Firming up where I'll be in 2020 and it's looking super exciting. Another year at Writers on the River, my first time at Romance Rendezvous, and a couple of new events coming to Central Illinois. Start marking your calendar because it's going to be a book-filled year.
Life has a way of ganging up on me to keep me from posting frequently, but so many exciting things are going on that I had to share!
March and April were awash with some serious and unexpected family issues that kept me out of the writing circles, but here's what's been going on since May.
1. Book Con & New Orleans - I met up with Caitlin Plum and Envy Augustine to tour New Orleans and take in a conference. It was a much needed refocusing of personal and writing goals. For those of you who liked Mistaken Identity in The Arts of Love, this trip brought Justin and Gina to the front of my mind. They will have their own book. It is currently being written.
2. Writers on the River - This is the first year I've been able to take part of this amazing event as an author. Not only did my table fee (and every aspect of this conference) support Thistle Farms, I sold the StoryPenners anthologies Melt, Haunt, and Summer Fair, which means the charities supported by those books will be receiving donations at the end of the year as well. The gifts that continue to give.
As a side note, in the middle of that event a woman greeted me with, "You're that anthology lady." I wasn't sure how to respond to that at the time, but given what I've been up to lately, I will gladly accept the moniker.
3.Literary-Lover's Anthology - CM Peters and I are working on yet another project for SinCyr Publishing. Book It is our project combining our love of romance with our love of books. We've already started getting some stories and I've heard the plots of some still in the works so look for a book-lovers romance anthology to be released late this year.
4. Haunted - In love with Friday the 13th? Triskaidekaphilia is the love of the number thirteen. This September, Pen and Kink Publishing is releasing book four of it's Triskaidekaphilia series, thirteen books of dark romance and erotica all released on a Friday the 13th. The reviews on Goodreads have been very complimentary of my story Love a la carte de visite!
5. We know the truth. Do you? - If you don't plan to raid Area 51 on September 20, stay inside and read what might happen. Terri A. Wilson is spearheading a fun project with authors from various genres. Our only direction was that stories have to feature Area 51. Whether we choose to include aliens, military, giant parties, or Naruto-style running is up to each individual author. Proceeds go to help veterans. More info soon.
6. Upcoming cons - I'm spending some time attending writer sessions at Penned Con in St. Louis this September. Then, I've got a table at the first ever Peoria Bookfest in October. Debating an end of year signing, but it's likely that October will be your last chance to catch me before the holidays.
I think that's it. Lots accomplished and much more to do. Thanks to all of you who have discovered me lately as well as all of you who have stuck around while I continue growing as a writer. I truly appreciate you sharing the journey.
Just a brief note: The quotes and research referenced in this post were targeted at women, but the overarching idea applies to everyone regardless of gender. No matter who you are, this post is for you. Much love.
I’ve written this blog post half a dozen times. To those of you who read my October post on Family Haunts for the Love Romance Reads Blog, that might sound familiar. It’s part of what I love about writing posts for LRR, I always have an idea of what I want to write, but what actually makes it to you, dear readers, is never what I originally intended.
Here’s an example. This month, I started writing about my very unromantic feelings about Valentine’s Day. Surprise! The romance writer isn’t a fan of the mushy holiday. It and I had a contentious relationship long before my recent divorce, which was another topic consideration for this post. A few paragraphs in my Inner Voice reminded me, “It’s a blog post, not a novel. Those topics are too heavy. Snark might be better than angst.”
Fair enough, Inner Voice.
Taking my own advice, I began writing the hilarious (to me) story of posting quotes and pictures around my sister’s dorm room years ago to brighten her February 14th. Yes, nothing like a giant red heart and song lyrics to really put you in the right mood for Valentine’s Day. Granted, the lyrics I’d chosen were from Mary Poppins’ Sister Suffragette. Specifically: ‘Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they're rather stupid!’
“Humorous anecdote,” Inner Voice snarked at me, “but possibly offensive.”
