Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Where should I start?

Backstory: my second daughter, Annabelle, was a very, very hard baby. She screamed for the first four months of her life. Literally. If her eyes were open, so was her mouth. Her howls could be used on sound tracks for horror movies - not for the victim, but for whatever was chasing the would-be victim. Straight up otherworldly. At one point, my older daughter asked if we could "put her back inside Mommy until she's done."

Around six months she started to... well, not mellow. I'm not sure what the right word is, but she stopped screaming every red second. She still wasn't easy, but she actually had moments of maybe-this-is-a-human-baby-after-all.

Then she started walking - at around 8 months old. I was teaching horseback riding full time, which I wasn't worried about juggling, because I'd brought my oldest daughter, Marin, with me to lessons starting when she was about a year. She'd play at my feet in the sand, get her energy out, and then pass out on the way home. Win-win.

When I first brought Annabelle to lessons, she would scream most of the way through, and all I could think was: this will be easier/worth it/doable/not hellish once she's mobile. She'd be happier once she could run around the riding ring. Pacified. Quiet. Then she became mobile. And in thirty seconds flat, she'd toddled out of the ring, across a driveway, and into a horse pasture, which was mercifully empty. So I ran after her and scooped her up, and she screamed from my arms for the rest of the lesson.

I tell you all that to tell you this: my husband and I decided on no uncertain terms that we were done, DONE, with having more kids. He'd made an appointment, he'd done the pre-op class of we-just-want-to-make-sure-you-know-what-you're-doing-before-you-do-it. In jest, I quipped that if he knocked me up again in the window between the stupid class and the actual procedure, he would have to buy me a farm. The next morning, I opened the trash can, and then ran to the sink and nearly threw up because of the smell.

What the hell was in that trash..... Shit.

I rummaged under the sink until I found an EPT. For some reason, I was still shocked when that second line appeared. Check the box, check the stick. Check the box. Check the stick. This is kid #3, you'd think I'd have this down cold. Anyway, I was letting my husband sleep in, and I decided to keep on letting him sleep, mostly because I wasn't sure what to say, and I needed to sit on the news a minute. Annabelle was ten months old. How was I pregnant with a ten month old? It didn't even seen possible. If I'd had a second EPT, I probably would've peed on that one, too.

Patrick came down the stairs about an hour later. and said: "thanks for letting me sleep in. I feel like a whole new person." I crossed my arms, mad and scared and excited and overwhelmed, and said: "good. because today, we're going to go look at farms."

He was confused. And then he was really confused. And then he got it. And we stared at each other. And neither of us had any idea what to say.

Looking back, I think that's when the ball-o-change started rolling. That's when I realized the life we'd built was a house of cards. It's funny. That tiny pink line was a starting line. I just didn't know it yet. I've heard countless times how the third baby (and beyond) just rolls with it, and is wholly flexible because they have to be. Our third baby set a hundred changes in motion before he was ever born, a hundred changes I didn't see coming, and wouldn't believed if you'd told me, a hundred changes I wouldn't take back for a single second. I promise I'll get to them as I sort them out. It's like untangling knots in a fishing line. There's a stick on one end and a hook on the other, and somehow, in the middle of those, a single, straight thread goes a million directions, and that's life.

Hey there

This past March, I made a decision to step away from most social media. My world as I knew it was imploding, and my life was teetering on the brink of even bigger changes. Some people find solace in times of turmoil by rallying the troops and reaching out for emotional support. I find solace within. I'm a classic introvert by nature: time alone is how I recharge and process stress. So I went dark.

I heard somewhere that moving, changing jobs, and having a baby are among the most stressful things a person can go through. This spring, I left a job, had baby number three, sold two houses, bought one sight unseen, and moved 2,675 miles (I just googled it) with three kids, two dogs, an aquarium full of fish, a potted plant, and two horses. Even writing that sentence makes me tired all over again.

There are other details in there that make things even more complicated, and some pieces I'm not yet ready or willing to revisit. But I think I'm ready to start taking some of the thoughts out of my head and unpacking them here. I'm not promising it'll be neat and tidy, or that the posts will have any sort of organization. I have three kids, ages five and under, and am solely responsible for the daily chores of a small farm. I'm lucky if I remember to eat, much less string a pretty sentence together. But I'm happy. Really, truly happy. Not every day. Not all the time. (I'm not sure I know anyone who is.) But for the first time in a long time, I love my life.

So I'm going to attempt to start blogging again. Really, honestly blogging. Not because I love my life, but because for a long time, I didn't. I'm going to tell you why I left most social media, and the 360 degrees of impact this decision has had. I'm going to tell you about my good days and about my really shitty ones. I should mention that I'm going to use foul language, not for shock value but because it's how I talk. I'm going to write what's in my head, which means, if I'm being really honest, I'm going to annoy you, because I can be petty, ungrateful, selfish, and short-sighted with the best of them. I often irritate myself, so i can only imagine how I look from an outside perspective. I'm going to talk about my family, my critters, my fears, my chores, my proverbial shadows, the weather, my hopes, my writing (I am actually, slowly working on something new,) my regrets, the whole bag of sugar cookies I just ate... you get the idea.

So, who ever you are, thank you for reading this. Thank you for helping me unpack.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A huge sale and a giveaway, including an amazon gift card, a Barnes & Noble gift card, and special Moonlit swag!

First, the sale:

For two days ONLY - September 16th and 17th - all three books in the Moonlit Trilogy will be available for Kindle for $0.99 each!! That's the whole trilogy for less than $3. Then books 1 and 2 (Moonlit and Windswept) will spend a few more days at deeply discounted prices, and Wildwood will stay at $0.99 for at least another week. (Get them here: http://www.amazon.com/Jadie-Jones/e/B00ECVQ9T4) The listings on my author page my not reflect the actual price, but fear not! Each book's kindle listing will show the reduced price!

Want to know why? There are a few film industry insiders interested in taking Tanzy's story to film.
I would love to see what these books "look" like through someone else's eyes. I would do a happy dance to end all happy dances. And as the "film treatment" for Moonlit is being reviewed, we need two things: chatter and sales.

That's where you come in.

I need help spreading the word. I like to give stuff away. It's a beautiful combination.

Prizes up for grabs:
* $50 Amazon Gift Card
* $50 Barnes and Noble Gift Card
* The Moonlit Trilogy in signed paperbacks with a swag pack
* One signed canvas print of a Moonlit Trilogy cover of your choice.
* A page from the original, handwritten first draft of Moonlit, signed and framed. (If this does make it to film, that would be pretty cool to have!)

How you can enter: Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win these prizes! This giveaway begins 9/16/15 and ends 9/23/15. Winners will be notified by 9/25, and have 72 hours to claim their prize before new winners are drawn. No purchase necessary for entry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you for all of your support over the past three years. This has been an incredible ride!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Editing Wildwood - aka - Nanowrimo in reverse

For those of you who have never participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month,) the idea is to write a complete first draft of a novel, or at least 50K words of one, in one month. It is HARD, and, to date, I've never succeeded.

So what does this have to do with Wildwood, book #3 in the Moonlit Trilogy? Well, the draft I submitted to my publisher was 156,000 words, and I knew in my soul that it was the best story I'd ever written. It's my favorite piece of the trilogy. My editor agreed: do not, under any circumstance, touch the plot, she said. And then she said: But I need you to cut 57,000 words. Minimum. Really, it'd be better if you could find 60,000 words to cut.

Sixty. Thousand. Words.

Or, NaNoWriMo in reverse.

When I first sat down to tackle this edit, I thought: I can absolutely do this. No problem. I'm wordy and I know it. I can clean this up in a single pass. So I painstakingly evaluated every word, tightened up sentences, cut an expository paragraph or lines three and four of a description here and there. And at the end of the first pass, I had cut 6,000 words. I had also taken two weeks to do it.

Editing a 75,000 word story like Moonlit and Windswept took every brain cell I had. Once I realized I was essentially editing them BOTH size-wise, I buckled down, glared at my screen, and launched into pass #2.

I started seeing some serious word-loving habits. Like descriptions. Boy-howdy do I love to word-draw. Three paragraphs of artsy, flowery page-decor became a sentence or two bold, direct strokes.

I'm a transition-junkie. I quit cold turkey, cutting their heads off whenever I saw them peek up at the bottom of a paragraph. CHOP CHOP CHOP. And boom, without the transition present, the paragraphs flowed BETTER, because if the writing is tight and the motion is streamline, a transition becomes a speed bump.

Full-body feels. This probably accounted for 25,000 words. And I don't mean the way a "feels" moment pulls at a reader's heart strings. I mean the way every single action pulled at every single possible part of my main character (although hearts, centers, stomachs, guts, middles, and mouths seem to be favorites of mine). I shouldn't tell a reader how my character internally responds to a positive or negative moment because the reader should experience the moment without me telling them how to do it.

And, last and certainly most painful for me, expository paragraphs. I love to sink into a scene and roll around, like a dog on a carpet, feet in the air, tongue out, just *feeling* it. Inviting a reader into a character's head space for a good long time. Like a page. Maybe two. I caught myself skimming these words and sections I was sure I loved, and why? Because sure they were pretty but they didn't affect the story in any way so I didn't need to change them so why look at them.

Wait, what?

If a sentence does not affect the plot or the character, if the plot and the character are exactly the same on the other side of the sentence as they were before it, then what was the point of the sentence? The idea of a story is to keep the action and characters in motion. You know what dogs do after they roll all over the floor? They take a nap.

And there was my other 35,000 words.

Finally, one month, 60,000 cut words later, edits for Wildwood were done. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, and taught me some invaluable lessons about the way I write, and how to make it better.

Wildwood now has a release date - September 22nd, 2015, and one truly amazing cover.

I can't wait to see what y'all think of the conclusion to Tanzy's story, and my new, lean, action-packed story-telling skills.

It's been one helluva ride.

Thank you for coming along.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hither & Thither: submissions open for a free, new fantasy writing contest!

Fantasy writing contest "Hither and Thither" is open for submissions at Inkitt!

Inkitt is a free writing platform that aims to help writers achieve their fullest potential. On July 13th the site launched a new Fantasy writing contest: Hither and Thither. Submit your best original fantasy fiction stories of any length. As always, there is no entry fee. Old and previously published stories are also eligible.

Help us escape reality with your most fantastic fantasy stories yet! Submit accounts of beasts, pixie dust, and witches, or enchant us with spells and poisons. We want to read tales that are so lifelike they make us forget we aren't surrounded by kingdoms and dragons.

Contest guidelines: Authors will retain all rights to any and all works submitted in the contest. Submissions close on August 10th, but voting will continue for an additional week. Original stories of any length are accepted. Entries must be posted on the Inkitt contest page to be considered eligible. The top 10% based on reader votes get the chance to be picked by the Inkitt staff for 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize. All entrants will have the chance to show their work to a rapidly growing community of authors and readers hungry for high-quality fiction.

Submit your stories here: www.inkitt.com/hitherthither. You can also read more fantasy stories for inspiration in Inkitt's fantasy section.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Augusta Literary Festival - AKA my first attempt to travel with two kids

I'd like to start this post with a little diddy about how my experience at the Augusta Literary Festival concluded. The festival was drawing to a close. My husband was holding our 4 month old baby with one hand and helping me pack away odds and ends with the other. My 4 year old daughter was helping herself to leftover candy. She looked up at me and said: "Momma, why does one of your earrings have a hole in it and the other one doesn't?" I figured one of the earrings - dangly loopy silvery things - had become hooked on itself some kind of way. I reached up to feel for both. I was wearing two completely different earrings, and had been All. Day. Long. And that, in a nutshell, is what it's like to tour with small children in tow. Hey, at least they were both silver. (Can you spot the difference in the picture at the end of this post?)

A more extended version of events:

We arrived in Augusta on Thursday night. I checked in with the front desk at the hotel and then shuttled my sleeping children from the car to the room using half-ninja-half-mama-grizzly tactics to scare would-be noise away. My four year old slept between my husband and I on a king size bed, some how turning perpendicular, where-upon she began making snow-angels in her sleep.

On Friday I was scheduled to attend a round panel discussion with the other four finalist for the Frank Yerby Award for Fiction. We asked Siri how to get there. Dear Siri sent us to the wrong place five times, after which I spied the little yellow house I saw on the festival website, told my husband to stop the car in the middle of the road, leaped out, and ran to the front door. There was a piece of paper on the door. That's never a good thing, never: congratulations, you found the right place! And this was no exception. The panel had been moved to a different building. I had the name but no map and not the foggiest idea of how to get from here to there.

