About Me

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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Navigating the Murky Waters of Infatuation

When you read about young love in books you automatically root for the characters to find their happy ending. Writing about it brings back the nostalgia of teen angst and the vivid feelings of elation and crushing heartbreak over that first big crush. As an adult you feel confident that all of those memories and struggles are a thing of the past. From your mature perspective you can look back on all those times and smile, maybe even chuckle over the melodrama and uncertainty of the very young.

Then the unspeakable happens. Your child grows into a teenager and you get to navigate the murky waters of youthful infatuation and first love all over again. This time, from the adult perspective of knowing what is in store for those very people you were put on the earth to protect. Suddenly having a mature perspective isn't so great anymore. How did this happen you wonder. Where did all my hard won self-assurance go? Who is this stranger that is claiming to be my child and where did the real one go? And when did said child get so tall anyway. Frantically you run to a mirror or any full length reflective surface to see if you are shrinking and haven't realized it. Even worse your child is confiding in you that someone really likes them. That this stranger that has entered your soon to be teen's life feels like they might even be in love. WHAT?

The romantic heart inside you feels a momentary sense of giddiness at remembering what this feels like. The parent part of you wants to run shrieking from the room or cry on the nearest shoulder with the realization that your baby has taken another step away from you. 

Suddenly, you question your gut instincts on the advice you should give them. You replay conversations over again in your mind and wonder if you are being too protective or not protective enough. All the while you must mask your indecision and put on a calm and serene face for the child in question. After all, you've done all this before yourself. Your adolescent might think it was eons ago but you remember all the raw emotion and past mistakes of you and your friends like it happened just last year. It helps in situations like this to talk to someone else about it. In my case that is not my husband. Doting father that he is he is in deep denial that this could ever happen so soon. If left to his own devices our child would be permanently cloistered to her room until she was thirty. This is why I feel very blessed to have two sisters and a mom. All of whom feel that this situation is sweet and even somewhat amusing. Following my mother's wisdom I have been keeping an open line of communication going, trusting the good judgement my child has demonstrated so far, and made the boundaries lines very clear. Yes, I understand what they are going through. I like the person they are infatuated with. No they cannot date anyone until they are at least fifteen no matter how nice said love interest is. I am sure that the person who likes my child must feel I am a little bit like the evil queen in a fairy tale keeping the princess locked away for an unreasonable length of time. 

I am fine with that for now. Do I want my child's special friend to like me and see me in a more positive light? Of course I do. Nobody likes to feel like a heel standing in the way of true love. But from the standpoint of a parent, I know my own child isn't  ready for all of that quite yet. While my baby may be almost as tall as me and be more and more grown up everyday, they still like to play with their toys and watch cartoons like "Ever After High" on Netflix. And said young person still has a few months to go before they are officially a teen. Secretly, I think my oldest child is a little relieved to have mom and dad as a safety net. Much as they look forward to being able to drive and go out on dates in the  future, I think they know they aren't completely done being a child just yet.

So, quelling my over active imagination and the impulsive romantic side of my nature, I am remaining calm and trusting my motherly instincts. I think I've been fairly successful at not letting my inner teen run amok and over react to things. I haven't given into melodrama either. All in all I'm navigating the murky waters of first infatuation the second time around pretty well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Who You Ask is Carrigan Richards? Find in My Latest Adventures Post!

Photo courtesy of Carrigan Richards
Today I'm excited to introduce you do guest author Carrigan Richards. She's joining me today to discuss her new paranormal YA fantasy Under a Blood Moon. I was lucky enough to receive a free reader's copy for review. It is the first book Carrigan has launched in her Elemental Enchanters series.

In Under a Blood Moon, seventeen year old Ava Hannigan is a heriditary witch or enchanter as they like to call themselves. She is part of a group of six teens whose powers are tied to the natural elements. Ava's powers are tied to the element of water. When she discovers she can breath under water she is disappointed instead of excited that her powers have developed. Ava has done something forbidden. She's fallen in love with a mortal boy named Peter. To make matters even worse Ava and her friends find themselves caught up in the middle of a three-hundred-year-old war between two different covens of enchanters. Now not only are she and her friends vulnerable because of their unique powers, but Ava's love for Peter makes her even more susceptible to attack from their enemies. I won't give away any more of the story than that. Just know it is a compelling read with a fresh new twist on the fantasy genre that deals with witches and the love story is poignant and well written.