From there, my train of thought chugged along to my favorite romantic lyrics, but Garbage’s “Beloved Freak” doesn’t usually top the swoon-worthy song lists. So we jumped tracks (pun intended) to the subject of famous romantic couples. Much as I adore Gomez and Morticia Addams, they make most people think Halloween, not Valentine’s. Nothing felt good enough. Nothing felt right.
That brings us to earlier this week when I happened to catch an NPR interview with New Orleans born singer-songwriter-producer, f.k.a. D∆WN or Dawn Richard. In the interview, she said “I know a lot of women who relate to the idea of being unapologetically open about saying, 'No, I'm not accepting anything but this, because I am worth it.'”
A bold statement. One that resonated with me. Yes! We are worth it. Worth loving. Worth wanting. Worth effort and adoration. Every single one of us is valuable, and we shouldn’t accept anything but the love we deserve.
“Perfect topic,” Inner Voice agreed. “Time to forge ahead.”
While that was percolating in my head, I popped in my headphones to listen to the audiobook I’d recently picked up, The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. I found myself unexpectedly struck by another profound statement. I’m clipping right along listening about impromptu gigs, internet communities, and interesting roommates when Palmer drops some info researched by professor and TED speaker Brene Brown. Through her research, Brown found that “women tend to feel shame around the idea of being 'never enough'... at home, at work, in bed, never pretty enough, never smart enough, never thin enough, never good enough…”
I found myself nodding in agreement. Inner Voice resorted to a loud record screech. “Wait. What?”
I instantly knew that these very unromantic notions needed to be the subject of my very brief and very pointed Valentine’s-ish post.
Here’s the deal, dear readers. We all get that feeling that we are never enough. That vague seed of doubt can fester until it is a vicious little demon buried deep in your brain and your soul, repeating horrid lies about how little you are valued. But that’s the sticking point. This demon and everything it says is A LIE.
February is supposed to be a month of love. It’s supposed to be a time we share one of the best possible human emotions with people we care about, not just significant others, but friends, and, dare I say it, ourselves. It’s time to let some winged cherub shoot that ugly, lying beast in the butt with a pointy arrow of truth. It’s time for all of us to stand up and say that we are worth more than that particular thought of “not enough”. We don’t have to believe the lies or accept anything less than perfect, unconditional love.
Please take Valentine’s Day, February, and every single opportunity you can to love yourself the way you deserve to be loved. I promise you, you’re worth it.
Originally posted on LoveRomanceReads.com
Welcome Fall! I've been working away at projects, but I had to blog about my favorite season. There is so much happening at this time of year. Let's start with a party! Over 20 different paranormal authors from romance & humor to suspense & horror are teaming up for a fun Halloween Facebook event on October 15th! There will be special deals, an online scavenger hunt, free stories (including a new one from me), and a prize basket. You can join the party here. Can't wait to see you there!
There's more Spooktacular fun in store Oct 1-Oct 30. Over 60 authors are giving away one of their paranormal romance books COMPLETELY FREE! All you have to do is click the link below between Oct 1-Oct 30 to cash in on some great free reads. If you haven't read my erotica romance shifter novella, Turn to Me, now's your chance to snag a copy.
Get Your Free Paranormal Romance Books
There's yet ANOTHER a party going on at LoveRomanceReads.com. I told you we love to celebrate fall! Every day this month the blog will celebrate all things October with a post by a guest author. Head over on Oct 20th to learn why I'm attached to this lovely month and get to know a bit more about my family ghosts.
Midwestern Book Lovers Unite is an annual free book signing with over 30 of your favorite authors. This year it's located in the water park capital of the world - Wisconsin Dells. Marie Piper and I will be sharing a table, so stop by and say hi.
My first solo book in four years hits online stores November 2. Filled with short stories old and new, The Arts of Love explores the way art, theater, music, and the written word can bring people together.
You know what they say about those creative types...
Playful, rebellious, sensitive and passionate, nobody loves like an artist. These sixteen stories set the stage for racy encounters with bad boy rock stars, sensual actors, and artists seeking their muse. Inside this collection you'll find:
* A drummer aching to satisfy the one woman who doesn't recognize that he's a rock star
* A writer unaware that his fans and former assistant find him undeniably attractive
* An eccentric college professor enticing her protégé with informal lessons on dance, drawing, and desire
* A stage manager struggling to remain professional with the show's sexy director
Whether you're looking for a playwright provoking her friend's uptight cop neighbor to help with blocking, two choir men battling for the affection of the girl-next-door, or a struggling writer finding an unusual muse in the Japanese countryside, this collection will have you ready for romance.
