Working with an Editor

Editor Aesthetic Picture

Before I got signed with Clan Whelan Publishing for The Bluebird Chronicles, it was called The Ashes and Stars Series. Back when the first book was called Noctivagus and I had finally finished the first draft of it, I sent it over to an editor friend of mine named Erika over at The Word Nerd. She’d never edited fiction so we worked out a deal, and she did a Manuscript Evaluation for me. Took her about a month to get back to me, and while she loved the story, there was a lot that needed to be fixed. While she had that I started working on the second book in the series.

When I got the eval back, I was a bit of a mess. My mom had just died and it was a lot for me. It was the first time anything of mine had really be critiqued and I felt some type of way about it. After a couple of weeks, I sat down and really read the feedback Erika had provided. Turned out to be really good. She pointed out several things that I could change and several creative ways to do it. Overall, the feedback really helped form the second draft of the story and though it took almost a year, I was able to rewrite the story, and it was better the second time around. It was the version I submitted to Clan Whelan that got me the publishing contract in the first place.

The Werd Nerd logo

Throughout the difficult rewrite process, Erika was patient and didn’t mind scheduling several meetings with me as I worked through the information and tried my best to incorporate it into something that was a feasible story. In fact, it was scheduled to go back to her in May of this year, but I signed with Clan Whelan Publishing in February instead.

When I was in the beginning meetings with the publishing company I now call home, I told Erika about it and she checked with her multiple resources, like I had my own, to ensure they were a legitimate company. When the contract came, she was one of the people I had look it over for me. Then we had a conversation about what I should ask them in reference to several aspects of working with them. She was extremely helpful when it came to completing my journey, and one of my biggest supporters.

A sneak peek at Erika’s book cover. She’s so proud of this. And so am I.

Erika and I have known each other a number of years and we were friends before she ever edited a word for me. I was so excited to work with her. She helped more than I can convey in words. She helped me refine everything I needed to. I can’t wait for her to be able to read the version of this story that actually gets published. She has a book of her own coming out soon and I cannot wait to own it. It’s a dicktionary or expletives for editors. As an author, I plan to pick it up so I can write my expletives correctly and save my editors some work. I’m so proud of her. She’s amazing.

Find her over on her website, or her Facebook page. Give her a shoutout and if you’re looking for an editor, she’s amazing and comes highly recommended. That’s it for me today my lovelies. As always, be safe, drink your water, don’t eat yellow snow, and have an amazing adventure!

Bye Bye Butterfly

Nora Kate Whitley

It’s that time again! It’s time for another character profile, this time it’s Nora. Nora, as you learned last week is dating Penelope’s cousin Rich Cunningham. They’ve been together almost a decade at this point, and while they eventually plan to get married, but they just haven’t done any planning for it yet. Nora is one of the people Penelope considers family at this point, even if for some reason her and Rich break up, she would stay Penelope’s friend.

Emilia Clarke – Face Claim for Nora Whitley

Nora grew up in London with her parents. She took a job at a local pub after college and that’s where she met Rich. She and Rich got along so well that they started dating. It didn’t take long for them to move in together, or for her to settle into her life with him. Though they’ve been engaged several years, they have made no plans to get married yet. She prefers to stay home while Rich travels the world, and since they don’t really need the money, she’s content to continue working at the pub, which she loves. She’s now been made a manager there, and she loves it.

Face Claims (L-R): Bailey, Penelope, Nora, and Callie

Nora met Penelope when she flew to Rome with Rich and Noah. They were going on vacation and Rich invited Penelope to join them if she could. She was able to get a few days away and it didn’t take long for Nora and Penelope to become friends. Nora came to visit her and Callie in La Maddalena a couple of months later, and the three of them get along like a house on fire.

When Penelope and Callie were transferred back to the US, Nora stayed friends with them, being added to the group chat and at one point coming out for a week without Rich, since he and Noah were busy. She was introduced to Bailey then and the friendship between them, that had started in the group chat already, blossomed into something real.

As much as Nora is friends with Penelope and Bailey, her best friend on the planet is actually Callie Gracen. For all of Callie’s sarcastic boldness, Nora is quiet and sweet…to most people. The two of them initially bonded in Italy with their love of the same drink. Which then grew into their love of the same books and movies. Despite the geographical distance between them, they are ride or die for one another.

Face Claims: Aiden Cunningham (L): Kit Harrington; Paisley Cunningham (R): Rose Leslee

Aside from Penelope, Bailey, and Callie, Nora does have other friends. She’s been engaged to Rich so long that she’s not sure they’ll ever actually get married and she’s okay with that. She isn’t in a rush to get to the alter, which is unlike most women her age. She’s confident in her relationship and she knows that they can survive anything. He is always there for her and never lets her down. She couldn’t hope for a better man.

