Thursday, June 22, 2017

I'm Not Always Brave




So remember how I did that giveaway for my birthday, where I had both my Kindle e-books available for free on the 13th? I ended up giving away 253 e-book copies of my books, mostly Spinner of Secrets, but a few The Christmas Ladder as well.

That almost didn't happen.





Tuesday, June 13th.

I was going with my dad to one of the elementary schools in his district. I was going to speak to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classrooms, about writing. My alarm was set to go off at 5:45 AM so I would have plenty of time to get ready, and also plenty of time to get on my computer and check to make sure my blog post I had scheduled with all the information about the giveaway had posted, and share it to my social media platforms.

I woke up at 4:30 AM in traditional Annie fashion when she's nervous, and after a few minutes, decided I could go back to sleep. I turned on my Pandora station (I sometimes have a hard time going to sleep, and music helps) and went back to sleep. Dad heard music playing in my room when he was up at 6:00, so assumed I was up. At 6:40 am I was woken by Dad knocking on my door and asking if I was ready to go.

I jumped out of bed, jumped into my clothes, grabbed my tote bag, my crate of materials, wiggled my shoes on, bolted downstairs, mixed up my iced Chai tea I had started the night before, and dashed out the door, yelling to Mom that I messed up and was super late and AHHHHHH.

The books were still available for free, I just had no way for anyone to know that unless that happened to be the day they happened to look it up. My phone doesn't have the Facebook app, that's on my tablet, with no mobile data connection. But I managed to get Chrome open, find Amazon, SCREENSHOT the Amazon page showing my book was free, grab the link, and use Chrome to make a Facebook post saying it was my birthday and my books were for free and so on and so forth. Shared it to my groups and pages and so on, and started to get responses coming in.

Once we got to school and I had some down time before the classes, I was able to get on a laptop and onto my blog, publish the post, and share it on my Twitter and Pinterest.

I talked to the three classrooms, which I was crazy nervous about right when I started, but I did settle down about ten minutes into the first one. I did 4th grade first, then 3rd, then 5th - 4th sang Happy Birthday to me and I got a photo with the whole class. 3rd was a little harder, they weren't as sure what to do with me and how to interact with me, and I was expecting more response from them, so I didn't do as much talking as I could have. 5th was an absolute dream. They were interested, they were engaged - I got a question from EVERY SINGLE KID in the class, including the one I was pretty sure wouldn't say anything. They were all super excited about Spinner of Secrets, but because I wrote it for upper grades, I told them to talk to their parents. I ended up giving out business cards to everyone in the class, because they were so interested in reading it. It was super convenient that it was free, because then the parents would be more likely to pick it up for them. Some of them told me about the stories they are writing, we talked about that - they all got wide eyed when I told them I have written over a million words in the past ten years - they thought five brothers was A LOT...

Since I had a different school the following day, but the same ages of kids, I decided to set my books for free on the following day as well. I had over 50 copies distributed when I got on the computer around one to set that up.



Wednesday was similar, except that I didn't oversleep, and I took more business cards in with me. I did 5th, then 3rd, then 4th this time, and one of the things I talked to the 5th graders about was being scared.

I told them that I was nervous, even talking to them. I told them about the first time I did a public reading, and how I felt like jelly the whole time. I told them how I walked up to the front of the classroom and had to take a minute to collect myself before I could start talking to them. And I watched as those kids all lit up. I had six of them tell me that they have stage fright too, and they get nervous when they're in front of people. I told them how I scared myself when I finally published my room, because I hadn't thought I could do it, and then I did. I told them that I'm still learning how to do things like this.

And they got it. They understood. Somewhere, and maybe not all of them got it, but they understood that you still learn things even when you're an adult. They got it that sometimes adults get nervous or scared. And they were encouraged by that, that made them feel a little braver. They asked more questions, and I watched some of them start to dream. I could see them wandering as I was talking, starting to dream, starting to wonder, starting to think - maybe I really can do something big, even if I'm small and scared. Maybe messing up isn't the end of the world. I don't know how many times I crossed words when I was speaking to them - how many times I had "verbal autocorrect" kick in. I had things I had to go back and rephrase. I had to ask a couple different times if what I had said made sense (it did.) And I watched these kids. I watched them watch me. And I watched as what I had wanted, what I had been hoping for, happened. It connected.