Preorder The Arts of Love Today
It may be fall, but you can still get a little taste of summer. Keep warm on chilly nights with these stories about love at summer festivals. Get Summer Fair Today.
Summer Fair has been getting some great reviews. Like these:
Susan Prager 5.0 out of 5 stars
Wonder read. Short, easy stories that get you thinking, laughing and smiling. Great writing by all the authors. I really think it is a great addition to my library.
Mobookworm 5.0 out of 5 stars
I have to be honest, only bought this for one author, figured if she was in it, it would be good!!
Man this set may kill me, new people to stalk, er follow now.Was a great, versatile set that worked great together. Definitely got my moneys worth and will be telling people about this one!!!
If you'd like a taste of the book, Abigail Rakocy from Abigail's Voice did a few lovely promo spots for the book. I've posted them below so you can get your listen on.
That's all for now. See you soon.
This is going to be a quick one. I wrote a guest blog for LoveRomanceReads about one of my favorite family vacation places. If you've never heard of or experienced Grand Marais, Minnesota, I hope it gives you a taste of what the town is like. If you have gotten to visit, I hope it brings back good memories. I loved my childhood visits to the Great Lakes. Share your favorite vacation spots in the comments. I'm always looking for new, fun places to visit.
I'm a big believer in fresh starts. I see them as a way to revise and recommit yourself to what's important to you. January brings a new year. Monday brings a new week. Chinese New Year. Easter. Beltane. Diwali. Even the first day of the month, a day filled with new submission calls and conference announcements for me, offers an opportunity to try again.
Today is the solstice, the first day of a new season, and don’t we all need it. It seems we’ve been inundated with divisive news in the world, the United States, and even the writers community, a space I once thought fairly safe. The seemingly endless wave of atrocities has made it hard to stay positive lately. I’m depressed. I’m finding it hard to write. I’m not the only one.
Yesterday a friend sent me this amazing, profanity-laden blog post by Chuck Wendig. Being a writer, Chuck focused on the power of words, but if you’re otherwise creatively inclined, simply substitute art, music, dance, theater, etc. to meet your needs. The overall message is the same: When we are surrounded by darkness, creative endeavors can seem pointless. Don’t give up. Your craft is part of you and will be what helps you survive. It may be what helps others endure.
If you are struggling like I was, find hope in the first day of summer. Use it as a fresh start. As the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, today leaves little room for darkness. Let the sunlight burn away all the hate, anger, and fear, leaving us renewed to work toward something nourishing. Let us grow strong and true to resist anything that seeks to divide rather than unify. Use the gift of today to set yourself back on your creative path so you can thrive and use your gifts to help repel the darkness.
In 2016 I joined a small collection of authors who have since dubbed themselves The StoryPenners. It’s an informal group dedicated to producing charity anthologies to fight the darkness in its many incarnations. That first year, we created a book of novellas about couples who got snowed in. We called it MELT, and we continue to send proceeds from the book to a charity supporting mental health research and aid. 2017 brought HAUNT, a collection of nine spooky tales that benefits Chicago-based homeless charities. This year, we focused on the unexpected romance that can happen at summer festivals. We called it SUMMER FAIR, and decided that proceeds will be sent to a charity that supports survivors of rape and domestic violence. We thought it appropriate to have the cover release on the first day of summer.
This stunning cover was created by Aleisha Knight Evans, who has kindly donated her time and effort to design the covers of all three of the StoryPenner anthologies. The book comes out in exactly two months on August 21st. A pre-order link is already up on Amazon. There's a blurb below and you can find more info on my Summer Fair page.
For today, I hope you enjoy the start of the new season. I hope summer's warmth reminds you not to give up. Use your creativity to do some good in the world. I wish you the joy of a fresh start and a fair summer.
