Crimson Hall Ghost House is out! It’s here!

CHGH cover 

Me:  (To a group of people on the street):  Crimson Hall Ghost House has arrived!  It’s officially released!

Girl on the Street #1: Are you kidding me?

Me: I kid you not!

Girl on the Street #1 BFF: When did this happen?  How come we didn’t know?

Me:  It just happened today!

Girl on the Street #2: What are you talking about?

Girl on the Street #1 BFF: You remember the YA book that came out last summer, Gold Manor Ghost House?  This is the sequel.  Right?BookCoverPreviewGMGH#4

Me: Yes!

Girl on the Street #2:  What’s it about?

Girl on the Street #1:  Well, Gold Manor Ghost House is about Anna Rose Ellingwood who’s a teenager and lands a major role on a new drama on a teen station – something like Nick.  Well, the show is called Ghost House.  The show is shot on location in a small town in Tennessee.  When she gets there, she finds the guy she has been dreaming of for years is real!  And he’s on the show!

Girl on the Street #2: Really?

Girl on the Street #1 BFF: Yeah.  But Anna’s BFF, Corey, is also on the show and he’s in love with her, which causes a problem.  Oh, and that guy Anna’s in love with – his name is Adam – is part of a very old cursed family.  Like hundreds of years old.  But he’s not hundreds of years old.  Gross.  And Anna’s part of the cursed family in some way too.

Girl of the Street #2:  So, are there any ghosts?

Girl on the Street #1:  It’s not clear, at least in Gold Manor Ghost House.

Me:  Well, you’ll just have to read Crimson Hall Ghost House to find out if there are any ghosts.

Girl on the Street #1 2nd BFF: I read Gold Manor Ghost House.  What happens to Corey?  Do Anna and Adam stay together?  What about Anna’s secret?

Me:  I suggest you go to right now to find out the answers to your burning questions!

How to deal with a bad review (or rejection in general)

Yesterday I had the dual experiences of receiving a less than stellar review (okay, fine, a stinky book review) and soundly denouncing a movie I saw last weekend.

Let’s suppose you’re an artist of some type in which the general public may offer an opinion about your work. Or, suppose you simply want something.  Negative reviews and rejection are part of the game, part of life. The time is now to gird your loins and slather on a few layers of skin, because when the criticism comes – and it will – you’ll need to know how to take it.

After spending the last century with my colleagues (pictured below) combing the globe, using our super-computer to compile statistics gleaned from 84 very scientific-like studies based on an advanced form of telepathy we employed at coffee houses and big-box retailers, the following highly accurate list was compiled of best practices in dealing with bad reviews or rejection of any kind:

1. Yelling backwards


2. Watching Groundhog Day


3. Talking to fish about your feelings (living, not on a plate. Research shows this is 17% more effective if you’ve had a recently successful yoga session. A 1% additional increase if you drink water with a lemon wedge (no ice) while spilling your guts to the guppies.)

cat 9

4. Rolling in the grass for two minutes and thirty seconds (dirt is acceptable in winter, but not snow. And NEVER ice.)


5. Ice cream consumption, three scoops, different flavors. One must contain nuts, one must have something chewy, and one must be chocolate – but the chocolate one can’t have nuts. (And, this goes without saying, so I feel funny even saying this, but you know litigation these days… #5 can’t be coupled with #2. Duh!)

Oxford stray

6. Taking a bath – sans soap


7. Writing a Socratic dialogue in which you play Socrates (naturally) and the person who wrote or verbally assaulted you with the negative critique plays the other guy.   You, Socrates, pick apart with high fashion, flare, and wit the poorly constructed rejection/review.

cat 8

8. Crying ugly. Stop crying by distracting yourself (putting on glass [any kind] works well because they’ll fog up.) Repeat 4 times then clean out the refrigerator.

cat 11

9. **

cat not cat 10

I hope my lifetimes of research on this facet of the creative life has helped or will help you. *

*These were the top nine, statically speaking. There’s an entire list to mine with thousands upon thousands of recommendations for dealing with this reality I’ve coined “notallthesameness.” Apparently, not all people think the same and have the same likes!  Thank goodness I have reams of evidence to support such a wild claim.