Ann: Welcome Carrigan! I'm so excited to have you on my blog today. I recently finished Under and Blood Moon. I really enjoyed it and love the new take you gave the premise which deals with characters who are hereditary witches. That and the star-crossed love story were both very dynamic and fun to read. As a reader I'm eager to know what inspired you to write this story and what in particular draws you to this particular genre of YA fiction?

Photo courtesy of Carrigan Richards
Carrigan: Thank you for having me! I have always been intrigued with witches and magic, and wrote a few stories involving both. There was always something alluring about the subject. And I have always been interested in stories that encompass special abilities. I think most people wish they had a special ability and I find it fun to read stories or watch TV shows involving them, but it was even more fun to write and create it.

Ann: Immersing yourself in a world you love and created is the best! How long did it take you to finish your novel and what is your writing schedule like? Do you hold down a full-time job in conjunction with building your career as a writer?

Carrigan: I actually started writing Under a Blood Moon in 2003, but life happened and I was in school and working full time, but I still rewrote it several times before finally finishing it last year. I usually try to write every single day. Or do something involving my books, whether it be editing, marketing, etc. I do have a full-time job, so most of my writing is at night, which I think I'm more creative then anyway.

Ann: Then it is win/win if you can write when you are feeling most inspired. What was your path to publication like and how did you eventually decide to self-publish your novels?

Carrigan: I had finished my first novel, Pieces of Me, and sent off several queries, got a few bites, but it always got rejected. So then, I read the story of Amanda Hocking, and started thinking about self-publishing. I never wanted to do it because of the costs, but because of so many outlets now that allow authors to self-publish easily and affordably, I decided to go for it. And now that I have, I love it. I can be as creative as I want, I can publish at my own pace, and even though it's hard work, it is rewarding.

Ann: I've read Amanda Hocking's story to self-publishing too. I agree that the path to publication has become much more open for writers with self-publication, especially if you have a good plan in place beforehand. You talked in your acknowledgements section about the music that inspired you as you were writing Under a Blood Moon. Why do you think music is so important to your creative process and what types of music did you listen to while you wrote?

Carrigan: I think the reason why music is so important to my creative process is because there is always a story in every song. And when I hear certain songs, a scene pops into my head regarding a story I'm working on. Sometimes, I will listen to that same song repeatedly until I have the scene written. It helps with the mood and tone of the scene. It gives me inspiration for my characters because they are real people in my eyes. They feel things just like the musicians. I also make playlists for every book I write because it helps me in so many ways. I listened to anything from pop to folk to rock to metal for Under a Blood Moon.

Ann: That is an interesting connection you pointed out about the feelings of your characters being tied to that of the musicians in the songs you listen to. I've found that to be the case as well. Music can really help set the tone and emotional impact of the scene and you listened to quite a broad spectrum of music. I guess you really would need to compile a playlist for so many different songs. Hearing that leads me to my next question, what does your writing cave look like and what are some of your writerly necessities you can't do without while you work?

Carrigan: My writing cave (I like this by the way) is a room with a window and bookshelves surrounding my desk. I have a dry-erase board for notes. A lot of post-it notes and lots and lots of pens. I probably have way too many pens, but I'm okay with that! I also have a couple of awards on the wall and inspirational writing quotes.

Ann: Having a dry-erase board for notes is genius! I'm so going to steal that for my own writing cave. Under a Blood Moon was the first book in a series. How many other books do we have to look forward to and what other books do you have coming out in the future?

Carrigan: Three more in the series and after I publish my Elemental Enchanter series, I plan on working on a new series, possibly two books, about a girl who has a second life per se in her dreams.

Ann: Well I can't wait until the next Elemental Enchanter book. Can you share the title for the sequel and give us an idea when it will be coming out? The new series about the girl with a secret secondary existence in her dreams sounds very intriguing too.

Photo courtesy of Carrigan Richards
Carrigan: The next novel is Under the Burning Stars and will be out July 21, 2014. 