Rich’s family has also been quite welcoming. She gets along well with his sister in law, Paisley Cunningham, and his brother, Aiden Cunningham. The girls hang out quite often, whether Rich is home or not. Nora likes that the Cunningham family has completely embraced her, since her own family is small and quite cold from time to time. Rich’s family is not, and she is always invited to every family event, with or without her fiancé.

Paisley Cunningham (L) & Nora Whitley (R)

Nora is one of my favorite tertiary characters. She’d be secondary, except she isn’t a large part of this story, though she is important to it. The friendship that she has with everyone draws everyone together. She helps keep the balance between the crazy life that Rich leads and the real world. It’s important for him to come home to her for that balance and love. I hope you enjoy this character as much as I do.

As for me, we’re done for now. Have a great day everyone! Don’t forget to be safe, drink your water, don’t eat yellow snow, and have amazing adventures!

Bye Bye Butterfly!

Friends Forever?

Face claims for Bailey (L), Penelope (C), and Callie (R)

One of the primary things that holds The Bluebird Chronicles characters together is the friendships that have before the story starts, and the ones they make along the way as well. While I like writing romantic stories, my favorite ones are always those that have something more going on than just a romance. I hope that I can do that as well. As most of us know, there isn’t always just one thing going on in our lives, when romance hits. It’s never just that. There’s always something else as well.

I hope that by sharing some of these friendships, everyone can get a deeper understanding of these characters before you get to meet them on the page. I’m so excited for it. So, this first one is probably the most important. Penelope being the main character and all, it’s important to know where she comes from. Who her people are. Perhaps the most important people that she has, are her best friends.

Katie McGrath: Penelope’s Face claim

Penelope Sawyer was four years old when she met Bailey Stills-Parker. They were kind of thrown together while their family’s spent time together. Penelope, for her part was overjoyed to finally have a new friend to hang out with instead of just her brother Cohen, and his friend Micah. Micah, was finally happy to have a baby sister of his own, just like Cohen. It didn’t take long for Bailey and Penelope to form a fast friendship that couldn’t be severed, no matter what.

Melissa Benoit: Bailey’s Face Claim

By the time they were in high school, they were more like sisters, along with their brother’s, the four of them spent most of their time together. By the time that Cohen and Penelope left Illinois to move to Michigan, even the distance couldn’t dampen the friendships they shared and they continued on into adulthood unfettered.

Chyler Leigh: Callie’s Face claim

When Penelope joined the military after high school, she met Callie Gracen. They’ve became fast friends and that hasn’t changed. Through Penelope, Callie met Cohen and after a few meetings, the two began dating. They were about to get engaged when the unthinkable happened. Penelope and Callie were both due to get out of the military and while Penelope did, Callie didn’t. That change did nothing to dampen their friendship.

Photo by APG Graphics on Pexels.com

Penelope introduced Bailey and Callie and the rest is history. The three get on like a house on fire. Though the distance between them is vast, the advent of technology and group chats has made everything easier. The girls regularly talk in the group chat they’ve created. Though they don’t get together often, when they do it’s always chaos. There is drinking and adventure and they renew their bonds of friendship in the oldest ways.

Emilia Clarke: Nora’s Face Claim

Though not as close Bailey or Callie as Penelope is, Nora Whitley is the fourth member of their little group. She is dating Penelope’s cousin Rich, and has been for a number of years. She’s met Bailey, and Callie at different points, and though they don’t get a chance to hang out as often as they’d like, with Nora living in London, when they do it’s always special. She rounds out the group. Bailey and Penelope are ride or die for one another. Callie and Nora are the same. For some reason the two developed an immediate bond and that doesn’t ever diminish. The four remain fast friends.

Photo by vjapratama on Pexels.com

As a writer, I had a lot of fun creating these characters. Though they might have been defined by events out of their own control, they have a lot of fun together and show that it really doesn’t matter what life throws their way, the four of them will face it together. In spirit if not standing back to back. Everyone deserves a friend like that. A friend that is ride or die, and always has your back. I hope that everyone who reads The Bluebird Chronicles thinks of their best friend when they see how the four of them interact. I hope that everyone has at least one friend as good as these four are to one another.

I’ll see you guys next time. As always, be safe, drink your water, and don’t eat yellow snow.