I know.  It’s shocking, but notallthesameness has been around for quite some time.  My research shows it goes as far back as the phenomena known as “human.”

**It has been brought to my attention not everyone can read #9. Most probably you’ve forgotten to put in your contacts. You have? Well, then, you should probably blame the distractions of modern-day life.  At least the picture should make it clear enough.

The majority of the cat photos by Michelle, David, and Kelly Fieser.  Thank you!



Yet Again, I Finished My Book!

I feel lost.  There is no expression on my face.  My stomach is immobile and I’m on hold.

I’ve spent the past seven months living in my secret world, in plain sight, piecing together a world, word by word, scene by scene.

CHGH 1You guessed it.  I finished my round of editing Crimson Hall Ghost House.

I just hit send to my editor extraordinaire, Jennifer, and handed off a paper copy to my wonderful friend, Stephanie, who was satisfyingly excited.

Now I wait.

To be honest, it’s not ready for them.  This past month and a half I’ve been working feverishly.  The mature writer would put her finished tome under her bed, waiting at least a few months before pulling it out to thoughtfully look over her work and start the editing process again.

But I can’t do it.

Seven months.  Seven months!  I feel like I’ve been keeping an important and detailed secret for seven months.  I’ve been living this reality since August and I feel like I’m bursting at the seams for someone to share it with!

I know I should be humble and deferential here, saying the book needs a lot of work.  But you want my straightforward assessment?  The honest truth as I see it?  I know I could be judged harshly for admitting this, but, I love my book.  I do.  I just can’t seem to help it.  See?  Tears are welling up.  I’m smiling.  I believe my book, Crimson Hall Ghost House, follow-up to Gold Manor Ghost House, rocks!

I still feel unmoored, though, waiting to hear from Stephanie or Jennifer to talk about the story line of Crimson Hall Ghost House.   But my impatience will recede day by day.  I won’t be looking at my phone for an email, text, or call with either of their names every hour.  Eventually.  This isn’t my first rodeo.

The creative process is … what?  I’ve been pushing myself as of late to get to today and now that today is here I want to crawl in a hole and throw a party.  I want to light a candle and take a bath in the near darkness, listening to Coldplay while contemplating what it all means.  I want to talk in terms of ‘giving birth,’ only to feel ridiculous and justified as my six year old just came into my bedroom where I’m waxing philosophical.

Through this process of producing a book, most of all, above the extreme high, and frigfor-blog-backgound-shutterstock_138638243.jpght, and joy I feel, gratitude rides highest.  I am full of gratitude for the stunning beauty and mystery of this big beautiful world.  I am all too aware of the evil.  And yet, goodness, wholeness, life, discovery, that I get to be part of in my own way?  I find I’ve incurred yet another debt to God I could never begin to repay.

Thank you, Fount of All Wonder, for planting wonder in my heart.


Today I Finished Writing a Book … Not Really

CHGH 1Today I could’ve written THE END, if I ever write THE END at the end of my books.  If I write those two awesome words, I could’ve written them today, at the end of Crimson Hall Ghost House, book #2 in the Four Families Series, the follow up to Gold Manor Ghost House.

I finished the story!  I love it!  I can’t wait to share it!

What?  You want to read it?  Are you cra-cra?

I finished the story, but … skipped that one chapter, because I was buzzing along and I figured out I should’ve already written that chapter and I was too deep into another scene to drop it and return.

Then I realized I needed to add _______.  I need to clean up _______.  And then there’s my work of general story housekeeping and editing.

Then I’ll be done, again!

But I won’t be.

It will go to Jennifer, hopefully.

She will work her magic and give it back.

It will go to Stephanie, yes?

She will give it her love and send it back.

It will go to Lisa, right?

She will rid it of the remaining visceral twitches and give it back.

It will go back to Jennifer (and maybe her sister Stephanie?), fingers crossed.

99% (dare I hope for 100% ?) of all typos will be bled out of Crimson Hall Ghost House and she will give it back.

Story in shape, the formatting and wrestling with computer layouts promising one thing and delivering another commences, until, at the end… a book is ready to be read.