And then on Thursday I had a reading and signing at the library in Carrabassett Valley. I was pretty tired out by then. I desperately wanted to cry but I couldn't even make myself. I made it through the session and apparently it wasn't evident that I was exhausted and had a headache, so that was good.









See, I had at least half a dozen meltdowns before this week. I was so scared about the two readings I had, the six classrooms I was speaking to... I was going to be interacting with a ton of people, and I was doing it professionally. I was going to stand there and call myself a writer and an author, over and over again. I was scared that I would mess up, scared that I was just being stupid to even try, scared that I would start crying in the middle of a reading. I was so scared. I had help though; my girls online helped, Missie helped, Hannah helped, my parents helped.

And then at the first reading, when I was answering questions, I was asked one that I hadn't thought of. One I hadn't even considered. Hadn't prepped for.

"How do you keep your joy?"

For a moment, my mind was a complete blank. I had no words. No answers. Nothing. I had nothing.

"How are you always so happy, and you don't get frustrated with your work, and you're always so excited?"

I managed to give an answer, one that was good - I give myself a lot of time and breathing space, and if I start to run into it being hard, I stop and go work on something else, and come back to it later when it's easier. And that is true.

How do I keep my joy?

I keep my joy because I learned that messing up is okay and that saying things backwards like "I'm wearing shirts and sleeveless shorts" is okay and that sometimes stuff happens like a blog post doesn't get scheduled and you sleep through your alarm. I keep my joy because I know that life throws curve balls, and I don't make that where my worth is, when my light is. I am light for so many reasons - I am joyful because I have been bought, saved, and I am loved by Someone bigger than the universe that dances in the sky overhead. I am joyful because grace is not a fragile thing. I am joyful because messing up is okay.

I am light because I learned to let myself be dark.

I am brave because I let myself be afraid.

I am strong because I let myself be weak.

I am joyful because I let myself be angry.

I am hopeful because I have been hopeless.

I have been, and am, and will be again, angry and bitter and sharp and scared and terrified and heartbroken and desperate.

And I know this.

I choose to let myself be what I need to be in order to best express who I am.

I keep my joy because that is part of me, I am daisies and sunshine and that soft golden rain you get when it's raining at sunset. And I'm bright and small and easily frightened by loud noises, and I get nervous when I talk to people because I'm afraid that I'll mess up or say the wrong thing. I'm scared I'm not good enough. I'm scared that I won't be enough.

And I'm learning to be me.

Learning that me is enough.

Of course I'll get better, and more confident, and so on and so forth - but for the moment I am here. And it's okay to be here. Here is not where I am staying, but here is where I am.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Happy Birthday! (To me, and presents for you!)

It's my 20th birthday!




I'm so confused. I don't exactly know how I ended up here. I'm 20 years old. The last thing I remember is my 18th birthday and graduation party. (I had 60 guests. I was a little overwhelmed.) The past two years have been such an insane blur of book drafts and words and meltdowns. (The word count has gone up and the meltdown count has gone down.)




I'm going to be spending all day at an elementary school, speaking to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders about writing. But to celebrate my birthday in Hobbit tradition, I've got some lovely specials for you all:

Both of my ebooks, The Christmas Ladder and Spinner of Secrets, are available for FREE today. Here are the links:

The Christmas Ladder

Spinner of Secrets


And, if you want the paperback copy, I have a special there too! This one is a little more complicated because of how I have to do it with Amazon and CreateSpace. The code won't work on Amazon.com, by if you go to my CreateSpace page, you can apply the coupon code


MTMN4WLC

and get 20% off a paperback copy of Spinner of Secrets! 

Again, this doesn't work on Amazon.com, you have to go to this link: www.createspace.com/6540619



Happy birthday to me!


(Baby me)


(Including this one because it is my bestie's favorite picture of me and she is special. ❤)



(Obligatory selfie... from like a month ago.)


Monday, June 5, 2017

The Girl Who Could See Blog Tour PLUS!






The Girl Who Could See rocketed to the top of my favorite reads in 2017, by the time I was starting the second chapter. Kara Swanson is a master of words. This novella had me glued to my tablet with an intensity I don't often have, and my eyes didn't even mind the extended screen time because it was so worthwhile. I don't think I ate lunch the day I was reading this, because who needs food when there's a book as good as this to be read, devoured, inhaled? 







A Novella:
All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but, what if she is the only one who can truly see? 
Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that's what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.
Tristan was Fern's childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.


