Book Tour Stop For Heidi Angell’s Upcoming Release of “The Hunted” 1

Hi Everybody,

Many of you will recall that about a month ago I did an in depth story on Heidi Angell on my blog. The story I did was very much focused on Heidi’s life experiences. Today, you’re going to get to know more about Heidi as a writer of Urban Fantasy, and most particularly about her Hunters Saga series. The Hunters Saga is a vampire slayer series for those who believe vampires should be killed, not kissed. Here’s what Heidi has to say about the first book in this series.

What would you do if you found your town had been infested with vampires? For Chris and his brother Lucas, the answer was simple enough: you fight back. Gathering a small band of other people in their town who have been affected by the vampires, they begin a resistance. But after a year of fighting, they have only managed to kill a handful, while the vampire leader has turned five times that many.

Then two enigmatic strangers appear, changing the group’s lives even further.

Fury and Havoc. They call themselves hunters, and want no part in this little band of heroes. Ordering them to lay low, the duo vow to rid their town of vampires. When Fury is injured, Chris aides these strangers, entwining his future with theirs.

Now that the vampires know the hunters are here, and that Chris and his friends have helped them, the group is in more danger than ever before. Lucas is torn between protecting his new family from the vampires, and protecting them from these seemingly inhuman beings who say they are there to help.

After all, what beings could be so powerful as to scare a vampire?

The Hunters Saga has had a very good reception with readers to date. It has received a 4.4 rating on Amazon, and a 4.2 rating on Goodreads. Here’s what reviewers are saying:

Drago: “I spent the entire night reading this (The Hunters) and I’m going to say this, because I never get tired of it: I’m grateful for this author, because in this book: vampires maim, kill, drink blood, and actually fucking die when exposed to the sun.

Joy: “I felt like I was watching a movie ‘cause this one (The Hunters) has the makings of a good one.”

Larry: “This non-stop action packed book will keep you on the edge of your seat.”

Heidi has been conducting this book tour on blogs all across the web since the end of January and will continue to do so until the beginning of March. On many of these blog stops, she has focused on introducing people to a new character from The Hunters Saga. It is my privilege today to present to everyone a vampire slayer from this band of young people protecting their town. Her name is Bianca.

Who is Bianca from The Hunters? Bianca is a 22 year old former cheerleader who finds her town infested by vampires. She teams up with her old high school friends Lucas and Screvin, and their rag-tag group of heroes to defend their town.

 Bianca is a unique character, as seen through the eyes of Chris, Lucas’ younger brother. When Chris looks at Bianca he mostly sees the girl she used to be, the head cheerleader at their school. Even now, four years after high school, she can be snarky and obnoxious, but she is also strong and goal-oriented. She fully believes that the best offense is a good defense, but she can always be counted on to be ready to fight back.

 For Heidi, casting Bianca was tough. Bianca needed to have all the looks and charm of a head cheerleader, while at the same time having the chops to play a vampire slayer. Bianca is most definitely not the flakey “Valley girl” version of a slayer that Buffy was.

Heidi found that perfect casting for Bianca in Annasophia Robb. Heidi explains: “I wanted someone who could demonstrate more substance. And Annasophia Robb is an excellent choice! She has the looks, the physicality, and the domineering personality to play a head cheerleader, but she also has a lot of depth and wouldn’t let Bianca get “type casted.” She would be perfect!”

Want to learn more about Bianca and her friends as they battle vampires? You can get a free copy of The Hunters, the first book in The Hunters Saga, simply by subscribing to Heidi Angell’s weekly e-newsletter of bookish goodness. Subscribe Here. The Hunted releases February 18th, but you can pre-order the e-book from your favorite online retailer for only $2.99 (It will go up to $4.99 on release day!) Pre-order Here.

There are still many more exciting stops on Heidi’s tour. Join The Hunted and see the master list!

Check back on my website February 21st, when I will be conducting an interview of Heidi as part of her book tour.

For more about Heidi Angell:

See The Hunters Saga Tour going on now!

Author of The Clear Angel Chronicles,

The Hell School Series,

Learn more at HeidiAngell.com

 


Discovering the Wolf Within 3

My blog this week is about another author I’ve met through the upcoming Brains to Books Cyber Convention. This entry about Timothy Bateson is particularly timely because on February 17th, Timothy will be made a U.S. citizen when he takes the Oath of Naturalization. It warms my heart to welcome Timothy as a fellow American, but it is also a poignant moment, because as he was sitting for his exam to become a citizen of the land of the free, President Trump was signing executive orders banning Muslims from entering our country and suspending our refugee programs. Timothy is neither a Muslim nor a refugee (his father is English and his mother is Welsh), but I couldn’t help but feel that he was becoming a citizen of a country that is now somewhat less than it once was.

When I asked Timothy to describe a defining moment in his life, he didn’t hesitate in telling me that moving to Alaska to marry Sandi back in 2005 changed him profoundly. Timothy and Sandi had met on-line in 2002 through a mutual friend named Cat. It was not one of those well planned introductions. Cat had to pee, so she told Sandi, who she’d been chatting with on-line, to talk with Timothy, who she also was chatting with, as she ran to the bathroom. Cat was in Wales, Sandi in Alaska, Timothy was in London. As Cat left the conversation, she assured Sandi that she would like Timothy. Cat was right; Sandi and Timothy liked each other immediately. They maintained a long distance correspondence for a year before deciding to make it an official relationship. Then in 2004, Timothy went on a ten day vacation to Alaska to meet Sandi and her family for the first time. As soon as he saw her, he knew they were meant to be. He went back to England and spent six months closing down his life there. In the meantime, Sandi planned their wedding, sharing the details with him on-line. They were married ten days after he arrived back in Alaska in October of 2005.

Timothy really had no idea what he was getting into. When he had visited Alaska the first time, it was during the warmer months, and Alaska had been incredibly beautiful, bathed in long, warm days of sunshine. But October in Alaska is already early winter, and the days begin to shorten dramatically. In the cold approach of winter, Timothy came to grips with the new facts of his life. Rural Alaska was about as far from life in London as a person could get. In fact, rather than go to the store to buy their food, many people relied on what they hunted and caught to keep themselves fed. The cars they drove, on snowy, pot holed roads, were all in some state of disrepair and being held together with duct tape. These were people who lived on the edge, with no barriers between them and starvation, or between them and the wilderness.

