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 you may have noticed, sometimes it happens that life takes over my ability to post as frequently as I'd like. However, being busy means that when I do get a chance to post, I've got lots of updates for everyone.
So here's what I've been up to -
Two short stories went out in February and the beginning of March, one dark erotic short story and one succinct, almost flash-fiction length fairy-tale. I hope to post soon that they were accepted, but even if they aren't, I'm excited about how both turned out and feel they are a good representation of my current abilities as an author.
Last October, my story People who live in Glass Sanitoriums was published in HAUNT, a collection of nine tales about haunted dwellings. This was the second anthology put together by a writer collaborative group I work with. The experience has gone so well the last two times that we're working on a third anthology called Summer Fair to be published later this year. Everyone involved has been asked to brainstorm on what could happen during summer festivals. The ideas that have been tossed back and forth make me very excited about how this project will turn out. Bonus, Aleisha Knight Evans, who designed the stunning covers for the previous two anthologies, has agreed to come back and work with us on this collaboration. More info as that develops.
I've been working quite a bit with SinCyr Publishing. Because of my recent proofreading, I can without a doubt recommend their recent romantic urban fantasy A Nose for Trouble by Jill Webb. It's a quick read with a healthy dose of mystery and unexpectedly fun characters. In November, CM Peters and I co-edited Working It, a collection of sexy stories from the workplace. We're planning on collaborating on another project for SinCyr late this year, this time a romantic anthology around a bookish theme. The pitch has been accepted and we're working out details. The open call should go up next month.
I continue to plod away at my novel in progress and am looking at a few other writing projects for the year that I'll keep under wraps for now. No conventions so far this year, although I did help sponsor the Writers On the River event happening in July because it helps support Thistle Farms and the Center for Prevention of Abuse. We'll see if there's time later this year.
And finally, a shameless plug for another project of mine. For anyone interested, I've started a website called Creativity Blender where I'm exploring the idea of creativity, what it is, and what helps creative people be more creative. It's a very new project and one I'm working on in my limited spare time, so be patient, but I will be trying to write blog posts and link to creative articles and projects I find. Check it out if you have time.
For those of you who missed it, I had another short story published last week in the second annual charity anthology for a small collaboration of writers I like to work with. Last year, Marie Piper talked five writers into crafting novellas based around the theme of being snowed in. The resulting romance collection was Melt, and all proceeds went to charities that support mental health research and aide.
This year, Ms. Piper challenged us all to create short stories around the theme of a haunted house for the aptly named Haunt. The writing group swelled to nine talented authors with backgrounds ranging from science-fiction, to historical romance and each author brought their A game for another good cause. All proceeds from Haunt will go to Chicago-area charities that provide services for the homeless. Click here to read about the inspiration on behind the stories on Gregory Norris's Blog.
I've since been asked why I participate in these collections. The reasons are many. The camaraderie of talented creators is always invigorating. It's fun to see where my brain will take me when I'm under the constraints of a specific call. But mainly, in a world as full of upheaval as ours has been the past few years, it feels good to put my talents to use helping others.
Now you can feel good by purchasing a book you know will help others. Go grab your copy of Haunt (get Melt too if you haven't already) and settle in for some great short stories that also help put a little good back in the world. I promise it's worth every penny.
March has been super busy, so please forgive the delay in posting. Here's what's been keeping me occupied.
Celebrated Ebook Week at Smashwords earlier in the month and was pleased to see so many people taking advantage of the free and reduced price ebooks.
Ticket to Ride is now at ebook retailers. Just click the link to purchase. It's got a few nice reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, although my favorite so far is this one from reviewer Stuart Hoffman:
So, after the positive response I got for buying my mum the ‘Fifty Shades’ series, I figured I’d get this. So far, it’s a big thumbs up! ;-)
It's hard to beat such an honest and straight forward review. I hope any of you who have picked up the anthology find it similarly to your liking.
I've had to keep quiet for awhile, but I can finally announce that I was asked to participate in an upcoming rock star themed anthology for Sexy Little Pages. Riffs and Licks is still in production, but it's going to feature some of my favorite collaborators from the past, including CM Peters, Anna Sky, Jordan Monroe, and Torrance Sene. My story is about a formerly famous drummer and the woman who mistakes him for someone else. I'll get you updates as soon as I have them.
Marie Piper and I will be at the RT Convention in May and I'm packing up books to be sent to the Goodie Room. Riverdale Avenue Books is putting together a fun, unique romance anthology titled Gone with the Dead to be published, in both print and digital editions. The title will debut at the convention. My story submission has been sent in, and so has Marie's.
Speaking of Marie, it's nothing new that I fangirl over her work. Case in point, I recently read Callie's Embers, the third installment of the Cricket Bend trilogy. I don't usually read westerns, but Marie writes sweet tales with plenty of adventure. If you have some spare time, check it out. Here's my review.