Short Story Saturday: The New Guy

Short Story Saturday is back! Sorry it’s taken so long to get back on track. Things have been a bit crazy the last year. After all of the ups and downs over the past year, I’m finally getting back to what I love. That includes Short Story Saturday. We’re going to continue the story of Port Shadeau, and if you haven’t read the first two entries (or just need a refresher) check out the first two parts here: Unwrapped, Leftovers. So now that we’re back and you’re all caught up, let’s get this show on the road! Here’s the newest installment of Port Shadeau, and be warned, this one is longer than the last two. I’d apologize but I’m not actually sorry. Enjoy this while you’re drinking your coffee and then have a great weekend you guys!

The following week had been long and frustrating for Ailee. Due to a scheduling conflict, she ended up working more hours than she’d planned and hadn’t had much time to spend with her new friend. Marlowe, it seemed, was having the same problems but they’d caught a few minutes here and there throughout the week. She was surprised when Marlowe appeared in the doorway to her office Friday afternoon. 

“I know you’re almost done, you have plans tonight?” She asked, a smile on her face. 

“No, thought I’d just relax, this week has been crazy. Melodie’s sister is in Initiate right now, so she’s been out most of the week. I get it, but I forgot to plan for that so I’ve been picking up the slack.” Ailee told her, turning in her chair to look at her friend. 

“We’re going out. Meet at mine around eight, and dress cute. We’re getting drinks with Wilder and some of his work friends. It’s time you met some new people.” Marlowe told her decisively. 

“I don’t know Mar, I kind of want to just relax.” 

“Nope. I won’t take no for an answer. You have to come along and save me from these damn Diffusers. All they talk about is fire.” She told her, rolling her eyes. “Eight. Don’t flake, I know where you live.” She added before turning and walking away before Ailee could respond.  Ailee shook her head but got back to work. 

Promptly at eight, Ailee knocked on Marlowe’s door. It was pulled open by a man with medium length dark hair and kind eyes. He smiled and pulled the door open wider, inviting her inside without words. 

“You must be Ailee, Marlowe told me you were coming. I’m Wilder.” He said, holding his hand out once he’d closed the door behind her. 

“Nice to finally meet you. Our work schedules have been crazy, it’s amazing we haven’t met before now.” She told him, shaking his hand before following him into the apartment proper. 

“I agree, seems odd. It’s been a few weeks now hasn’t it?” He asked as he leaned against the counter in the kitchen. 

“Something like that, zip me up.” Marlowe said, coming into the room and turning her back to her husband. Wilder smiled at Ailee before zipping the back of Marlowe’s dress up. He placed a kiss on her shoulder as he smoothed his hands down her arms. 

“You look great.” He told her with a grin as she stepped away and turned to face him. 

“So do you.” She commented as she leaned forward to kiss him quickly. “Ready?” She asked, pulling away and looking over at Ailee. 

“I guess. I have no idea where we’re going.” Ailee told her with a grin. 

“You’ll love it. Come on.” She told her as she moved toward the door. Wilder helped her into her coat before the three of them were out the door. 

It didn’t take long to walk down to the bar they were headed to. Ailee listened to Marlowe and Wilder talk the entire way and she could see why they were so perfect for one another in a matter of minutes. She envied the way he looked at his wife, she used to have that, or so she’d thought. She wanted it again. 

The bar was warm when they made their way inside and toward a table that already had a few people gathered around it. 

 “Hey guys, this is Ailee.” Wilder motioned toward her as everyone greeted the new arrivals. 

“Hi.” Ailee said shyly, slipping her coat from around her shoulders and draping it across the back of a chair. 

“Ailee, meet Milo, Noah, Travis, Declan and his wife Daisy, and Max. Where’s Lexie?” He added pointing each person out in turn. 

“Lex had to work late, but Kestral texted, he’ll be here soon.” Max told him with a grin before taking another drink of his beer. 

“Good.” Wilder helped Marlowe hang her jacket before he turned to head to the bar. “Ailee, anything specific you want?” He asked pausing before he got too far. 

“Whatever you’re getting Marlowe will be fine.” She told him with a smile. She liked Wilder. She turned to Marlowe as the rest of the table got back to conversation. It wasn’t long before they’d started talking to Daisy and the three of them were deeply entrenched in a conversation about one of their favorite authors when a beer was set down in front of Ailee. She nodded her thank you at Wilder before continuing with her point. 

They were so caught up in their own conversation Ailee almost missed the arrival of the last of their party. He had sat down next to her and she probably wouldn’t have noticed him at all if he hadn’t accidentally hit her with his elbow as he settled into his chair. 

“Sorry.” He said briefly, before turning back to Noah and continuing whatever he’d been saying before. Ailee just smiled slightly and turned back to her own conversation. It wasn’t until Ailee stood up to go get the next round of drinks for herself and Marlowe that she was faced with the stranger again. 