For Timothy, who was used to the hustle and bustle of London, it was disconcerting that the buffer between him and the harsh wilderness of Alaska was such a thin one. Even so, he found that Alaska grew on him and changed him. The small community around him was a close knit one, because everyone understood that they needed to rely on each other. Timothy quickly learned that hiking, hunting, and fishing were all considered combat sports in rural Alaska. That’s because of the grizzlies. Bears will be drawn to what you hunt or catch, and it’s not unknown to have them turn a speculative eye towards humans either. You need your gun by your side if you intend to get home alive with your catch.

There is nothing about Timothy’s small, rural town that discourages wildlife from wandering down the streets.  People, who don’t know much about the nature of moose, might wonder that Timothy speaks of moose with the same concern as he would a 2,000 pound grizzly. That’s because moose are not only massive, they are unpredictable. One of Timothy’s most heart stopping moments was driving down to his mailbox, getting out of the car to collect the mail, and seeing a baby moose on the far side of box. If there is a baby, he reasoned, the mother was sure to be near-by. It was widely known that it was not good to get between a mother and her calf. Turning slowly, he confirmed what he already suspected; the mother was just on the other side of him. Quickly, he got in the car and shut the door. That wouldn’t be enough to stop a moose that was really determined. They have been known to charge cars. But fortunately, in this instance, the mother just wanted to gather up her calf and head out of town.

Over the years, the wilderness and the wildlife have all conspired to awaken something within Timothy that he’d never known was there; a sense of his own wild side. He talks animatedly about his sightings of caribou, moose, deer and bears. His eyes light up when he describes the opportunities he’s had to hold owls and hand-feed eagles (he has always had a particular affection for raptors). The moment he remembers most fondly, however, is one he had with a very friendly wolf named Angel. Angel lives in a wildlife enclosure and is considered the tamest in her pack. Timothy has a picture of himself holding a dog cookie in his mouth, leaning in just close enough so that Angel can take it from him. After seeing that picture, his friends in London laughingly gave him the name “Snogs With Wolves” (snogs is a British term for kissing). 

Timothy’s writing has been deeply influenced by his Alaskan awakening, but it has also been heavily influenced by his wife, who is a singer/songwriter and is also an author. From the beginning, both he and Sandi have had a very synergistic writing style. In his short story, “Under the Hunter’s Moon,” the character, Art, is actually a character his wife developed in the book she is working on. Art is an Alpha werewolf who leads the pack of werewolves of which, Richard, Timothy’s main character, is a member. Richard was very much inspired by Timothy’s own experiences; a street smart city boy who fully embraces his inner werewolf. Timothy says Richard does his best thinking in the wild, and one can’t help but notice that this has been true for Timothy as well.

“Under the Hunter’s Moon” was first published by Laurel Highlands Publishing, in a 2014 Halloween anthology called “Moon Shadows.”  “Under the Hunter’s Moon” is the first of a set of short stories Timothy is planning, all drawing their inspiration from an urban fantasy trilogy that he is co-creating with his wife. For this series, Timothy is writing book one, which is entitled “Of Wolves and Men.” Book two is being written by Sandi, entitled “A Rose By Any Other Name.” The third book will be written by both of them. Timothy admits that this anticipated experience of co-writing the same book with his wife leaves him with a certain degree of trepidation. I’m less worried than Timothy about their ability to work that closely together. They have an easy energy as they talk about this co-created world where they have already developed so many shared characters and settings between them.

Timothy has an easy going, yet animated, synergistic energy that he brings to his collaboration with his wife. I’ve seen him bring that same kind of energy to the community of authors gathered around Brains to Books. He also talked during our interview of ways he uses that unflappable energy to benefit his small town. He made the choice to become an American because he wanted to have a voice in what happens to the people of his close-knit, rural community. Alaska has a lot of unique issues, the outcome of which can be a matter of survival to him, Sandi, and the people of their town. They all already live so close to the edge financially and in such an unforgiving environment. Timothy is looking forward to exercising his rights as an American citizen to help make sure their voices and needs are heard.

I really enjoyed my snowy February afternoon in Alaska with Timothy and Sandi (via google chat from the relative warmth of Northern Arizona). It was such a pleasure to make their acquaintance. I’m going to end this blog here with a song Sandi composed after 9/11. The song is called, “Freedom’s Heart.” It expresses her love for this country as beautifully now as it did back then. I think that’s really what makes America great; the freedom for all of us to tell our stories, share what moves us, and to have no limits on how we love and care about each other.

For more information on Timothy or Sandi Bateson you can visit their websites:

https://timothybatesonauthor.wordpress.com/

https://sandibatesonmusic.weebly.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 


Angels on My Shoulder Part 2 – How Angels Are Made 3

 

In my last blog, I introduced you to Heidi Angell, the marketing director at Brains to Books. This week, I spoke with Angela Chrysler, the visionary who created Brains to Books.  I really wanted to get to know Angela as best I could in a relatively short videoconference, and so my questioning focused on what made her who she is today, and how her experiences contributed to her creation of Brains to Books. What emerged, was a story of an incredibly traumatic childhood, one that left her floundering in turbulent currents that nearly pulled her under to irrecoverable depths. But, Angela fought her way back out of those dark waters, away from the edge of madness. With incredible bravery and tremendous spirit, she navigated her way back to a safe shore. This is her story, as she told it to me, including her disclaimer: be prepared for a very dark tale. It is filled with the worst of what it means to be human. But, it is also perhaps a recipe for how angels are made.

From a very young age, Angela was horrifically abused by her brother. It began when she was five and he was six, on a sultry, hot summer day. The heat was so intense that the rocks were scorching to the touch. Her brother picked up one of these hot rocks and threw it at a frog. The rock landed on the frog, pinning the creature, and burning its legs. It was still alive when her brother picked up the frog and threw it at Angela. She held the dying creature in her hands, screaming and crying. Her cries brought her mother from the house, but her mother’s response was not what Angela had expected. It wasn’t her brother who incurred their mother’s wrath; instead, it was Angela who was punished for making such a racket. Angela wanted to tell her father what had happened, but her mother said her father hated her and wouldn’t care. Her mother covered up her brother’s cruelty, and would continue to do that throughout Angela’s childhood, making certain Angela’s father never knew of her brother’s aberrations and therefore never intervened. A sense of powerlessness was planted inside Angela that day, and over the course of her youth it took deep root.