Then an angel appeared: a woman in her car called out to me (I don't know if I was radiating desperation or just looked really, utterly lost). She was part of the award panel and told me where the discussion had been moved to. I thanked my lucky stars I'd opted to wear boots instead of heels, and ran across a field and three parking lots, arriving at the panel sweaty, but on time.

The panel discussion was freaking amazing. There's really no other way to describe it. We clicked and bantered and dove in and swam around. We challenged each other. We supported each other. I would do it once a week if I could. This is where I first met fellow writers Amanda Kyle Williams, C. Michael Forsyth, and Kimberly Teter. Meeting these people made the entire trip worth it, and the festival hadn't started yet.

Amanda Kyle Williams won the Yerby Award - and she absolutely deserved it. She is witty and razor-sharp. Her book - Don't Talk to Strangers - is book three in her Keye Street series. I'm reading book #1 - The Stranger You Seek - right now, (because I'm one of those OCD types that has to read series books in order even if they're all stand-alone) and it has the most chilling opening I have ever read. Hands down. No contest. Put it on your to-read list right now. Right. Now.

Me, I'm happy to be a finalist, to have earned some bling for the Moonlit cover, to be counted among heavy-hitting company, and to own all three of Amanda's books. Signed. Boom.

While I was at the award ceremony, my husband took our girls to Outback to attempt dinner single-parent style. He was brave, and he went down fighting, but that ship sank hard, fast, and loud. He wound up tossing dinner in to-go boxes and wrangling our tiny circus back to the car as fast as possible. Once I came back, I helped him get both girls asleep, and then ate my dinner perched on the hotel toilet so I wouldn't wake our baby, who bursts to waking at the slightest sound. Proof positive mashed potatoes are the bees knees - no matter what temperature they are or where you are when you eat them. Bonus: they're super quiet to chew.

At last - Saturday - the actual Literary Festival portion of events. The venue was beautiful, the organization spot-on, and the support was fantastic. Writers, if you have a chance to attend this festival, I highly recommend it. The 2015 group of authors was one of the most interesting, engaging, benevolent group of people I've been a part of. Aren't we a snazzy group?

And then came time to pack up, and my daughter pointed out my earrings, and I was so freaking tired, and still kind of giddy that Amanda Kyle Williams stopped by my table and snagged a piece of chocolate and laughed at my one-liner, that I shrugged and kept packing. At least I have big hair. Earrings are more like a glimmer, an after thought, a peekaboo behind a curtain of brownish. Like I said, at least they were both silver.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What's in a name? More than I thought.

I'm working on a new manuscript - a new adult, chick-lit novel with a paranormal twist (of course!) I have a basic outline of the plot. A fun, spunky secondary character is taking solid shape. The love interest's voice is clear and strong. There's just one tiny, itty bitty piece of the puzzle that I'm missing: the main character. More specifically: her name.

Right now I'm calling her Natalie. She's already been Hannah, but that name was so wrong I couldn't bare to keep typing it. Neither name belongs to her. They're just place holders until I finally figure her out. She's polar opposite from strong, visceral, impulsive Tanzy, or at least the Tanzy she becomes by story's end.

I haven't bonded with my new cast of characters to the extent of the bond I formed with Tanzy, Jayce, Vanessa, Asher, and Lucas. And how could I? I first met Tanzy back in 2009 - and back then her name was Holly. Then Rynn. And then a Google search for name meanings unearthed the perfect fit: Tansy (I swapped the S for a Z) which is a Greek name, and means "immortality". Once I figured out her name, the rest of her became more obvious. And as she developed, the plot became richer and deeper.

Here we are, six years later, and I'm roughly five rounds of edits away from saying a final farewell to these characters who have become utterly authentic in my head, and who helped me fulfill a dream.

For now, it feels like my new main character and I are sitting across from each other on a first date. She's only letting me see the surface. Her smile is practiced. Her manners are on point. I haven't figured out what's really going to brass her off yet. And until I know what she cares about - what she deeply, wholly, irrationally defends - this new story is going to be just as skin-deep.

I think it's going to take the entire first draft to figure her out. I hope I do. Without her, the story will have no heart, no organ beating meaning and purpose and cohesiveness to the other parts. So who are you, not-Natalie, not-Hannah? One thing's for sure. You are not a cheap date.