This week, I have a very special guest I'm interviewing: I'm interviewing Tristan! I'm so happy to have this opportunity to bring a glimpse to you - and if this is intriguing you at all, right here is a book that I highly recommend picking up. Here is some information on my lovely friend Kara, and where to get the book!






As the daughter of missionaries, Kara Swanson spent sixteen years of her young life in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate with characters dropped suddenly into a unique new world, she quickly fell in love with the speculative genre. At seventeen, she released a fantasy novel, Pearl of Merlydia. Her short story is included in Kathy Ide’s 21 Days of Joy: Stories that Celebrate Mom. She has published many articles, including one in the Encounter magazine, and she received the Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer award in 2015.






BUY LINK:








KARA’S SOCIAL MEDIA:
Find Kara online at karaswanson.com
Twitter: @kara_author
Instagram: @karaswanson_author



Here's the interview!


Tristan is the main character in Kara Swanson’s novella, The Girl Who Could See. He is a snarky, witty young man trapped in a parallel world where a monster has destroyed his planet and taken all of his family from him. He’s learned to use makeshift weapons to protect himself, and lives every moment wary of the next attack. The only thing that has kept him sane through years on this lonely planet is the appearance of a young woman named Fern, from a parallel world—earth—who can see and talk to him. The only person Tristan has come in contact with in years. But the problem is, Fern is determined that Tristan is not real, and fights to ignore him, despite his best attempts to hold her attention. He covers up the deep pain and loneliness under a shield of nonchalance and wise-cracking, but events with the beast terrorizing his world are escalading—and soon Fern’s world will be in trouble too. If he cannot find a way for her to believe him, Tristan will have to watch another world’s destruction….




ALT: What is your full name?
T: We don’t use surnames where I come from, but if I lived on Earth, I think I’d go by Tristan James Hunter.

ALT: If you were granted three wishes, what would you ask for?
T: Hmmm, let’s see. A portal out of this place, a safe-house with reinforced steal and a slew of weapons, and…a hotdog. Yeah. A really big, sloppy one, with all the toppings overflowing. Yum.

ALT: What three things would you take to a desert island?
T: An airplane, a pilot, and a passport J

ALT: How do you decide if you can trust someone? Experience with others? With this person?
T: To be honest, I don’t have a lot of experience with people. Most of them died screaming when I was a teen. Fern is the only one I have to talk to. But…I usually try to see if what their mouth says matches their actions. How they act in a crisis. But, yes, experience with that person. People can be fickle though. One minute she’s your best friend…then she’s telling you that you’re a hallucination and she can’t keep embracing her insanity. That she’s going to ignore you. And you’ll be alone—again.

ALT: First impressions? Intuition? Do you test the person somehow? Or are you just generally disposed to trust or not to trust?
T: When you’ve lived around a dark, evil creature that gets its kicks from suffocating and demolishing an entire planet—you begin to form a pretty good impression of someone’s intentions. So I generally go with my intuition, though trust is not something I’m necessarily huge on. Kind of out of practice.

ALT: What's your strongest sense? Sight, hearing, smelling, etc?
T: Hearing, definitely. The Rhoon—the creature that destroyed my planet—can change form, and it’s nearly impossible to know where it is all the time. So, I’ve learned to sense the slightest whisper of sound. That tiniest grinding as sand particles are disrupted by its moving. That split second could mean life or death.

ALT: What really moves you, touches you to the soul?
T: When someone goes out of their way to know you. To really know you. The dark, the hidden, the broken, the bright. All of it. And they don’t run away, instead they offer to give of themselves to help you stand a little taller. To have someone see you. It’s been so long since someone cared enough to truly see me. But, even though Fern may refuse to believe my existence—I see her. I see the heart of a lion that she’s too afraid to admit she has. I see what she could be. I just…I want someone to see me like that?

ALT: What's the one thing you have always wanted to do but didn't/couldn't/wouldn't?
T: Other than hotdogs? J And getting off this blasted planet…riding a roller coaster. I think I’d like to ride a roller coaster.
Strapping yourself into a tiny car so that you can lose your breath, get really dizzy, be hung upside down and then puke your guts out when you get off? SIGN ME UP.

ALT: What is one physical attribute you're proud of?
T: My hair. Seriously, though—have you seen this golden beauty? I don’t have any idea how I can keep it from getting tangled when slaying monsters, but somehow my hair always looks like I belong on Vogue. It’s true. Try not to be too jealous.