She made her way toward the bar and waited for her turn with the bartender. While she waited, someone stepped up closer to her near the bar as well. 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He said. She looked up at him, and smiled. It was the man who’d been sitting next to her at the table. 

“Not a problem. You’re friends with Wilder right?” She asked him, keeping one eye on the bartender. 

“Yeah, Kestral.” He said, holding out his hand. 

“Ailee. I live next door to him and work with Marlowe.” She told him as she took her hand back. 

“Right, he’s mentioned you a couple of times. So you guys finally met then?” 

“Yeah.” She smiled. “I can’t believe it took so long.” 

“It does seem rather ridiculous if you live next door.” Kestral smiled at her. “So what brought you to Port Shadeau?” 

“My dad died and I needed a change of scenery, so I’m here.” She said with a shrug. 

“I’m sorry about your dad.” He said softly, touching her elbow. 

“Thanks. I try not to think about it too much, but it is what brought me here.” She shook herself visibly. “So, what brought you to Port Shadeau?” 

“I grew up in New York, actually, but wanted something different. So I moved out here about six years ago. I love it here.” The bartender interrupted them then and they placed their orders before going back to their conversation. “So what do you do?” He asked her while they waited. 

“I’m the manager at the coffee shop that’s located inside the Librarie. It’s new for me and I kind of love it.” 

“That’s awesome. Is that what your goal is or do you want to do something else?” 

“I’m not really sure. What about you? DId you always want to be a Diffuser?” She asked as they accepted their beers from the bartender and started making their way back toward the table. 

“Sort of. I’m good with fire, so that kind of makes it the perfect career.” 

“So are you a fire then?” She asked as he motioned to let her sit down before he did. 

“No, I’m an Elentori, not an Arkane actually.” He said, a small smile on his face as he tipped his bottle to his lips. 

“Oh, I didn’t mean to assume.” Ailee said quickly. 

“No it’s okay, I work with mostly Arkane so it isn’t a stretch of the imagination.” He told her with a chuckle. Ailee breathed a sigh of relief. Kestral was cute and she didn’t want to offend him so early into their aquiantenship. 

“But you like being a Diffuser?” She asked, steering the  conversation back on track. 

“Yeah, I love it.” He told her, his dimples showing as he smiled wide. 

They spent the next two hours talking, and Ailee was surprised when Marlowe tapped her shoulder and told her they were going to head out. She had a knowing grin on her face and Ailee knew she’d get the third degree from her friend the next day. 

“If you want to stay and finish your drink I can walk you home.” Kestral told her softly. It seemed he wasn’t any more eager than she was for the night to be over. Ailee smiled wide. 

“I’d like that.” She waved at Marlowe as she followed Wilder from the bar. Looking around, it seemed that almost everyone else from their party had left as well and she couldn’t remember when that had happened. It had been a long time since she’d gotten so caught up with someone that she stopped paying attention to the world around her. 

“So, we sort of changed the subject earlier and never went back to it.” Kestral started as he held her jacket out for her to slip her arms into a half hour later. “But I think it’s safe to assume you are an Arkane?” He asked, pulling his own jacket on. Ailee smiled. 

“Yes I am. An air actually. My gift isn’t really useful for most things, but it works for me.” 

“So what is your gift?” He asked as they made their way toward the door. 

“I can infuse the air with scent, like magnify it somehow. It works great at the coffee shop, I just make the whole place smell like old books and delicious coffee and everything pretty much sells itself.” She told him with a grin, accepting the arm he held out to her as they ambled their way down the snow-covered sidewalk. 

“I bet that comes in handy sometimes, though I can’t imagine it was a good survival skill.” 

“Not really.” She agreed with a laugh. “Though it has its advantages.” 

“So are you seeing anyone?” He asked. Ailee looked up at him then, and smiled softly at the way he was worrying his lip between his teeth like he wasn’t sure why he’d asked that question. 

“No. I was before I moved, but I’m not now.” She watched as he exhaled and smiled down at her, his dimples on display once more. 

“Then would I be overstepping if I asked you to dinner next week?” 

“I’d love to go.” She told him, squeezing his arm where she still held it. 

“You’ll have to give me your number so I can call you later in the week and we can set something up.” He told her with a smile, laying his hand over her own on his arm for a moment. 

“I can do that.” 

They talked the rest of the way to her apartment, and when he left her at her door, she felt like she was walking on air. For the first time since Gideon had stopped returning her calls, she felt happy.  She couldn’t wait to see him again.

Well? What’d you think of this installment? Was the length daunting for a quick weekend read? I’m so excited for where this story is going, I can’t help it. It’s going to be amazing, I hope.