Ann: Yeah! What is one characteristic that you share with your main character Ava in the story? What is one thing about you that people might be surprised to know?

Carrigan: We are both stubborn. I used to be a teen volunteer at the Birmingham Zoo and was certified to handle a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.

Ann: Ewww! That is surprising! I'd love to hear more about how you got certified to handle those, but I've kept you too long already. Thank you again for being on my blog today, Carrigan. I hope to have you back again soon! For those who would like to purchase a copy of Under a Blood Moon, it is available on Amazon (author's page) as is Carrigan's contemporary YA romance and pyschological thriller, Pieces of Me. To find out more about Carrigan Richards visit her website at http://carriganrichards.com/ or follow her on Twitter or Goodreads.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Here's What We Wrote...Enjoy!

Tilda dug at the frozen earth among the tender shoots that were trying to grow despite the cold of winter which tenaciously wasn't relinquishing its hold. The sky above was a gun metal gray.

"It's got to be here somewhere," she thought. "I'm the only one who knows."

Unless it had moved itself again. These enchanted objects were so difficult to keep track of and conceal from everyone else. What would she do if someone found out?

Tilda knew what she would have to do. She would have to go tell the council that she lost the crown. They would not be happy.

She stood up and brushed the mud off her knees. "Oh who cares?" She tossed the old spade on the ground and tightened her kerchief. The ground trembled.

Suddenly the ground beneath her erupted into a giant hole with the crown in the center completely clean of dirt and grime.

"Well, at least I know where you are now." Tilda grabbed it before it disappeared again. Taking up her spade she quickly filled in the hole and covered the loose earth with leaves so know one would see it. She pulled her kerchief off her head and wrapped the crown up in it. "Now where to hide you where you can't get away from me again?" Tilda sighed when she saw the lumps of old leaves scattered across the green where she'd dug looking for the pesky thing.

My many thanks to the following contributors: Jocelyn Kasper, Margo Dill and Anonymous. I added the last paragraph to the story. It is a fun exercise to do with other people. This story beginning has the right elements to keep the reader wanting to know more and what will happen next. We are immediately drawn into a setting where it is trying to be spring but the cold is still present. It is an overcast day and Tilda has a problem. She has lost an important object and is desperate to find it. We learn that the object is enchanted and it is a crown. But we are left still wondering who Tilda is, who does the crown belong to, and why is she the one hiding it? I still want to know how old Tilda is, and what she looks like, and what is going on? We have just enough information to keep us reading to figure out the answers. 

So next time you are stumped on your story opening maybe try writing something new and ask a friend or other writer to contribute a tidbit or two. Then look at the elements of the narrative and see if it helps you figure out what needs to be changed in your own story. It is a fun collaborative thing to try and it might help you see the trees among the forest.

And if you want to keep this story going then add a line or so in the comments. Storytelling doesn't always have to be a solitary art. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Great Experiment Begins

Tomorrow the next great experiment begins in the herb/demo gardens at my local extension office. A group of intrepid Master Gardeners will meet and plan this season's garden. Clean-up will take place and new seeds will be started along with a few cold tolerant transplants.

This year's gardens will be inhabited by fairies, feature edible and fragrant flowers, and be filled with hiding places, tunnels and maybe even a tower for young gardeners. There will be sand to dig in, chalk art to create and possibly a water wall to play with.

The theme for the herb and demo gardens this year is kid friendly gardening. Using corn, sunflowers, and tomato or okra plants a garden clubhouse will grow. Bean tee-pees and pea tunnels will abound and the flowers will be tasty as well as pretty. In the herb bed will be stepping stones, wooden hobbit hole doorways and tiny watering cans for the wee folk.

Tire towers for potatoes will be grown, hopefully. And painted rocks as plant markers will let children know what plants are growing in the garden and invite them to taste them. I'm even optimistic that a water wall will be constructed using plastic containers, a peg board and some old hose. Outdoor chalk will be available to draw with and a box filled with rocks and sand will make a great area for kids to dig in.

As Master Gardeners we will not only be growing plants, we will be playing too as we engage with our inner child. So let the great the great experiment begin!