SUMMER FAIR Book Blurb:
Summer festivals bring the aroma of popcorn, the excitement of rides, and the promise of real-life enchantment. Seven authors bring you original love stories, each set at a different summer celebration. You’ll experience the thrill of the Chicago World’s fair through the eyes of a plucky girl reporter and the quiet desperation of a teen working a summer job at a traveling carnival. Get whisked away on romantic journeys around the world from a sweet Texas Dewberry Festival to a lantern-filled temple celebration to a surprisingly rowdy New England Founders Day. Whether it’s the magic of a Renaissance Fair, the excitement of a Theater Retreat, or the pulse of a Music Festival, you’re sure to get geared up for all things summer with this delightful new collection.
Riding the Wave by by Annabeth Leong
Amaryllis and New Lace by Gregory L. Norris
Salty and Sweet by R.L. Merrill
Dewberry Kisses by CM Peters
All the World by Marie Piper
Carnie by Sienna Saint-Cyr
The Storyteller’s Side by Harley Easton
With Stars in His Eyes by Arden de Winter
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.As an indie author, I didn't think I'd ever get to hear my stories acted out. I have no delusions of grandeur. I write my stories and sometimes people like them and they get placed in anthologies or posted online. There is no expectation I'll ever be the next Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, or Diana Gabaldon.
Enter my friend, Abigail Rakocy, and her new voiceover business. When she began building her portfolio, we discussed scripts and her interest in book narration. We did some work together and, as a thank you, she gave me the 30 second audio clip she recorded from my very first novella, TURN TO ME. I mentioned it in my last post because I was so excited.
Imagine my happiness today when she surprised me with two more audio clips, both longer than two minutes, Each one is from a sensual section of my short stories. Though she recorded these without my input, Abigail has an uncanny knack for reading dialogue the exact way it sounded in my head while I was writing. Like all good actors, her interpretation slips you right into the story, letting you experience the scene with the characters. It's easy to forget you're listening to narration.
I am thrilled with how these turned out! But rather than take my word for it, you should listen for yourself.
The first story, Laws of Attraction, can be found in LOVE SLAVE: SCHOOLED. The second story, Shakespeare in Summer, will be available as part of my self-published short story collection due out later this year. I'm reposting the TURN TO ME clip, just in case you missed it.
WARNING: Wear headphones and/or do NOT listen to these at work/in front of the kids. There's some seriously steamy stuff here.
April and May went by like a whirlwind, sweeping me right along with it. Between some family concerns and a new day job, I didn't get to post much, but I've been far from inactive.
As I've mentioned before, The StoryPenners (producers of HAUNT and MELT) are releasing SUMMER FAIR, a charity anthology about summer festivals. The cover is gorgeous. I'll post it here for you in a little over two weeks (June 21). All the stories are in and we're looking for people interested in reading advanced copies in exchange for a fair and truthful review. If you're interested in reviewing or blogging about Summer Fair, contact me. The book launches August 21. Proceeds from SUMMER FAIR are going to a charity supporting survivors of rape and domestic violence. Legally, we're never allowed to actually name the charity we donate to, but we continue to write the checks as books are purchased.
Sadly, my short stories from March didn't get picked up BUT I got the nicest rejection letter I have ever received from Timeless Tales Magazine. If you're a fairy tale fan, you should check them out. They set a high standard in fairy tale retellings.
A new book is in the works that will combine my short stories from all the Love Slave collections with a few that have never been released before. I'll keep you posted as that gets closer to completion.
Upcoming on the calendar -
July 21 - Writers On the River is happening in East Peoria, IL. I'm a sponsor because it helps support Thistle Farms and the Center for Prevention of Abuse. Swing by if you're in the area and visit with some really talented authors.
November 3-4 Midwestern Book Lovers Unite is having a game and book signing weekend in Wisconsin Dells. Marie Piper and I will both be signing, so this is a great time to get your print copies of MELT, HAUNT, and SUMMER FAIR. Print books are currently being processed and I hope to have a pre-order link available closer to the book signing so you can get them right there.
As a final note, my friend Abigail Rakocy has started a voiceover business and one of her first recordings was an excerpt from TURN TO ME. Enjoy the snippet below.