Emboldened by the incident with the frog, and the satisfying distress it had caused his sister and also by the lack of parental interference, Angela’s brother moved on to other acts of animal abuse and mutilation that he forced Angela to witness. Initially, he focused on pet turtles, cats and dogs, but each foray into this dark place emboldened him. By the time Angela was 6, he’d turned his abusive attentions to her, beating her up on a regular basis.

By the time Angela was 11, she had suffered so many beatings at his hands that she took to blockading herself in her room. When she refused to come out, her brother retaliated by torturing her cats until she opened her door. As soon as she came out, he would beat her. One of her favorite cats during these years was Tribble. For Angela, Tribble came to represent the only source of unconditional love that she was to know as a child. Tribble understood that without Angela, her world was a dangerous one. Every day after school it became a race, where Angela tried to get both of them behind her bedroom door before her brother could catch them.

When Angela was twelve, her brother punched her in the face, giving her a black eye.  At school, a young friend named Isaac wanted to know what happened, and was outraged by Angela’s circumstances at home. Both of them sensed right from the start that there was something unique and special about their connection, and a close friendship formed that day that lasted all through their high school years. The connection was severed, however, when Isaac moved to Boston shortly after high school, and a jealous girlfriend conspired to separate him from Angela. Due to this young woman’s machinations, Angela and Isaac lost each other for many years.

Meanwhile, Angela began a period of her life where she entered into three disastrous relationships, one quickly following the other, and all of them containing traumatic experiences of sexual and physical abuse. Angela ended up marrying the third man during this period of her life, and together they had three children. It was during this time that Angela’s hold on reality started slipping away. Tribble, her cat, was her only consolation, and she relied even more heavily on Tribble, needing the cat’s presence to help keep her grounded in reality.

A decade went by, Facebook became a thing, and through it Angela and Isaac reconnected. Angela’s husband immediately distrusted this renewed friendship, understanding that Isaac was the only man Angela had ever truly loved. His response was to take some very aggressive actions. He kidnapped the children once, kidnapped Angela twice, and during the second kidnapping, he tortured her with sleep deprivation over a period of three days. When he finally left her alone, she slept for three days straight. When she woke up, she told him to never come back, and within a month they were divorced.

Isaac moved back into town a month later. At last, Angela was reunited with “her Isaac”, the love of her life. Several years later, in June of 2013, Angela and Isaac got married. It was an important step in the right direction, but there was still a distance to travel before they could claim their happily ever after. A month after the wedding, Tribble died. Her cat’s death trigged a sense of anxiety in Angela so deep that she became a shut in, only very rarely leaving her bedroom. Isaac did what he could to help her and keep the house and the kids in order. At the time, her being a shut in didn’t seem that odd to her or the children. Her room became a place for the family to meet and gather. But, Isaac started seeing a therapist to help guide him on how to handle the situation, and he and the kids worked hard to get her to go on outings. About once a month, she would agree to go with them, but every outing was a frightening experience, triggering all of her worst anxieties.

By March 2015, Angela was so inextricably tied to her “nest”, so fearful of leaving, that she concluded she was a curse to the people she loved. She started making plans to free her family from her darkness. She decided she would leave them all and go live in Ireland. Isaac pleaded with her to think carefully about what she was planning. Angela took his words to heart. In the safety of her room, she sat herself down, and began writing a story that she had been thinking about writing ever since she was 15 years old, the story of her life. It was meant to be therapeutic, a way to help her process everything. At first, she thought this story could be told as a blog entry, but one blog post turned into two, and soon, she realized this would have to be much bigger than a blog. Two weeks and 90,000 words later, she completed the manuscript for “Broken”.  Once she saw the entire story in print, she understood two things, one, it was a story she would publish, and two, that she needed to get help.

The road to healing wasn’t an easy one. Angela was diagnosed with five distinct disorders and 44 triggers. She said there were so many triggers the world felt like a prison of sound to her. Almost everything reminded her of pain. She had to unlearn the old narrative constantly playing in her head, that she wasn’t worth anything, and that she had to punish herself for wanting to be loved.

With the help of her therapists, her husband, and her own resolve, things began to change. April 2, 2015, Angela underwent a preliminary psych evaluation in the Emergency Room of the local hospital. On April 6th, four days later, the first Brains to Books cyber conference was launched. People often comment to Angela that they can’t understand how she launched that first cycon all by herself. She laughs as she explains that the reason seems clear to her now, she was completely crazy.

Publishing “Broken” and preparing the Brains to Book’s platform to help her market her book, empowered Angela. Sharing her story, and then reaching out to help others do the same, shifted how Angela felt about herself. She felt encouraged to search out other avenues to promote even greater healing. She downloaded and tried a meditation app called “Calm”. Immediately, she felt a shift to a more stable state of mind. She added yoga to her regimen, and was able to carry that sense of wholeness from her mind into her body. Most recently, she added Tai Chi, and clearly felt the energy and healing of that discipline working its way into her very soul. Angela says this triad of healing modalities was more than just helpful; they became the foundation that enabled her to reclaim her life. She no longer felt powerless; she felt able to handle her triggers. And as she healed, she could see all the many ways her return to health set off healing throughout her entire family.

It wasn’t just her family that benefited from Angela’s transformation. After all she had been through, all the cruelty she had witnessed and suffered, there blossomed within her a strong desire to help others. That desire, combined with the healing energies that she had learned to harness, enabled her to touch the community of authors she had built through Brains to Books in deep and profound ways. Three years into the project, that energy is still palpable. Anyone who enters the Brains to Books community immediately feels how this is an environment of possibility.  Angela loves hearing the stories people tell her, so many of them from introverts who are excited and taking the lead in a variety of projects of their own imagining through the Brains to Books platform. She loves presiding over a place that has so much room for everyone to grow. She laughs at herself now, hardly able to fathom how something that was meant to be an escape from her nightmare, became something so enriching, engaging and supportive.