So that’s it for today, go enjoy the sunshine (provided you have some) and make today wonderful. If you haven’t already, sign up for the newsletter as the first one gets posted today. There’s a link at the bottom of the page, but you can also follow this link. Have an amazing day you guys!

Setting Preview – Penelope’s Apartment

Hello all! How’s your Friday? So far so good over here. Today’s setting is Penelope Sawyer’s apartment. Since she is the main character in the Ashes & Stars series, I thought it important over the next couple of weeks to show you exactly where my characters live and what their spaces look like. Maybe tell you why certain things are there. You can tell quite a bit about someone by the things they surround themselves with. So, without further ado, let’s explore Penelope’s apartment.

Penelope lives in a two bedroom apartment that she used to share with her brother. Cohen wasn’t there often, but it was his home of residence when he came home on leave. He got the bigger room because Penelope liked the access to the outdoor patio from the smaller room. After her brother died, it took months before she was able to convert his room into a guest room, a feat that was only accomplished with the help of both her Mom and her best friend Bailey. Now the room lacks a lot of personality, which is the way Penelope likes it. It was easier. After which it has unofficially become Bailey’s room at her house, since they live in different states, it’s important to both of them to have a room that feels like their own.

While she isn’t very fond of living in an apartment, she’s made a home for herself there and doesn’t see herself moving. Though she’s thought about it, she hasn’t seriously made plans to do so. She is comfortable with her small kitchen, since it’s always just her.

All of the rooms in her house, besides the guest room, have a common theme that connects them. Specifically the use of the colors of gray and dusty rose. It’s comforting to her as the dusty rose is her favorite color. She loves it and it shows. (I certainly can’t blame her, I use that color with Navy blue in my office and absolutely love it!) While her apartment does appear feminine, and why shouldn’t it, it’s not overly so.

Penelope tends to spend a lot of time in the warmer months out on the patio or on the balcony. She likes to curl up with a good book, or bring her tablet out to relax in the sun with a movie. Some of the important conversations she ends up having take place in these two spots. Despite it’s smaller size, she enjoys that she can turn music on in the living room and anywhere on the first floor she is, she can hear it without the volume being so loud that it disturbs her neighbors.

Since she lives by herself, the separate dining room didn’t make sense to her, so she added bookshelves and a smaller table to the room to make it into a library/game room. When she has company they can sit in there and play cards or board games and have a good time. She eats either on her couch or at the island so there isn’t really a good place to play cards in the living room. Unless there are a bunch of people, like when her and her friends play poker at the coffee table for her birthday. There isn’t room at the table for that so they congregate elsewhere.

Normally, however, there aren’t that many people in her apartment at any given time. Since it’s been just her, she doesn’t have company too often and often ends up feeling isolated. Her parents live a couple of hours north of her and her best friends both live in different states. It’s one of the reasons she keeps coming back to the decision to move elsewhere, though she can’t seem to commit. It would mean leaving behind the last piece of her brother that she has.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look into Penelope’s apartment. A lot of the plot happens here, so I hope you got to look around and get familiar with it. Stay tuned next Friday for the next setting. What do you guys want to see? Do you have a preference? Reid’s house? The cabin? Bailey’s house? These are other important settings. Quite a bit of the series actually takes place in and around Vampire House (Reid and Asher’s house). Let me know what you think.

I’m getting published!!!!

I am writing today with fantastic news! I am very very pleased to announce that I have signed a contract with a publishing company to publish the Ashes & Stars series! The first book is due out sometime next summer and I am very very excited to go through the process of getting it in print.

The publishing company I signed with will only be publishing my Paranormal Romance stories starting with Ashes & Stars and possibly progressing from there into other stories that I have written within the Arkane world that has been created. I am over the moon enthused to have signed with Clan Whelan Publishing.

Clan Whelan Publishing is a smaller publishing house just starting out and specializing in Paranormal Romance and Paranormal Women’s Fiction. Anne, Liz and the other writers with this publishing company have been extremely welcoming as I’ve gone through the process of joining this family. I cannot express how grateful I am that they have taken a chance on me and my story. I believe in these characters with all of my heart and I believe in this story.

Please take a moment to subscribe to my newsletter, and join the Facebook group for my readers, both called The Arkane Archive. Stay tuned here for the same wonderful content that you’ve grown to appreciate and enjoy from me. I am so happy with these turn of events that I am overwhelmed with happiness.

The last couple of years have been rough on me emotionally, as you well know, but the sun is beginning to shine once more in my life. It is all the brighter for the dark clouds that have graced my world. It is beautiful from where I sit, and the view is only getting better. Greener. I only hope that if you’re dealing with dark clouds of your own, that you will see the sun soon enough. That all of your hard work comes shining out all the brighter and restores your hope.

That’s all for today my loves. Remember to follow the link for the newsletter, which will publish the first Saturday of each month and join the Facebook Reader group, The Arkane Archive, for exclusive details not found anywhere else.

Until next time my loves,

Character Profile – Kestral Sherwood

Today’s Character profile is about a character that first shows up in this upcoming weekend’s Short Story Saturday. He’s going to be the counterpart to the main character of Ailee Creed. The two of them will go on an epic journey that you’ll get to read about but only here on the blog. So, without further ado, let’s meet Kestral Sherwood.

Kestral is a Gorlass, a descendant of long ago Dragon shifters. They can no longer shift but retain several characteristics of their previous Dragon ancestors. Kestral himself is the only son out of five children. He’s the youngest and his sisters live to make his life complicated. While his sisters all have jewel colored eyes, his are the same gold as his fathers. When threatened, his skin takes on a golden sheen that is strangely reminiscent of scales, and though his skin is impervious to fire, it is not impenetrable. 

Kestral works with Wilder as a Diffuser. Since he is fireproof, it made sense to him that he could use his gifts to help people. He moved to Port Shadeau two years prior and despite his willingness to settle down, no one had yet caught his eye. 

When he isn’t working, he loves to read books and drink coffee. His favorites are mystery and detective stories and he can spend hours on his days off doing nothing but sitting in his favorite chair and devouring books. When he has enough time to leave the city, he prefers to spend time in wide open spaces. He loves stargazing and watching the night sky while he sleeps next to a campfire.

Ten get to know you questions with Kestral Sherwood:

What makes you happy? A good cup of coffee and a good book on a rainy day.

What is your favorite flower? Sunflowers

Who was your childhood hero? My father. He was honest and unfailingly kind.

What would you do if you won the lottery? Buy a house out in the country and some land. Then build a room that was all windows and fill it with books and comfortable chairs to relax in when the rains come.

Are you a dog person or a cat person? Dog person more often than not. But I don’t mind cats. 

What would you name your future child? Lawson Sherwood, after my father, if it was a boy. And Caroline Sherwood if it’s a girl. I’d be willing to compromise on the middle names, but the last names are fixed in my mind. 

Something you hate that you used to love? Spinach. When I was a kid I’d eat it all the time, but now I can’t stand it. 

What did you want to be as a kid? I’ve always wanted to be a Diffuser, so I guess I did that right. 

What is the last thing you bought? [laughs] Groceries. I bought groceries, though they were minimal. 

That’s the brief introduction to Kestral Sherwood. At least as much as you’ll get for now. Tune in this Saturday to actually meet him in the story. Let me know what you think so far. For now, I’m off to get some work done around the house. Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday friends!

I’ve been thinking

If you’re on my personal facebook, or even follow the Amber Marie Writes facebook, you may have seen this already, but I felt it worth repeating here. I had a bit of a rough year last year, as did everyone. It hasn’t gotten much better this year but I’m pushing through and I’m determined to make something good this year. This post kind of came to me after I saw a graphic in my memories and I thought it was important enough to share here with maybe a little more detail than I’d put on my facebook. Some of it is a little difficult to talk about but the overall idea is about making art out of the difficult stuff that happens.

As most of you know, if you’ve paid any attention at all over the last year, I lost my Dad March 13th of last year. What only my brother knows, is that the night before Dad died, Damien and I were at the hospital until two in the morning. We were emotional and trying to distract ourselves. I had been gearing up for Camp NaNo which happens every year in April. I had written out an outline that I had spent the last couple of months creating from a random thought into an actual story. It wasn’t easy but dealing with everything those last couple of months with Dad gave us, it gave me something else to focus on while working nights. So, my brother and I sat there, three foot from my dad, talking about this outline, talking about my ideas, to distract us from what was happening in the bed right next to us. Dad died the next afternoon. And despite everything that happened in the years leading up to that moment, and no matter how many time we told ourselves we were, we weren’t ready. I wasn’t ready.

Then the world shut down in almost the same breath as we lost Dad. We were trapped at home. People were scared. I was grieving. Hard. I had no idea what to do and my brain desperately was searching for something to do. So a couple of weeks later, when April started, I did what I had planned to do. I did Camp Nano. I set goals, and I smashed them. Quickly.

It had been a very long time since I had finished anything besides a short story. I’d get almost to the end of something and then I just couldn’t finish it. It was frustrating. I started to feel like that with this but I pushed on. I made myself write every second I wasn’t working, or helping the kids with school, or cleaning the house. I did my best. I distracted myself to escape the pain. And this amazing thing happened. On April 25th, 2020, I finished Hold On. Sure, it was just a first draft. Sure, it wasn’t anything spectacular. It was just a piece of fanfiction that I may or may not publish anywhere. It was for me. I wrote my emotions out. I took that grief and turned it into something beautiful.

My goals, as you can see, were simple, 10k words minimum. That was my goal. just something on paper. Anything. Create Art, which I created a lot of art. I really did. And to finish it. Which I did. 25 days and I finished it. Ending with 18 chapters and a total of roughly 63, 457 words. I have never won a full NaNoWriMo before since I started competing in 2013. And the goal there is only 50k in 30 days. I wrote 63k in 25 days. It was huge.

That feeling allowed me to keep going. It allowed me to keep writing and to write everyday. When it’s not a NaNo month (April and November are when I participate), the timeline I give myself is somewhat more relaxed. And by the time October of last year rolled around, I had finished 3 stories, one was primed to go to my editor, and I was working on three more, as the ideas struck. I was making art, so much art, I had perfected my writing process. I was doing so well and I knew, without a doubt that I was going to kick NaNo’s ass in November. If I could do it in April, I could do it in November.

Then my Mom died. And it was, ugh. I shut down. Immediately. It was like my brain had a moment where it went “We’ve already done this, we are NOT doing this again!” I tried to do what I’d done earlier in the year, but I’d stare at the screen and couldn’t make the words come. I just couldn’t. They were gone. The words, the ideas, they were still there, I could feel them but they were silent. For once in my writing life, the voices that guide me were silent. And it was deafening.

I didn’t do NaNo last year. I barely made it through November. Dad’s funeral, finally, then Mom’s the next day. It was, a lot. Then the kids started acting out. Jay almost missed Thanksgiving. Emily hated her 16th birthday, even though I tried. Emily has been acting out since. Sneaking out, and taking off for weeks at a time. This has been constant since November. It hasn’t made the words come, if anything they feel farther away.

I’ve started editing again, because despite everything, life goes on. As much as I’d love to sit and never have to process the things I put off at the end of last year so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it, life doesn’t work that way. So, while I still can barely write, I’ve been editing. I’ve been plotting. I will make it through whatever I have to, and not lose my identity as a writer. I have to, because who am I if I’m not?

My 2k20 Camp NaNo Goals graphic was in my memories recently, and I saw it before I’d even had my first cup of coffee and when I saw it, I immediately remembered that sense of pride I felt when I was done. I felt my chest swelling with it again. I felt my shoulders squaring and my head lifting just a bit. It may be just a simple fanfiction that got me through a large portion of my grief. 63k words that I wasn’t sure I’d ever show to anyone. But I’m so glad that I did. It was officially published on August 31st of last year. Since then I’ve gotten 22 comments telling me what a great story it is. 22 comments telling me I was good at this. 22 comments that helped me get through the hardest year of my life, so far. As of yesterday, I’m up to 107 kudos, which if you read anything on AO3, you know that isn’t that great, but it’s not bad either. And the newest Kudos was just yesterday, according to my email.

I created something that will last. I created something. I took my grief and shaped it into a stepping stone for my goals. This stone may be a bit harder and I’m still working on it. I may be juggling more than one stone right now, but that’s all they are. Stepping stones to my dreams. Stepping stones to my goals. Each painted a different color of memory. I can take this, and I can use it. Art is emotion after all.

If you read all of this, thank you. It’s really just to remind myself that even when it hurts, even when it feels like you’re going to break, you never know what’s going to happen next and that next thing, may be everything you ever needed.

Leftovers

I know that it’s been a while since I’ve been here, but there have been a lot of things going on personally the last few months. But here I am, back at it and hopefully there won’t be too many more interruptions.

So we are going to kick off May with a lovely new Short Story Saturday. I’m going to pick up where we left off with Ailee Creed and her time in Port Shadeau. So, enjoy!

    Ailee set down the boxes she’d been carrying and wiped her forearm over her brow.  A quick glance at the clock as she opened the top box told her she wasn’t too far from the end of her shift.  With a smile she went back to unloading the boxes and putting the products on the shelf.  When she was finally done, she checked in with her Assistant manager who was working the evening shift, said goodbye to employees still on the clock, and then clocked out.  

    She made her way downstairs toward where Marlowe was also finishing her shift.  Ailee waited, leaned against the end of the counter flipping through a magazine while she finished doing what she was doing.  Once Marlowe was done they walked to the back to grab Marlowe’s coat and went out into the city to find something for dinner.  

