for this little boy’s family. I so want to hug them, even though I don’t know them. And just be a shoulder for them to cry on.

At the same time, I feel a lot of guilt. Why is my son healthy, and they’re planning their son’s funeral? It just doesn’t seem right. No child should have to go through what my son and Rowan did.

Living with the knowledge that your kid may not outlive you weighs heavily on a parent’s heart. In the 6 years I’ve been in the SDS community, I’ve seen too many kiddos–and adults–lose their fight. Some are just a glancing blow–a name, an age. Others, like Rowan’s, are a sucker punch right in the solar plexus. They leave you raw.

There are no words for what Rowan’s family are experiencing today. If you read this today, in December 2016, or five years from now, say a prayer for them. Whether Rowan’s passing was yesterday or a decade ago, there’s a hole where he used to be.

One that will only be healed when they join him in Heaven.

If you want to donate to support research into Shwachman Diamond Syndrome, you can support the following organizations:
Shwachman Diamond America
Shwachman Diamond Syndrome Foundation

And, oh yeah, you can buy my book on Amazon and all other e-tailers. I feel a little guilty for even mentioning it today. Watch this space for more on upcoming events surrounding the release.


Why I Decided To Give My Book Away For Free

Compilation Cover Template v 1Did I get your attention with that headline? Because I should have. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Yes, I am giving my book, The Darby Shaw Chronicles: Books 1 – 3, away for free. But not just everywhere. You can buy it on Amazon. On Kobo. On Barnes & Noble. And on several other, smaller platforms.

But I made the decision to give it away on Story Cartel in hopes of urging people to read my book then leave a review on Amazon (and other booksellers platforms).

Want a new Kindle? You could win one (not necessarily this model) by leaving a review!

Oh, and you can enter to win a new Kindle e-reader or Amazon and B&N gift cards. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Learn more here. If you’re not registered with Story Cartel, it’s free and easy. But it is required. But registering not only gives YOU the opportunity to get a free download of MY book, but many other authors’ books as well. So win for you, win for me, and win for other authors!

Here’s how it works. If you’re reading this post sometime between June 8, 2016 & June 22, 2016, the giveaway is going on. You can find it here. In these two weeks, you can download a copy of the book (and I’m being EXTRA nice and giving away not just Kindle-compatible files, but .epub which works on your Nook, Kobo, and other devices, as well as PDFs.)10367552_665731103522332_3887044761326006552_n Read the book. Write a review on any of the platforms or on your blog. Leave a link to the review. You have an extra week (through June 29) to leave your links. Once you’ve input a link, you’re entered in Story Cartel’s monthly contest. That’s it!

So, wait? Why are you still reading this? Go! Go now! You’re wasting time here! ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Mostly, I’m just kidding. But seriously, why are you still here?)

Until next time…

The Absent-Minded Author

I’ve been busy at work on the website this week, and as I was going throughLasersDragonsAndKeyboards Logo.png my posts and making sure things are looking good, I realized something:


So, in the category of better-late-than-never, I started a podcast! If you’re following me on Facebook, you already know this. I may have even announced it in my newsletter (I’m pretty sure I did.) But to formally announce it here on my website, the name of my podcast isย Lasers, Dragons, and Keyboards. I host it with Aaron DeMott and Joshua Hardt. Since starting in January, we’ve interviewed about a dozen science fiction and fantasy authors, ranging from debut authors to New York Times bestsellers. Woo-hoo!

For information on where to listen, check out this page on our webpage.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll pop over and give us a listen! We sure have a blast doing the show.

There, I Said It

I kinda want to get this off my chest because I’ve been feeling a bit guilty about it. So, prepare for a bit of a vent. (I don’t know howย  much because I don’t know exactly where this is going yet.)

I am a special needs mom.

I don’t talk about it much here on the blog, at least not in the last couple years. But my days are constantly filled with dealing with addressing the needs of a young person who isn’t quantifiably normal. Anger outbursts are frequent in my house. Having to deal with the meltdowns, the appointments, the blood draws, and the general unpredictability of never knowing how my days are going to go is an exercise in patience.

Some days, I pass.

Sometimes I don’t.