As winter 2017 takes hold around the country, it finds Angela at home on a snowy night. The family is in the living room, the fire is burning in the hearth, Dr. Who is on TV. Two of her children are snuggled up close against her; the third is nestled against Isaac. Angela is knitting as she watches the show. Knitting is a new form of meditation for her, and it allows her to fully experience this moment of harmony and serenity with her loved ones. Meanwhile, on the Internet, campaigns are launching for this year’s Brain’s to Books cyber conference in April. Brains to Books has seen a 25x increase in membership since its inception year, and 2017 is shaping up to be the biggest cycon yet. For Angela, this is very exciting. It is all part of a greater sense of growth and healing happening all around her, and she appreciates the accomplishment for the gift it is. She has seen life’s darkest depths, but now as she puts it, she’s reaching for the stars, and it is her intention to bring all of us along with her.


Angels On My Shoulder

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to focus my next two posts on two people I met through my efforts to learn more about Brain to Books.  This post focuses on Heidi Angell, the director of marketing for Brain to Books (B2B). It is her job to take authors through the marketing process to help them build a platform for the B2B cyber convention that both fits their needs and their personality. The marketing materials and coaching are all free. The only things an author has to pay for at the B2B cyber convention are the events they sign up for, which are all very affordable (some are even free), and most are either $5 or 10 dollars.

When Heidi first met me, I doubt she could have imagined just how many questions I would ask! She has been infinitely patient with me, and has given me lots to think about as I try to learn more about that one skill I’d never previously considered on my road to publishing: how to market effectively. She also agreed to let me interview her, which of course again exposed her to my endless questioning. The more I talked with Heidi, the more impressed I was. Unlike me, who finds the cyber world somewhat daunting, for Heidi, it is an exciting limitless resource. She has used this ability to very good effect, not just on her own benefit, but also to help illuminate and lead the way for countless others. For me, Heidi truly has been an angel on my shoulder. There are a great many people she reaches out to in the cyber world, and my guess is she offers each of them this same, very personal touch that she has offered to me.

As part of the interview, I asked Heidi if she would be willing to share with me a crucible moment in her life. The story I am about to tell you definitely offers up a lot of insight into Heidi’s inner strengths. It is a tale of a dark time in her life. It is one that she ended up fictionalizing in her book Hell School – Fresh Meat. But I’m going to tell it to you here as she told it to me, with the emotions still fresh and raw, as she recalled her years in high school. As Heidi spoke, I could see how she’d taken this chapter in her life, one that had terrorized and isolated her, and managed to transform it into something positive. Where once she felt the need to hide herself away, she now seems energized by reaching out, and casting a net of compassion and kindness far and wide. I could see other ways she had grown stronger from this experience, too. It manifested physically through her studies in self-defense. She demonstrated real mental strength when she determined Hell School was meant for more than her own private form of therapy, and decided to pull it out of the drawer and move it into the light of the published word. Hell School was the first book she ever wrote, but it was the fourth one she published. She published it when it became clear to her that our society was not moving any closer to having a greater respect for one another; that the victims of bullying, stalking, and sexual abuse were not being taken any more seriously now than they had been when she was a very innocent fourteen year old girl.

Heidi’s struggle with a stalker happened almost immediately upon entering high school. Heidi came from a very religious upbringing, and in her family it was expected that she wouldn’t date until she reached sixteen years of age. For Heidi, this was not a challenge. She was not yet interested in boys, despite being physically mature for her age. Deep inside, she still had a child’s innocence. The guy who started stalking her did not accept that she wasn’t interested in his advances. As Heidi shared this experience, she admitted that even though she was very inexperienced at the time, she could tell immediately there was something off about this guy. Anywhere she went at school, he was there. When she went into the lunch room he was there waiting. If she went to a dance or a game, he was waiting there for her; when she went to catch her ride after school, he was waiting. She went to see a guidance counselor that first year. Upon hearing her concerns, the guidance counselor assured her that she knew this boy, and deep down he was a nice guy, he just was lacking in some social skills. The counselor said she would talk to him, which she did, encouraging the boy to try and talk to Heidi rather than just follow her around silently. The conversation with the counselor actually emboldened the boy, who then felt that if he talked to Heidi, it would result in her being more responsive to him. He continued to stalk her, but now he talked to her while doing it. For Heidi, this was even more frightening. It was also her first inkling that it might be hard to get anyone to truly help her.

The situation got so bad, and Heidi felt so vulnerable, that she stopped going to high school events, spending most of her energy trying to avoid this boy. By her junior year, this boy was skipping classes to wait outside of hers. He got his parking spot at school moved closer to hers, so he could wait for her once school let out, and often times he even followed her home. At one point, he broke into her vehicle and spilled a bunch of condoms all over the front seat. There was even a trail of condoms leading from his car to hers. Heidi’s conversation with the police after this event didn’t offer any better results than her distressed pleas to school officials. The evidence was all considered circumstantial, the history of this boy’s actions not taken into account. It was even worse when the vice-principal of the school asked her after the condom event if she had slept with this boy. There was no action taken from any corner to stop this boy’s harassment of her, but Heidi couldn’t help but feel this ever present insinuation that she might be doing something to actually encourage this situation. At the time the vice principal asked Heidi this question, she was still a virgin.

Finally, in Heidi’s senior year, one of her friends was telling her parents all that Heidi had been going through. It turned out that this friend’s father was also a guidance counselor at Heidi’s school. He approached Heidi and offered to try and intervene. He said all he could do was talk to the guy, but if he couldn’t make a compelling appeal as a guidance counselor, he would make one as a father. Heidi looked at the man, uncertain. He was burly, but he was only 5’6”. Her stalker was 6’2”. At the same time, she was longing for just this kind of support. After her parent’s divorce, she and her mother had left Montana, and she had spent her formative high school years without a father’s watchful eye on would be suitors, let alone unwelcome ones. She didn’t know if her friend’s father could make any difference, but she decided it would, at the very least, be worth a try. She never learned what this man said to her stalker, but whatever it was, it worked. The last part of her senior year was stalker free.