I've been waiting for Callie's story ever since Haven's book came out last year. It certainly didn't disappoint. Callie's Embers takes us right back to Cricket's Bend with the same cast of characters, but all has not been perfect in the far-from-sleepy little town. Without tossing about spoilers, I can say that Matthew and Haven haven't been having the easiest time since the first book in this trilogy. Callie Lee has been hiding news from her friends and trying to raise her son alone. Jasper has been doing some growing up and Sheriff Anderson has had his hands full with a couple of feuding farmers threatening to cause trouble for the town.
All the favorites resurface in Cricket Bend as Piper takes us on a journey filled with unexpected heartbreak, sweet simplicity, and plenty of action. While Marie can write a steamy romance scene, I found myself also enjoying the quiet moments in the book, especially the scenes involving family dinners and how various characters relate to Callie's son. Piper has grown her characters, crafted them in a way that makes them almost solid. Readers can sympathize with the characters in Callie's Embers, really understand the motivations behind certain actions even if they don't agree with what a character does.
As with most of Piper's books, I found Callie's Embers to be a quick, lighthearted read that sprinkled light bits of morality between the escapism. Cricket Bend is a place where women have resolve that matches their imagination, even trouble-makers can prove to be genuinely good, and neighbors take care of each other. I'm going to miss this little town and can only hope Piper decides one day to let us revisit it.
That's all for now. Happy Spring!
So much going on, as usual.
Ticket to Ride is now available for pre-order. Just click the link to purchase. It'll be available on February 16. In the anthology, ten authors take you on a ride with sex on public transport. My story, The Dividing Line, is about a girl who sits in the middle of the bus between two disparate groups of students and finds herself attracted to a man from each group.
Melt (available for purchase here) launched in November. At the end of January, the five authors involved in that project made our first donation to The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (https://bbrfoundation.org/), an international organization committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness. I'm pretty proud of our effort and really excited about our first donation.
A few short stories were turned in last month and my book pitch was accepted for a new anthology for SinCyr Publishing. If you're a writer, check out this Call for Submission to submit a story for the anthology.
In a few short months I'll be making my way to Atlanta for the Romantic Times Convention. Friend and fellow Melt author Marie Piper will be there as well. She's got a spot at the Giant Book Fair and I got a table of goodies along Promo Lane. Stop by and see us if you're at the convention!
This weekend was full of peaceful protests, and I applaud the people who were able to get out there and make a difference. I, myself, was not at the march or able to stand in solidarity. Why? Because I know myself and my anxiety all too well, and I refused to have a panic attack in the middle of such an important protest.
So what was I doing while other people were marching? I was protesting my way. I was writing.
Last year I was invited to take part in a wonderful project that resulted in the novella collection Melt: Five Stories to Get Snowed In With. The best part of the project was when all five authors agreed that our creative efforts should benefit people other than ourselves. The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (https://bbrfoundation.org/) is an international organization committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness. Donor contributions are invested in NARSAD Grants that fund research into depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, autism, and bipolar, attention-deficit hyperactivity, post-traumatic stress, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. This weekend, the authors of Melt were able to make a donation from the book's proceeds. I hope it’s the first of many. In a time of such unease for so many people, I believe that the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation's work is more relevant than ever.
So what does any of that have to do with my Saturday writing? Well, I'm back at it, working to pen another short story/novelette for a new charity project. Of course, every story has to go through the drafting, polishing, editing, querying, and possible rejection stages. I am under no illusion that this project will be any easier, but I'm looking at my writing projects in a new way. Last year held some real challenges and setbacks for my writing career. Some of the obstacles made me question why events unfolded the way they did and whether I was doing what I was supposed to be doing as a writer. Now I know that I was exactly where I needed to be to make the contacts I needed to quietly rebel.
I may not be able to stand in a crowd of protesters, but I can work with publishers that support women's rights. I am not always able to donate funds, but I can donate my time and writing for projects that give when I can't. I don't subscribe to any particular political party, but I can be political by writing positive relationships and viewpoints in a relatable manner so readers might think about them. I am part of the quiet rebellion, as are so many others.
It's not hard to do small things that add up to a big difference. As a reader, consider the authors and companies you support. As a writer, consider where you submit your work. As a human, consider that people don't protest in the same way. Many people are doing what they can. Sometimes their voices are just a little softer.
Happy November! Time to announce Melt: Five Stories to Get Snowed In With. You are going to love this one.
Love of the Game, Launch Day is Tuesday, Oct 18. Join the launch day facebook party by clicking the banner below. Purchase the book in digital or print on Amazon
And that novella I told you about earlier in the year is at the publisher for finalizing.
Quick updates - the novella is in the hands of the beta readers and two short stories went off to their respective collections this week.
I'm also in the process of collecting erotic short stories of the sports kind for an anthology to be published in September through Sexy Little Pages.
Speaking of the talented staff of Sexy Little Pages, still more positive reviews are pouring in for their Inked anthology. This time Kayla Lords gave this great quote:
“Nine Lives” made my romantic heart sing. I swear I got a little teary-eyed.
Read the entire review here
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.