This month’s creative is a photographer, graphic designer, and Etsy entrepreneur who is used to creating her own art opportunities in new cities. Aleisha Knight Evans says she likes to surround herself with pretty things. When moved to a city without traditional graphic design opportunities, she took on the challenge of creating her own studio. Now she experiments with a variety of mediums. Pieces of her work can be found in this interview, and you can connect with her on her website or Etsy store.
Describe your passion or your current creative project.
My degree is in Graphic Design, so I started my career as a designer, which led to photography and then video production/editing. When I became a military spouse, I took the opportunity to be more of a “fine artist”, showing in galleries and selling at art shows. These days, I'm a WAHM (work at home mom) trying to make a niche for myself somewhere between traditional graphic design, photography, and fine art.
What called you to be creative/how did you begin creating?
My parents are both very creative, talented people – my dad supervised the print department at Craft House and is an excellent guitarist, and my mom is a visual artist and a teacher. Growing up, I spent a lot of time at gigs and craft shows. On quieter weekends at home, we'd be working on home improvement projects, woodworking, sewing, painting, making maple syrup, basket weaving, pouring ceramics... As an adult, my first impulse is always to think about how I might make something myself, rather than buying it. I was really fortunate to have parents who valued the creative process as a way of life.
Do you stick to one form of creative expression or do you have multiple creative outlets?
I would probably be a lot more successful if I could get myself to focus on just one creative outlet. I'll be happily working on a graphic design project, when I get an idea for a photography shoot, which leads me to start sewing a costume. The sewing will inspire me to sculpt a headpiece. Before I can even get my supplies out, my kids will need something, and *poof!* my work time is gone before I have accomplished much. I've learned to work quickly and efficiently, but finding the balance between creative work and parenting is hard. I have a lot of ideas on my list, just waiting for enough free time to be realized.
How do you deal with negative feedback about your projects?
Learning to gracefully accept constructive criticism, ignore the nonsense, and most importantly, distinguish one from the other, is the most important skill any artist can have. There is always room to improve, always something new to learn. I try to stay objective, and at least consider even the worst feedback. Sometimes a terrible suggestion will lead me to a good solution I hadn't considered. Sometimes I have to stand my ground, and have faith in my own instincts. Deep down, most of us know when our work is at its best (or worst). Never put up with abuse from people who fundamentally don't value you or your work, even if it means giving up a job or a networking opportunity.
Who are your biggest influencers?
I'm really attracted to art that is both beautiful and weird or macabre. Growing up in the 80's was great for that! Jim Henson (working with Brian Froud and David Bowie) and Tim Burton (his early work, anyway) were very influential. There are a bunch of imaginative editorial fashion photographers producing great work right now. I particularly like Tim Walker. I love the Surrealists in general. I'm reaching the point in my career where I've done enough work over the course of enough years to see a pattern of subconscious choices emerging. It's fun to see the influences that I didn't realize were there at first. My Art History professor would be happy to see that his lecture on Rembrandt and chiaroscuro (in short, a very high-contrast style) stuck, apparently.
Tell me how you continue creating during emotionally difficult times.
I'm much better at visual communication than written or (yikes!) verbal communication. In a picture or video, I can show all the complexities and nuances of a feeling. Nothing gets left out because I don't have the right words to describe it. Making art usually keeps me fairly happy and sane. I try to not be too literal in my work, but whatever is bothering me in real life tends to appear in some form, even if it's obscure. When I stop making art, I lose my ability to communicate, and I start feeling depression almost immediately. Depression leads to creative block, which keeps me feeling depressed – it's a vicious cycle. The only way out (for me) is to consume lots of art until I can't help but feel inspired by something.
Have you ever suffered from imposter syndrome?
Don't we all? I'll never forget how nervous and exhilarated I felt when I signed up for Drawing 101 in college. I'd been a fairly good artist all my life – I'd even won a few art competitions as a child, and still felt like I didn't belong there with the “real art students”. I've been successfully making a living as an artist for 15 years, and still have days where I feel like a complete fraud. Every now and then, I'll see a respected photographer/digital artist's work up close (you can't fake technical precision at 100% magnification) and realize that maybe, just maybe, I actually am pretty good at my job. Most of the time, I'd love to hide in a cave and anonymously make art while someone else sells it for me, though.