Fern walks in: Tristan! Your hair is always a mess. What are you—

Tristan hushes her: Yes, but they don’t know that. Just let me have my pride, please? If I’m stuck in a parallel universe where no one else can see me, I might as well use it to my advantage ;) Now, let me tell you more about my hair. And I say all of this humbly, of course….

ALT: What is one physical attribute you would change?
T: Scars. I have a lot of them, mostly on my back and side. But there’s a few thin ones on my face…I’d like to have them fade away. To no longer have the reminder of death etched in my skin. (Wow, that got depressing really fast, didn’t it?)

ALT: What do you consider to be your special talent?
T: Other than my charm? I have a habit of driving Fern crazy till she recognizes my presence. I also can wield the flails that I built pretty well. They’re weapons, made with a handle, some chain attached to the end of the handle, and then a big round, spiked ball at the open end of the chain. I have two of them, and they can actually make a dent in the Rhoon.

Whirls flails around his head in quick, arcing circles.

ALT: What's the worst thing you've ever done? Why?
T: There was a time when I was first stranded, with the death of my family and friends fresh in my mind, that I was really desperate. Figuring out how to evade the Rhoon—that was a rough learning curve. And I was determined to not be alone any longer. Fern wasn’t listening to me, and at that point she was just a kid (time moves differently between our worlds). So, I decided to bring someone else from Earth into my world. He was Fern’s biology teacher. Smart guy. I thought maybe he could help me get out too. I tried to grab him and drag him through….

But it didn’t work. I ended up only hurting him. Broke a few bones when he couldn’t pass through. Bruises. And then he was screaming. I can still hear it wringing in my ears. When I let go of him, he dropped to the floor of his office like a rock. It was a coma, the medics that found him said. He is…he’s still in that coma. Somehow, trying to bring a normal person into my world…it does things to them.

That was—low. I know. And I would never do anything like that again. But I was so desperate, and finding out I could see others, but never let them through, it changed things. Forced me to find a way to survive on my own, without depending on others.

ALT: What are you most afraid of?
T: Being forgotten. Dying and never having anyone even know I was gone. Letting the Rhoon win, and taking the memory of my people with me. To fight to survive only to realize…nobody cares. That I am nothing.

ALT: What's the most important thing in your life? What do you value most?
T: Fern. She’s the only bright spot. The only person I can talk to, and who sometimes talks back. Her stories, and watching her live her life, chases back the shadows a bit. She gives me the courage to keep living, and hope that someday we can change this around. Because, unlike the biology teacher, Fern can see and touch me. She can pass into my world. I can’t explain it, she just can. After all, she is the girl who can see—see the impossible, the supernatural. Maybe she can save me, too? Save everyone?

ALT: How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change?
T: Starting to feel a bit repetitive here, but getting off of this dustball and away from a man-killing monster would be great! Imagine that. ;)

ALT: What type of clothing are you most comfortable with?
T: Armor. I wear an armor I made myself. Pieces of leather and metal woven into a starch material that deflects the Rhoon better than just wearing jeans would.

ALT: Do you see yourself as intelligent? Uneducated? Brilliant?
T: Brilliant, obviously. J
I graduated my preliminary classes, and was actually working in engineering when the Rhoon first appeared on our planet. Seeping a disease that was killing thousands. A disease I was immune to. When our government realized I was immune, they decide to run tests to try and create an antidote. They didn’t have enough time to, though. But spending that much time in a lab you picked up a lot.

ALT: What's your sense of humor?
T: Ha. Snarky, and a little melancholy. I guess you either have to laugh at your dismal circumstances or go insane. So cracking jokes about the Rhoon it is.

ALT: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
T: A little house nestled in the country, with sprawling green fields. A white picket fence. A wide open sky where you could see stars at night. And a family—a wife, and a few kids. Just…living. Not surviving. Just enjoying being alive.



AND ONE MORE THING!

There's a blog tour scavenger hunt, so follow the list below and assemble the clues! I think there's some cool prizes at the end. Here's the Clue from my post! 








JUNE 1ST:
(Release Day/Blog Tour Kick Off Post)
Kara Swason @ readwritesoar.com
JUNE 2ND:
Emily Bergstrom @ emilybergstrom.com
Emily Mundell @ writeremilymundell.blogspot.ca
JUNE 3RD:
JUNE 4TH:
JUNE 6TH:
JUNE 7TH:
JUNE 8TH:
JUNE 9TH: