Mind Blown

A few days ago, I had my book signing at the Neill Public Library. They’d asked me to do a 45 minute presentation about writing Swept Up and the self-publishing process. For weeks, I slaved over Power Point and Word trying to make it just right, and prayed I wouldn’t have to talk to an empty room. Well, that room was anything but empty! Friends, family, and community members packed that place to standing room only!

Swept Up is in the new book section at Neill Public Library. It's a first edition, so it doesn't have page numbers. Rookie mistake!

Swept Up is in the new book section at Neill Public Library. It’s a first edition, so it doesn’t have page numbers. Rookie mistake!

As I took my place behind the podium, I scanned the sea of smiling faces and saw my entire seventeen year history in Pullman looking back at me. Those faces represented the very first people I met on the WSU campus, church friends, former colleagues, my great aunt, and of course my crew of besties. My heart swelled in that moment, and I had to fight back tears in order to get started with my first slide.

My mind has been blown by all the support I’ve received with Swept Up. I’m grateful for every bit of it as my confidence as a writer has grown immeasurably over the summer. I’m not a fraud. I’m a writer! God has graciously led me to what he created me to do and provided me with people to give me the encouragement I need to keep going.

To all my readers, thank you so much for your support! I appreciate each and every one of you! If you’re interested in seeing more pictures from this event, go check out my Facebook page.

Sorting it Out

Over the last year and a half writing has become a way for me to work through stuff. Yes, my job is writing, but it’s so much more than that. When my anxiety gets to be overwhelming or I experience an upsetting situation, I can often write my way out of it. Sometimes it’s a simple journal entry where I allow myself a complete mind dump. On other days I lose myself in a story, allowing my mind to rest while I fiddle with my characters’ lives. And almost always, I come out on the other side with clarity and peace. I may or may not have answers, but somehow my brain has found a way to sort through all the feelings and crap and deal.

During our trip to Bear last weekend, I had the opportunity to reconnect with some precious people from my past. While I’ve been growing into an adult in her mid thirties, these folks were aging as well. One man in particular took me by surprise. He was my cowboy hero and all around good guy. I’ve never met anyone like him, and when I saw his fragile, eighty something body folded onto a cowhide fainting couch, I lost my breath. How could this be? I cherished that evening with him. We talked about the days when my sisters and I were kids. Turns out he got as much of a kick out of us as we did him. Though his body and mind wandered into old age, the twinkle in his blue eyes hadn’t changed a bit.

A few days ago this gentleman was in a severe car accident. The news was another kick in the stomach. I wondered if last week’s encounter was our last. During a restless night of prayer and hoping he’d make it into the next day, words swirled around in my mind. As daylight approached, they sorted themselves into a poem. Poetry is not my thing. I haven’t written a poem since I was in high school, but this piece was so clear, it begged to be recorded. So, here it is. My tribute to a timeless friend.

The Old Man in the Chair

 Who’s that old man in the chair?

The one who can hardly stand

I think I may have known him once…

When his chest was barreled and his legs were strong

When his skin was brown from days in the sun and his hugs could crush bones

Muscled arms scratched from riding into thorn bushes for stubborn bulls

He had a laugh that rang out for miles, and a knack for renaming things

A Bible beside his chair, tobacco in his lip, he was the surprise Easter bunny for kids miles from anywhere

So, do you the man in the—

Those eyes,

There’s a light, a spark.

That man in the chair,

I still know him.

Bear, Idaho Photo Essay

horse reflectionThis weekend my family was blessed to have the opportunity to go to Bear, Idaho. My sisters and I grew up on the OX Ranch, and our parents are still there. Bear is one of the most beautiful and magical places I’ve ever been, and I love turning Codi loose there to experience it through her child’s eyes. We’re home now, and I’m feeling refreshed and inspired. I’m ready to dive back into my work!

Most of these photos were taken by my sister, Kendra Marvin, during our Independence Day photo walk.

Evening trail ride with Papa.

Evening trail ride with Papa.

barbed daisiessummer cattlehoney bee

 

 

Freedom to Choose

As we enter into this Fourth of July week, I’ve been reflecting on what all it means to live in a free country, and I’m so grateful that I do. This post is a bit of a rabbit hole for me. Generally my blog is used to talk about writing, reading, and being an indie author. However, over the last while I’ve been reading about and listening to people who are unhappy with their lives, may it be from the personal or professional end. This topic has been weighing on my heart. Granted, I’m an optimist to a fault, but I know from experience that if you’re willing to push up your sleeves and get to work, we all have options.

So many people around the world are oppressed and have no say in what happens to them, but here in the U.S. we can choose our destiny. We can stay in an uninspired, bad job situation, or we can find something new. We can keep telling ourselves someday I’ll start that business or write that book, but then someday never comes. That’s because we didn’t make that dream a priority.

Have you ever taken a moment to think about why people left the old world for the unsettled wilderness of North America? They were sick and tired of their lives there. They yearned for something new, a place where they could live their dreams and have a say in their destiny. These people chose to change their situation, not continue to sit there and complain about it.

Excuses

Lately it seems to be the trend for people to blame others for their discontent. Their boss, big corporate, their friends, their spouse, their finances. You name it, they blame it. In their minds their situation is hopeless, and the people who are winning must be doing something illegal, unethical, or evil.

It’s time to stop and reassess. Look in the mirror, that person right there is the only person standing in your way. There is a way to change just about every situation.

“Change only happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” ~Tony Robbins

Get Inspired

Over the last several years I started following and connecting with the people listed below. Each one brings their own individual flavor to this one message: YOU can go in any direction you want. No one is stopping you.

Make a Plan

Below are some steps I took when I found myself unsatisfied professionally.

1. Become debt free. Brett and I started following Dave Ramsey’s baby steps nine years ago. When we became debt free except for our house, options opened up. I didn’t have to work outside the home any longer and was free to come home and care for our daughter. At that time she was five and entering kindergarten. I feel so blessed that I had the freedom to volunteer at her school and be here waiting for her when her day ended. This also created time for me to begin my writing career. Not being slaves to lenders, changed our financial landscape.

2. Find a mentor. When I decided I wanted to become a professional writer, I reached out to Courtney Carver. She’s a wonderful teacher, blogger, and has become a friend. I highly recommend her zero to 100 blogging microcourse if a blog is something you’ve always dreamed of starting. Her Spark and Tinder group has been a great place for me to connect with other entrepreneurs. Though our businesses are all different, we all have that entrepreneurial spirit and can encourage and help each other.

3. Be prepared to work. Creating the life you want requires effort. More than likely you will work harder than you ever have, but you won’t mind because you’ll be fulfilling your purpose and doing things on your terms. You may have to take on an extra job temporarily to pay off your debt or raise the cash to start your business (I strongly caution people against using credit cards and loans to cover business expenses).

Some of you may not ever want to work for yourselves, and that’s okay! This post is just to get you thinking about what you really want from life. The change you need may not even be leaving your job. It could be deciding to get healthy by eating better and exercising. Whatever the dream is, it will require effort. It’s been said by many, “Nothing worth having comes easy.”

4. Don’t be in a hurry. I’ve discovered as I’ve launched my writing career almost no one is an overnight success. It make look like it from the outside, but when you get into their story, you often find years of sacrifice and hard work. Patience. Change can often be about patience. Trust me, I’m still working on this one. Granted, if you are in a dangerous situation, you must pack up and leave immediately! Regroup, then go after your dream again.

We Have Choices

At the end of the day, every one of us is free to choose where to work, who to love, where to live. It’s easy to get bogged down in life and think we’re eternally stuck and it’s _________ (insert favorite scapegoat here) fault. When you find your mind drifting in that direction think back to the men and woman who fought for our initial independence and the ones who continue to protect our freedom. Are we honoring their sacrifice if we aren’t enjoying that freedom to the fullest?

Have a safe and fun Independence Day!!!

Introducing: Jenna Ray

Last fall while I was finishing up writing Swept Up, I found myself needing a break. About that time Jason Cantrell posted about a message he found on a slip of paper tucked inside a library book. I used that note as a writing prompt and wrote the short story Narrow Miss about a woman named Jenna Ray who wrangles wayward husbands and returns them to their wives. After some urging from Brett to continue the story, I’ve decided to turn it into a serial series. I’ll be releasing Jenna’s adventures one at a time over the course of the next year or so on Amazon. Once they’re all out, I will combine them into an omnibus edition. The first section, Narrow Miss, will be out sometime in August 2014, so stay tuned.

And now…for the cover! My awesome sister, Kendra Marvin, from Boots and Bling Photography has decided to step into the book cover design ring. This is her debut cover, and I’m honored to have my name on it. Kendra also designed the masthead on my blog and my new logo. If you’re looking for a designer, or just want to see more of her creative work, you can contact her via her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Narrow Miss book cover small

 

Narrow Miss book cover

Ker-plunk!

Ker-plunk! That’s the sound my iPhone made when it hit the toilet water last Saturday night. I’ve had a long standing rule of not carrying it in my back pocket. I knew that’s all it took for a phone to meet its watery grave. But, still floating on a book signing high, good wine, and campfire smoke I slipped it back there so I could help schlepp chairs back to the house. The plan was to stick it in my purse as soon as I set down the chairs. Whoops!

Not just a phone went down the toilet, so did a lot of writing notes. But, a couple of funny things happened over the next couple of days. The next morning, C and I were scheduled to make the five hour drive back to Pullman. I’d resigned myself to doing it sans phone, I mean I’d done it that way for over a decade and managed just fine. We loaded the car Sunday morning, gave Grandma a hug, and pulled out. A half block from my mother-in-law’s house, I noticed none of my dashboard gauges were working, so we turned around. I wasn’t willing to make the trip with a faulty electrical system AND no phone. We spent an extra day in Weiser. My mom’s mechanic gave the Civic a once over. Thankfully it only took a cleaning of the battery connections and some wire tightening to get us back in business. During that twenty-four hours I tried my damnedest to get a new phone so I could see if those notes survived. No dice. I ended up waiting until Tuesday morning after we were settled back at home.

I was due for an upgrade. YAY! When my new device powered on, the first thing I downloaded from the cloud was my Index Card app with fervent prayers that my months of notes were still there. I held my breath as the program opened. My chest constricted when I saw there was nothing there. Not one single note. Everything. Gone. Ker-plunk!

Since Swept Up was released in April, I’ve been in business mode. Marketing, promoting, spending every spare minute helping my baby fly, and succeeding. Ideas for my next projects bubbled over in my head, but I couldn’t clear enough space on my calendar for developing them, so I quickly stuck them in my phone for later. I’ve also struggled to really connect with my new characters. Dropping that phone was clearly a sign that I needed to revisit the basics, which I’d forgotten was my plan for 2014 anyway.

The last few days, I’ve reconnected with pen and paper. One morning I outlined the presentation for my signing at Neill Public Library July 22 in bed. Pages of wild scrawl and arrows created a map that I’m guessing only I can follow. My brain was in a place it hadn’t been for a while. This. I hadn’t been doing this.  Still though, I told myself, it’s not practical or efficient. So, I downloaded Evernote onto my computer and phone. I can sync things so if something dies, it’s somewhere else. Evernote is a great program, but I still felt disconnected from my writing.

Last night I went to my first hot yoga class in weeks, and caught a glimpse of the uptight weirdo I’ve become. Sitting with my journal in bed afterward, I realized that I’d discovered Web and Kara in the pages of my notebook. I can be raw there. All people have an element of grittiness to them (even fictional characters). One of the wonderful things about Web and Kara was how real they were to me. They weren’t just flat personalities I whipped out. I got to know them, warts and all. That doesn’t happen for me on a screen. I need the tactile experience of pen and paper and bright sticky notes to mark my place. It may not be efficient, but it’s necessary, and my writing will suffer without it.

“Writing this way is a little like milk a cow: the milk is so rich and delicious, and the cow is so glad you did it.” Anne Lamott

A dear friend gave me Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird this week. I started reading it last night, and a calm washed over me, just like it does when I step onto the bamboo floor of the hot room at the yoga studio. Writing is messy, and I’d tried to tidy it up and turn it into a machine. I told myself I wouldn’t do this. I got on this path for the freedom. Freedom to be myself and live my dream, which is to write great books one word at a time. Yes, there is necessary busywork that goes along with being an indie writer, but at the end of the day, I’m an indie writer. That means my priority is writing–every damn day. To do anything less, would be cheating myself, and I’m worth more than that.

Mini Book Tour Kickoff Success

SU Signing Family

Surrounded by people I love. Photo curtesy of Kendra Marvin.

C and I drove the five hours from Pullman to Weiser, ID last week to visit the family and do my debut book signing. My fabulous mother-in-law, Vickie, worked her tail off to organize it. Between her and my mom, they ensured an overwhelming turnout. Vickie made sure there were lots of punch and cookies at the library and plenty of champagne and delicious hors d’oevres at the after party. I was floating on cloud nine (til I woke up on Friday morning with a champagne headache).

This book signing was just a reminder that I’m really doing this! I’m living my dream of being a novelist, and a fire has been ignited to work even harder and get more books out there for my readers.

The Weiser signing was the kickoff event for my mini Swept Up book tour. I’ll be at the Neill Public Library in Pullman, WA on July 22. I’ll post the time and other details when I know them. I’m also working to put together a signing at the Bookie on the Washington State University campus this fall, so stay tuned for more on that.

Bringing Back the Magic

sprinkler

Remember when summer was more than hauling sweaty kids to swim lessons, trying to keep the house in order now that they’re home all day to wreck it right behind you, and extra time and money spent at the grocery store because when they aren’t destroying your clean house or asking for a ride, they want fed? If you take a moment, I’m sure you can remember there was a time when simple things were so freaking amazing, you couldn’t contain yourself. Empty boxes were sports cars and castles, roly poly bugs were the coolest pets ever, and a sprinkler was more than a tool to keep your lawn from becoming a fire hazard. This summer I’m challenging myself to slow down and look at things through my daughter’s eyes, to slow down and enjoy the moment and allow childlike joy to wash over me.

Kristine Wyllys and I are joining forces for the next three months to bring you #kidvision. We both are looking for that long lost summer magic, and are determined to have the most open, fun, creative, free summers of our adult lives. Watch for our blog posts, tweets, and Instagram photos using #kidvision. Want to get in on the action? Just post using the hashtag.

I can’t wait to see how I grow now that I’ve given myself permission to shed my adult chains and really experience summer the way it was meant to be.

You can find me on Twitter @kayladawnwrites and on Instagram with the handle kayladawnwrites. Find Kristine on Twitter @KristineWyllys.

 

 

I Love You, Sweet Sixteen

Stars glittered in a midnight sky. The air was heavy with July heat. I popped a mint into my mouth as I followed his white Volkswagen bug in my gray high school beater. We had to stop to close the gate before heading our separate ways. He was leaving for Boston in the morning for his grandfather’s funeral. There were so many things I wanted to tell him. We’d been best friends for a while, but my heart was telling me there was something more. The thought of him leaving for the other side of the country was rousing my teenage angst. I wouldn’t be seeing him for a while.

Almost to the gate, I crunched my mint between my teeth and made my final decision. Tonight was the night.

He was out of his car, ready to swing the metal gate closed as I drove through. I parked and turned off the ignition, swallowing the last bits of mint. We chitchatted about his morning flight while I locked the heavy padlock that secured the ranch from trespassers. When I turned around he was standing close. There was something different in his eyes, at least I hoped that’s what I was seeing given what I was about to do. Before I could over think my decision, I wrapped my arms around his neck, rose to my tiptoes, and pressed my lips to his. Relief and a whole lot of other things flooded me when he returned my kiss with gusto.

That midnight moment set the rest of our life into motion. Two years later this happened.

Sealed with a kiss: May 30, 1998

Sealed with a kiss: May 30, 1998

When I think about how little we had at the start, I shudder. We had no idea how on the bubble we were. If C decided to do that I’d freak! But, God faithfully looked after us. His hand guided us through dark times, pressing us together in His mighty palm, never letting us forget the vows we took or the love that led us to the front of that church. I can’t imagine my life without Brett. He sees the whole me, and won’t allow me to be anything but my awesome self. When I’m ready to phone it all in, he props me up and keeps me moving forward. I’m eternally grateful to be blessed with this man who believes in me and my wild dreams.

Sixteen years later, I still can't keep my lips off him!

Sixteen years later, I still can’t keep my lips off him!

 

Small Town, Big Dreams

Below is a guest post from my new friend C.S. Moore.  Turns out we both graduated from Weiser High School in Weiser, ID, but several years apart. I found out about her books when I began working with the Weiser Public Library to plan my first book signing. The librarian asked if I’d like to partner with another indie author, and I jumped on the opportunity to network and bring out a larger crowd. C.S. and I have really enjoyed getting to know each other. I stayed up way past my bed time finishing Landlocked, the first in her Water Witch series. This lady knows how to weave a suspenseful, action packed tale! Before I hand this over to C.S., I want to remind everyone that if you live anywhere near Weiser, ID, to come to our book signing at the library on June 12 from 2-4pm.Authorpicture

Hi Kayla, thanks for having me on your blog to discuss why I self-publish. I’m getting so excited for our book signing at the Weiser Library on June 12th! For those who don’t know, this girl is so super organized and motivated she even inspires the likes of me.

Self-publishing is the wave of the future, but traditional publishing is still (most) every writer’s dream. I’d like to be picked up by one of the big houses and see my book cover in Time’s Square, I can dream can’t I? Traditional publishing is all about the waiting game… well it’s all about great novels and the waiting game. The constant querying of agents, the researching publishers to see who’s accepting what, and the waiting for weeks on end to hear back. Unfortunately, I’m the most impatient person ever! Honestly I think that’s why so many authors do choose to go the self-published route. It’s so fast and user friendly that it’s a welcome business step after months or years of the slow uphill battle that is penning a novel. When I get finished writing a book I want someone reading it now, not in two years. I jump up and down with glee as I see the downloads tally up and people leaving reviews. I don’t even mind negative reviews because, honestly, I’m just a small town girl that likes to tell stories. Even if you hate all of my books I’m just humbled that you read them.

allthreebooksOne of the most astonishing things to me about self-publishing, and again I am a small town girl (BTW is Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing stuck in your head yet?), is that with the push of a button my book was all over the world. My books have been downloaded all across this great big planet and that, to me, is amazing. I’ve never been out of the country, but my ideas have. My biggest fan is actually a lovely German lady! How she found my little books I don’t know, but self-publishing is what made it possible. It’s also been a great learning platform for me. Believe me, even if you went to school for creative writing there’s still a lot to learn about the publishing industry’s ups and downs both from a business standpoint and an emotional one.

Finally, I chose self-publishing because of the amazing community of authors that come with the territory. I have met so many successful authors that really shouldn’t give me the time of day, but they do. So many wonderful men and women building up and giving encouragement to each other… it’s an awesome thing to be a part of. Although if you ever do see one of my books prominently displayed somewhere in your town it was because I finally got ahold of some patience and someone said YES!