    The next couple of days went the same way, and Ailee was happy to finally have a friend. It made her new life in Port Shadeau a little more bearable.  After work on Friday, Marlowe and Ailee met up at Marlowe’s for a couple of drinks and to make dinner.  Marlowe’s husband Wilder was at work for the weekend and so Marlowe had the apartment to herself.  They sat around at the counter and discussed the options for dinner.  

    “I have a lot of easy stuff because I’m not a big fan of cooking.” Marlowe explained standing in front of her fridge and trying to find something to make for them. “It’s such a difference cooking for me as opposed to cooking when Wilder is home.” 

    “Just because you make easy food doesn’t mean it has to taste easy.” Ailee said setting her beer on the counter and sliding off of the stool.  She moved to stand beside Marlowe.  

    “I don’t know how.” Marlowe said, shaking her head.  Ailee just grinned. 

    “I can teach you.  Let me see what you’ve got in here.” Ailee spent a couple of minutes looking through Marlowe’s fridge and cupboards.  She amassed a small collection of things on the counter and then looked at Marlowe.  “Okay.  Let me grab a couple of seasonings from my place that you don’t have, and I’m going to teach you to make something really delicious that isn’t complicated at all.” She said with a grin.  

    After she grabbed the few things from her apartment that she needed, she got to work in the kitchen teaching Marlowe how to make Chicken Penne.  They spent the time laughing and talking and Ailee was happy to really feel like she had a new friend here.  When the food was done, Marlowe was impressed about how easy it was to cook and it smelled amazing.  They sat down and shared a good meal with a lot of laughs and had a great evening.  When dinner was done, they worked together to clean the kitchen and pack up the leftovers.  

    “So, I’m gonna take these home with me since I don’t have to work tomorrow.” Ailee told her with a grin picking up the container off the counter.  

    “Oh no, those are staying here. I have to show Wilder I can actually cook.” Marlowe told her with a grin as she attempted to swipe at the container in Ailee’s hand.  

The girls devolved into a silly play fight over the leftovers before Ailee let Marlowe take them with a proud smile. She went home feeling happy that she had taught her friend the benefits of good food. Marlowe waited no time in taking the leftovers down to the fire house to share with Wilder. It took only one bite before he had shared with a couple of friends, offering a bite or two a piece. He was proud of his wife. When Marlowe got home, she had texted Ailee and asked her to do weekly cooking lessons, and Ailee was happy to agree. It was something wonderful and she was happy to be settling into her new life in Port Shadeau and settled into bed that night with a smile on her face.

Setting Preview: The Librarie

This week we are talking about The Librarie. This is the fictional bookstore and Cafe that Ailee Creed and Marlowe Lark manage in the Short Story Saturday series Port Shadeau. I kind of hope you guys love it as much as I do.

Many years ago I read a series by Nora Roberts about these women who live on an island and it still is one of my favorite series. My mom loaned it to me and I remember looking at her and telling her that I wanted the bookstore from the story. It had a cafe upstairs and it was also a metaphysical shop and I wanted to live there. So, when I was gathering inspiration for Port Shadeau, I found this picture of a bookstore somewhere and I knew that I wanted a cafe bookstore combination.

Now, to prevent copywrite and all of that, I changed it up. A cafe/bookstore isn’t a new idea so that wasn’t the problem, but making sure it didn’t resemble the one I read about a long time ago was essential. So, I set about creating the perfect environment.

It’s two stories, with the Cafe on the first floor near the back of the shop, and there are bookshelves that line the walls. There are new books, used books, a spiral staircase to get to the second floor where there are a few scattered chairs and small couches where you can read and sip your latte. It’s got brick walls and gorgeous windows for plenty of natural light. There’s a wonderful mixture of used books, and new releases, and several wonderful gifts for book lovers and coffee lovers alike.

Marlowe takes great pride in keeping the bookstore easy to navigate but also giving off the vibe of an old forgotten bookstore that you’d find down some alley in Europe, with books piled high not just on the shelves, but scattered on tables, placed carefully on carts, and any bibliophile would love to enter here. I want to go and it doesn’t exist. The smell of old books mixing pleasantly with the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans. It sounds like a sanctuary to me. There’s even a section of the store that’s more like a little library, you can check out the book rather than buy it. It’s wonderful. I kind of want to open this place now.

Can you imagine it? Spending hours wandering the aisles, looking for a long forgotten story that calls out to you. sinking into a comfortable couch and losing time while you read and drink a delicious cup of coffee or tea? I can. And I want to go there, like now.

What does your dream bookstore look like?
Have a great week guys!