October Approaches

…which means it’s time for the Granbury Paranormal Expo in Granbury, Texas.

This year’s expo marks many firsts. For the first time in five years it will be held outdoors. For the first time in five years it will be free. For the first time it will be held on the downtown square. For the first time ever, it will feature a Zombie Pub Crawl. To read more about the Granbury Paranormal Expo, see the press release below from one of the organizers, Brandy Herr.

Fifth Annual Granbury Paranormal Expo Kicks Off Halloween Season

Street Festival Brings Together Paranormal, Horror and Sci-Fi

The Fifth Annual Granbury Paranormal Expo will kick off the Halloween season on October 1, 2016 from 10 am to 5 pm with a street festival in the middle of Granbury’s historic downtown square. This festival is free to the public and will feature ghost hunters; psychics; horror, sci-fi, cosplay and fantasy vendors; and much more.

“We are considering it to be a ‘Comic Con’ with ghost hunters,” said Brandy Herr, co-founder of the Granbury Paranormal Expo. “We wanted to bring everything together into one big event to ensure that we have something fun for everybody!”

alex-vincentThis year’s special celebrity guest will be Alex Vincent, best known as Andy Barclay from Child’s Play 1 & 2. He will facilitate a Q&A session about his work on the horror franchise. Joining Vincent as a guest speaker will be Shelley Kaehr, Ph.D., aka “The Past Life Lady.” And finally, the Austin Ghost Tour Gals will also lead a special session on ghost hunting.

 

For the animal lovers, Tugg the Superhero Bull Terrier will be making a special appearance to promote his comic book series. tugg

Several restaurants on the square will be showing their support for the Granbury Paranormal Expo by hosting a Zombie Pub Crawl, a separate, ticketed event to be held the evening of October 1.

For more details, visit Granbury Paranormal Expo and the Ghost Scribes.

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I’ll be there as a vendor, promoting Fuller’s Curse and the Ghost Scribes, a collective of paranormal/supernatural fiction writers who write good books about bad people. If you’re in the area, stop through. If this year’s expo is like last year’s (and it will be), it’ll be great fun.

Being a Good Literary Citizen

In a few months, American citizens will elect a new president, a new leader who will set and direct the country’s agenda for the next four, maybe eight years. While I don’t want to talk about which candidate has my vote (I promised when I started my blog four years ago that I would avoid the BIG THREE–politics, sex and religion), I do want to share that I take my citizen duties very seriously and will be at the polls bright and early on November 8th.

Being an American citizen is not the only citizenship I claim. I am also a literary citizen and I take those responsibilities just as seriously. At least I have, starting this year. Let me explain…

Earlier this year, the Writers’ League of Texas (WLT) sponsored a panel discussion on the topic:  what is means to be a good literary citizen. The panel was moderated by the president of WLT and panelists consisted of a book publisher, authors and an ex-literary agent. One by one they shared their views on the topic with remarks ranging from the use of social media, book reviews, networking, attendance at conferences/festivals, mentorship, community outreach, bookstores (retail and online) and more. I should stop at this point and explain that the moderator defined the word literary to include all aspects of writing, publishing and marketing, this being a more expansive definition than the usual application.

I spent a lot of time after that session thinking about how being a good literary citizen plays out for me. What, in fact, it means to me and that brings us back to 1) deciding that I was indeed a literary citizen; 2) what that looks like for me in practical, everyday life; and 3) my commitment level to that role.

So since I have decided I am a literary citizen, an invested member of one of the world’s greatest fraternities, and because I want to be a good literary citizen, this is how it plays out in my life.

As a good literary citizen I PLEDGE to

pledge-of-allegience

  1. As a reader – attend books fairs/festivals; buy books from local bookstores and online; support my library with attendance at hosted events and by utilizing their many services; write and post book reviews; use social media to promote authors, books and festivals; encourage young readers; read aloud to the young (and old) ones in my family; give books as gifts.
  2. As a writer – tell the best story I can; commit to continuous improvement in my craft; maintain involvement in writing/critique groups; honor my writing time; focus on my writing goals; find ways to keep the creative juices primed; be open to changes in the industry.
  3. As an author – support the players (readers, writers, book clubs, writers groups, non-profit literary groups, libraries, bookstores, literary publications, events and programs, etc.) in the literary field; promote, advocate or comment on legislative regulations and business practices impacting the literary world; protect the image of the written word; teach young and adult writers about the craft.
  4. As a publisher – publish quality books at a good value for readers; share stories that entertain but also cause readers to think and feel; work to improve the literacy rate by sharing my love of reading; embrace new technologies and practices; support the host of players that make this the absolutely best industry to work in.

I  know this is a mouthful (or rather a pageful) and I reserve the right to adjust and update these duties as I collect more experiences in this great experiment we call literary. But I’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts about being a good literary citizen?

Photo courtesy of Wesley Hitt/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Book Review – Not by Design

Not by Design “Not by Design” is the latest offering from multi-published women’s fiction author Carol Balawyder. It is a sequel to “Getting to Mr. Right,” which you should read if you haven’t. “Getting to Mr. Right” is the story of four women who meet at a support group (the focus of which is women who have men/father issues) and form lasting, sincere friendships.

“Not by Design” is Felicity Starr’s story. She is one of the women in the support group, and she has it all—looks, youth, a rich father, talent, true-heart friends and the love of a handsome, successful man. She is living a fairy tale life in France, studying art and pursuing a career in art, while enjoying an active social/love life. But even fairy tales are wrought with obstacles and that’s exactly what our heroine encounters—one setback after another. There’s the death of her father, a dwindling bank account which brings on financial woes, an art career that has stalled, and the painful decision to end her relationship with her fiancé and call off the wedding. But that’s not all. The biggest blow of all—a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). With all this dumped on her, Felicity makes the hard decision to release her dream of being an artist and living in France. She returns home to Canada to try and piece a life together.

The move back home is met with more bitterness. She fights to recover her reputation in the work world. She has disagreements with her mother and step-mother. She gambles on several romantic interests and loses. And, she must make a slew of difficult choices in regard to her living arrangements and medical treatment, decisions made more difficult because of her limited funds. One wonders if Felicity will ever catch a break when…help arrives. At the strong suggestion of her doctor, she attends a MS support group meeting and finds the support and acceptance she so desperately needs. With the encouragement of the group, she shares her medical condition with her friends, who surround her with love, care and acceptance. The end of the story details the good life Felicity has finally secured. No, it’s not the one she would have designed for herself, but it works. She’s happy.

This is a story that will take you low on the scale of human emotions and then pick you up. You will feel despair, then happiness; fear, then joy. This emotional seesaw is achieved in part by the story’s conflict—dreams and desire versus medical and financial worries, a situation many readers may relate to. I certainly did. And then there’s the overall story question: are we willing to release our version of our dream or life in exchange for an uncertain version? This is the question Felicity struggles with throughout the story but I dare say it is one many readers struggle with as well.

There are many things to appreciate about this story. It is inspiring, well written and has relatable characters. But the one aspect I appreciated the most was the focus on MS. Reading about the symptoms, the various treatments, the expense, and how it requires life adjustments was a real education. Thank you Carol for that.

I finished reading the book and shut down my e-reader thinking, I can’t wait to read the remaining sequel. The other three—“Café Paradise,” “Missi’s Dating Adventures” and “Not by Design”—have been purely enjoyable. Check ‘em out and see for yourself.

An Undetermined Future

Last night while I was meeting with my critique group…a 25-year-old gunman was setting up his perch in a downtown Dallas building. Ironically the building was part of a community college, a place of learning and expanding young minds.

Last night while I was driving home…the young man pointed a high-powered weapon down a busy city street. Ironically that street is only a few blocks from where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and ironically it’s the same street where a peaceful protest (organized to call attention to the proliferation of police-involved shootings/murders of black men) was winding down.

Last night while I slept…the Army veteran shot and murdered five police officers and wounded seven additional officers and two civilians. Ironically our government trained him on the use of weapons and gave him the opportunity to perfect his training by sending him to the battlegrounds in Afghanistan.

Early this morning…the murderer was killed, blown to pieces by a special delivery bomb. Ironically his motives for killing (hate, anger, frustration, arrogance, fear, injustice) remain solidly intact and are shared by many—black, white, yellow, brown and others.

Later today…the hate will continue. The killings will continue. The violence will continue. The country will remain dysfunctional and divided. UNLESS…all people are seen as individuals. Unless all people are seen as equals. Unless all people are free. And UNTIL racism is rooted out of every system, institution, policy and practice, and until hate is replaced by love.

Racism

My Acceptance Speech

The totally awesome and completely fabulous Shehanne Moore chose me for the EPICALLY AWESOME award! Woo-hoo! Claps! Cheers!

Epically Awesome

Thank you, Shey for the acknowledgement. Truly, I am smiling like the cat who slurped all the cream.

In accepting this award, I agreed to answer a few questions so others in the blog-o-sphere might learn a bit more about me. I also agreed to recognize five other bloggers who in my opinion are Epically Awesome. But before I unveil those five…

What made you choose your current blogging platform? When I first decided to start my blog, I checked out several writers’ forums and the overwhelming recommendation for a blogging platform was WP. So here I am.

Introduce yourself and tell us about your blog? I am a writer, author, blogger, reader and world citizen. I enjoy writing novels, novellas and short stories the most. Blog posts, articles, social media content and marketing materials come in second…a distant second. My blog reflects three of my favorite interests:  reading, writing and spirituality. Seems like complementary topics until you get to the third one. But I think some might be surprised to learn how fundamental spirituality is to creative pursuits.

Are you a once-in-a-while blogger or a daily one? I started as a weekly blogger but I am now juggling four major writing projects as well as two writing-related organizations. That workload forced me to scale back to blogging once or twice a month. I really hope I can jump back on a weekly schedule later this year.

Do you wish to publish and if so, what type of book? I am published. Yeah!!! Both traditionally and self-published and it was an adventure following both paths. I traditionally published in romance but switched years ago to paranormal and mainstream fiction as a self-publisher.

What is your favorite thing to do besides write? Read. Read. Read…and movies, of course.

Thanks again, Shey for the opportunity to share with you and others. I had fun answering the questions and now for the five bloggers who I think are Epically Awesome…

Pam Fields – who is epically awesome because she works hard every day to promote understanding, love and acceptance of all people. This is especially important in a world where hatred kills every day. https://pamyfields.com/

Faith Simone – who is epically awesome because she is totally transparent and honest about her writing journey and I love her for that. https://faithsimone.com/

Lizzie Newton – who is epically awesome because she reminds us that it’s okay to embrace our dark side. Really, it’s okay. https://elizabethnnewton.com/

Annette Rochelle Aben – who is epically awesome because she reminds us help and love is as close as a prayer (thank you angels!). https://annetterochelleaben.wordpress.com/

Carol Balawyder – who is epically awesome because she is so pure and giving, a model writer and a great human being (wish there were more of her). https://carolbalawyder.com/

They (if they chose to accept…cue the Mission Impossible theme music) will recognize the blogger who nominated them, link back to the nominator, post the graphic of the award, and answer the questions above. I hope the above EPICALLY AWESOME bloggers accept because I would love to read their answers and learn even more about the wonderfully epic people they are.

Have an awesome and epic week, one and all and happy summer!

June is Black Music Month

Every June we turn the spotlight on black music and black musicians in observance of Black Music Month. This June it’s especially meaningful to recognize the contributions that African-Americans have made to the music world. Why? Because of the recent death of Prince and the great legacy he left for us. It’s reported that Prince left scores and scores of unpublished music that his estate will have to sort through and release at will. This in addition to the extensive treasury of songs and films he’s already shared with the world.

Where were you when you heard of Prince’s death? I was in a writing class and the instructor had just given us a writing prompt. The room was silent except for the scratch of pens on paper. Heads were bowed and foreheads crinkled in concentration when the instructor, a noted journalist and HUGE Prince fan read a text about Prince’s death. She cried out and that was the end of class and the end of a great musician. This happened on a Thursday.

Prince’s death took me back to another Thursday when I learned of Michael Jackson’s death in June 2009. That was another shocking newscast that immobilized me for hours. I remember friends and relatives calling but I don’t remember what we talked about. Which was the same with Whitney Houston’s death in February 2012. Her death was the hardest hitting of the three because she was my favorite. I loved to see her perform. She was so passionate and sincere. Her voice, her style, her presence, her smile…all amazing!

But let me get out of my heart for a moment and into my head. I have a dear friend who is a numerologist. If you’ve been following my blog for a while you already know about Cindy. Cindy has studied numbers, patterns and the spiritual significance of such for the past thirty years, and is quite the expert. I, on the other hand, have a very rudimentary knowledge of numerology but let me share a little bit of what came to me as I pondered the deaths of Prince, Michael and Whitney (for how could one not think of them collectively?).

Michael died first in 2009. Three years later, Whitney died. The number of years between the deaths of Michael and Prince was seven. In the spirit realm, the numbers three and seven both represent completeness. Cycles completing (God created the heavens and earth in seven days); the beginning and the end connecting (Father, Son and Holy Spirit); closing one door, opening a new one (the seven year itch). So we have three mega talents dying within a seven year period. What that tells me is we’ve completed a cycle. Again, I’m not the expert but I’m pretty sure Cindy and other numerologists figured this out and saw it coming after Whitney’s death. They may not have known the “who” but surely the “what” (an iconic death) and “when” (the year) and were therefore less shocked than the rest of us.

So now I’m back in my heart and thinking I need to end this with how I started—a focus on Black Music Month and Prince. Below is a link to one of my favorite Prince songs. I present it, along with my loving thanks to Michael, Whitney and Prince for so many hours of pleasure, in honor of Black Music Month.

When Doves Cry

And to all black singers, musicians, songwriters, producers, composers, and engineers…thank you! A million times THANK YOU!!