The cessation of the stalking, however, did not bring an end to Heidi’s fears. She had spent four years looking around every corner, and she continued to do so up until graduation day. She only told her two closest friends where she was going for college, for fear that the stalker would find out and follow her there. It was in the middle of her freshman year at college that one of her friends called her to tell her the news. Her stalker had just killed the boyfriend of his latest stalking victim. Heidi learned that she had not been the first girl he had targeted, and she certainly had not been the last. Now she knew for certain that her fears had been well-founded.

Heidi went on to build a good life for herself. She learned to find ways to cope with the hard-learned lessons her high school years had taught her. She learned to stand up for herself, to put her best out there, to share the best of who she was with others. But to this day, there is still an innocent, teen-aged girl hurting inside her, still waiting for the day when as a society we will have the determination to stand up, just like that one dad did for her, and make clear that in the world we want, all predatory behaviors are unacceptable.


The Roads We Travel 6

 

I have two stories to share with you in this blog; one is very a personal holiday story about family, where we come from, and where we travel together. The second is about my continued explorations along newly discovered roads as a fledgling published author. In the second story, I focus on the wonderfully engaging and helpful people I met at the Brain to Books Holiday Event. Also, for anyone out there who hasn’t had enough of end of year sales, I want to announce that as of this blog post the kindle version of Cha’risa’s Gift will be on sale until the end of January for $1.99. Also, the Goodreads Giveaway of a signed copy of Cha’risa’s Gift is still on-going and will end on January 31st.

 Part 1: In which Ilana is shown an expanded view on the true meaning of the holidays:

We made a plan this year to spend our holidays away from Arizona, at the beach in California. I had expected that at least a subset of my children would want to join us for a California getaway.  It was quite the shock to my system to learn that none of them could come. I haven’t had a holiday without at least some of my kids present since 1985, the year my oldest child, Jeremy, was born. It definitely dampened my spirit to not have any of them with us. I thought I would have to write the holidays off as a loss, never anticipating that December was about to offer me something else very special.

My brother, Dan, moved back out west after two years away on the East coast. He arrived in California with all his belongings, which included my Dad’s 1968 Ford Galaxy convertible. The car has had a full, long life, much loved by all the family, but it’s old now, definitely not capable of making the cross country journey on its own steam. It arrived here on a truck, its battery dead, and there was definitely a moment when we wondered if this was it for the old Ford. But after 48 hours on the trickle charger, and some tricks my father must have shown Dan to get the engine to fire up, it sputtered to life. My dog, Lucy, seemed uncertain about getting into the back seat for the ride. She’d never been in a two door car before, and didn’t approve of such a narrow opening. She also didn’t like the loud, rumbling sounds coming from the engine, or the strong smells coming from the exhaust. Still, we kept telling her to get in, and she did, albeit with a woeful look. My husband, brother and I clambered in as well, the guys up front, Lucy and I in back. The memories ran deep for Dan and me, of long road trips in this car, care free summers riding with the roof down, a time of life when the road ahead was long and winding and full of possibilities. Now, we drove cautiously, unsure how far the Galaxy could really go, and with Lucy trembling by my side. I think that pretty much describes how I was feeling, like everything felt uncertain, and I was getting a glimpse of what old age had in store.

But here’s the funny thing about life, one minute it is giving you literal images of the slow, sputtering, ever encroaching end, and the next it is offering up new doors. I don’t often get to spend the holidays with my parents or siblings anymore. Once upon a time, they were the only people I could imagine spending the holidays with. This year, for the first time in many, life offered me the opportunity to revisit my past.  I shared a dinner with my mom and brothers featuring latkahs I had made in her kitchen. I sat in my sister’s living room, and sang “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” with my dad, along with a whole choir of family. All the while, I kept seeing the faces from my past, myself and my brothers as lively teenagers, my sisters as toddlers, and my parents in their prime. The more I looked, the more I wondered if these ghosts of ourselves would even recognize us now. A voice inside me started whispering that for my parents, my brothers and me; our glory days were fading or already gone. I tried to ignore the voice, but of course, that is never the way to get an inner demon to shut up. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this blog that I stopped fighting the voice, and just acknowledged what it had to say. That is when the whispering stopped, and suddenly the holiday sprung to life before me in full color. This time with my family was exposed for what it truly was, beautiful, joyful, and irreplaceable. Like Scrooge on the morning after the visit with his ghosts, I was finally able to feel so very grateful, and ready to appreciate each day, each opportunity for exactly what it was; a gift of time.

Part Two: In which Ilana stops wishing for a newer car, lowers the convertible roof on the old Ford, climbs into the driver’s seat, and hits the gas:

This holiday season I made some more inroads into the world of being an indie author. I mentioned in my last blog post that I was reaching out more, looking for ways to help breathe more life into sales of my book, and I did have some success. The most interesting development came from my efforts to learn more about Brain to Books.  Brain to Books (B2B) was created by author, Angela Chrysler with the specific goal of creating marketing opportunities for undiscovered authors. One of the ways they do this is by hosting a multi-day, on-line book festival in April. Over the weekend of December 16-18, they were hosting a holiday event to help authors learn more what the B2B event in April would be like. I decided to take advantage of this practice run. It was actually a lot of fun. It gave me a chance to meet some really interesting and engaging people. But the experience was also often overwhelming for me. At several points I felt a lot like my Dad’s old Ford, moving much too slowly along paths so easily navigated by the younger models.

On the first night of the Holiday Facebook takeovers, I met Matthew (MLS) Weech. I immediately became interested in him when I saw he was in the Navy. My Dad had served in the Navy as well.  Matt and I had a great conversation on-line. I learned he was a journalist in the Navy, and that when he wasn’t taking pictures or writing news stories for the Navy, he was writing fiction. We discovered that we both loved Brandon Sanderson’s writing, and had found Sanderson through our love of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I felt at the end of the evening like I’d made a new friend.  Matt had been so easy to talk to, and I went to bed that night feeling somewhat confident on-line conferences might work out well for me.

Day two was a much different experience, the B2B site became much busier as Saturday progressed, and my ability to follow conversations, make connections, and keep up was much harder. I did manage to re-connect with Devorah Fox, who I had met earlier on line in a Goodreads chat. Devorah has done pretty well so far as an indie author. Her book, The Redoubt   was voted one of 50 Self-Published Books Worth Reading in 2016, and another of her books, The Lost King was awarded the All Authors Certificate of Excellence. The conversation during the Facebook takeover focused on a historical thriller she wrote called Detour.  It felt to me, in this on-line setting, that it took added skill to break the ice and get people talking. Devorah did it very well, and I enjoyed conversing more with her about her book.  She asked all of us visiting with her what were our favorite songs for the road. I had to think a bit before I realized I most definitely had one, an old Loony Toons song, “Are We There Yet?” When I asked Devorah what hers was, she said if she told me she’d have to kill me, since her favorite road song was also the favorite road song of her hero in Detour. It apparently was an important plot component. Clever lady, she had me there, and I bought the book J

My biggest fail at the holiday event that weekend was that I completely misunderstood what a B2B Giveaway would be like. I had offered up a signed copy of Cha’risa’s Gift to be one of the giveaways that weekend, and had assumed it would work much like a Goodreads giveaway. I didn’t realize my mistake until I saw how other authors were running their giveaways. They were using the event to send people to their own websites, and then managing the giveaway themselves from there. It was too late for me to get Cha’risa’s Gift out there at that point, but I did enter Matthew Weech’s giveaway. Two days later I was very pleased to learn that I had won a copy of his book The Journals of Bob the Drifter. That’s the first giveaway I’ve ever won, and can’t wait to get my hands on the book, which should be waiting for me at home when I finally return from California.

Another event I participated in at the conference was cover wars, and it was through this event that I met Adam Dreece. I really liked the cover on his book The Man of Cloud 9, a high tech sci fi book, and I voted for it. He didn’t win cover wars, but the event clearly is a good marketing tool, because I ended up checking his book out and chatting with him on Facebook after B2B had ended.  I learned that he also wrote a best-selling YA series called The Yellow Hoods which is part steam punk, part fairy tale. Books 1 & 2 in The Yellow Hoods series were both finalists for the IAN’s Book of the Year in 2015, YA and Fantasy category. I liked Adam’s sense of humor, and I was impressed that he’d won some notable awards, so I bought his book.  I also took a closer look at the book which won the holiday event cover wars, C.L. Schneider’s ”The Crown of Stones.” I ended up deciding her book looked really good too, and bought it.

I ended up buying two more books that weekend, Heidi Angell’s “Elements of a Broken Mind” and Angela Chrysler’s “Dolor and Shadow”. Heidi is head of marketing for B2B and has really been wonderful, answering countless questions of mine, and giving me lots of good guidance. We are now writing buddies, part of a small group she started for authors to set and share goals, and where we can encourage each other to meet them.  Angela, is the creative force behind B2B, and perhaps a kindred spirit, as she loves meditating, yoga and the winter solstice.

I will be interviewing both Heidi and Angela for my next blog post, where I hope to learn all kinds of interesting insights and exciting plans for B2B in April. In the meantime I’d like to encourage everyone reading this to check Brain to Books on line. You can find the link here on my website. I hope you’ll mark the festival dates on your calendar, April 7, 8 and 9. It’s a great opportunity to meet and help support some very talented indie authors.


Giveaways, Kickstarters, and the Indie World 2

dsc_0499I haven’t written in my blog for nearly a month now. I found this November to be more than a little off-balancing for many reasons. Fortunately, life always has a way of rooting itself, even in the most uncertain of soils. Thanksgiving helped a lot. It’s hard to celebrate that holiday without noticing all the blessings in your life, and I do have many things to be thankful for. Top of the list, of course, is my family and my circle of friends. But, with this being my first Thanksgiving since publishing Cha’risa’s Gift, I also found myself giving thanks for that journey, and for all that I’m learning about taking risks and putting my voice out there.

Except for one bookstore that took on four copies of Cha’risa’s Gift, sales of my book were mostly flatlined in November. I wasn’t quite sure what to do about it, I wasn’t even sure if anything I tried could make a difference. You don’t have to look far to get the picture of just how many people are struggling to find a way to break through a very crowded field. I had a few moments of wondering if this was it for my fledgling book, but then something beautiful happened. I made a trip to my local library.

It was my plan to check out a few books, and then go see if I could locate my book on the shelf. I’d given a copy to the library a month ago, and had then left town for several weeks of travel. I hadn’t yet had a chance to see my book in its new home. I thought I might take a picture of it to put here on my blog, so I wandered back into the racks, to the Arizona section, where I had assumed it would be shelved. But a brief search there didn’t yield any results. I decided there were probably other places my book could be shelved, and that perhaps it would be best to check with the reference librarian. When I mentioned to her what I was looking for, and that I was the author, she typed in the title and then looked up at me. “It’s checked out,” she said. I looked back at her, and a big, goofy, smile spread across my face. “Really?”  She nodded, eyes smiling back at me, and then she walked out from behind the counter, leading me over to the most prominent display in the entire library. “We’ve shelved it here,” she said. My eyes got a little teary then, and a lump formed in my throat. They’d taken great care of my book and of me. They were proud of me, and were showing me off, and as a result people were reading my book.

A few days later, Cheryl, the librarian I work most closely with, sent out a note to all the volunteers at the village annex to tell the following story. She’d been in the main library when a patron had stopped her and wanted to show her a book. The patron asked Cheryl if she’d seen this book, saying that it was an excellent read, and she highly recommended it. The book the woman was praising was Cha’risa’s Gift.

I don’t know if these ladies fully realize just how much their belief in me touched my heart, or just how deeply grateful I am for their kind and gentle care of me. They showed me that even in a quiet month of sales, my words were reaching people.

dsc_0501Now I’m going to flash forward to Thanksgiving, where David and Natalie were sharing with the family a very similar dilemma. Their Kickstarter for their visual novel, </reality>, which had gotten off to such a strong start, was slowing down. They were now beginning to worry that they might not make their goal of $5,000.00 by December 10th. I listened intently as they discussed many various ways to extend their reach well beyond what they had already tried. It really helped me to listen to them talk, to see the way they dug deep, and looked for ways to stay alive. What I learned from them was that this is all part of what it means to be Indie. This is not something for the faint of heart. You have to desperately want to be something more than a blip in the gigantic being that is the world of Indie. My children inspired me to try harder, that it was far too soon to just let the spark that is Cha’risa’s Gift die out.

So the net result of all this is that I’m fully engaging in the world of the Indie author. Starting today, December 4th, and running through January 31st, I’ve launched a Goodreads Giveaway. Anyone who is interested in trying to win a free, signed copy of Cha’risa’s Gift  here is the link: www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/213936-cha-risa-s-gift.

I will be interviewed next week by Joe Compton from GoIndieNow. Joe is passionate about all things Indie and he shares that excitement through weekly podcasts featuring all kinds of indie artists. I don’t think my interview will air for a couple of months yet, but I will let everyone know when it is available.

I’ve also now joined Readfree.ly, which is a site that features free and discounted kindle books. During the month of January they will be selling the kindle version of Cha’risa’s Gift for only $1.99.

And, I will be part of the Tucson Festival of Books, and will be showcasing my book on Saturday, March 11th at the Adult Fiction Author Pavilion from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm.

On a final note, as I continue to reflect on all I have to feel grateful for, I feel very fortunate to be able to share this Indie experience with my children. I can really understand now how hard it is to get your work out there, and I appreciate so much more how resourceful David and Natalie really are.

For anyone reading this who would like to subscribe to Natalie and David’s Kickstarter campaign, there is still time left. It runs until December 10th, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/davidmaletz/reality-visual-novel-game

You can also help by joining in their social media Thunderclap campaign to help spread the word. It takes only seconds to sign up and is free to participate: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/50598-reality-ks-final-hours

For anyone interested in learning more about GoIndieNow here’s a link to Joe’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GoIndieNow/  I also have a permanent link here on my website to GoIndieNow, as well as to Readfree.ly and the Tucson Festival of Books, so check them out!


What Kind of World Do You Want?

Back in May, my son, Jeremy, bought me a year’s subscription to Headspace, a meditation app. I’ve been using it nearly every day since then. My current lesson pack is on acceptance, and I find these lessons are very timely, especially given the election results. Learning about acceptance begins by noticing all we are resisting.  When I realized Trump was going to be our next president, I didn’t want to believe it, didn’t want to accept that a man who preached hate and intolerance was going to be the leader of our county. Studying my feelings, I could see that the emotion I was feeling most strongly in that moment was anger, mostly directed at Trump for deliberately playing on people’s worst instincts, and for inciting fear, violence and bigotry to further his own agenda. But here’s the other thing I noticed, I was reacting to Trump’s message of hate, by filling myself with anger. The moment I saw that, I knew I had to accept that there was no going back from this moment in history. It happened, and there were valid reasons it had happened. I saw that for me, anger couldn’t be the answer to what had just occurred, but love and compassion might be. So I am going to face the future by reminding myself of all the reasons life is still good. And I’m going to recommit myself to what has become a daily mantra for me, focusing all my efforts on positive change and growth and healing for myself and for those around me.

dsc_0223 dsc_0226One last thing I’d like to say. Yesterday was a hard day for many reasons, but hardest of all was hearing the disappointment in my children’s voices, and trying to find the right words to comfort them. Knowing it wasn’t really possible to fix this or reassure them that things would be all right. But having processed a little bit more this very changed landscape, I think there is one more thing I would like to say to my kids and to their generation. Your voices matter. Your generation mobilized could be powerful, perhaps even an unstoppable force.  So I’m going to leave you with a song that keeps going through my head these past couple of days, Five For Fighting’s “What Kind of World Do You Want?”


The Reality of Dreams 2

dsc_0166I am not the only writer in my family. My daughter, Jamie, my son, David, and my daughter Natalie are highly creative crafters of stories as well. For Jamie, this talent expresses itself in both music and writing. She is a composer/playwright, currently at work on her 11th musical. For all of these musicals, she has written the book, the music and the lyrics.  Natalie is actually my daughter-in-law, but in every way that matters, she is my daughter. She and my son, David, run a small indie game company called Fancy Fish Games, and Natalie has taken the lead on their most recent venture, writing and illustrating a visual novel. (For those of you who have commented on how much you love the cover of my book, you should know she illustrated that too.)

dsc_0356This week is a big week for creative endeavors in the Maletz family. This coming Sunday, a staged reading of Jamie’s musical, Dreams, Greed and Sea Monsters is being featured at the Arizona Women’s Theater Company’s 2016 Pandora Festival. Jamie will be directing a very talented cast of actors in this premiere performance. The reason I know this cast is talented is because every time Jamie puts on a show, it includes a cast bonding weekend at my home in Sedona. During the weekend, there is always a run through of the show, and my husband and I (and Lucy of course) are the audience. dsc_0344Jamie’s been bringing cast bonding weekends to us ever since she moved down to Phoenix four and a half years ago, and ramped up her theater company, Skilderverse Productions. She typically manages to put on two original shows a year, so in all, I think I may have hosted as many as 8 of these weekends. I always commit to making dinner for the entire cast, and I have spent many an enjoyable evening chatting while they help me cook, and then sitting around the table sharing a meal together. I have come to love so many of these talented actors. There are people who have been in every production Jamie’s ever done. The group continues to grow with each musical, bringing in fresh talent and forging new friendships, and the cast bonding weekends are definitely a part of building this community.  I feel so blessed to get to be a part of all that incredible energy and creativity.

You can find out more information on this upcoming performance, and on Jamie’s other musicals as well, by visiting her website: www.jamiemaletzmusicals.com.

dsc_0308This week Natalie and David released a demo for their newest project, a visual novel called </reality>. Visual novels are a cross between a computer game and a book. Like a comic book, the story is heavily illustrated, but like a game, the reader has input into how the story plays out. Natalie is the lead in this project, writing and illustrating the story, but I should mention that the concept was developed by both Natalie and David. And, as in all things at Fancy Fish Games, the programming aspect is David’s domain. I have played the demo, and what really struck me about </reality> was its potential to excite a whole new generation of readers. In the demo we get to know the character Lilya. Her life is spent mostly in the world of on-line video games, because her own reality is hard for her to accept. All that changes when she is offered an opportunity to test out a new virtual reality technology. It requires that she leave home, and interact with the real world to participate in this beta test of the equipment. It is the lure of this new technology that spurs Lilya to face her fears, and eventually leads her into the adventure of a lifetime.

