I FEEL LIKE THE LLAMA IN THE Doctor Doolittle story…two heads and meets itself in the middle, constantly trying to go it’s own direction and being pulled back by the other half. I think if I had two of them all melded together, that might just about take care of all the directions I feel like I’m finding myself trying to go at one time…

I am so excited about going on my trip…

Yet–my yard, my home and creative bend beckon me to stay and get serious. It truly is a very frustrating feeling. I’m so excited about this trip. But…there are so many things to be done around here! I’m hoping it’s just a case of Spring Fever. Spring is breaking out all over: grass to mow, weeds to pull, a garden to plant and tend, repairs to make…a house that screams for help: need for new windows, rooms sorted and tidied, furniture rearranged…and my in-home studio wants some love, too (I refuse to take any pictures of the disaster that is my studio, but here are a few of the yard…). Home ownership is so much fun.

Chill-time on the back porch

Nomming on a meal, soaking up the beauty in the yard…working in the yard. That’s what I want to be doing…(taken last year before the weeds took over)

My mind is overflowing with ideas for the yard, garden and home. But the mental countdown has begun for my trip and I must focus on getting the basics around here done (after I finish up with my book signing on Saturday, that is)–get my taxes done and get the manuscript out of my hands (that actually may happen this weekend–finally) and into the publisher’s hands, so that I can pack and flee!

Can I bring it back to this?

In the last year, my yard had tanked…weeds everywhere. I’d really like to get it back to the little haven it once was…

In addition to the craving to work in the yard, and house…and on my artwork, I’ve contemplated dragging out some old short stories I’ve done and turning them into an anthology that I could publish this fall. There’s never a lack of things to do. Never. It’s just what to do and when. Priorities, of course, but I’m still pulled in so many directions it’s hard to decide which has more priority.

What to do…PushmiPullyu is working, full steam ahead.

Confidence Building…

AS A WRITER, I LOVE THE ACT OF putting my thoughts onto paper. It took me a long time to feel comfortable sharing them with others, always wondering what they might think. Once I finally realized that it didn’t matter (well, it did…but not so much) what others thought–I knew that there were some readers out there that would enjoy my stories, so I finally started sharing–first in the confines of a classroom…and when I didn’t get booed back to my seat, I was resolved to further to make publishing my work a reality. First with my blog, then with my sci-fi fantasy story.

And now that it’s out there, I fret. Is it a waste of money? Yes, I did use a “vanity press” to get my book published and they dig deep into your pockets–I’ve been scolded on numerous occasions by fellow indie authors for going that route, but at the time, it was the best way–for me. No, I haven’t gone crazy trying to publicize the book–I’ve been very low key about it. What I have done is to give it to God. Does that mean sitting back on my laurels and let Him make it happen? No, it means I trust that if this book series is meant to be, it will fly. It may take some time. I’ve done a few book signings, now have a twitter account (but refuse to flood the twittersphere with ‘buy my book’ stuff), posted (a lot) on my business Facebook account, a little on my personal FB account, a little on my LinkedIn account…you get the idea.

Friends have give me verbal feedback on how much they liked Secrets Beyond Scymaria. Only one person has given me a ‘so-so’ comment, and I respect that. The book is not for everybody. But, not even one written review. Not one. My confidence has been flagging. Were these wonderful verbal high-fives just to make me feel good? I know many authors go through this. Some more than others. They need to see those reviews (and those reviews are important for sales, too, since most people look at the reviews before considering their purchases).  Those visual ‘pats’ on the back. They want to see lots of them. Lots of five star reviews.

So, I was beginning to seriously doubt myself, my book and starting to feel pretty down, since fellow author friends have had scores of reviews on their newly published books while mine has been languishing since September/October, 2013. That’s a long time in the life of a book. And a long time for a writer. I finally decided I obviously wasn’t ‘giving it to God’ like I’d planned. So, I gave it back to him (again)–and relaxed.

I busied myself with my second book (it”s almost ready for the publisher–I know, I keep saying that, but life keeps getting in the way of completing it!) and have all but one problem spot worked out. Then I realized I needed to come up with verbiage for the hardbound cover inside flaps. Yikes. So, I’m working on that too.

Out of the blue, an indie author/blogger/reviewer Facebook friend, Ey Wade, said she’d do a review on my book. Not just an ordinary reader, but one that does this professionally. I was honored. I sent her a pdf of Secrets Beyond Scymaria and within days, she had a review posted on her webblog (which has some very good reviews, by the way–you might want to check it out if you’re looking for a new book to read)…and on Amazon and GoodReads!

My confidence has been renewed, since not only was it a good review, but she gave it five stars (doing a happy dance). Now…back to getting the second in the series done so I can finish planning for my trip!

And, yes, I am certainly not ashamed to admit it, I did thank and praise God for all that happened…I know His hand is in it, helping me move forward.

Secrets Beyond Scymaria: Warriors of the Forest

HOPEFULLY, BY THE END OF MAY, my next book will be out for you to purchase. I spent the evening in the company of a fellow writer, each of us working on our respective edits. I was able to iron out all but a few of them before I needed to close up and head home (the seats in the coffee shop were no that conducive to long stays). So the publisher should be getting the manuscript pretty soon.

Then, it dawned on me–I’ve been negligent! I have not given you, my faithful readers, any inkling of where book two takes my two characters. So, without further adieu, here’s a bit of a teaser:

“Okay. Okay . . . Ty. I think I understand now.” Amy and Ty were sitting at the cafeteria table, hunched over their lunches, and talking in whispers so as not to be overheard. Amy’s pigtails fell, brushing the table as she leaned in to discuss Ty’s problem.

“What do you mean?” he asked through clenched teeth, glaring at her with his dark brown eyes while mindlessly poking at his food. He was in a foul mood. The morning had not gone well for him; all week long his friends had been relentless in their taunting about his relationship with Amy. He kept insisting they were just friends, nothing more, but they wouldn’t let up with their teasing, and a terrible tension had mounted between them. Finally, this morning, in his anger, he’d yelled at them and stomped off.

Just like a little kid, he thought, now regretting his actions.

All this had happened before classes started. All morning, none of his friends would talk to him, and made it abundantly clear to Ty they were avoiding him by turning around when he approached them. Shunning him. He’d just finished confessing to Amy his outburst and the subsequent consequences.

“Well, they think we’re going out or something, right?” Amy kept staring at him. Ty felt his face grow hot. He was ready to shout at her too. Rolling her eyes, Amy put up a hand. In a calm tone, she added, “Wait. Let me finish, please . . . And you certainly haven’t spent very much time with them, right?”

Ty nodded. He could feel the heat drain from his face as he sighed.

*  *  *

“Okay. Ty, you guys are super good friends, but they really miss all the fun you usually have. You’ve been blowing them off ever since this all started—for a good reason.” She kept an eye on him while she polished off the last of her lunch. “Really, they’re probably just jealous.”

He looked up and scowled, glaring straight at her.

“Jealous?” he snipped.

Remaining calm and ignoring his penetrating glare, she answered, returning his stare with a gentler one. “Yes, silly. Jealous. No, we are not”—she made air quotes as she spoke—“‘a couple’ or going out, but you have to agree we’re spending tons of time together. We have . . .” She paused. She wasn’t sure how to label their relationship anymore; their new friend made it very complicated. All the secrecy surrounding him and what he represented was intriguing—exciting, really—but they could not share this information with anyone outside their parents and their science teacher, Miss Tansy.

“We have a common bond.” She leaned in a bit closer and whispered, “Rocky. We can’t tell them about him, but we’re having so much fun with it. He’s changed us, Ty. More than we could ever dream. Don’t you agree?”

Ty nodded again.

All the things, the new “talents” they had discovered with Rocky’s help were amazing, beyond their wildest dreams, especially the thought-speech. They both loved it.

WELL, HOPE THAT SATISFIES all of you for a bit–at least until I get the final manuscript (plus the cover artwork and ‘blurbs’ for the back and jacket flaps) off to the publisher and I’m deep into the throws of publishing phase…

News Flash

JUST A QUICKIE…I am excited that I’ve just applied for a writing residency–through AMTRAK’s new Writer’s Residency Program. Travel on the train for 3-5 days, with a sleeper compartment and be able to write, write, write…and blog and take pictures…wheeee!

It would be so cool to be able to settle in and work on the next book in my series–and blog about my adventures on the train. I know it’s probably a way for them to do free promotions, but hey–I love trains, travel and writing. What a wonderful way to combine the three! I’m game! They have the program running from March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. We’ll see if I’m accepted and when they allow me to travel (of course, it will need to be after my Europe trip–duh), but I am really excited!

There. Like I said–just a quickie. Just wanted to share my excitement!

…And The Planning Begins.

SIX WEEKS IS A LONG TIME for traveling, but usually not enough time to do what I want to do…and the two months till flight time seems so far away, yet, it’s practically just around the corner. So many things to do (I hope I remember them all) and so little time. It will all come together and I’ll keep you up to date on my rush to get ready.

I will say, I splurged on my air fare. I am not going for the cheapest flight. I almost chose the non-stop flight both to and from Dublin to cut down on air time and chances of losing luggage or missed connections. Instead, I chose the middle road, with one stop in London. If I lose my luggage, no biggie. I always carry the essentials with me in a back pack. At least it’s “nearby”, rather than “across the pond” trying to find it’s way…and the time on the plane isn’t much more. I’m a wee bit anxious about the timing (less than two hours) for the layover for the return flight, but if there are delays and I miss my connection…well, that just means another day in paradise. I can deal with that. Ha–I actually did that last time (delay caused by security needing to search my bags (I unbeknownst to me had contraband–peat), which were already on the plane…had to be pulled off & no way they could get them back on in time for the flight) and didn’t bother me one bit.

I always give myself one day of chill time to acclimate to the time zone jumping. This is a very good plan…even if you are crunched for time. Better to sit back and adjust, enjoying the cuisine or stuff in the immediate vicinity rather than drag yourself through a couple of days trying to play catch-up and finding yourself dragging days beyond that.

I’ll be away from regular computer time for six weeks, so entries may be spotty during my travels. That cannot be helped (well, I could work around it, but the thrifty Scott in me always protests). I can usually get free wifi at the hotels upon arrival and prior to departure, but a ‘free’, locked, secure connection is hard to find. One time I went onto an unlocked connection (in Prague) and ended up having addresses harvested. I won’t let that happen again. I found making entries on the computer useful–just keep logging the entries till I have stable and safe internet access, then copy, paste and press send. That keeps the time on the internet to a minimum, too (access can be pricey in most places).

But, for now, I’m concentrating on my To Do list for departure, which I may need to expand, as I will (hopefully) have a non-family member traveling companion for the entire trip–need to add things she needs to know, too. I’ll find out at the end of the month whether or not she will be coming with me. This is only a part of the actual list. Just thought I’d share a few:

  • I’ll be renting a car, so I must have an international license. AAA is great for that! I carry it around with my valid drivers license. It has all the information needed in various languages for the officials looking it over. In a way, I wish we had a national drivers license that would be easy to read. When I visit other states, I have to help people to find the info on the card–it’s located in a different spot in almost every state!
  • Then there’s the car rental itself. I’ve already started to look at the different options. So far, I’ve not been able to get a quote since it’s (date-wise) too far out. Grrr. If I speak to a human, I could probably get a quote, but I’m not ready for that.  AAA membership affords a discount if I use Hertz, but when I was over there the last time I used a European firm with headquarters abroad and in NY for both a lease and car rentals. It worked out well. So, I need to decide soon on that because if I choose the European firm, I’ll need to shuffle paperwork by mail, getting it signed and returned before my departure.
  • Ordering euros and pounds to have on hand till I can access an ATM. Even then, I want to keep my withdrawals to a minimum–there are foreign transaction fees every time I use the ATM or credit card. There’s even charges to have funds exchanged between euros and pounds. So, I mentally decide now how much I’m going to budget myself on spending in each financial region. I’ll probably only put very large purchase or additional travel items, like the ferry or train on the credit card.
  • Finding my passport and making sure it’s up to date (so far, the only thing I have successfully done)
  • Making sure my Hostel Int’l membership is up to date (must do–it expire tin February, I think) It costs a ‘grand’ $25/year for the membership and allows for discounts at a multitude of hostels throughout Europe. Well worth the expense and effort to renew.
  • I do have my iPhone (through ATT), so I can initiate the International Plan to keep costs down for texting and phoning home, but I also have a little int’l phone (global phone) I keep ‘alive’ for when I’m abroad (doesn’t work while I’m in the US). I think it cost about $50 to purchase. I can purchase sim cards for whatever country or region I’m in and helps to keep costs down for phoning ‘local’ while abroad. So, need to get it charged up (hmmm…need to find the charger) and ready to go.
  • Of course, I must get all of my financial ‘ducks in a row’ before I leave. That’s a biggie. Making sure all bills are paid up (and perhaps, if possible, paid ahead for the next month–I know that would be hard for most people, I’m sure. I have a little cushion stashed just for this purpose–takes a whole year to rebuild it once travel is done!) The only one I can’t do that for is my credit card. Sigh. So, my back up is my wonderful daughter–bless her! In my absence, she checks on the mail and pays the ones that need to be paid as funds become available. What would I do without her?! Well, I could pay online from abroad, but I’m paranoid about someone getting my info while I’m on the internet, so I’d rather not test fate.
  • Oh, yes. Speaking of credit cards…I need to notify my bank and credit card company so they know I’ll be traveling (and where–they do ask) so when charges come in, I don’t end up with transaction denials (happened before on my first trip and had no clue why). It’s even happened on trips out of state (didn’t think I had to notify of interstate travel)–now I notify them whenever I’m out of town. I know it’s a nuisance, but I’d rather they be vigilant and deny payment (and then have to call the fraud line to verify it was actually me making the charge) than have someone wracking up charging on my credit card without my knowledge. Definitely worth the hassle.

Okay, this has run a wee bit longer than I planned. Sorry. But it’s all good information. Please, folks. I depend on your feedback. Am I boring you with all this information? Please feel free to comment–good or bad (but be nice about it…)

That’s all for now. Off to work on the above mentioned list, with a giant grin plastered across my face…counting the days.