Being a special needs mom, a lot of my friends and acquaintances are also special needs moms. And while I try to be a sympathetic ear, it honestly gets tiring sometimes to hear of another sick baby, or a fundraiser, or a family going to transplant, or a kid who’s facing a night, a weekend, a week in the hospital because of RSV, the flu, strep throat, etc.

I mean, seriously tiring.

Sometimes, I feel guilty for just clicking the little “sad” emoticon on a Facebook status. Because what more can I *really* do? I live 100 miles, 1000 miles, a world away from the family. It’s not that I don’t care, but I can’t DO anything! (Other than pray–that’s a big deal in and of itself.) And I can only do so much monetarily or time-wise.

I have my own family to worry about, too. I have homeschooling, dealing with breakdowns, dealing with appointments, oh, and let’s not forget books to write.

I think if most special needs moms would admit it, they feel for every other family who is going through anything remotely similar to what they go through or have gone through. But sometimes, the story hits a little too close to home. It’s a little TOO familiar. It hurts a little TOO much. I can’t read fiction stories about families who have lost children to illness. Just can’t. Maybe I never will. Movies? Better not have me watch them. I’ll take my rom-com’s and superhero movies. (BTW, first time on here since Star Wars? LOVED it!) Just don’t make me watch a sad movie about a kid dying.

So, what’s the point?

I’m not 100% sure. But maybe now you’ve seen a bit of my heart about being a special needs mom, you’ll give a special needs mom you know some TLC. (And dads too.) Whether we deal with medical problems, behavioral problems, developmental problems or some combination of the three, it’s a tough journey to be on. Knowing others are in the same boat you are can be helpful. But it can also be downright exhausting.

For most of us, wine and chocolate would be greatly appreciated. Or a massage.

Yeah, a massage sounds pretty good around now…

The Things You Do as an Author

Over the weekend, we had some family in town. In the quiet times, when one member was reading, and another was Facebooking, I was trying to squeeze some editing in. I grabbed my 3-ring binder with Launching Justice in it, made sure I had my spiral-bound notebook inside it for making notes for its sequel, grabbed a water bottle, and plopped down in the chair.

Only to burst from my chair a minute later.

You see, I had opened up my binder to where I was editing and thought, “I wonder how Jupiter would look from the surface of Mars.”

Now, for some of you, you may be thinking that that’s a really strange question to ask. But the thing is: my character was looking at Jupiter, not from the surface of Mars, but not from far away from Mars, either. So very relevant.

I’m pretty sure I startled my family who was in the room with me when I jerked to my feet quickly, dropped my binder on my chair, and crossed the room to my trusty laptop, stood over it for about three minutes as I Googled my question, then returned to my chair as though nothing had ever happened.

But I got my answer. And it was exactly what I was looking for.

Sometimes, as an author, you startle people.

For the record, this is what Jupiter–and Earth!–looks like from near Mars: earth_jupiter_i1The round dot at the bottom–that’s Jupiter. Depending on your screen and how good your eyes are, you may be able to pick out three of its moons surrounding it. From left to right, you can see Callisto, Ganymede, Jupiter, and Europa. (Callisto, I think, is where I set some of my action in Launching Justice. It may be Europa–I can’t quite remember.)

At the top are visible Earth and our moon. Makes someone feel very small to realize how truly vast our solar system is, and to think about how small it is compared to the galaxy, and the universe…

Hello, Old Friends

One thing I love about being a fiction writer is creating characters. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun to figure out just where these characters I’m going to be living with for a while come from, what their stories are, and how they’re going to work with the other characters I’m going to shove them together with. Sometimes I do this on the fly. Oops, I need THIS character for this particular role. But for main characters, I spend more time with them, get to know who they are, really explore them.

What’s even more fun is the stage I’m in right now.

I’m starting to make notes on the sequel to a book I’m editing, one whose characters you haven’t fully had a chance to meet yet. Sure, I’ve talked about them over the years. Bridger and Tamryn have both even been on the couch over at The Character Therapist blog. (Which was quite helpful if you’re reading this, Jeannie!) But as I shift gears out of actively working with Darby and Mark for a short season (i.e. long enough to edit B&T’s first book and outline their second book), it’s exceedingly wonderful to work with these old friends again.