So, in about two (optimistically) to three (realistically) months you’ll hear me say, again, this time without caveat, today I finished writing a book!

Confessions of a Misbehaving Writer

The following is an excerpt from a conversation I had with myself moments ago:
picture of a conversation with myself
Me:  I’m a bad writer.
Self: How so?  Does my writing stink?
Me: No.
Self: Then why am I a bad writer?
Me: Because, for the most part, I only write.
Self: But doesn’t that make you a good writer?  I thought writers were supposed to write.
Me: Well, you thought wrong.  Writers are supposed to write, but only some of the time.  With the rest of their time, they’re supposed to promote, promote, promote.
Self: Oh, so I’m a bad writer in the sense of a misbehaving writer.
Me: Absolutely.  For instance, when’s the last time I blogged?
Self: Okay, I see what you mean.  It’s been months and months and months.
Me:  Tweeted?
Self:  I haven’t tweeted since December.  Why is that?
Me:  Because… and I’m not sure if I should admit this… but … I HATE TWITTER!
Self:  Maybe you’re just following the wrong people and don’t know what to tweet.
Me:  That’s probably it.
Self:  By the way, have you been sending query letters out to get a literary agent?
Me:  Have you not been paying attention?  No, of course not.
Self:  Why?
Me: Because I’ve been writing.  In fact, if I could just leave myself alone, I could get back to writing the sequel to Gold Manor Ghost House.  I’m 68,221 words into Crimson Hall Ghost House, and I bet I could make it past 70k today if you’d let me be.
Self:  Yes, but, what’s the point of spending all the time you can cobble together to write if you don’t have an agent and therefore no publishing house behind you, resulting in the inability to get your awesome, fun, exciting, romantic, paranormal young adult books out to the readers?
Me:  I know.  I’m bad.  Awful.  A real writer, a dedicated writer, a professional writer does it all.  Blogs regularly, tweets, engages readers on her Facebook page, does readings, so on and on and on.
Self:  And me?
Me: I just write.
Self: That’s not entirely true.
Me: I know.  I’m the guest speaker at the Faculty Women’s Club luncheon in March, and I’m going to Westview High School to discuss Gold Manor Ghost House with their book club.  And, I did post something on my Facebook author’s page a few weeks back.
Self: Few weeks, huh.  Pretty pathetic.  Why are you writing this post?
Me: I guess I feel the need for a public flogging, admitting my failings.  The writing is wonderful, freeing, and at times, akin to trudging through a bog in the dead of night – sans the light of the moon (with mosquitoes nipping at your skin).  Discussing my work is an amazing thrill, but all the other stuff … despair.  Despair of finding an agent, of getting a good publishing deal.  It’s the despair, I think, that keeps me from the hell that is querying.
Self:  My advice?  Stop feeling sorry for yourself and do it.  Do the work beyond the writing.  Find the agent.  Post on Facebook.  Blog.
Me:  Do I have to go back to twitter to?
Self:  Let’s not get too crazy.  Maybe for lent, as a penance.

bad writer

Why write?

TSF box of booksOn the eve of the release of The Second Fall, book #2 in the Exiled Trilogy, I am filled with gratitude and, naturally, the desire to wax philosophical about writing.

Writing is a joy and a beast.  It’s wonderful to fall into a world, get lost in the story of my making.  Whatever story I’m working on is constantly rattling around in the back of my mind, somewhere, even when I’m not sitting down to write.

We all have a creative impulse.  Creating is part and parcel of being human.

You may be inclined to retort, “Well I guess I’m less than human since I’m no Martha Stewart.”

No, no, no.  There are many ways we create.  If we judged creativity on craftiness and the ability to cut in a straight line, well, I ought to give up the ghost right now.

The way you choose to construct your life, your day, this very moment, reflects your creativity.  We humans can’t stop doing it!  We create, we make.  In fact some have argued it’s more accurate to describe humans as makers (homo fabers) instead of knowers (homo sapiens).

I don’t think we have to choose between being primarily creators or knowers, because the one entails the other.  It’s both, always both.

It is because we are rational creatures that we create.  We see the world around us and we construct, we build, we place, we mold, we interact with the world, not simply on the world’s terms, as if there are brute facts in the world for us to discover.  We are interpreters of the world, constantly constructing.