14615601_1567303243319724_3334702580547041154_oAll things developed at Fancy Fish are meant to make you think. </reality> definitely engages the mind, and encourages a whole different way of relating to a story. As Natalie explains, she has put her philosophy major to good use in this story, exploring the question of what is real, and does it matter?

As I had with Dreams, Greed and Sea Monsters, I have had a front row seat as </reality> has taken shape. It’s a much quieter experience then the kind I have with Jamie and her actors, to say the least, but no less exciting getting to see it all come to life. Next week Fancy Fish Games will be releasing a Kickstarter campaign for this visual novel. David and Natalie just showed me the trailer, and I was just so impressed.promo-image-simple3

For anyone interested in seeing the Kickstarter trailer in advance of its release, you can find it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/davidmaletz/1982126339?token=1189d913.

If anyone would like to try the demo out you can find it at http://www.indiedb.com/games/reality1/downloads/reality-alpha-demo-0163. There’s also a survey you can fill out after you’ve played if you’d like to give Natalie and David some feedback about the experience:

It is an interesting time in my family. We are all trying to navigate a path of discovery for our creative works. I have an even greater appreciation for how hard it is to get your work seen and noticed now that I’ve spent some energy trying to promote my own book. But there’s something really special about having this shared experience with my children. I can’t say for certain if one of us will strike that spark that will fan a flame, but if you’re reading this blog, check out the links and share it if you love it.


#PoweredByIndie. 2

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I have always loved writing. Over the course of the years I have filled journals, shared poems with loved ones, and filled up file drawers with manuscripts both finished and not. Once, in the early 1990’s I wrote book I felt was good enough to leave the file drawer, and I attempted to get it published. The manuscript was lovingly packaged up, sent out in the mail to a list of promising leads, and was soon swallowed up in what felt like a void. I never became certain of who or where to reach out to make the book a reality. Soon the deafening silence from the publishing world was replaced by the clamor of my young children and my music students, and life went on. I still wrote, but I didn’t again try to publish.

It wasn’t until many years later, when I moved to Arizona, that I was inspired to write something I again felt strongly about wanting to publish. Fortunately for me, this was a new age in the world of books. Indie authors, E-books, and Amazon’s self-publishing services had changed the whole face of publishing. It had taken me years to get the book just right, ready to publish, and so it was shocking to me how in just a few simple clicks my book was real; it was out there for anyone to read. There was a bit more effort involved in publishing the hard copy version, but there was no swirling void around the process. With the help of a very tech savvy family, and lots of queries to Google, I was able to make that version of my book a reality as well.

That moment you cross from unpublished to published author is an amazing feeling. It is when you finally admit your writing is no longer just for you. It is now something you’re willing to share with the world. You will find a multitude of avenues on line to help you breathe life into this dream. Some are predatory, but many are helpful in showing you how to connect with however many people might be moved by what you have to say.

I’m just at the very beginning of this journey, but already I can tell that I am not the same person I was a month ago when I first crossed that line between published and unpublished. More and more feedback is coming in, and I can see the impact my book is having on people. They are getting caught up in my words; they’re loving my story. A light is shining into what was once a small, private space, and I find that what I hoped was true is now a certainty. I can write a story that touches people’s hearts.

This week’s blog came about because of a challenge by Amazon to make the month of October one that celebrates great writing published via Kindle Direct PublishingCreateSpace and Audiobook Creation Exchange. They call this campaign #PoweredByIndie. If you search under that hashtag you will find many authors being showcased this month. I’m too new, and not yet savvy enough to know how to become one of those featured authors, but I’m sure in time I’ll figure out that aspect of marketing as well.dsc_0360

dsc_0361In the meantime, I am just enjoying all the amazing firsts this experience has brought me. The picture I have included with this week’s blog is one of those unforgettable moments. It is when I handed off my book to my friend and local librarian, Cheryl Yeatts. We are standing just outside the Sedona Public library’s annex in the Village of Oak Creek, on a stunningly beautiful fall day. My book now sits on the shelves of the main library, in the local author’s section.charisas-gift-book-cover


Sedona’s stunning change of season 6

Autumn has arrived in Sedona, perfectly aligned with the fall equinox.  Earlier in the week, rain swept into the valley breaking up the lingering heat. When the storm played itself out, it left behind a cool breeze, and magnificent plays of light all across the desert landscape.  I didn’t just feel it and see it; I could hear the desert beckoning me and Lucy to come and see, and we were quick to comply.dsc_0226

dsc_0227The mountain desert enchanted us, from the startled deer hurriedly prancing up the ridge away from our approach, to the plays of light and shadow all around. Everything felt washed clean of the pounding heat of summer. The sun’s touch was lighter now, the morning air fresh and new. Every time we turned a corner I needed to pull out my camera. I took nearly 100 pictures. Now, to be fair, Lucy was egging me on. Once she discovered there was a connection between cookies and posing, she totally ran with it. She delighted me by picking her own spots, striking a pose, and then turning a little to the left, a little to the right, giving me a big smile. I was clicking away like a crazy woman, both of us inspired by the energies ushering in the change of season.dsc_0249dsc_0292

dsc_0288I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think I actually caught that inspirational energy on camera. I found it when I was going back through my pictures later that afternoon. It was a moment I had captured just as dawn was about to break, and light was starting to filter through the breaking clouds of the storm.  In this perfect moment of night transitioning to morning, you could see several perfectly round orbs of light floating in the air. Looking at the picture, you might think the center most orb is a full moon, but the moon was only half full that night, not round. Plus, this was a shot aiming east toward the sunrise, and the moon had already traveled way past the eastern horizon.  A closer look will show you more of these spheres all through the darkened sky. If you google “orbs in pictures” you basically get two explanations, one is that it is created by a mote of dust picked up by a digital camera hitting the light just so, the other is that it is evidence of paranormal activity, a ghost, or a nature spirit. What I’d like to think is that I caught on camera the spirit of autumn itself, joyful, playful, and reminding me that the world is a wondrous place.dsc_0213