See, when I wrote their first book, I thought Bridger and Tamryn were a one-off. I left some loose threads, in case I did want to come back, but I didn’t really think I would. But they were such a joy to work with, it was always my hope to come back to them.

And two weeks ago when I finished writing Darby & Mark’s next book, I knew it was time to come back to Bridger & Tamryn. I’d been toying with some story ideas, and it felt like it was the right time.

What’s absolutely delightful about returning to these old friends is the fact I know them already. There are fewer holes I need to fill in. But I also get to figure out what they’ve been up to since I wrote “The End” on their story. That’s been so much fun. I think I’ve mostly wrapped that up for now, but it’s been interesting to see what they’ve gone through. It’s also interesting because I have to figure out just how much time has elapsed between the first and second book, and I’m not completely sure! (Mostly because I’m not 100% sure when the last book signed off–I need to calculate that while I’m editing.)

Anyway, you’ll get to meet Bridger and Tamryn in a few months with their debut book, “Launching Justice.” There’s suspense, space battles, explosions, robots, and space stations in it. Oh, and a love story. Can’t write a book without a romance. ๐Ÿ˜‰

CEO Tamryn Caporelli’s best friend, Cora, has gone missing, and not even a technologically savvy inventor such as Tamryn can track her down. Enter P.I. Bridger Heidemann. He’s not the best out there, but he’s been recommended by someone Tamryn trusts. She engages his services to try and find Cora. He’s not sure he’s the best P.I. for the job, but he’s willing to do what he can since his bank account needs some padding. Neither of them expects to find themselves on an adventure of a lifetime when they board Tamryn’s personal spaceship and head for the resort near Jupiter where Cora was supposed to have gone.

They don’t count on falling in love, either.

I can’t wait to share this book with you. It’s been one whose topics I’ve been very passionate about for a while, and it’s been a long time in coming. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Keep watching this space (and my newsletter!) for updates on the cover and release dates for this book. I’m hoping to have it and Darby’s next book out in the 2nd quarter of 2016.

Insight into the Author: Editing

Every author has a favorite stage of the process. Some hate drafting, but love editing. Some love marketing and the pre-publication process (although I think they’re a pretty strange breed!)

I happen to be one who loves the actual writing, but grudgingly accepts that editing has to happen. I’m really bad about it because I’ll drag my feet on it. (This blog post is evidence of it since I’m using it to procrastinate from starting in on an editing project.)

What’s the worst part for me right now: I have not one, not two, but THREE editing projects lined up for myself, two of which need to run simultaneously.

But sometimes when you’re facing something you really dislike, it’s good to hash it out. So that’s what I’m doing today.

First, a truth: I don’t edit a ton while writing. Once it comes out of my fingers into Scrivener, it’s usually going to stay in the draft until editing. I don’t typically delete whole scenes period, and unlike one of my writing mentors, K.M. Weiland, I don’t do 50-page edits (which is a cool idea, K.M., but it just doesn’t work for me.) Despite it all, I tend to write very tight, and usually end up ADDING words to a draft after the fact than not. Usually in the form of description.

Okay, truth time.

After I finish a draft, I let it sit, usually while I go work on another project, either by drafting or editing. Darby Shaw’s next book is in this stage–I finished it last week, and it’s gone into marination mode while I hit another project.

Once marination has happened (which can be a fewย  days to a few months typically), I go and read what I wrote. There, I’ll make not of anything I’m not happy with, clean up some of my wording, decide if there’s any scenes that need added (which I usually write right then and there), and look for any timeline idiosyncrasies. While I usually don’t have to, I’ll move scenes around at this point too. (I know Darby’s next book is going to have this happen.) When I’ve worked out as many of the bugs as I can, I polish it again, and send it out to beta readers. Usually, I ask to have it back in a couple months, depending on the length of the story.

Once most or all of the beta readers have replied back with their in-line comments as well as answered any questions I had about the plot, I start integrating their thoughts into my draft. I’m still perfecting this part of the process, but with Scrivener, it’s helpful because I can have my main file open and the critique next to it. This probably looks different from author to author, but it usually involves several rereads on my part as I go through manually and copy their notes into the main file. Once that’s done, I can go through and figure out which ones I’m going to address, which ones I’m not, and which ones I’m going to mull, and then I can start prioritizing what to do first.