Do you have a creative community you work with?
Having a supportive community where I can share ideas and frustrations is absolutely essential for me. With every stage in life, and every new military assignment, that community has looked and functioned a little differently. In general, I've felt that the face to face situations were healthier and more constructive, but online communities can provide opportunities too (even if it's the opportunity to practice forgiveness, humility, or to grow a thicker skin).
What would you say to people just beginning to explore their own creativity?
I would encourage people who are beginning to explore their creativity to find others who are doing the same, but in different mediums. When you take the unintentional rivalry out of the situation, it's easier to be more genuinely supportive during each others' trials and triumphs.
Three weeks to deadline and I was stalled. My characters were no longer speaking to each other, let alone me, and I’d been struggling with a scene transition for several days. Trying to shake my story, and myself, out of my funk, I’d taken walks, read a book on my subject, listened to music, switched writing spaces, cleaned my closet, discussed the story with my husband, and generally lost all hope that I’d finish in time. I was debating whether to drop the story altogether when I got a text from a fellow writer working on the same submission call.
“If you’re stuck, I’m happy to help. What’s the conflict? What are the stakes?”
After a brief exchange where I spelled out my characters and basic plot, my story was not only back on track, but moving so fast my fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain.
This is the good that comes from being part of a creative community. It’s easy to get in a rut, to tell yourself that your project is unwanted or unimportant. That’s why even the most introverted creative can benefit from a group of people genuinely excited to share the journey and offer the help we need to make us better. There are clear benefits to joining a community or building one of your own.
A basic need
In his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”, Abraham Maslow defined five basic needs that all humans have. Basic physiological and safety needs are first, but social belonging needs come right after. Without intimate social connections and the sense of belonging acquired through these connections, Maslow argued that a person can not move on to the realization of their potential. In basic terms, a group of collaborators, mentors, and friends are what help a person thrive. Your circle will become your support when you need encouragement, your connection when you are isolated, and your knowledge base when you’ve hit a roadblock. Everyone needs a place to feel safe and accepted. It’s the only way to get encouragement and keep moving forward.
A place for understanding
It’s helpful to gather where everyone has a core knowledge and uses the same language. Your creative community is where people understand writer's block, cyclical breathing, Rosco gels, or whatever terms apply to your particular art. This is where other people can relate to your frustrations and experience. Creative groups are usually formed because members need a forum to discuss concerns that aren’t important or aren’t considered outside their discipline. For that very reason, many creative groups make themselves approachable to new artists seeking more information.
A chance for growth
It sucks putting your heart and soul into your work only to have it blasted by someone who doesn’t understand the difficulty involved in creating. Being criticized by other makers is a whole different experience. People in your circle should understand that discipline and maturity are a process, not an endpoint. Whether you’re struggling or succeeding, these are the perfect people to offer suggestions for improvement. They have overcome similar problems and offer new perspectives. Your community is the best place to hone your abilities, ask ‘dumb’ questions, find information about workshops, and allow yourself to fail. The right community will help you thrive by offering advice, and asking for some in return.
A way to give back
Being active is a major part of a community. Just as you are given help, you get the chance to share your wisdom with newcomers. Ask about the abandoned stories of your peers. Offer insight on great places to get art materials. Take something that was difficult for you to master and make it easier for the next person by offering your insight. This can be the best part of a community, because you’ll often see the impact of your advice in the output of others. Giving back can remind you why you first got interested in creating.
Whether you find a creative community or build your own, simply having a group to share your ups and down can be the best part of the creative process. The people that understand you, encourage your growth, and offer you opportunities to share your hard-earned experience are people worth keeping around. Whatever your passion, finding your people will help you and your art.
Harley Easton is a Renaissance woman dabbling in everything life offers. She's worked at a theme park, found expert witnesses, been a guest lecturer at a national museum, and worked with medical students. Putting experience and insanity to good use, she's become an author specializing in erotic, romantic, and speculative fiction.