Do we construct in a vacuum?  Do we create reality, as the nihilist might say, against no backdrop other than sheer force of our passions and will?

I don’t think so.  We create in tandem, in relation, with others, with our experiences, with the world itself.  As partners, as travelers, as strangers, as investigators.

And so I write.  I write because I have stories to tell.  I write because I want to connect with others.  I write because I want to immerse myself in the mystery of life.

I write, because as Lizzy and her sisters and brothers proclaim, “Beauty will
redeem the world.”  I believe it, and by working through the puzzle of the human condition by way of writing YA paranormal fiction, I hope to draw closer to the Beautiful and source of all being.

BookCoverPreview TSF

Should you hate “Twilight” for reason #4?

I intended to take a detour and write about the wild misuse of angels in YA paranormal lit, but I couldn’t get Bella out of my mind.

bella coolReason #4: Bella is weak.

A legitimate reason to dislike a YA book is a pathetic female main character.  So, is Bella?

Let’s take a look at her reality.  Within the parameters that she’s written, there are humans and non-humans.  To see if she’s fragile, frail, feeble, we should judge her against the standard of the other humans.

Bella and friendsWhen compared to Bella’s new friends, she comes out ahead.  She is more mature, insightful, and responsible than the others.  Well, except for Angela.  Angela is the same age as Bella, and like Bella, cares for others (most notably her family).  Imagine Angela is the one who falls in love with a vampire.  Would you consider her weak?

In fact, why is Bella in Forks anyway?  She moves because she thinks it will make her mom happy.  Does she exile herself because she has no backbone and is a stereotypical people pleaser? I think her decision to move illustrates her care for others, not a lack of respect for herself.

Bella and cWhat positive character traits does Bella have?  She cares for others, in particular her family, she is loyal, she is willing to love, she experiences trauma (Edward leaving, vampire pregnancy) and does what she needs in order to heal, she fights for what she wants (Edward, keeping her father safe, friendship with Jacob, her baby).

To characterize Bella as lacking in depth is an unfair, and certainly uncharitable, interruption.

What is wrong with Bella?  Beside the fact she falls in love with a vampire who wants to kill her, constantly putting her own life in danger until she finally “dies”?

Bella makes mistakes.  She is naïve.  She indulges in risky behavior.

girl powerSome say, “What’s primarily wrong with Bella, though, is she needs a man to be complete.  She would give – and does!- anything to be with Edward.  This shows Bella is a disempowered girl, and therefore, not to be emulated.  We don’t need others.  Girl power!”

While I agree Bella is too wrapped up in Edward, that she fights for the relationship she wants is not a failing.

A few weeks back, a friend of mine was at a professional speaking engagement, as the speaker, to healthcare professionals.  Before the talk, she chatted with those on the conference committee.  The doctors (who were women) asked about her education.  My friend explained she didn’t finish college, because she met and married a wonderful man and she planned to be a stay-at-home-mom.

stay at home momThese women were astonished at the blasphemy coming from my friend.  She didn’t want a professional career?  She wanted to stay home?  She must be a backwards idiot!

Underlining assumption to their gasps: A woman finds fulfillment in having a professional job.  She is completed by doing what she wants, on her terms, not in reference to other people’s needs and desires.

Is this assumption true? What really makes us happy and fulfilled?


This enlightened bulls#*t, telling us our relationships aren’t the most important part of life, needs to die like the lie it is.

You are not self-sufficient.  You, and I, need people.  Bella is not at fault because she loves.  She’s at fault to think one person will be all she ever needs.  She is at fault for thinking no price is too high.

Bella sparkleBut within the story, what is promised her and what does she receive for the ultimate sacrifice?  Eternal love, life, and beauty.  Heaven.  She gets heaven.  This reward may be unrealistic, but remember, it’s a story about vampires, so….

If you have any Twilight related criticisms, or philosophical questions about other YA books, send them my way.  If I’ve read the book (or if it’s on my list to get to), I’ll gladly write about it.

(I do have one other Twilight post I’m considering, and here’s the title:  What the lover of Twilight and Job [from the Old Testament] have in common.)