I usually start clearing out the easy stuff first–clarifying details, tweaking some of my messy wording, checking continuity glitches I missed on my own passes. Then I start pondering the bigger stuff, things that could cause repercussions in other parts of the story. These can be much more tedious, and generally take me the longest. And depending on who submitted the suggestion, I may be back and forth with the beta reader several times over the course of a week or two as I figure out exactly how to address the issue. Usually this culminates with my submitting the rewritten scene or scenes for their take. There were many, many scenes of Capitulation which were direct results of this process. (Maybe one day, I’ll release the “director’s cut” of that book so those interested can see the original and compare it to what got published. The only problem is it drastically changed the outcome of the book!)

With all of that done, I start polishing, doing a pass on my own, then a second and even third pass with my Kindle Keyboard reading the draft to me so I can hear errors. After that, it’s off to the next round–depending on my schedule and the length of the work, it could go to my editor, it could go to another set of eyes or two. When I get reports back from these people, the book could go into another round of edits as detailed in the above paragraph. But if I’ve done my job, and it’s in pretty decent shape, the editing I do at this point only takes a few hours to a few days.

Finally, it’s off to my proofreader. Throughout the whole process, I’ve probably been working on copywriting and cover design, so when it’s all done, it’s a pretty quick process to get it put together and out to you, the reader!

Yes, it does take some time, but I don’t want to have crappy books out there. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, as the saying goes.

Revisting a Classic: A Third Time Review of Pride and Prejudice

Earlier this week, I finished what has become an annual re-reading of the classic, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Two years ago, I decided that re-reading this book, which has since become my favorite book of all time, would be something I could do that I could look forward to. Although I read the book for the first time in the summer of 2013 (in the midst of my son’s bone marrow transplant), September seems to have become my month to revisit Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.

I’ve never been much for classics, and have painful memories of being forced to read some versions of a handful of what may technically be called classics in school. But, thanks to K.M. Weiland’s inspiration (who has been working her way through classics for many years, alphabetically by author), I’ve been slowly putting my toe in the water and trying a few classics here and there.

But P&P has captivated me like no other. I’m sure a lot of people can say the same thing. But for me as a writer, revisiting the book is something I love to do because I pick up on something new each time I read it. The first time, in 2013, when I read it, what surprised me most was how true to the book my favorite movie adaptation really was. While the book is still better, the movie is nice when I’ve got 6 months to go until I will allow myself to reread this beloved book and just want to immerse myself in the story for a couple of hours.

Last year, while the movie was still heavily in my head–seriously, I see and hear Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadden, and, ironically, Jenna Coleman when I read it–I picked up on more of the nuances of the story.

This year, my reread was a bit more drawn out, as I’ve been busy and I haven’t been able to spend as much time reading as I’d have liked. But thanks to several articles I’ve read over the last several months about the time period and about the background of Austen really enriched the story in ways hard to put into words. Articles that discussed what life was really like for women of a certain background around the beginning of the 19th Century, how characters would be characterized in today’s culture (one article I read characterized Lydia Bennet Wickham as a ‘sex kitten’. That sure puts things in perspective!) But armed with this new information and understanding about life in the early 1800s in rural England really added so much depth and color to this most recent rereading that I find myself thinking more now about Elizabeth and Darcy than in years past.

It really is such a rich and pleasurable story. And even though there are certain things that I think Austen could have benefited from, things we know now as writers, I honestly can’t think of much I’d change about this book.

In my humble opinion, that’s the mark of a true classic.

Question for you: Do you have a favorite book you love so much you reread it (other than the Bible)? What is it? How many times have you read it?

Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who posted in and voted in the name a character contest!

The winning name is Stanley Moustakas. Which means that Paula Askren and Steve Mathisen are the winners! Thank you both for coming up with great names that I could combine into one. I, for one, am happy that this character has a name. Captain Stanley Moustakas does have a nice ring to it.

I’ll be contacting the winners later today.

Thanks again! I can’t wait to do another contest like this very soon, so keep your eyes peeled! ๐Ÿ™‚