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.
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.